The 10 most magnificent pictures of the Milky Way
Under the right conditions, the galaxy unfolds in the sky in a multicoloured band that can look like the nighttime cousin of the rainbow.
The core of the Milky Way, or bulge, is a mixture of old stars, gas and dust.
'Because of its remoteness, this natural stone chamber offers one of the clearest and most pristine views of the Milky Way,' wrote photographer Spencer Welling in the photo's caption. The deserts of southwestern Utah are perfect for stargazing, as much of the land is protected and little urban light pollutes the night sky.
Tomas Slovinsky used the constellation as a guide to locate the South Celestial Pole, the point in the sky directly above the Earth's southern axis. His photo also captures two important nebulae, clouds of dust and gas in which new stars form. The Coalsack Nebula, located in the constellation Southern Cross, is visible as a dark spot just above the volcano. It is about 590 light years from Earth. In the upper left corner, the Carina Nebula glows pink in the sky. It is located about 8 500 light years from Earth.
Photographer Victor Lima had to get special permission to take this picture. He spent four days in Iguazu National Park, where jaguars roam at night. His image captures the Milky Way along one of the park's main waterfalls, the 'Santa Maria jump.' You can spot Saturn just above the waterfall, below the Milky Way's core.
'The blue fire burned just below the mountain as the Milky Way continued to rise,' wrote photographer Gary Bhaztara in his caption to the photo.
'I had brought a new piece of equipment with me, a star tracker, and as soon as I started setting it up I knew it was going to be a tricky night,' Cantabrana wrote in his caption.
'After many unsuccessful attempts to line it up with the south celestial pole, I was ready to give up, but decided to take a picture and see what would happen as the galactic core rose,' he added. The result is a shadowy image of the Milky Way looming over the coast.
Photographer Daniel Thomas Gum left his home in Sydney to take this view of Lake Mongo in New South Wales. The setting was 'otherworldly,' he wrote in his caption.
'Tall jagged walls framed a winding path leading to a west-centred spire,' he said. 'There was only one way to do it justice and that was in the form of a multi-layered Milky Way panorama.'
Larryn Rae took this photo from the top of Fanthams Peak, which is part of Mount Taranaki volcano. He had to lug his equipment up to an altitude of almost 2,000 metres, with winds of almost 70 km/hour and temperatures close to -15 degrees Celsius.
Antonio Solano took this photo on the last night of his trip to the island. The 'Roque de los Muchachos,' a rocky mound at the highest point of the island, is at the base of the Milky Way.
The best time to observe the Milky Way is usually in May and June. However, the galaxy can still be observed in the northern hemisphere from February to October, and in the southern hemisphere from January to November.