Monday, October 29, 2012

Eclipse 2012 - Photographing star clouds

In addition to photographing the total solar eclipse on Nov. 13-14th in Australia I also want to get some shots of the southern star clouds. The galactic central bulge will not be visible at this time of year, but the Magellanic clouds will and they are my prime targets. The Astrotrac setup and DSLR from the eclipse photo project are great for this purpose - all I need in addition is a good photographic lens.

Shooting stars with a 50mm f/1.4 lens on the Astrotrac.
My choice is a 180mm f/2.8 Nikon lens. The small Magellanic cloud will fit nicely in the 180mm field of view (FOV); while the larger cousin will require a 1x2 mosaic to get some air around it. Yesterday night I tested this lens and the software for controlling the camera. Based on advice from my friends, I'm using ImagesPlus. I'm a total novice at doing such DSLR starfield photography, so just a minimum of practice beforehand is essential. I couldn't figure out how to use the bulb exposure mode (I do have the cable and it was connected), so my tests were done at 30 seconds exposure time, ISO800. I also couldn't figure out how to move the liveview zoomed region of interest around - maybe I'll have to read the manual!

Just to be safe, I'll also bring a 50mm f/1.4 Nikon lens. This is more forgiving of tracking errors and the larger field may be fun to use on the milky way.

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