Sunday, March 08, 2009

Kitts Peak Observatory

Have you ever wanted to take a photo of a nebula? I stopped yesterday at the Kitts Peak Observatory and discovered that they allow photographers to rent their telescope for an entire night. www.noao.edu/outreach/aop/

You can take amazing photographs of many remote features of the universe: www.noao.edu/outreach/aop/mainimages.html

Rental is $525 for an entire night for two photographers plus "room and board' for $75-90 more each, although you may not sleep. You can use their Santa Barbara Instruments ST-6303E CCD camera, but it is only 3072 x 2048 resolution. These 6MP CCD cameras normally need to take exposures using red, green, and blue filters then color and combine the monochrome results later to get color images. You can use your own digital camera, but film cameras can cature images in one exposure without the filters, so that might allow more efficient use of the telescope time: www.noao.edu/outreach/aop/filmprep.html

I wonder how any of those guidelines might change using the newest Canon and Nikon full frame DSLRs shooting at ISO 1600, 3200, or 6400.

One disadvantage is that it takes some time to calibrate the telescope to each DSLR, so it is may be best to use one DSLR for the night (or for two photographers to each take 1/2 of the night): www.noao.edu/outreach/aop/visprep.html