Home Photography A Constellation Astrophotography Project | Fstoppers

A Constellation Astrophotography Project | Fstoppers

by kyngsam

Fall tends to be a “transitional” season for the astrophotographer. Summer season constellations are nonetheless seen for early night, however are shortly fading into the sundown. Late within the night, a few of the distinguished Winter constellations are beginning to come into sight. In a couple of months these winter constellations shall be excessive within the sky and nicely positioned for astrophotography, so now’s the time to do some planning.


As of late it may appear anachronistic to proceed to seek advice from the constellations, which truly don’t have any scientific significance, however as guideposts within the sky, they’re very helpful to astrophotographers. Though 88 constellations are formally acknowledged by the Worldwide Astronomical Union (IAU), the patterns themselves usually are not specified, so you might discover variations of the constellation shapes in numerous sky charts. The IAU solely specifies the boundaries, which frequently appear not nicely positioned. 

For novice astronomers and astrophotographers, it’s nonetheless a good suggestion to turn into accustomed to at the least the brighter constellation patterns, simply because it’s good to turn into accustomed to the continents and nation boundaries of the world. And observe that a few of the patterns novice astronomers seek advice from usually are not even the whole constellation or have something to do with the unique historic constellation. For instance, the Massive Dipper and Little Dipper are a part of bigger patterns of bears (Ursa Main and Ursa Minor). Equally, most novice astronomers acknowledge the “teapot” to characterize Sagittarius (the archer). These casual trendy shapes are known as asterisms.

Changing into accustomed to the constellations and particularly with the potential photographic targets in them, can begin with pc planetarium simulations resembling Stellarium or on-line static maps resembling


Personally, I choose giant printed maps for looking, however these appear to be largely out of print (and costly) nowadays.

Finally all of those have the issue of not displaying you a sensible illustration of what you possibly can count on to seize with your individual digital camera. On sky charts, usually the Milky Means and gaseous nebulae clouds are represented by unrealistic hard-edged symbols having little relationship to what your digital camera will choose up. Computerized star charts could overlay images of objects as you zoom in, however they might have been photographed with giant telescopes or embody false-color views of infra-red photographs.

So my suggestion to new astrophotographers has lengthy been to undergo the train of capturing your individual wide-angle images of the constellations. The train has a number of goals:

  • Achieve familiarity with recognizing the place the constellations are relative to one another.
  • Perceive what instances of the yr they’re well-placed for pictures.
  • Get a really feel for a way giant the constellation is.
  • Achieve familiarity with the targets that present up in your images, how vibrant they’re, the vary of colours in them, and provide you with an thought of the focal size of the lens wanted for close-up images.

It seems that many constellations match inside the area of view of a standard 50mm lens on a digital camera with a full-frame sensor. Usually for astrophotos I like to recommend the usage of quick prime lenses (sooner than f/four if doable), however for the constellation train images, I recommend utilizing a zoom lens which covers the vary of 35 to 85mm, stopped right down to f/four or f/5.6. A main lens, having much less glass, will usually provide you with a greater high quality picture, however the zoom vary permits for some flexibility in framing the constellation, and the stopped down lens matches the vary of widespread telescope f-ratios in addition to what is important to get moderately spherical stars within the corners of first rate high quality lenses.

For a lot of the examples right here, I used a really previous equipment lens Nikon 70 to 210mm zoom at 70mm on an astro-modified Canon RP mirror-less digital camera using on a Sky Watcher Star Adventurer tracker. In my specific setup, the previous Nikon F-mount lens needed to have an aperture management ring on it because it was used with an adapter to the Canon digital camera. The digital camera was modified for astronomical use for me by Hutech, an area astronomy gear store.

Constellation: Auriga

A modified digital camera shouldn’t be strictly vital, however will extra clearly present the glowing pink hydrogen-alpha clouds that are generally discovered within the Milky Means. The tracker shouldn’t be strictly vital both, however many extra frames must be stacked to get first rate photographs. 

With the tracker, I shot 30-second photographs and stacked 50 to 100 frames. Utilizing this setup, it’s straightforward to border the shot with a ball-head on the tracker, and let the gear shoot frames for an hour or two. I restricted the frames to 30 seconds (most built-in digital camera publicity) at ISO 3,200. This eliminates the issue of worrying about excessive precision polar alignment of the tracker. At these settings, the frames are uncovered sufficient to point out faint particulars however not overexpose the sky. This additionally allowed the usage of the interior intervalometer perform of the Canon RP for use.

Constellation: Orion

In the event you’ve gotten deeper into astrophotography, you too can shoot darkish, bias, and flat frames to stack and apply them to the stacked picture frames to enhance the standard of pictures and achieve extra expertise with processing astronomical pictures. Doing the constellation picture train is an effective time to get into extra superior astronomical picture processing in the event you’ve not already performed so. I’ve utilized the additional frames to those picture stacks for these examples so mud spots and lens vignetting had been largely eradicated, however the enhancements had been considerably offset by dew on my lens in a few of these photographs. However perfection shouldn’t be vital in these “scouting” train photographs in the event you can see the objects of curiosity.

Constellation: Perseus (northern part)

For the labeled photographs right here, I used Photoshop to additionally improve the first stars of the constellations as they are usually misplaced within the sea of stars picked up by even this modest setup. A program I used to stack these photographs counts some 15,000 stars within the frames, which is typical for Milky Means areas. As a part of the train, I like to recommend utilizing a star chart as a reference and label your individual images for future reference when you’re pondering a goal for an evening of pictures. Your personal photographs provides you with a significantly better really feel for what your outcomes shall be with your individual gear.

Constellation: Cassiopeia

Observe: The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) seems on the proper fringe of the body.  Photographically, that is a lot bigger than the Moon.

Along with the worth of the constellation familiarization train, capturing wide-field constellation photographs could recommend a bigger venture in itself. The Cassiopeia/Perseus cowl shot for this text is a panorama created from 4 medium-format (6×9 cm) frames highlighting the constellation Cassiopeia and a part of Perseus the place there’s a wealthy number of targets.

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