By deep space image, I mean below kind. In the background it is space dust, I think.
Is it dependent on camera or location? If on camera, what kind of cameras are capable to capture this kind of images?

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4298/… \$\endgroup\$
    – asalamon74
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ These are quite difficult to shot. (I believe that's the milky way) This is more about a tripod and post processing then it is about the camera. (The tripod must be capable of compensating for earth's rotation) There is also good deal of post processing involved to take out the noise inherent in long exposures like these. It looks like there is also some sort of light painting involved here to illuminate the structure. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ This appears to be the source of the image (CC-BY licensed by Bala Sivakumar): flickr.com/photos/bala_/4766723931 He indicates that it is not a stacked image. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not "space dust", by the way. It's stars! \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not "deep space" by any means :p To take deep space images you need a camera mounted in a satellite (like the Hubble) xD \$\endgroup\$
    – fortran
    Commented Aug 3, 2013 at 13:41

2 Answers 2


I found this page while checking my stats on Flickr. (I'm the photographer that shot this photo) I thought I'd respond with details of how I created this image since I see multiple theories here.

First - this is not a stacked exposure. The entire image is a single exposure (30 secs). I used a Nikon D700 DSLR at ISO 3200 to capture this image (at ~20mm/f2.8).

Also, the background is indeed the Milky way as some of the answers mention. (This was shot when the moon was just rising - so the skies were still dark)

There is no 'digital trickery' involved at all (unless you count RAW processing as 'digital trickery'). As rfusca mentions, I merely light-painted the foreground with a flashlight for illumination.

The D700 is an example of a camera that has very low noise at high ISO - thus, the image works even at full-resolution (12.1 MP). There are ways to achieve even lower noise (downsampling, dark-frame subtraction etc..), but I didn't do any of that for this image.

The most important part of getting an image like this is to find an area with dark skies. (More images with Milky way can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bala_/tags/nightsky/)

If anyone has additional questions, I'm happy to answer them!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Woohoo! Score one for me! hehehe. Great shot by the way, love it. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 8:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to PhotoSE, Bala! Many thanks for taking the time to answer this question! Its much appreciated. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bala: thanks for getting in the loop. Can we see the milkyway with naked eyes on a dark, clear night? I live in New Zealand (and India) and I have never seen space dust. Am I in the wrong locations and missing it all? \$\endgroup\$
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 23:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ReddySR: Absolutely! You can see the Milky Way very clearly with naked eyes. The trick is to get away from big cities and light pollution - from what I've read rural NZ is ideal for this! You're also very fortunate living in the Southern Hemisphere since you can see more of the 'good parts' of the Milky way than us in the Northern Hemisphere (winter months are the best time for you - summer months for us). For more samples of Milky way shots, see flickr.com/photos/bala_/sets/72157628001569892/detail and wanderingmonkphoto.com/night \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 3:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes - the Canon 7D can definitely do it (images might be noisy, but you can clean up with post-processing and dark-frame subtraction). Note that you will need a fast lens (something like the 24mm/f1.4) for best results. For more information on shooting static star shots, I found this very helpful: texbrick.com/photo/notes/starshots.pdf \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 23:51

Unfortunately, a lot of images like the one you show here are digitally altered and it is difficult to get comparable results. The image above shows the Milky Way, looking approximately at its center, which appears to us to be in the constellation of Sagittarius.

To get such a detailed view of the comparatively dark nebulous structures, however, you need to use really long exposure times. Unfortunately, because of the stars' apparent rotation, exposures above approximately 25 seconds (for wide angle lenses; the smaller your lens angle, the shorter the time) begin to show star trails. So I doubt that the image you show was really created as one exposure. If so, the photographer must have used an extremely low-noise semsor with exceptionally high sensitivity.

The linked "star trail" image (which shows the telescope I work for, by the way) used a technique called "stacking". To create it, 70 1-minute-exposures were added together. This is a common method that allows you to get very good images using a normal DSLR and an external timer/trigger.

If you stack the images so that the star "pinpoints" are on top of each other, you will get a detailed skyscape with blurred foreground. This is what I suppose was done in your example image: The sky was images with a series of exposures, stacked together for greater sensitivity, and the foreground has likely been added afterwards.

Of course, instead of doing that much digital manipulation, you can also follow the traditional route and mount your (D)SLR on a tracking mount. A good description with sample images that show what to expect from real-world exposures is given on the "bedfordnights" Geocities page (link to archived copy at Internet Archive).

Edit: I forgot to address your question regarding location. Yes, it depends on the location: For one thing, the center of the milky way (which is its brightest area) gets higher above the horizon when you move from the poles to the equator. But most importantly, images of the quality you show above are only possible from the darkest locations on the planet (which sounds exotic and adventurous, but essentially means "anywhere where there are no human settlements causing light pollution in about 200 km radius").

  • \$\begingroup\$ You're likely right that this is probably stacked and the foreground digitally added, but I've seen similar shots that weren't. With a really low noise camera and a really, really dark sky, you can get these kinds of pictures in shot shot if they're scaled down to size like this. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jstarek: Bedfordnights was great link, for I came to know what I was looking for is astrophotography and cheapest means to get nice quality images :) Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 5:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jwenting - at smaller sizes, you really really can. The buildings can be illuminated with light painting is how I saw it done. I'm not saying that I think this particular one was done that way, but you honestly can. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jwenting See Sullivan's photograph in Matt Grum's answer: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/18513/… As rfusca says, the foreground can be illuminated with light painting or flash. The lens used in this question's photo appears to be a wider angle than Sullivan used and so can tolerate even longer exposure without trailing. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jwenting - see the larger image coneslayer indicated above and the author claiming its not stacked. You can see the trailing clearer on the larger image too. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 6:29

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