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Cameras Towards the Sky: All About Astrophotography

July 1, 2012 Lowell Bradford Blog, News & Articles 0 Comments

Author : Lowell Bradford

Astrophotography is the process of taking photos of objects in space. Whether photographing a celestial object visible with the naked eye, such as the moon or a group of stars, or astronomers photographing space with the Hubble telescope, photographing space is astrophotography. The practice of astrophotography does not date as far back as some other sciences, simply because it depends on photography. Photography didn’t become a viable invention until the early 19th century. The first case of astrophotography took place in 1840 when the moon was photographed for the first time. Over a century later, astrophotography is the method used to capture the world’s most phenomenal images of space. Astrophotography is available to everyone. From professional astronomers to the backyard skygazer, all can enjoy the wonders of astrophotography.

Overview of Astrophotography

There are several methods used in astrophotography including various techniques, camera and video equipment, and various telescopes. Understanding the type of equipment used in astrophotography will help ensure you select the best methods for taking photos. The first thing to understand is that astrophotography is different from standard photography. Those accustomed to taking standard photos may find photographing celestial objects is more difficult than anticipated. Lighting, shadows, atmospheric changes, and the distance of heavenly objects must be taken into account to ensure the best photos are captured.

Telescopes should be adjusted to accommodate for the rotation of the earth. This is accomplished by setting equipment to rotate in an opposite manner from earth. Telescope mounts are an important device used in astrophotography that ensures photos captured are precisely timed and accurately track heavenly objects. Preventing tracking errors is vital to successful astrophotography and there are modern-day breakthroughs in computer science that helps make that happen.

History

Astrophotography is one of the oldest forms of science-based photography. Beginning in the 19th century, early astrophotography consisted of photographing the moon, stars, eclipses, and nebulas. The procedure requires long exposure and early images were known for being quite blurry. It was not uncommon for telescopes to lose power, focus, or direction during a prolonged photo shoot.

The earliest astrophotography photos captured were of the moon, followed by the sun and stars. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that astrophotography began to become an important scientific research method. The invention of refracting telescopes enabled more powerful imaging to be captured. As the 20th century progressed, new telescopes such as the Hale, Samuel Oschin, and Hubble revolutionized the art of professional astrophotography. By the late 20th century, new telescopes and equipment allowed for some of the most awe-inspiring space photos to be captured for the first time in history.

Amateur Astrophotography

While astrophotography is an important tool used in scientific applications, it is also a popular hobby. Advances in video equipment, standard, and digital cameras have enabled the backyard enthusiast to capture amazing photos. Computer software makes it possible to take photos that appear as though a professional took them. From the novice to the advanced hobbyist, everyone can enjoy the art and science of astrophotography.

A variety of media devices and equipment setups are used. Examples include video and webcams, CCD, over-the-counter cameras, single lens and digital single lens cameras. Computer software may be used to adjust cameras and telescopes to zoom in on certain objects then take pictures. Photos taken may be edited in image processing software, for a clearer picture. Please consult the following links for additional information on astrophotography.

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