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GCSE Astronomy Controlled Assessment B4: Constellation Photography

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Introduction

GCSE Astronomy Controlled Assessment B4: Constellation Photography Design For my piece of coursework I aim to observe and photograph (using long-exposure photography) three different constellations in the winter sky. I will go out on three separate dates and take photos and then choose final ones which are the best. I will then use my finished photographs to identify the colours and magnitude of stars by using reference stars (data on which will be collected from official sources). Explanation for important terms: -Constellation: A part of the sky containing a pattern of stars. -Sky glow: illumination of the sky causing an orange glow in urban areas due to streetlamps and floodlights. This hinders astronomical observations as faint objects cannot be viewed. -Magnitude: the brightness of a star for which as numbers rise by 1, the brightness goes down by 2.5 times. Beyond 6 (the dimmest stars that can be seen with naked eye), binoculars or telescopes are needed. -Colour: the surface colour of a star depends on its temperature with red being cooler stars and white being the hottest stars. The colours of the stars can only be seen in bright light as the cones in the eye (that see colour) are not activated in dim light. -Seasonal constellations: stars forming a constellation that lie on either side of the ecliptic so cannot be viewed all year round. -Star chart: a chart showing the relative positions of the visible stars in a particular part of the sky in a particular time. ...read more.

Middle

Detailed Planning I have found out the dates at which the moon is new or close to new using the Time and Dateiv website and I have also found out the weather conditions for each date using the Met Officev website. Date Moon Phase Weather conditions Possible Observing? 10th Dec WANING CRESCENT Cloudy No 11th Dec WANING CRESCENT Cloudy No 12th Dec WANING CRESCENT Clear Yes 13th Dec NEW Clear Yes 14th Dec WAXING CRESCENT Cloudy No 15th Dec WAXING CRESCENT Clear Yes 16th Dec WAXING CRESCENT Clear Yes After looking at the acquired data I have chosen to take my photographs on the 13th of December as this is when the moon is new and on the 12th and 15th of December as these dates are closest observable dates near the new moon date so the moon will be very slight in the sky; not having many adverse effects on my photography. From the star chart which I have obtained; I have compiled a list of possible constellations I might want to observe: -Orion -Taurus -Aries -Ursa Major (Plough) -Ursa Minor -Cygnus -Cassiopeia -Lynx From these I have chosen to observe: > Orion: this is a very interesting winter constellation with many intriguing features such as Orion's Nebula (which I will try to observe) and it also has pointer stars which lead the way to Sirius (brightest star in the sky), Aldebaran and Pleiades (an open cluster). This has a very bright star Betelgeuse which will allow me to determine the colour more easily. ...read more.

Conclusion

It could have been reduced by just going out very late when the lights in other houses would be turned off. This 'skyglow' was made worse by the long exposure as it lets in more light so the orange haze of the sky is significantly worsened and made more prominent. Another way that the image quality would have been increased dramatically, if I had the budget, would be by buying a camera mount. This camera mount allows the exposure time to be increased significantly without causing star trails by rotating in sync with the rotation of the Earth so it collects more light and it is focused in one place rather than spreading like in star trails. This produces an imagexii like this (much better than my feeble attempt!): Another way this project could have been improved was if I went out on more than just three dates; increasing my chances for a better photograph. I should have also experimented with the Camera settings (such as exposure time and ISO) and written each down each setting for each picture I took so I could see which setting provided me with the best photos; this extra knowledge would have enabled me to produce much better images. ISO is how sensitive the roll is to light, aperture is the size of the objective lens and the shutter speed is how long the shutter stays open. A higher ISO (and thus a smaller aperture and higher shutter speed) would produce a better image but would have much more noise (a more grainy image). Despite all this, I think my project was well designed considering the location and price limitations. ...read more.

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