Wonder what the Milky Way looks like at night from 34,000 feet? Reddit user Skycatcher5, an airline pilot, captured a photograph of just that while flying “somewhere over North Dakota looking westward.” It’s a stunning sight, one that passengers don’t often see because the windows aren’t as big and the lights aren’t as dim as they are in the cockpit.
The pilot, who flies the smaller jets for a large regional airline, shared the image in Reddit’s I Took A Picture community.
“My favorite thing about flying at night is how the world transforms,” Skycatcher5 tells Upvoted. “The stars shining above, the cities twinkling below—it can be an overwhelming sight looking out at it all. On clear, dark nights, I can see for hundreds of miles each direction as well as peer into the cosmos above. If we are above the clouds and the moon is not full, you can see the core of our galaxy as well as many star constellations.”
Click to enlarge! (Reddit user Skycatcher5)
In case you’re wondering, regulations do apply when it comes to taking photos while, you know, flying fellow humans in an aircraft.
In response to a Quartz story about the pilots of Instagram who are becoming internet-famous for their snaps of the majestic skies, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed its rules: While piloting commercial airplanes, taking photos with “personal wireless communications devices” (ie. smartphones) is prohibited, but film cameras and digital cameras without the ability to transmit data wirelessly may be used in some circumstances.
Skycatcher5 says the Milky Way photo was legal and safe, but would still rather not have his or her name published.
The FAA rules do not apply to the person occupying the jumpseat, which may be how we get gems such as this sort-of terrifying video of a foggy landing in Dublin.
Check out the more of the discussion on the photo in the original Reddit post.