It’s almost impossible to find, and rightly so. But what this remote area of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona yields makes it worth the effort, says astrophotographer David Lane, who shot this 16-image panorama of the Milky Way etched starkly above White Pocket, a “hidden treasure of swirling, twisting Navajo sandstone,” as the U.S. Department of the Interior describes it.
“Getting here is a bit of a challenge—it requires a specialty vehicle—but the reward is definitely worth the effort!” says the U.S. Department of the Interior on its Facebook page, where it shared this image a couple of weeks ago.
"As hard as it is to get there its even harder to describe,” Lane said in his commentary for Interior, which chose this stunner as its Image of the Day for December 17. “Every corner reveals explosions of color, something new and amazing."
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is sacred to American Indians, and has been perhaps since the times of the PaleoIndians, more than 12,000 years ago, the DOI says.
“The Arizona Strip has a rich, but little-documented history,” says the Bureau of Land Management, which is overseen by the DOI, in describing a part of the national park that is chock full of artifacts. “Its record begins more than 12,000 years ago with prehistoric Native Americans called the PaleoIndians. Remnants of the once-extensive Puebloan (Anasazi) and Southern Paiute cultures are found throughout the Strip.”
Lane specializes in making photos of beautiful sky phenomena, many of which can be seen on his Facebook page, where his reverence for the sacred spaces he photographs is as abundantly evident as the stars whose images he captures. No wonder the Milky Way is the source of so many legends across numerous Native cultures.
The sight is reminiscent of another Milky Way shot, this one over Bryce Canyon, that stars in a panoramic, constantly shifting view.