Nightly Night Photo – PARI Star Trails

Star trails are cool, but they don’t work well by themselves. Don’t believe me? Try showing a half-dozen photos of only star trails to an audience. The first one will get you some wows, but by the sixth one, you’ll get nothing but been-there-done-that looks.

Star trails at PARI radio telescope

Star trails at PARI radio telescope. Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 f/2.8 lens, f/4, ISO 400, blend of 41 3-minute exposures.

You need something else to go with the star trails to make an exciting image. Objects that jut up into the sky work well as long as they don’t block most of the sky. Things like bridges and winter trees work beautifully because they have graphic lines, but allow some of the sky to show through.

If you happen to have a 26-meter radio telescope in your neighborhood, they make pretty good foreground subjects for star trails. I’m lucky that I have one in my neck of the woods. It’s located at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in western North Carolina. PARI is fascinating place with quite an interesting history. I’m currently writing a special feature about the site.

This is a blend of 41 3-minute exposures. During one of the exposures, I light painted the telescope using an LED flashlight with a pink gel filter attached to the front. To hold the filter, I used a GelGrip™, a nifty little device that I designed myself.

I’ll be showing more photos from PARI over the next several weeks and plan to post the special feature sometime in early February. In the meantime, you can learn more about the facility here.

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