Decided to try my hand at shooting the Christmas Star last evening… this is my first time shooting anything past the moon so I wasn’t holding out much hope… It seems like it would be easy enough shooting, just focus and shoot! Well, it turns out to be not so easy!
I did a little research and set the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Camera on my big carbon fiber tripod… live view and two second timer to avoid camera shake. I believe I actually captured the best image I could get with the equipment I have. The conjunction looked pretty sharp on the screen… not so much on the image itself. With a little experimentation I found that a third of a second with ISO 100 gave me the sharpest image. Anything faster than 1/3s and all I got was two faint blips in the sky. Slower than that and the planets were just a blur.
Perhaps I will still try my hand at a long exposure of the stars someday, but the planets would appear to require much more sophisticated equipment to successfully capture. So many factors… the earth is spinning at 1000 mph and traveling around the sun at a rate of 30 kilometers per second. Jupiter is moving as well, traveling around the sun at a speed of almost 30,000 mph and rotating at almost 28,000 mph. Then you have to factor in how much dust or other material might be in the way of an object 552 million miles away! So my little camera and my relatively slow lens with a best aperture of f8 with the 1.4x teleconverter is incapable of freezing all that action.
As you can see in the image Jupiter has already moved in just a third of a second. Saturn fared a little better, you can actually see the rings, even if there is little detail left in the spinning mass of gas. Saturn is further away… over a billion miles from the earth and traveling a bit slower at only 21,000 mph. As expected, it isn’t quite as distorted as Jupiter in my images, but still no real detail.
The image below was shot at a one second shutter speed with ISO 400, more blurry and less detail than the shorter exposure, but I was able to bring in Jupiter’s moons 🙂 All in all a fun experience, but I believe I’ll be sticking to wildlife photography in the future!