Jump to content


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Newspaper Article on Astrophotography

  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 chey_dors


    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 2
  • Joined: 21 Oct 2023

Posted 22 October 2023 - 12:28 AM

Hey all!


I'm intending on selling an article to a local paper, which centers around a local astrophotographer. 


Please contribute some thoughts on the following:


1) What are examples of notable discoveries made by amateur astrophotographers? Please cite a source if possible.


2) Does this make sense? Please correct as needed: "In astrophotography, the camera is characterized by a low shutter rate (or, a long exposure time) that lets in more light. This is because the objects of interest are so far away; so, instead of taking many pictures quickly as in sports photography, you take one picture slowly. In up-to nine hours of post-production, many pitch-black photos of the ever-moving stars are layered to compile one detailed photo of the night sky."


3) Please contribute anything else that a laymen might find interesting about the hobby/craft, such as if you find it daunting realizing our smallness when taking in the vastness of the universe.

Edited by chey_dors, 22 October 2023 - 12:29 AM.

#2 bobzeq25



  • *****
  • Posts: 34,480
  • Joined: 27 Oct 2014

Posted 22 October 2023 - 12:48 AM

Suggestion for points 2 and 3.


2}  In astrophotography one takes long exposures because the subjects are so dim.  One combines many such exposures to make the image less noisy (smoother).  The total time involved in gathering the data is frequently a number of hours.


But that's not all.  Astrophotography is more complicated than you might think.  Keeping the camera precisely on target for the long exposures is challenging.  It's like taking photographs of the countryside on a very dark night, from a moving car, on a bumpy unpaved road with no lights.  Combining the individual exposures, and getting colorful, detailed, and smooth pictures, requires intensive computer processing of the data, which can also take hours of work.  The software involved is very sophisticated, and it takes a long time to become expert in using it.


It's an extremely challenging hobby, takes years to master.  The rewards are detailed pictures of many wonders in our universe, wonders of a size many millions of times larger than the Earth, and inconceivably far away.  You can take pictures from your suburban backyard that are comparable to those done 30 years ago by professional astronomers using extremely expensive large telescopes in observatories far away from cities.


But it's far from easy.  Definitely not a hobby for everyone.


Note on your idea that combining the subexposures makes them brighter.  That's not the case.  You don't add the subexposures, you average them.  The combined subexposures remain just as dark as the lights.  You make the picture brighter by computer processing.  Example below.  The combination of 82 25 second subexposures (aka the "stack") and the computer processed stack.  Click on the first picture to enlarge it, it shows the stack in the processing program, and click on the mediocre CN thumbnail below it for a better version of the image, and details of the process.


It's far from my best work, but the stack was available on this computer.


M108 stack.jpg



Edited by bobzeq25, 22 October 2023 - 01:22 AM.

#3 james7ca



  • *****
  • Posts: 12,716
  • Joined: 21 May 2011
  • Loc: San Diego, CA

Posted 22 October 2023 - 01:01 AM

Extended objects don't change brightness just because they are "far away." If that were true as you walked away from a wall the wall would become darker, instead it just gets smaller but with the same surface brightness (and requiring the same exposure in a photograph regardless of the distance between the camera and the wall). So, your statement about "objects of interest" needing more exposure because they are "so far away" is somewhat misleading. There is more to this question/answer than just that, but you'd probably be more correct to just say that most of the objects of interest are generally very faint to begin with (like trying to photograph a black cat in a dimly illuminated coal bin). However, things that act as true point sources (such as distant stars) DO change apparent brightness with distance and this is one of the reasons why stars do not all look the same.


Thus, all these pictures you see of nebulae (gas and dust in deep space) just need a lot of exposure time because they aren't very bright to begin with.


You might also mention that light pollution (from all of the outdoor lighting) makes the task of astrophotography much more difficult, thus dark skies that are far away from cities are a great aid to imaging these faint objects. Thus, to continue with the black cat analogy, astrophotography is kind of like trying to see or photograph a black cat in a dimly illuminated coal bin when someone is pointing a flashlight back at both you and the camera.

Edited by james7ca, 22 October 2023 - 04:01 AM.

  • CharLakeAstro likes this

#4 jimr2



  • -----
  • Posts: 1,123
  • Joined: 26 Sep 2013
  • Loc: Sparks, NV

Posted 22 October 2023 - 01:02 AM

Also, as I'm sure you know, what you say in 2) about a low shutter rate (or, a long exposure time) applies only to photography of deep sky objects, not photography of the planets--quite the opposite is true for planetary astrophotography...

  • bobzeq25 and CharLakeAstro like this



    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 15,721
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2014
  • Loc: Springwater, NY

Posted 22 October 2023 - 02:24 AM

The way these ~Human Interest~ vignettes are typically done is you "the reporter" ask the subject to agree to an interview and demonstration of his/her history, background, thoughts and technique. Hopefully, the subject enthusiastically shows you what they do and why, including motivation and personal observations regarding the hobby and its benefits. A couple hours is sufficient for that. Then a day or two to compose, edit and submit to publisher. Anyway, that's how the newspapers, radio and TV typically turn things around = very fast and efficiently. They already have their few favorite sources (mostly paid staff writers, reporters, and photographers) and a few experienced locals who typically get published a few times a year. Gratuitous submissions are indeed considered... but the approval rate is slim. In rare cases, the ~local~ story (if very well done) gets picked up by the national and published or broadcast.


I experienced that in the mid 1980's. The local TV station sent a reporter and camera man over to talk astronomy. I happily showed them my observatory, darkroom in action (film!) etc. and we chatted and joked around a bit. They skillfully edited down to a 2 minute time slot, broadcast it a couple times (I didn't even see it for being at work those evenings) and then flew to CA on business. In my hotel room... I unpack, chill out and flip on the TV... CNN. Watching the news and there I see that little vignette broadcast nationally!


My counsel is --- let your subject flesh out the technical and motivational dimensions. Translate that into words (including quotes) as you see fit. The readers then see the intended subject front and center and the skilled writer is in the wings. The best compliment is when readers enjoy your article and comment, "well written!"    Tom

#6 chey_dors


    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 2
  • Joined: 21 Oct 2023

Posted 22 October 2023 - 10:46 PM

Many thanks to those who have assisted thus far!

  • bobzeq25 likes this

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Recent Topics

Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics