Star Trail & Polaris

I attempted my first star trail picture in April 2022, and this was at the RiSa Astronomy camp in Denkanikottai. Denkanikottai is less light polluted compared to Bangalore (I think brotle class 4), and the night sky is fairly decent. The northern sky was cloudy, so Polaris was out of the question. The Eastern sky was fairly clear, so I pointed my camera there. I took a few test shots to check the exposure. I paid zero attention to composition as I just wanted the concentric circles in my final image. Talk about being a noob 🙂

In a star trail image, concentric circles in the sky form due to the rotation of the Earth around its pole and the subsequent trailing of stars. You get perfect concentric circles when you point your camera (with the right settings dialed in) to the North Celestial pole where the star Polaris resides.

Anyway, it was past midnight, I fired up my camera’s in-built intervalometer, and set it to take 300 shots over 2+ hours while I dozed off at the tent. 2 hours later, I had my data. I returned home with 300 images, made basic Lightroom adjustments, exported the images to StarStax, and followed the drill. After all the processing, I was shocked when I looked at my final image. My image reminded me of a piece of bread left to char itself in a toaster.

Such a waste of effort.

Failed attempt at Star Trail

But I love it when I create horror images like this one. It sort of motivates me to do better. I returned to the drawing-room, i.e., Alyn Wallace’s Youtube channel, and figured out how to create a good Star trial. After all the learning, I was back at RiSa camp (and a few others) to create Startrail, but the weather gods had a different plan for me.

The thing with astrophotography is that your images and final execution are highly dependent on the weather on the field on the day of the shoot. Yes, there are apps to help you plan this, but the actual situation on the ground is always unpredictable.

I finally got an opportunity in February 2023 (the start of the milkyway season). The Northern sky was clear, and Polaris was visible. I paid some attention to composition and executed the plan. Here is the resulting image –

Star trail at Denkanikottai

And this time, after setting up my gear, I didn’t go back to the tent to doze off. I learnt a bit about the Night sky. Here is a fun fact – Polaris (North star) is not at the dead center of the Earth’s celestial pole, it is off by a degree or two, and that’s why you don’t see a ‘dot’ right at the center of the concentric circles.

My next goal is to work on better composition (Ladakh and Spiti calling) and create better images, until then, i can live with the Denkanikottai star trail 🙂

Subscribe to receive the most recent posts directly in your inbox.

2 responses to “Star Trail & Polaris”

  1. […] clouds did clear, and we waited for the moon to set; I good an opportunity to shoot a star trail, something I’d aspired to do for a long time. While I made the star trail, Anish was busy […]

  2. Beautiful 😍

Leave a Reply

© 2023 All Rights Reserved, Karthik Rangappa

%d bloggers like this: