As I regularly do when I’m out in Death Valley, I’ll usually set up the digital SLR on a tripod after the campfire dies down and just before turning in, point it at the night sky and leave the shutter open for  however long it takes me to get bored on top of cold, which is usually less than 15 minutes.

This time I took a risk in losing the entire rig sometime during the night to go for a longer time span. So  I planted the tripod outside the northwest corner of our tent around 9 p.m., opened the shutter and went to bed, figuring I’d get an exposure either for as long as the battery lasted or when I got up for my usual pre-dawn trip to pee.

Sure enough, my bladder woke me up around 5 a.m. and when I checked the camera I found it powered down, its battery having lasted an unknown amount less than that eight hours.

The result looks a little something like this (click it for the bigger picture):

There is some light leakage along the right edge of the frame, but it’s decidedly less faint and more understandable than the dramatic eruption up into the center, of which I have no explanation. There were no campfires going on the ground out from our tent in this direction and even if there were, the camera was pointed up into the sky at a pretty wide angle to the ground, at least 30 degrees. My guess is it’s light from vehicles coming down the two-mileroad to get to the campground.

If you click to go to the bigger version of the image you’ll see it’s not a very clean image — she’s an old camera whose been many dirty places and snapped many shots — and there are a lot of damaged pixels, but then again some of the red points of light could be satellites and such. But still… look beyond the marring and the star tracks and you’ll see a ridiculous number of weeeeeee points of light waaaaaaaaay out there. They can’t all be dirty bits.

This next vista below  greeted us on our way home as we emerged from a surreal scene encountered while traveling along the back side of Owens Lake on our way to Lone Pine. Serious winds were blowing a major amount of the dry lake bed in a northeastern direction and after passing through the massive dust storm and understanding why Los Angeles is or should be hated by everyone in the Owens Valley, I’d been hoping everything would open up and my cousin Nathan would get a dramatic view of the very dramatic Eastern Sierras. Instead we found them looking veiled and encapsulated in a dome rimmed by an exploding aurora that was pretty dramatic in its own right (click for the bigger picture):