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That Hole Behind the Barn

This was one of the first tracked camera images I ever took. I used a chonk of a camera, the venerable Hasselblad 500C/M which used medium format film. I shot this with slide film, and it was a single 30 minute exposure. The camera was mounted on an old school Celestron EQ3 mount- nothing exotic. You will notice that the barn has a strange shadow around it. That's because it was not illuminated and was blocking the stars behind it for most of the exposure, but at about 15 minutes I used a flash to burst the building a few times to make it "frozen." If I hadn't done that it would just be a big, dark and blurry silhouette in front of the stars.

You can see the structure of the Milky Way behind the barn, and in this plate solving screen you can see the wealth of Messier objects in the frame. I excluded all the other NGC, IC and other objects because it's just too much to make sense of. The green circle is the location of the Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the centre of our galaxy that is 4.3 million times the mass of our sun. Everything in our galaxy is spinning around that area.

Anyone with a basic tracking mount and a camera can get results similar or better than this. The trickiest part for a beginner is getting good polar alignment, ensuring the stars are "frozen" and appear as pinpoints of light instead of becoming odd, distracting shapes.


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