Focal Pointe Observatory
Astrophotography by Bob Franke

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Galaxy Rise Over Monument Valley

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DX Nikkor ED 15-55mm zoom @ 18mm - f/3.5


Barn Door Tracker with a best guess for polar alignment


Nikon D40X

Acquisition Data

6/4/2011 from Monument Valley UT.


RGB  2 min.  (2 x 60 sec.) ISO 1600


  • CCDStack, Photoshop CS3

  • CCDStack to register and combine the sub exposures.

  • PhotoShop for on-linear stretching.

  • Noiseware Pro, a PhotoShop plug-in.


North is to ~ the left.


This image shows the Milky Way rising over Monument Valley. It is centered on the constellation Sagittarius, with Scorpius at the left edge of large rock.  The galactic center is slightly below and to the right of the image's center.

Although the sky is very dark at Monument Valley, time exposures easily reveal the glow of distant population areas. The brightest area appears to be Gallup, New Mexico, with Farmington to the left.

About The View Hotel
The hotel is a Navajo owned business located within the Navajo Nation and the Navajo Tribal park at Monument Valley. Although the rooms and restaurant are OK, you are really paying for the view and it is spectacular. Every room looks directly to the valley.

Since the hotel is on the Navajo reservation, the restaurant serves only non-alcoholic beer and wine. You will have to bring your own and keep it in your room.

They state that WiFi is only available in the hotel lobby. We were located in room 313, one-third the way down the hotel, and had a good WiFi connection.

About Astrophotography From The Rooms
There are two classes of rooms on the top floor... Star View and Premium Star View. Unfortunately they did not consult with any astrophotographers when designing the hotel. The hotel is oriented about 17 degrees east of north. The Star View rooms have about a two-foot wide balcony, with the view cut off at the zenith. Therefore, the North Star is not visible and there is no chance to use a polar alignment scope. The balcony, for the Premium Star View rooms, extends out about two or three feet further and may provide a view of the North Star. This wider balcony also allows the use of a larger camera/scope tripod.

Late May and early June provide the best opportunity to photograph the galactic center above the valley. Although you can get a great shot from the hotel, the best compositions are from the valley floor. The road is easily passable by day with a mini-van or SUV. It is obviously more difficult at night. At 11:30 PM, I witnessed cars still returning.