Rob Ratkowski
Timeless Space Photography

Space Photography: A Way to Snap Heavenly Bodies

When you flick through a photo book and look at that amazing collection of pictures of the Moon, stars and the planets, do you ever wonder how those heavenly bodies were clicked? Of course, many of the images of objects existing in space are taken by satellites that are floating around in space, but many others could never be taken with normal cameras. While satellites could not click far-away things in the space and many are too distant from the Earth to be accomplished through normal photography, then the question arises: Where do these incredible pictures come from? The answer is high-tech cameras and telescope. Since the very long exposures needed to capture objects in space, you need specialized photography techniques and equipments to get better views of the areas of night sky and pickup very fine details of the objects in a dim light environment.

In the last few years, a massive surge in the popularity of space photography, or astrophotography, has been seen not only among scientists and amateur astronomers, but also among normal photographers who have keen interest in taking pictures of objects in the sky. Today we're witnessing a revolution in space photography, thanks to the cutting-edge digital technology, high-end camera systems and advanced image sensors that produce high-quality images. While the professionals and amateur astronomers have access to the big telescopes, those love photography as a hobby can rely on these ultra advanced digital cameras to capture some very astonishing images of our magical and mysterious space.

As conventionally said, "a picture is worth a thousand words," most of us love to recall the past by looking at old photographs and taking pictures in our free time. We all probably know what is photography but not many people know that photography is divided into many categories, namely fashion photography, travel photography, forensic photography, astrophotography, underwater photography, street photography, to name a few. Each one these genres of photography require special skills, equipments and, of course, dedication. Space photography may not as common as other kinds of photography due to its level of skill and equipment requirement, but it is rapidly gaining popularity among professionals, amateur and hobbyists alike.

Too many people now wish to see what the astronauts see way up in the space. Those who do not already know what space photography or astrophotography exactly is, let us define this photography term quickly here. Astrophotography is made up of two words astro (space) and photography (capturing images of objects). As the name suggests, astrophotography means taking pictures of celestial objects far away in space. This is specialized branch of photography that focuses only on the heavenly bodies in space, including astronomical objects such as the Sun, galaxies, natural satellites, and planets as well as celestial events like solar and lunar eclipses, meteor showers etc. and night time appearance of celestial objects like stars and the Moon, which are visible in a clear sky in the midnight.

Many professionals and amateur astronomers are deployed by government and private companies that facilitate them with a wide range of high-tech telescope, equipments, instruments and image sensing technology for capturing space objects that are several light-years away from the earth. Since ages, astronomers have been studying the enormously large mysterious space, discovering extrasolar planets and other celestial objects. Since it is primarily an observational science, space photography is considered imperative to have an in-depth idea about the astronomical objects floating in the space, such as meteors, comets, asteroids, variable stars, novae, nebulae, and even unknown planets. Being involved in space photography requires a few equipments and a lot of patience to locate a subject in the sky to be captured.

The instruments you are going to need are a telescope, a setup to hold the telescope and a higher definition camera designed for amateur astrophotography and a solid tripod to hold it steadily. Remember, your telescope should be portable so that it can be taken far away from urban light pollution. Besides, the telescope should be the one designed for gazing the moon, stars and other natural celestial objects in space. There are three main types of telescopes available for astrophotography - Refractors, Newtonian reflectors and Catadioptrics. And your camera must be a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera with very low light capability, and contain a highly advanced CCD imaging sensor for improved capture of astronomy objects. Having a sufficient knowledge about space science would be as added advantage while finding a subject in the sky.

Merits of Space Photography

Generally speaking, space photography has revolutionized the arena of professional astronomical research.The modern long exposure technology used in astrophotography helps in recording hundreds of thousands of new stars and nebulae that were until now invisible to the human eye. The astronomical photography confers a range of advantages, including the generation of scientific knowledge, leading to economic prosperity by stimulating innovations in science and technology, formation of collaboration between the countries engaged in space photography, and simplifying celestial things for the general public around the world. In addition, images of space objects captured using a wide range of technically designed equipment and instruments give a deepened and clear understanding about the space and its planetary, lunar, and binary stars. Using long exposure astrophotography, a better and clearer image of relatively faint objects lying deep in sky such a nebulas, galaxies and star clusters can be taken.

These astronomical objects require a longer overall exposure time to be clicked properly. Space photographs taken through astronomical photography enable professionals as well as ameature scientists do detailed photographic studies of the Sun, Moon, stars and other naturally existing physical objects in the space. It also motivates the global scientific and technological experts to look deep into the sky to unveil distant galaxies, exoplanets and new clusters of stars. Many times the astrophotographs pave the way for discovery of novel astronomical objects such as asteroids, meteors, comets, and planets far from our own galaxy. For instance, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been beaming hundreds of thousands of images of strange objects from outer space back to Earth over the past two decades, helping scientists to determine the age of the universe and some of the spectacular sights in the universe, which is full of wonders and surprises.

The sharp eye of  the Hubble Space Telescope has captured several different big and tiny objects, revealed the unknown planets and continues to explore deep in the sky. Using the photographs generated by Hubble's intensive observation of the galaxy, a number of astronomical research projects have been carried out. Astrophotography done both through space and ground-based telescopes can help resolve some long-standing problems in astronomy, make more accurate measurement, while at the same time raising new questions with some requiring new theories to explain them. So, people with a keen interest in space and celestial objects can also contribute to the field of astronomy and help astronomical research by taking the best shots of the night sky using specialized equipment intended specifically for Solar, Lunar and Planetary imaging.