Looking Up At The Stars


Helaine and I are heading out again, this time to the west. Since we’ll be in the desert and it will be dry and dark, I thought I’d see what’s possible with my camera. Can a DSLR also function as a rudimentary telescope?

The Earth turns on its axis, so holding the shutter open any length of time introduces motion to the stars, even if the camera’s perfectly still. That’s no good. In most cases, the best way to combat the resulting ‘star trails’ is a mount which moves the camera in sync with the Earth. They’re often homebuilt from scrap lumber and some simple hardware, but I don’t have one (yet).

Even if I did, I’m not sure I want to pack it up and carry it around on a trip. There is another way… or so I’m told.

I downloaded a program, DeepSkyStacker, which will combine multiple images to give one ‘master’ image with less noise and more ‘real’ stars.

The photo at the top is my first try. Here’s a full size version. It’s the random piece of sky directly over my driveway. Steffie’s birthday gift, a Gorillapod, made the pointing part easy.

This one photo was really made from ten separate five second exposures, plus some pure dark frames taken as a reference. I’m using a Canon 50mm f1.5 lens on a Canon Digital Rebel (aka – Clicky).

This is a promising first step. I hope I have a chance to try more out west.

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