Monday, July 20, 2015

Adventures with the #Dogtor: #Astrophotography Under Light-Polluted Suburban Skies

My dog Kate has got it in her head that she's a Time Lady from Gallifrey. Subsequently, she "borrowed" a really slow, really small TARDIS (made of LEGO bricks) and offered to bring me along as a companion.

I said, "Sure, why not?"

I took my trusty inexpensive DSLR, a bare-bones kit zoom lens, a lightweight tripod, and a Polarie Star Tracker (here's my affiliate link, if you want to buy it) to document our severely limited journey through time and space.

"Arf arf arf, tail wag tail wag tail wag?" asked the Dogtor. The TARDIS translated it as, "Where do you want to go first?

At random, I suggested we go to any of the stars in the constellation Cassiopeia. Before entering the TARDIS, I took a photo of our initial destination, with the following settings:

One RAW exposure;
f/3.5;
20mm lens;
ISO 1600;
30-second shutter;
Polarie roughly pointed at Polaris, set to "Star" mode.

The Dogtor's inputted inaccurate coordinates into the TARDIS, either accidentally or on purpose, so we overshot Cassiopeia by a couple million light years. We ended up in the Andromeda Galaxy, 2.5 million light years away from Earth.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the blob in the upper-right.
We somehow survived that tricky adventure and ended up back on Earth, plus or minus a day from when we left. Since we were dealing with time as well as space, I suggested that the Dogtor pilot the TARDIS to a different era in Earth's history.

We ended up in an 80-minute time loop of that very night.

Polaris isn't really true north anymore, is it?
The Dogtor deduced that my camera equipment and the TARDIS were somehow technologically intertwined -- wibbly-wobbly, shutty-clicky, of course -- and the time loop could be controlled with the following camera settings:

Ten JPEG exposures (RAW files were also saved simultaneously);
f/8.0;
18mm lens;
ISO 100;
8-minute shutter;
Polarie off.

Time loops are nightmares, but star trails are pleasant dreams. Yadda, yadda, yadda ... we somehow survived that adventure, with either a plot hole, a deus ex machina, or a lot of dog treats. (It was the dog treats.)

The next adventure would have to be a lot safer. The Dogtor set the coordinates to the southern sky, to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, our galaxy. I set my camera equipment to match:

One RAW exposure;
f/3.5;
18mm lens;
ISO 1600;
30-second shutter;
Polarie roughly pointed at Polaris, set to "Star" mode.

Some part on or near Galactic Center is photographed, faintly.
A scary monster called Light Pollution obstructed our journey. Light Pollution sort of has the upper hand against the Dogtor and her companion, but the Dogtor knows how to defeat this enemy:

We find darker skies. Or use a faster lens (lower f-stop number). Or both.

What will we do? It's a cliffhanger!

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