Can't Seem to See Those Stars

Over the last few decades, we’ve accumulated quite a number of breathtaking shots of space.  Thanks to amazing advancements in technology, astronauts are able to take high-resolution photos of our solar system using specialized cameras designed for space travel.

If you’re especially enthusiastic about space photography, you’ve probably noticed by now that it’s not uncommon to see an image of a large space object surrounded by pure black.  While these photos never fail to be striking, they do make us wonder about the stars in our solar system.  If stars are so abundant, why aren’t we seeing a single one in any of these photos?

As you’ll discover, the answer is quite complicated.  While stars are, by nature, very bright, they’re also incredibly difficult to pick up with a camera.

Space Cameras Aren’t Like Our Cameras

Many of today’s high-end cameras automatically adjust the aperture based on the lighting in your environment.  The aperture is much like the human eyeball, getting larger or smaller depending on how much light it is perceiving at any given time.  Even cameras that don’t have automatic aperture adjustment functions allow you to play around with a wide range of aperture settings in order to capture the correct amount of light.

Space cameras, on the other hand, are different.  Because they’re going into space, they’re constructed in a very different way.  Typically, a space camera is specially created for a specific mission, in order to capture a very specific object.  Therefore, the aperture is already set. 

Because of the unique lighting of space, it’s crucial that the aperture is set to a very precise level in order to capture the object that the particular mission is dedicated to exploring.  Therefore, it’s designed to make a space object appear very bright.  Doing this means that other light elements won’t be as pronounced, such as stars.

Bright Lights Need Long Exposure

Have you ever attempted to take a picture of a lamp that was turned on?  If so, you may know that it’s virtually impossible unless you’re willing to use an incredibly long exposure.  For those who don’t know, exposure refers to the length of time it takes for the camera to capture the photo.  Bright objects require long exposure while dark objects do not.

Most space cameras aren’t designed to do long-exposure shots.  That’s why stars appear invisible in many space photographs.  The exposure simply wasn’t on long enough for the camera to pick up those tiny, bright stars.

You Can Still Find Awesome Pics Out there

While it may be rare to see glittering stars in space photography, you can still find pictures that were specifically taken to capture the constellations in our solar system
  • Jan 07, 2019
  • Category: Blog
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