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DirkSteele

Astrophotography while moving at 600mph

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Forgive the hyperbole, it was only 580mph but also 37,000 feet. 

In late June 19, I took an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg in South Africa for a two-week island vacation in Mozambique.  I had packed a small telescope and a widefield camera lens to take advantage of the Bortle Class 1 skies on the island, and fortunately had the equipment in the cabin with me.  After dinner the cabin lights were dimmed and most passengers it started to drift off to sleep, but not me.  I could not resist some stargazing out of the window.  At this point we were located somewhere over north Chad and it was rather dark and the view quite beautiful.  

I grabbed my camera and a small tripod out of the overhead bin and managed to precariously balance the camera across my tray table and a narrow ledge under the window.  I had a choice of 3 windows with my seat but one was very dirty, another badly scratched, while the third was passable and would have to do.

While the A380 is one of the smoothest planes I have flown on, there was a small amount of turbulence on this flight which limited exposures to 3 seconds.

 512473334_AircraftWindow.thumb.jpg.f552bdd5da428aa1719324074e9fab1e.jpg

I used a Canon 70D (crop sensor) and 14mm Canon lens (22mm equivalent focal length), set to f/2.8 and ISO 6400.  I was able to focus the camera on Altair using 10x live view on the rear of the camera.   I set an intervalometer to the required timings, and then used the airline supplied blanket to shield the window from the cabin lights which were reflecting back towards the camera.  I could have done slightly better here as some light still crept in, and I think the red flashing light on the intervalometer also reflected on the window.  The best 10 images were stacked in DSS and processed in Lightroom.

Considering passenger aircraft windows are not known for their optical quality, I am surprised by what could be captured.  Several DSOs are pretty obvious, in particular M2 and M27.

1289351924_AircraftWindowConstelllationsStars.thumb.jpg.114d8698aba33b565012100961305fed.jpg

I do very much wish I had been sitting on the other side of the aircraft, as about an hour later, the Sagittarius region of the Milky Way would have been coming into view.  Maybe next time…

 

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Oh here is the camera balanced very carefully across the ledge and my table.

Camera.thumb.jpg.493d264ffff9342283336f6dcd7b3982.jpg

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One could almost imagine looking out a porthole on an instellar spacecraft travelling through the depths of space.

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Fantastic.  You did well to control the extraneous light.

I did capture the aurora on a plane myself.

 

033DF30B-BB4A-4725-9EBF-267C74849D01.jpeg

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That's good - plane windows are notoriously poor.

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2 minutes ago, Tenor Viol said:

That's good - plane windows are notoriously poor.

Not in first class, they're FPL53 😉

Nice image, tough task with plane movement.

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2 minutes ago, RayD said:

Not in first class, they're FPL53 😉

Nice image, tough task with plane movement.

Ah that must be it - my NZ trip earlier this year was cattle class on an A380 and I've only been bus class on an A380 for work a few times.

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Fantastic shot! As mentioned above, its like a viewing port on a Starship!! As mad as it may seem, I have only flown on a passenger plane twice in my life (I'm 43!). Three years ago we went to Crete, and the flight home was at night. I recall seeing stars like that, and flying over a thunderstom - it was amazing!!

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It is amazing the different perspective you get looking out from within an aeroplane.  Below picture was taken a couple of years ago above Malaga, and shows pretty clearly how bad the light polution is there!

1651850195_MalagaLightPollution.thumb.jpg.1be21d04994c96f335c2b4e3a8009ee1.jpg

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Amazing images!

And yes, the difference in perspective is something many dont realize. 

I love to fly, but have mostly done it in smaller planes. Nothing larger than may 25 seaters and never at night.

Maybe someone should drop a hint to Mr. Branson to change a couple of his airliners to have a glass moon roof! 😁

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I watched the whole total lunar eclipse sequence on a night flight back from Tenerife.  Everyone else was asleep!      🙂

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If I may suggest an upgrade...(literally) ... forget all that FP glass non-sense....

Wing Walking - Page 1 - Boats, Planes & Trains - PistonHeads

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