This remarkable photograph shows Gemini North (foreground) and the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope domes in the pre-dawn twilight. The image, taken during the COLOSSOS Long and Large program studying the colors of the Solar System, shows the Milky Way arching over the domes like a snow-laden trestle. The crescent Moon (the bright object at right) is being caressed by the delicate band of zodiacal light –– a belt of dust in the plane of the inner Solar System illuminated by the Sun.
Observers can see the zodiacal light only from the darkest sites in the world, attesting to the remarkable clarity of the night sky over the near-summit area of Maunakea, where Gemini North is situated. If you look carefully, you can see the zodiacal light overlapping the Milky Way and extending ever so delicately above and beyond it. The Milky Way itself carries on to the right of the zodiacal light where it arcs down into the early morning twilight.
Gemini North is part of the international community of observatories built to take advantage of the superb atmospheric conditions on this long dormant volcano which rises 4,214 meters into the dry, stable air of the North Pacific. The Gemini Observatory’s international headquarters at the University of Hawai‘i Hilo’s University Park.