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Astrophotographer Brings Sci-Fi Feature of ‘Alien Throne’ Alive With Milky Way Backdrop

Published: March 19, 2022
Alien Throne is located in the Valley of Dreams, a secluded expanse of hoodoos in northern New Mexico.
Alien Throne is located in the Valley of Dreams, a secluded expanse of hoodoos in northern New Mexico. (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)

Photographers are well-known for visiting rural and hidden places around the world to capture the most unique pictures. Astrophotographer Marcin Zajac captured a bizarre landscape that could have come from a Sci-Fi movie. By using the galaxy we reside in, The Milky Way as the backdrop, the photographer created a most breathtaking image. The Covid-19 pandemic provided the opportunity for Zajac, a 33-year-old software engineer, to retreat to a desert in New Mexico to photograph a hoodoo called ‘Alien Throne.’ 

Alien Throne is located in the Valley of Dreams, a secluded expanse of hoodoos in northern New Mexico. It is not an easy journey to travel to this rural destination, as it has no direct access to roads, signage, or official trails. Travelers with mobility issues may find the dry, rocky landscape difficult to navigate, and there are no restrooms.  

Hoodoos are formed naturally when erosive forces like wind, rain, and flowing water erode piled layers of soft and hard rock to create a structure like Alien Throne. The softer layers wear down rapidly, while the tougher layers hold up for much longer, leaving behind these unfathomable forms. All hoodoos have unique appearances due to their different upbringings and mineral makeups. 

Yosemite Valley at night (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)

Zajac traveled to New Mexico during the Covid-19 pandemic last year as a road trip. “With the pandemic in full swing, it was the perfect time to drive to a remote desert and camp away from civilization for a few days,” Zajac told The Epoch Times. His favorite part of the trip was seeing Alien Throne.

In his Instagram post, he explained, “The landscape here looks otherworldly, especially once the sun sets and the stars appear. The bright objects to the left of the hoodoo are the planetary duo of Jupiter and Saturn which were unusually close that night.”

Shark Fin Cove, Davenport, California (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)

Zajac caught the “extraterrestrial” monolith in a composite montage by taking several pictures for his foreground. He used a star tracker to capture the starry extravaganza for his composition, which enables for exposures of up to five minutes, boosting clarity while decreasing noise. As Zajac told in the newspaper, “My goal is to capture the beauty of the natural world we live in. I find myself drawn to grand landscapes under spectacular, vibrant conditions.”

After sending this stunning picture to NASA, the shot was chosen for NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), and can now be seen on their website. Zajac was previously nominated three times for the Royal Museum Greenwich’s Astronomer Photographer of the Year Award, which is an honorable moment for him.

The Milky Way arch rises above the lake that fills the s-shaped canyon (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)

This talented photographer has traveled far and wide to capture the most unique and magnificent pictures. Just last year, he photographed the incredible image of a burning fire in Yosemite National Park. He characterized it as a “surreal experience,” traveling on a road surrounded on both sides by flames and feeling the heat coming from outside his car.

To photograph the S-curved canyon, he traveled on a distant wilderness excursion in Utah last year. In his rental car, he drove 50 miles on a “washboard” of dirt road. The result was a splendid photo of a late-night Milky Way display arching above the canyon in Utah.

Originally from Poland, Marcin Zajac is now located in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a Landscape photographer from California, he travels around the Western United States regularly in quest of breathtaking photographs of Heaven and Earth. He shares his brilliant works on Instagram.

Located in Death Valley National Park, the color palette becomes especially vivid in diffused post-sunset light (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)
The fog sweeping through the Golden Gate strait (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)
Near the Arizona/Utah border (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)
A mushroom-shaped hoodoo stands tall in the New Mexico (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)
This gnarly tree is an ancient bristlecone pine growing in the White Mountains of Eastern California at an elevation of ~11,000ft (~3500m) (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California (Image: Marcin Zajac and @mrcnzajac)

As the hoodoo looks like ruins of an ancient alien city on an abandoned planet in some Sci-Fi franchise, Zajac’s idea of using the Milky Way as the backdrop enhances the whole look of the Alien Throne. Now, anyone who sees the Alien Throne with their naked eyes will miss seeing the Milky Way backdrop.