Bortle 1 – the best night skies for Astrophotography

Jul 3, 2023

Roi Levi

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Bortle 1 – the best night skies for Astrophotography

Jul 3, 2023

Roi Levi

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

Want to see the true colors of the night sky? Well, you need to find a really dark spot. And the darkest is Bortle 1. But first, let me explain. The best kind of sky for astrophotography is called a Bortle 1 sky. It is only 0.01 from a perfect sky on the SQM scale. You may already know a few of the night sky wonders: the Aurora, Zodiacal Light, and Airglow, but they are completely different under Bortle 1.

Let’s dive into the amazing world of Bortle 1 skies and discover the wonders of deep-sky objects and celestial waveforms. Both the ones you can see with your own eyes and the ones you need special cameras for. I’ll share pictures taken by me and other talented Astrophotographers from the USA, Iceland, the Middle East, Europe, and more.

The Bortle scale

The Bortle Scale, developed by John E. Bortle, is a widely used system for classifying the darkness of the night sky. It ranges from Class 1 (the darkest) to Class 9 (the most light-polluted). A Bortle 1 sky signifies an area with minimal light pollution, which you can often find in remote regions, far from urban centers. In such pristine conditions, the naked eye is capable of discerning intricate details of celestial wonders that are otherwise obscured by light pollution

A Bortle 1 sky is really special because it means the sky is incredibly dark and free from light pollution. You usually find these skies in remote areas, far away from cities. In these pristine conditions, you can see, and photograph, amazing details of celestial objects that would normally be hidden by all the city lights. It’s like having a front-row seat to the beauty of the night sky.

Deep-Sky objects visible to the naked Eye at Bortle 1

The milky way

In a Bortle 1 sky, you get to see the Milky Way in all its breathtaking glory. It’s like a soft band of light that stretches across the entire night sky. And guess what? It’s not just a plain band of light. It’s filled with so many amazing things like stars, nebulae (which are like colorful clouds of gas), and clusters of stars.

Milky way Arch Panorama Above Mono Lake (bortle 1)
Canon Eos Ra| Ioptron Sky Guider Tracker
Milky Way Arch Panorama Above Mono Lake (Bortle 1) Canon Eos Ra | Ioptron Sky Guider Tracker by Roi levi (Facebook, Instagram)
Milky way by Tomas Slovinsky
Milky Way by Tomas Slovinsky (Facebook) at the volcano Mauna Kea with the NOIRLab Gemini telescope

Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

One of the most breathtaking sights in a Bortle 1 sky is the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest spiral galactic neighbor. Spanning over six times the size of the full moon, this majestic galaxy appears as a faint, elongated blur of light. With patience and a keen eye, one can perceive its core and perhaps even trace the spiral arms.

Andromeda Galaxy (M31) ZWO 2600MC | Red Cat | Skywatcher Tracker| By Roi Levi
Location Navada Valley Of fire (Bortle 3)
Andromeda Galaxy (M31) ZWO 2600MC | Red Cat | Skywatcher Tracker| By Roi levi (Facebook, Instagram) Location Navada Valley Of fire (Bortle 3)

The Orion Nebula (M42)

The Orion Nebula, situated within the iconic constellation of Orion, is a stellar nursery where new stars are born. In a Bortle 1 sky, the nebula’s wispy tendrils and intricate details become readily apparent. The central Trapezium Cluster, composed of young, hot stars, is also discernible, adding to the awe-inspiring nature of this celestial wonder.

Canon Eos RA | Sigma 28MM | by Roi Levi| Location Israel Pharan Valley  (Bortle 2)
Canon Eos RA | Sigma 28MM | by Roi levi (Facebook, Instagram) | Location Israel Pharan Valley (Bortle 2)
Orion Nebula By Mike Selby and Mark Hanson
Shot In LRGB on our Planewave Delta Rho 350 at Observatorio El Sauce, Chile.
Orion Nebula By Mike Selby (Facebook) and Mark Hanson Shot In LRGB on our Planewave Delta Rho 350 at Observatorio El Sauce, Chile.

