I am SUPER excited to be sharing this week’s photo essay, Easter Island at Night. As with last week, I just had too many pictures I wanted to share, and rather than drag my Easter Island photo series out for months, I’m just giving you more than one photo per week! 🙂 Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I really wanted to go back to Easter Island to photograph it all over again, and I really wanted to do some night shooting! I have grown so fond of exploring at night here in my own back yard, I seriously couldn’t wait to experience the island at night… and man, what a treat!

Easter Island itself is one of the most isolated, inhabited places on the planet (there are actually a few islands that claim “the most isolated”). It’s closest inhabited neighbor is Pitcairn Island, which has less than 100 inhabitants, and is over 1200 miles away. Outside of that, it’s over 2000 miles to anywhere. For some perspective, that’s further than from Knoxville to Las Vegas… over the ocean… there is seriously nothing nearby (and frankly, that’s one of the things I love about the island). As soon as you leave Hanga Roa, which is the only town on Easter Island, there are no street lights, and very very few buildings to create light pollution. What I’m trying to say is, the sky is DARK there! It’s simply amazing to see. As an added ‘neat factor’, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere (which I’m assuming most of you reading are), you see a different part of the night sky there. In several of the pictures in this series, you can see Magellanic clouds, which are dwarf galaxies, and cannot be seen from the continental US (look for blobs of stars in the lower right part of the sky pictures), as well as the Southern Cross, which is hard to see in the continental US. Yes, I was seriously geeking out.

The weather didn’t cooperate for me to get a star trail photo that I was super excited about, though I did get one (and yep, that’s different too! The stars were spinning around the southern pole star, Sigma Octantis, rather than the North Star) that I was sort of happy with. I did, however, manage to get special permission to shoot in Rano Raraku after hours, and got some truly unique shots from there. So much fun!

More next week!

–Dan Thompson

Easter Island

The Milky Way Over Tongariki


Tongariki and Rano Raraku (the first image) are the furthest away from the only town on Easter Island, and the darkest. The sky here is jaw dropping. The bright star in the sky is Mars and if you follow the Milky Way up, you’ll find the Southern Cross constellation (on the upper part of the last dark spot in the Milky Way)

The Milky Way over Anakena

Again, the bright star is Mars. In this image you can see a Magellanic cloud, which is the blob of stars to the lower right. You can actually see this dwarf galaxy with the naked eye from Easter Island.

Star Trails and Moai

I wasn’t ecstatic about this one, but it’s the only star trail shot I managed to get that’s worth showing. I started late and the sky started turning blue before I was done, which illuminated the statue (a positive), but also did weird things to the sky (not a positive). BUT, I’ve got something to work on next time!

Astronomical Twilight at Tahai

It doesn’t have to be totally dark to enjoy the night sky! The moon set not long after sunset while were on the island and so it made for some nice photos about 45 minutes after sunset.

Nautical Twilight at Tahai

This particular area is right next to town, and so it turns a bit orange once it’s totally dark due to the street lights and mist, however it’s still very night well after sunset!

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