Star trails in the southwest
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Star trails in the southwest
Image © 1979, text © 2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin.

As the earth rotates the stars appear to move across the sky, as do the more obvious sun and Moon This effect is easily recorded by leaving a camera outdoors with its shutter open during the night. To make this picture, the camera was pointed to the southwest, towards the dome of the AAT, from the UK Schmidt building on Siding Spring Mountain in New South Wales. This is easier to do with a film camera like the Hasselblad used here than it is with a digital camera, but both can produce fine star trails. More information on relationship between the measurement of time and star trails is here.

If the camera had been pointed due west, the stars which are on the celestial equator would have made straight trails as they slipped below the horizon, instead of the curves seen here. Had the camera been pointed due south, the stars are seen to make circles in the sky as the earth spins beneath them. The lights which can be seen on the mountain are in reality quite faint and are only recorded in exposures which last several hours.

Other star-trail images
AAT 6.     Star trails around the south celestial pole
MISC 5.   Dawn and evening twilights reflected in the AAT dome
MISC 6.   Moonset into cloud over the Warrumbungle Range
MISC 7.   Star trails around the AAT dome, after Pinatubo sunset
MISC 8.   Aurorae Australis
MISC 11. Orion star colours, step-focus technique
MISC 12. Orion's belt rising over the lights of Coonabarabran
MISC 13. North celestial pole star trails
MISC 14. South celestial pole star trails
MISC 15. North and South celestial poles star trails
MISC 16. Southern Cross and Pointers, star colours - step-focus technique, long trails
MISC 18. The view to the north from Siding Spring
MISC 19. Sunset 'star' trail, the track of the setting sun
MISC 22  The AAT dome from the Director's Cottage.
MISC 23  Southern Cross and Pointers, star colours - step-focus technique, short trails
MISC 36. Southern Cross star trails around the AAT dome
More about the measurement of time and star trail photography.

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Updated by David Malin, 2012, March 24