Stargazing in Jamaica: It’s more than just seeing the stars

JUAN MARTINEZ

October 25, 2019

Stargazing in Jamaica: It’s more than just seeing the stars

This country is a delight in the evenings and if you are in the right spot, stargazing in Jamaica could be the highlight of your trip.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Jamaica is not a stargazing destination and if you are expecting to see galaxies and nebulas with a telescope, there are many better locations in other parts of the world to do that. On the other hand, warm temperatures and a relaxed atmosphere makes stargazing in Jamaica probably one of the best plans for spending the night – specially when you can see the milky way with the naked eye.

I went to Jamaica to photograph the milky way and at the end of the trip I did not only get incredible photographs of our galaxy, but also understood why Jamaica is the country that relaxes your body and mind.

Be connected at all times in Jamaica.
I got a e-SIM with Airalo and bought a plan of 10 GB for my whole stay in the country.

Read more: Jamaica, with a license to relax

Stargazing in Jamaica - View of the milky way in Jamaica
View of the milky way at the south coast of Jamaica
Format: Full Frame (Sony A7Rii)
Length: 16mm
Shutter speed: 15s
Aperture: f2,8
ISO: 1260

How to find the milky way in Jamaica

When I travel to a country outside Europe, I always hope to see at least once the milky way. I took for granted seeing this galaxy every night all the years I lived in Colombia and now that I moved to Germany, I miss seeing this natural wonder more often.

There are three main factors you definitely have to keep in mind in order to find the milky way in the sky:

  1. You
    need a perfect clear sky (which means absolutely zero clouds)
  2. You
    need to be far from external light and pollution
  3. The
    moon should not be visible

And although the milky way contains around 400 billion stars, we will only be able to see a small, but beautiful, fraction of it in perfect light conditions.

As we are part of the milky way, we are not going to be able to see its spiral form. However, as observers of our own galaxy, the best view we will get is the milky way arching across the night sky.

View of the milky way crossing the sky
View of the milky way crossing the sky

Seeing a full arch is only possible in a few locations around the world. Still, when I travel, my goal is not to see a full arch (I´ve seen that only 2 or 3 times in my life) but to get a nice view of that middle cloud we all have seen in photos – this is known as the galaxy center and the central bulge.

For my trip to Jamaica, my goal was ideally to find a non-polluted area outside the big cities and stargaze there. Online maps from websites like lightpollutionmap offered a quick option to see how much brightness the sky has at a certain location.  This is a great tool for finding a good spot to do stargazing in Jamaica.

Read more: How to Plan an Island Hopping Trip in the Caribbean

Light polution map Jamaica
Light polution map of Jamaica. Yellow areas are good for stargazing – Green and blue areas are perfect.
Source: lightpolutionmap.info

Once there, I located the galaxy center using smartphone apps like SkyMap and SkyTracker. These are extremely useful free applications and wherever I go, I like to check this app not only for finding the milky way but sometimes to just know what stars I´m spotting on a clear night.

Sky Map even lets you see the astronomical position of the stars in the upcoming hours, making predictable to know where the galaxy center might be in several hours or when exactly does the moon sets or rises at the horizon – just perfect for stargazing.

Photographing the milky way in Jamaica

Once I knew where the milky way was and when I was going to be able to see it, I could plan my evening around that moment.

Once I found a good spot to sit down and stargaze, I first wanted to relax and enjoy the view. Only until I had my own personal moment of calm and peace, I took out my camera and tried photography. In Jamaica I was able to unleash my creativity by implementing objects of the natural landscape into my photographs: Palms, coconuts, seashells and even the ocean itself were great elements that made my photographs more vibrant and unique.

Photograph of the milky way in Negril, Jamaica
Use of external objects when photographing the milky way in Negril, Jamaica
Format: Full Frame (Sony A7Rii)
Length: 16mm
Shutter speed: 25s
Aperture: f3,5
ISO: 1600

The first nights were unexpectedly fascinating. Our group stayed at a resort in Negril and although there were lights and music every single night, we simply separated from the resort area, took a walk at the beach and sat on the sand at a dark spot. Here, with a glass of rum in the hand and music in the background, we let our eyes adapt for a while and saw the milky way crossing the sky. Even in the middle of a resort area, we were able to spot the galaxy center and its bulge – this simply shows how much pollution does Europe has, that even 50-60 km away from big cities, you still might have difficulties in spotting the milky way.

Light polution map comparison Europe and Jamaica
Comparison of light pollution between Jamaica and Netherlands. Green and blue areas mean a perfect view of the milky way

Seeing the milky way for first time in a country is something very special. The temperature in Jamaica was warm enough to be in shorts and with the sounds of the waves reaching the shore in the background, I felt like being on paradise.

Great views of Saturn, several suns and one or another shooting star passing by were the best part for our naked eyes, while photographing a clean view of the whole milky way was something, I rather let to the camera shutter.

I used the camera settings I normally use for astrophotography. And since I know them by heart, this part didn´t make me waste so much time in playing with a camera and rather focus on enjoying the moment.

Read more: How to photograph the milky way while traveling

Stargazing in Jamaica - View of the milky way
Use of lamps and lights to create a new photography compositions of the milky way.
Format: Full Frame (Sony A7Rii)
Length: 16mm
Shutter speed: 15s
Aperture: f2,8
ISO: 1260

After several days, our group moved to the south of Jamaica. Here is where I was most excited about, as the best view of the milky way cloud would be coming out of the ocean. I also asked to be in the most isolated cabin of the whole hotel and since I knew that this area of the country was way less polluted than in Negril, I had big plans for the night.

With a cliff view from my room, I only had to turn the lights off and look out from my window to get a full view of the milky way. Every night was an absolutely wonderful experience, as the sounds of the ocean and the waves crashing against the cliff were my music on the background.

Being outside of the city made me see the sky with different eyes. Jamaica taught me that I could appreciate the view of the milky way either with reggae, rum and people around me or just by myself and the sounds of nature.

Read more: Road trip in Jamaica – Tropical forests and untouched beaches are calling

Clean view of the milky way from my balcony at Jake's Resort in south Jamaica
Clean view of the galaxy center of the milky way from my balcony at Jake’s Resort in south Jamaica.
Format: Full Frame (Sony A7Rii)
Length: 16mm
Shutter speed: 20s
Aperture: f2,8
ISO: 1260

Photographing the milky way became my side hobby in Jamaica. Every night I was excited in finding new spots, using different lights and hopefully seeing and photographing this majestic cloud of stars, most of us don´t see very often.

And while photographing the stars is something, I usually do in every trip I take, Jamaica brought up the Caribbean vibe with it:  a magical atmosphere, great conversations and good friends to hang out with.

How do I find cheap flights to the Caribbean?

Finding a cheap flight anywhere around the world is not always easy. It’s about comparing platforms, selecting the right routes and booking at the right time. Fortunately, platforms like Skyscanner became known as an all-in-one tool for booking flights at the lowest cost possible.

They analyse every potential company and sub-contractor in order to find the lowest price available for you. Not only that, but you can also select the option “Travel Anywhere” and let Skyscanner find the cheapest place to travel at any selected date.

I check all my flights first at Skyscanner, and in 90% of the cases, I find the best option for me to book.

Also, by booking here using Skyscanner, you will support my blog and help me create more amazing and useful content.

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