How to Capture Starlight

Introduction:

Many people who own DSLR’s are left in the dark when it comes to capturing starlight.  Their results vary from completely blurry, to light trails, to completely blank.  The object of this entry is to help you to capture some amazing shots of the night sky by using a few basic but key accessories.  I will give you these in list form.  All items that are absolutely essential will have an * at the beginning of the explanation.  I will also include instructions for proper post editing…

  • Use a tripod – * This is an absolute necessity because you can’t possibly hold the camera steady enough yourself, for the time duration it takes to capture enough light, and keep the star points concentric (round).
  • Exposure – The Earth is always moving, and the stars are moving as well.  So the I prefer 5 seconds, but can push it up to 8 seconds, and still get concentric star points.  This time frame is important because any longer and you’re going to get trails (movement), and any shorter, and you won’t capture as many star points.  The human eye creates a new picture every tenth of a second.  So leaving the shutter open for this amount of time will capture stars up to 3 more magnitudes than you can visually see!  This may not sound like much, but it is…
  • ISO – *  It’s advisable to set your ISO to 3200 to make the sensor as sensitive to light as possible.  If your camera only provides 1600 ISO max., adequate pictures can still be attained with 8 second exposures, though a reduction in size will be a must in the post processing stage…
  • F Stop – Again, you want the camera to pick up as much light as possible, so open your lens all the way to at least f 5.6.. If you can get it lower at f 4 or below, so much the better!
  • Lens – Contrary to popular belief, you may think the longer the lens in the telescopic range, the more starlight you’ll gather.  This is true, but your field of view is very limited.  So although you will see stars that are further away, there will be very few of them in your field of view!  Use as wide an angle lens as you have.  I used as 24mm to 105mm zoom lens set to 24mm to capture the most stars.
  • Focus – You’re not going to see a lot through your view finder.  To obtain clear focus, set your focus ring to infinity: that’s the sideways 8 shown on your lens.  Do this along with all of your other camera settings before you go out because it’s dark out there, and a flashlight will only blind you more! 
  • Cable Release – * This is an optional accessory that most people have to buy separately for their camera.  When you click the button on your camera to take a picture, this transfers any shake in your hand, to the image, producing ‘ghosts’ beside each star point.  A cable release is relatively inexpensive, and essential for every day use as well!
  • Mirror Lock – * Unfortunately, it’s essential that your camera has this feature!  Just before the exposure is taken, the mirror flips up, causing camera shake that is avoided of you have a ‘mirror lock’ feature.  This way, you set your camera to ‘bulb’, press the cable release once to lock up the mirror, wait 2 seconds, and then hold the button down for the duration of your exposure, and then let go: else-wise, your camera will try to focus on nothing, which is why you get those blank shots!  Alternatively, set your camera to ‘Manual’, and uncouple your exposure from your focus points on the camera, if your camera provides for that…  The newest cameras are now mirror-less to avoid the problem completely.
  • Black Mat – Not many cameras have this feature.  Mine does.  At 3200 ISO, artifacts, or ‘digital noise’ becomes a very real problem.  With this feature, a camera can take a black mat background shot first, and then superimpose the foreground on that, virtually eliminating all noise.  Though you may loose a few star points, I’ll show you a way to achieve something similar in the post processing phase.
  • Seeing – ‘Seeing is a term that describes the number of stars visible on any given night.  Sometimes you will see lots of stars, and on other nights, not so many.  I purposely picked a night when the seeing was poor, so I could show you only the tip of the ice-burg of what your camera is capable of!  The real name for the sensor that determines the number of mega-pix you can capture is called a CCD, or ‘charged couped device’.  Astronomers immediately switched from conventional emulsion film to CCD’s as soon as they came out.  This was long before commercial cameras were using them.  So you have the perfect astronomical instrument right there in the back of your camera.  CCD’s are far more sensitive to light than conventional film.  The catch is, if you own a cheap camera, you probably have a crumby CCD chip as well.  I paid $8000 for one of the best cameras there is, so I have everything listed above, including an excellent, full 35mm frame CMOS CCD chip…

Post Processing:

It’s best to shoot these in RAW format.  I then save it as a dng. extension which stands for: ‘digital negative.’  This retains the ability to still work with the image in your RAW utility without loosing data, except now, it’s an actual image that can be processed.  Next, I save a copy to png. format because it retains 16 mega-pix of data, and is presentable in WordPress format.  Jpgs. are only 8 bits which equates to presenting someone with an image capable of defining 65,000 colors, as apposed to 256 colors in jpg format.

24 Bits produces 16 million colors, and 32 bits introduces 22 million colors, which is the full extent of what the eye can discern.  So if you’re shooting for 64 bit pix., it’s over-kill…  Anyway, 16 bits makes for far more latitude in the post processing stage without the image deteriorating or developing artifacts…

At the bottom of your RAW utility window in Photoshop, you’ll see a statement highlighted in light blue, assigning 8 bits to your photo.  You don’t want this.  You want 16 bits until you intend to save a jpg. copy. By right clicking this ‘statement’, it will give you the option to convert images using 16 bit format.  This is where you need to be.  Select it, and leave it that way.

Temperature – Star colors used to be very hard to achieve without a high powered telescope.  Not anymore!  There is a trick to it though.  You’ll find, if you examine your ‘Histogram’, that all of the pixels in star shots are all slammed up against the far left hand side.  This is naturally where all your shadow content would be, and the favorite place for blue light. There’s a ‘temperature gage on the first tab in the RAW utility.  You will see it’s at the blue side of things.  Reset it to 5200 K. so that you will get the correct color of stars that aren’t apparent just yet.

Color – In the same tab, you’ll find a saturation control and a vibrancy control.  I set the vibrancy control to 45% and the saturation level to 40% and I still had to add 40% more saturation in Photoshop for star colors to become apparent!  Still, most of them are subtle differences because stars go from very faintly colored to extremely colorful on a scale from 1 to 9. The designations are: OBAFGKM.  

The sentence to remember the order is: ‘Oh be a fine girl, kiss me!’  ‘O’ stars are white. ‘B’ stars are progressively more blue: 1 being the faintest, and 9 being the most saturated.  ‘A’ stars are cyan. ‘F’ stars are Gold.  ‘G’ stars are yellow.  Our star is a G2 star. ‘K’ stars are orange and ‘M’ stars are red dwarfs.  Over half of all stars are red dwarfs.  Over half of all stars are double stars orbiting about each other  Castor in Gemini, is a six star system!

In one shot, on the bottom left hand side, near the tree, you’ll notice the big dipper, and that a couple of the stars on the handle show their double star companions.  The Big Dipper BTW is within the region of space in which we reside.  Because they’re so close, the ‘proper motion’ of these stars will radically change their position by 2050, so it won’t resemble its present shape at all…

You’ll notice subtle shades of purple and green, but you’ll have to look close!  Other stars will jump right out at you as beings deep blue or red or yellow…  Experiment with a 50 mm macro lenses you can stop down to f 1.2 in some cases.

Contrast – This is where I was telling you earlier, where you can take out the noise.  adjust your contrast in your Raw utility, to +40.  That should remove the noise, and leave the actual stars.  Do not adjust any other controls.

Get out there now and try your hand at this wonderful field of night time photography!  I took a picture here of a bright star, and to my delight, I captured an ‘Open Cluster’ of older, yellow stars beside it.  So you never know what surprises are in store!  Like I said before…  There were only a few of stars visible the night I took these pictures.  Imagine what you would capture on nights when you can see The entire Milky Way sprawled out above you!

In Conclusion:

Since the star points won’t be visible in the slide show, it’s important that you choose ‘view full size’ on the bottom of your slide show screen, and then click the photo with your little magnifying glass icon to view it full size.  Then to save it, right click and chose: ‘Save Image as’…

Dreaming of You

Sometimes I think we loose our talented youth because this world doesn’t deserve them anymore…  I was a great fan of Selena, and when she died, it broke my heart!  She was assassinated at the age of 23!  It will be centuries before another like her comes along!   Now I must finally put that behind me.

I’m A Shih Tsu

I’m a Shih Tsu;

I wake up early in the morning!

And then I like to chew upon your shoe…

 

I buried it too;

Just as the sun got warming!

And then I ripped the sole right out of you…

 

CHORIS: Elderberry wine;

Drinking all my time!

Cause theirs a Shih Tsu, living, in my brain…

 

CHORIS: I never even knew;

What I had to do,

To keep my Master’s plan from going through!

 

CHORIS: Sentimental Pine;

Chewing on my line!

Cause there’s a Shih Tsu. living, in my brain!

 

Yes I’m a Shih Tsu, driving you insane…

Cause I’m a Shih Tsu!  Yeah! Yeah!

Shih Tsu!

 

_0005_Shih_Tzu

Observing Dark Matter

Introduction:

Everything in school came more or less naturally to me.  So I didn’t have to study at all to get good grades: you only have to tell me once.  I have the memory of a pack of pachyderms!  One of the things that came most naturally to me was physics.  And that’s because, as the term ‘physics’ suggests, most things can either be confirmed or denied by observing the physical world.  Yes our evaluations are biased because we live inside this bubble in space.  Yet the laws of physics effect matter everywhere to a greater or lesser degree, depending on mass and velocity. 

In this entry, I intend to dispute some common concepts concerning the nature of dark matter.  For instance, many Cosmologists believe dark matter to be inconsistent, and I believe it to be homologous.  Others are puzzled that if there’s greater and lesser densities in gases that form stars, then their distances from one another should be random, and yet they are not.  Except in globular clusters and open clusters, where stars are gravitationally bound, all stars are almost exactly four light years apart from one another in galaxy formations.  I also intend to prove that gravity is more of an effect than a law, which better explains why the universe continues to expand than does negative energy, or anti-matter.  I intend here, to answer these questions using direct observation.

 

2a

The Andromeda galaxy with it’s two smaller conglomerates that orbit its central hub.  Andromeda is 2.2million light years away presently and heading right toward us.  In a few billion years it will actually collide with us, forming a much larger elliptical galaxy with a trillion stars or so: extra ones being formed from combining left over gases from both galaxies.  Well, they won’t actually collide.  It’s highly unlikely that any star from each will touch another…

 

Why are stars the distance apart?

It involves the homogenous nature of the dark matter scaffolding that holds galaxies afloat in space.  Ever since my Mummy introduced me do drugs at age six, in the form of caffeine, I’ve always loved to fold a slice of peanut-butter and bread in half, and dip it in my tea.  Today, it serves me will in replacing the dunking pleasure of donuts without the added calories.  I use twelve grain bread and noticed that the left over seeds and crumbs were always evenly spaced when I looked at the dregs.  This is what lead me to the contusion that it might just be the homogenous nature of dark matter that provides for the even spacing of stars regardless of mass or size.

This also lead me to conclude that the ‘Law of Gravity’ may be more of an effect as evident causation related to dark matter as an effect rather than a ‘law’…  This would neatly expanse why we can’t come up with a unified field theory: some of the math is missing!  And if the effects of gravity decrease with distance (and they do), how can it be regarded as universal a thing as a law?  With more mass, comes more gravity.  Yet not just via the mass of a heavenly girl or star, but the dark matter that surrounds it as well. 

Theorists contend that gravity is a universal effect.  This is only so because mass is universal.  Zero mass = zero gravity!  If it were a law unto itself, it wouldn’t have to depend upon mass to be relevant.  Mass is the law! Gravity is just the effect and should be examined independently  of mass to be fully understood.  As usual, we get the whole thing backwards…

 

1280px-Keplers_supernova

 

How does it follow, dark matter is uniform?

Supernovas are uniform, always forming consistent geometrical patterns that would else-wise be random and inconsistent if dark matter was in clumps of varied density.  When I wake up (every second week), I always stare up at the oscillating fan above my head.  It spins very quickly!  And because the blades are uniformly spaced, there’s a kind of even invisibility revealing the ceiling behind it.  Galaxies also spin very quickly!  This could very neatly explain the homologous nature of dark matter, as well as it’s apparent invisibility to us. 

If galaxies were stationery, the dark matter that holds them up would suddenly be visible and would block the light of stars behind it.  And if dark matter weren’t uniform, than all the stars behind it would appear to be variable stars, which is NOT the case at all, seemingly!

The uniformity of dark matter leads me to conclude that it is not in fact heavier than visible mass as believed: that rather, the spin of a galaxy contributes to it’s ability to stay afloat in space in much the same way a spinning top remains upright, independent of gravity trying to topple the top off of its balance.  Spinning tops also form elliptical paths created by their spin rather than their weight, negating that dark matter is the only thing holding a galaxy up and must therefore be more massive than the matter within it.

These thoughts are naturally speculative on my part and not by any means set in stone.  I’m certain you must have queries of your own on the matter (the matter?)…  Naturally, I’m open to debate without prejudice, spitting, or telling you to jump up your own A-hole and die…  I hardly believe my milk and honey in tea coupled with peanut-butter sandwich crumbs will redefine the way we see the universe.  I merely wish to leave it open to question and cause you to think on the matter.  Perhaps with combined brain-storming, we can come up with a real hurricane!  If you think this confusing, I plan to ask you next why you think snowflakes are all unique :O)

 

Footnote hand typed:

Someone is trying to change the way my system works over The Internet.  See why I wanted to keep using Opera?  Anyway, I’ve taken to using Live Writer to compose entries and only coming online to publish them: one advantageous way Live Writer helps me to distance me from this Creep!  Another advantage is that Live Writer provides for white spacing, most effectual in stanzas between poem verses, and much easier on the eye of my beholders… For the time being, I may have trouble going to The Reader: at least until this Idiot finds someone else to pester…