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Night Skies of the Chesapeake: A Photo Essay

  • Sunrise at Inner Harbor on a cold winter morning

  • Dawn across Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

  • The USS Constellation at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

  • The Chesapeake Bay Bridge at sunrise

  • The Choptank Lighthouse at sunrise

  • Solomons Lump Light at sunset

  • Supermoon rising over Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse

  • The Milky Way over Assateague Island National Seashore during a late September night *Assateague is less than 10 miles outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed

  • The full arch of the Milky Way over Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

  • The dawn of a new day at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

The Chesapeake Bay watershed provides an abundance of great scenery and photo ops! Waterfront cityscapes, the spectacular Chesapeake Bay bridges, sailboats tacking across the Bay, watermen plying their trade, stunning lighthouses, and plenty of wildlife, including bald eagles, great blue herons, shorebirds, ospreys, cormorants, turtles and other aquatic creatures. There is little doubt that the Chesapeake is a national treasure. 

However, there is also another world out there, one that is often overlooked. It occurs between dusk and dawn – the night sky of the Chesapeake! The Bay region offers some of the darkest skies on the East Coast. There are numerous great viewing spots for both sunrises, sunsets and spectacular, starry nights. Baltimore and Annapolis harbors are fantastic backdrops for sunrises and sunsets. 

Chesapeake lighthouses make for interesting foregrounds when the supermoon rises at dusk – if the viewing angles work out, as does the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge’s wetland expanses are almost always a sure bet for a good sunrise or sunset. And Chesapeake landscapes make for spectacular foregrounds for special celestial events, such as when Comet NEOWISE appeared, or during a lunar eclipse. 

The especially dark skies of Assateague Island and Blackwater NWR provide great viewing of the Milky Way when the core of our galaxy rotates back into the Northern Hemisphere. The entire arch of the Milky Way can be seen – when the conditions are right – from March through June. After June, the Milky Way rotates almost straight up, until the core disappears below the horizon in October. Star trails are also possible to see all year long when the skies are dark and clear. 

So, if you’re looking to see or photograph the beauty and uniqueness of the Chesapeake Bay, pick a nice spot for a sunrise of sunset. If you are lucky and plan accordingly, you may catch the supermoon rising above Sandy Point Light or the arch of the Milky Way rising over the marshes of Blackwater.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located on Maryland's Eastern Shore, attracts a vast number of waterfowl to model Chesapeake Bay tidal wetlands. While primarily a tidal marsh, the refuge also includes a mature pine forest.

Choptank River Heritage Center

The Choptank River Heritage Centershowcases the bygone experience of life along the Eastern Shore's rivers and working waterfronts.

Sandy Point State Park

Sandy Point State Park is located in Anne Arundel county just before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The 786 acre park provides a variety of recreational opportunities such as swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, and windsurfing.

USS Constellation Museum

The last all sail warship built by the US Navy, USS Constellation served her country for 100 years before her final decommissioning in 1955. It is now a center-piece of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Michael Weiss

Michael Weiss is a photojournalist based in Silver Spring, MD. He has spent the past three decades capturing the beauty of nature on land and underwater. 

April 12, 2021

Main image: Michael Weiss
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