Pleiades (M45) – A.K.A The Seven Sisters

The Pleiades star cluster is a group of young, hot stars that form a distinct pattern in the night sky. In a Bortle 1 sky, the Pleiades cluster reveals its true splendor, with its brightest stars surrounded by a delicate haze of nebulosity.

M45 by Mike Selbi
M45 by Mike Selby (Facebook)

Celestial Waveforms @ Bortle 1

Apart from the usual objects, a Bortle 1 sky allows observers to witness various celestial waveforms with the naked eye. These transient phenomena occur naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere and space. Solar maximum is reaching to its cycle peek in 2025 and bursting massive amounts of energies. Those are seen as aurora lights, Airglow and Zodiacal Light:

Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

The captivating light shows known as the Northern and Southern Lights, respectively, occur when charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth’s magnetosphere. In a Bortle 1 sky, these ethereal displays of shimmering colors dance across the horizon, leaving spectators in awe of their ever-changing patterns.

Aurora Borealis & Orion Constellation in hydrogen alpha By Roi Levi 
Location Hofn Westerhorn Iceland (bortle 1)
Aurora Borealis & Orion Constellation in hydrogen alpha By Roi levi (Facebook, Instagram) Location Hofn Westerhorn Iceland (bortle 1)
Victor Lima – Aurora And milkyway Vesterhorn Hofn (Bortle 1) Canon 6Da | EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II

Zodiacal Light

This faint, cone-shaped glow is caused by sunlight scattered off interplanetary dust in the plane of our solar system. In a Bortle 1 sky, during the right conditions and at the right time of year, the zodiacal light becomes visible shortly after sunset or before dawn, extending upwards from the western or eastern horizon

Zodiacal Light Credit: Petr Horálek & Tomáš Slovinskýin Chille
Zodiacal Light by Petr Horálek (Instagram, Facebook) & Tomas Slovinsky (Facebook) Chile
Orion and Zodiacal Light Credit: Petr Horálek Maldive
Orion and Zodiacal Light by Petr Horálek (Instagram, Facebook) Maldives
Orion and Zodiacal Light Credit: Petr Horálek Maldive
Orion and Zodiacal Light by Petr Horálek (Instagram, Facebook) Maldive

Airglow

Airglow is a faint emission of light caused by various chemical reactions in Earth’s upper atmosphere. In a Bortle 1 sky, this phenomenon can manifest as a subtle, diffused glow that adds a mystical ambiance to the night sky.

Air glow  and Milkyway Arch - Image Credit – Ralf Rhoner Northern California Canon Eos Ra | sigma 28 MM
Airglow and Milkyway Arch by Ralf Rhoner (Instagram, Facebook) Northern California Canon Eos Ra | sigma 28 MM
Airglow & Millkyway tail |  Canon Eos Ra Sigma Art 28 mm | |MonoLake USA Bortle 1 by Roi Levi
Airglow & Millkyway tail | Canon Eos Ra Sigma Art 28 mm | |MonoLake USA Bortle 1 by Roi levi (Facebook, Instagram)

Bortle 1 conclusion

To wrap it up, the wonders of a Bortle 1 sky are absolutely incredible. When there’s minimal light pollution, you can see so much with just your own eyes. You can witness the beauty of deep-sky objects and experience the mesmerizing celestial waveforms that decorate our night sky. It’s like having a front-row seat to the marvels of the universe.

Imagine being able to see the intricate details of galaxies far, far away or witnessing the enchanting dance of the Northern Lights. That’s what a Bortle 1 sky offers you—a chance to glimpse the vastness and breathtaking beauty of the universe.

So, the next time you find yourself in a remote place blessed with the amazing quality of a Bortle 1 sky, take a moment to simply look up. Let yourself be captivated by the awe-inspiring sights that await your gaze. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Happy Astrophotography!

About the author

Roi Levi is an Astro and landscape photographer. He also gives night photography workshops in Israel and USA (Texas and Utah) with Deep Space Workshops. You can find more of Roi’s work on Instagram and Facebook.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

DIPY Icon

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *