Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Amateur Stargazing

Of course it may be quite pointless to try to stargaze in Singapore, because it is a bloody bright city at night. Still, I had at least 2 experiences of stargazing, but unfortunately I am unlikely to reproduce both experiences anytime soon.

The first incident was technically not in Singapore Island, but rather, in Pulua Ubin. Certainly you can see more stars unaided there than in Singapore. But as I said, it is rather unlikely that I would go there and be bitten by mosquitoes just to watch stars, unless they build a stargazing resort there with the comforts of modern life (and hence brighten up the surroundings and ruin everything ! Drats ! ). I wonder, though, whether one can get a good view from one of the resorts in Sentosa.

The second incident was set in an unfortunate background. I was serving POI (protection of installation) duty on Jurong Island when I discovered that the image intensifier binoculars the SAF provided for the POI was excellent for stargazing. I suppose any normal binoculars would have done well, but image intensifiers are especially good, because they magnify the insignificant specks of starlight into something visible. That said, I doubt I would have another chance to handle an image intensifier, unless I can purchase one cheaply from say, cash converters?

I do have some ideas for stargazing though. I was thinking of ways to duplicate the functions of an image intensifier when I realised that time exposure photography was remotely similar to an image intensifier. Basically, time exposure photography is when you expose the film for extended periods of time. Hence, each film grain has more time to react with more light.

Of course, for this idea to work, certain modifications will have to be made. First the platform for the camera must be super-stable. Second, preferably a blocking cone should be setup to eliminate sources of stray light. Third, the camera must be capable of this type of exposure photography. This third point sounds stupid, but I doubt normal digital cameras are capable of exposure photography (unless you consider manually holding the shutter still a smart solution.)

Now, the exposure time should be relatively short, maybe a few minutes at most. This is because the sky moves also, and if the period of exposure is longer you may get pictures like this (I would add pictures, but blogger is bloody acting up). I admit that that is nice, but the current aim is to capture stars, not startrails.

Anyone up for this stupid project ???


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1 comment:

Pandemonium said...

As far as I understand, you really need a professional camera to have a shutter speed as long as one minute... And the aperture has to be very small to prevent overexposure. I'm not sure if a camera alone (i.e. without lens) is able to achieve this.

In any case, I think if the fact that the surrounding is too bright, increasing the exposure time won't help, because ultimately, as exposure time is increase, sure, the stars will be "brighter", but the surrounding noise will also be "brighter". This of course defeats the purpose.

But if you head to the darker areas in Singapore, like Pulau Ubin or Lim Chu Kang, it is possible to see a greater number of stars...