When you flick through a text book and see those amazing pictures of the Moon and the planets, do you ever wonder how they were taken? Of course some of them are CGI and could never be accomplished with normal photography, and then others of them are taken by satellites that are floating through space and that are much nearer than we are to those planets. But obviously not all of these photos can come from satellites... and of course some of things that they photograph are far too distant for satellites to reach anyway...
So where do these pictures come from? The answer is obvious: telescopes. This is called 'astrophotography' and it's the simple act of taking a photograph through a telescope. And these don't have to be billion pound NASA telescopes either – if you have $100 lying around then you can get something powerful enough to do it – and I've taking some amazing photos of the moon craters with just the camera on my Galaxy Note... So if you have an interest in photography and an interest in the stars, this is a perfect extension of those things and a great way to try expanding your horizons... quite literally. Here's what you need to know...
What You Need
First of all you're going to need a telescope that's designed for viewing the moon and other distant objects in space. You can find such things on eBay and if you look for something called a 'Newtonian Reflector' then it won't be too expensive. Next, you're also going to want a decent camera and of course the higher definition that is the better the photos are going to come out. Make sure that if you invest in a good camera that you also get a good (and tall) tripod to put it on, as it can be very difficult to hold it steady otherwise.
Next you're going to want to take your telescope and camera out somewhere secluded. Try and find somewhere that's away from light pollution so that means ideally away from big cities. You of course also need it to be a cloudless night as much as possible. For taking photos of the moon you'll want a 20mm lens and a green filter to help dim the brightness a little so that your camera can take it in. Note as well that you won't always be able to see all the planets – it depends on when they're in position and how close they are to the Earth. Your best bet is to download a night sky app on your smartphone as this will give you the ability to identify objects in the sky using GPS and the in-built compass.
When you take pictures through your telescope they don't only need to be of planets and the moon. Sometimes just wide views of the stars can be impressive enough, while if you get some terrestrial objects in there too such as the tops of trees, and then bring the colours out in photoshop, you can create some really fantastic images.
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Julian Ian works at Protog, for more information about their products and services click here
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