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Milky way photography


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I went out last night to one of the dark sky discovery sites - Mill Pond near Malvern.  I had my camera (Panasonic Lumix G3, 14-42 kit lens) set up as per instructions on a website about this kind of photography - lens at widest setting f/3.5, maximum ISO 3200, white balance 4000K, RAW, Long shutter NR off, exposures of 10", 20", 30", 40".  It was a good clear night with a very starry sky, but the shots I got were disappointing - no more than a handful of stars visible, whereas I had hoped for a bright milky way display.  I'd be grateful if  anyone could suggest any reason that so little was picked up?   I have no real experience of this kind of photography - have I made some simple mistake, or is the camera just not good enough or what?

Many thanks
 

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Until someone with more knowledge comes along. The milky way isn't so great at the moment for us in the northern hemisphere by late April early May it will start to become more visable for us. The core around June July August time will be best. 

What times were you shooting the milky way? 

Edited by AstroNebulee
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36 minutes ago, Ed Addis said:

- no more than a handful of stars visible, whereas I had hoped for a bright milky way display.  I'd be grateful if  anyone could suggest any reason that so little was picked up?   I have no real experience of this kind of photography - have I made some simple mistake, or is the camera just not good enough or what?

That is quite normal for single exposures.

You need to stack multiple exposures and then process your images (histogram stretch) to reveal what is truly captured.

 

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The best part of the Milkway (the core) is currently rising with Sagittarius in the early hours of the morning from around 3-4am approx. This will then be rising in the day time soon and then into the night time again during the summer to re capture then. If you are shooting the "winter" milkway that runs through Orion, which is not so bright or detailed then you will need a dark site, no moon and stacked data from an hours worth or more of subs which will be as long as you setup can take with out washing out. The last Milkyway shot I did was with 90 sec subs over about an hour and with iso 1600 f2.8.

Edited by Rustang
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@AstroNebulee - I arrived there about 8.30pm and spent around half an hour there.  I chose what I thought would be the darkest time, and before moonrise which I assumed would generate too much background light.

@vlaiv, @Rustang - Ah OK, I hadn't realised I was going to have to do all that multiple stacked exposure, and post-processing stuff.  It was all that malarkey that decided me to sell my telescope a couple of years ago - I just can't be bothered with all that stuff.  For me it takes away the fun and interest out of it - I spend more than enough time already in front of a PC!  I guess I'll probably not bother with the milky way photography then, if it's not going to be possible just to go and take some simple shots.

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Don't be put off, but perhaps start with the brightest part of the Milky way, i.e. the Core, as others have mentioned. This currently rises just before dawn, but if you wait until the Summer it will be visible all night towards the South.

If the local light pollution is not too bad and the sky is really clear, a single frame will display it nicely, though it has to be said that stacking multiple frames will allow you to reduce noise and increase contrast. Using a free tool like Sequator is not too time-consuming. Good luck with whatever you try.

Regards, Mike.

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9 minutes ago, Ed Addis said:

@AstroNebulee - I arrived there about 8.30pm and spent around half an hour there.  I chose what I thought would be the darkest time, and before moonrise which I assumed would generate too much background light.

@vlaiv, @Rustang - Ah OK, I hadn't realised I was going to have to do all that multiple stacked exposure, and post-processing stuff.  It was all that malarkey that decided me to sell my telescope a couple of years ago - I just can't be bothered with all that stuff.  For me it takes away the fun and interest out of it - I spend more than enough time already in front of a PC!  I guess I'll probably not bother with the milky way photography then, if it's not going to be possible just to go and take some simple shots.

Download Stellarium or similar on your phone, and you can add in your location and fast foward the time on the bar along the bottom, this way you can see where objects are and at what time, this includes the milkyway. Just by a quick look at my phone now, I can see at 8:30 the only portion of the milkyway that is visible, is the winter milkyway, next to orion and arching over the western sky, which is less dramatic as the summer core which is often photographed. If I scroll along the time bar, as other have said here, you can see it rises with Cygnus at around 3am, with the full core not being visible until 7:30am (at which time it is light then, obviously :D)

So yes, this is more of a summer object to photograph really, Just wait a little longer! :D

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OK, thanks for encouraging replies!  I'm still puzzled as to why I didn't capture very many of the other bright stars in the sky away from the Milky Way.  I'm already using stellarium, and had expected numerous objects to be visible, and indeed they were - to the naked eye - but not the camera.  I just about managed to image Orion, but only with a 40" exposure that obviously had star trails.  Trouble is, in the summer, you have to go out there in the middle of the night to get a dark sky, and the nearest site is half an hour's drive away.  Not sure I have sufficient motivation for that.

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From my experience a lot of designated dark sky sites especially new ones aren't that dark at all. I've seen better skies leaving small towns which have the old style lamppost lighting down country roads heading towards less populated areas. When I last imaged the milky way you could see it faintly by eye so subsequent single photos showed it as you could see it. Stacking such photos revealed it in the sort of detail you'd expect. As @AstroNebulee has mentioned it's not that great to image at the moment, I have similar issues where dsos which lie along the dust lanes set around midnight. Late summer onward to winter they come back (and so does the iffy weather). I wouldn't be discouraged, you'll need to do long exposure, if you can look into some sort of star tracker that will help you, though it's not necessary, last time I did the milky way I was using a compact camera doing 30 second exposures on a normal tripod, even managed to catch a blurry Andromeda and meteor in the same shot so it's worth persevering.

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Unfortunately some time at the computer is pretty much the price of entry to this hobby. A single exposure of 40 seconds at ISO 3200 should easily show some MW nebulosity -- IF you hammer the contrast with levels or curves or some such. Try just yanking the contrast to ugly absurd levels in whatever processing program you favor -- I bet you will find all manner of tasty stars and nebulosity that a more finely- judged stretch will bring out nicely. 

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Unfortunately some time at the computer is pretty much the price of entry to this hobby. A single exposure of 40 seconds at ISO 3200 should easily show some MW nebulosity -- IF you hammer the contrast with levels or curves or some such. Try just yanking the contrast to ugly absurd levels in whatever processing program you favor -- I bet you will find all manner of tasty stars and nebulosity that a more finely- judged stretch will bring out nicely. 

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On 23/03/2022 at 15:56, Rustang said:

The best part of the Milkway (the core) is currently rising with Cygnus in the early hours of the morning from around 2-3am approx. This will then be rising in the day time soon and then into the night time again during the summer to re capture then. If you are shooting the "winter" milkway that runs through Orion, which is not so bright or detailed then you will need a dark site, no moon and stacked data from an hours worth or more of subs which will be as long as you setup can take with out washing out. The last Milkyway shot I did was with 90 sec subs over about an hour and with iso 1600 f2.8.

I thought the core was in Sagittarius.. there's dark lanes in Cygnus and a fantastic part of the milky way nonetheless

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1 hour ago, Same old newbie alert said:

I thought the core was in Sagittarius.. there's dark lanes in Cygnus and a fantastic part of the milky way nonetheless

Sorry its how I put it, I didn't mean it's in Cygnus just rising with Cygnus as Cygnus is what I call the top part of the Millyway. I've changed it so there's no confusion 😊

Edited by Rustang
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