Why Can’t We See Stars In Space Photographs?

Stars are clearly visible shining bright in space. As they are visible clearer and better from space than through our thick atmosphere, we keep sending telescopes to capture better images. After viewing video footage from the International Space Station (ISS) many people are confused by the seeming lack of stars in the background or in most photographs.

The reason stars are not captured clearly on camera is mostly attributed to photography than with astronomy. Stars are actually dim and the light reflected by the Earth and the Moon is relatively much brighter. Capturing good photographs in space mandates a high shutter speed and a very short exposure, which means Earth and Moon are clearly visible but the relatively dimmer stars often can’t be seen.

In addition to the unusual light settings in space, another critical factor is the rapid reaction times from the camera. The International Space Station moves at 8 kilometers per second i.e. 17,150 mph which is optimum for maintaining orbit but not so suitable for non-shaky photography.

The problem with star photography is not just exclusive to space only. Even taking a distinct photo of a clear night sky on your mobile phone can be a challenge. Try it. How many stars can you see? And now try to take a picture of something in the foreground. Are the stars still visible in the background?

Yes, the bright foreground overshadows the relatively dimmer stars. This is the primary reason why astrophotographers need highly expensive equipment optimized for their specific tasks.  They plan their photography sessions carefully around the hour, favorable weather conditions, and exposure time.

So, even if the stars are not often clearly visible in all photos, videos, and live streams, enjoy the beautifully shot images showing the stars, and even the Milky Way, photographed from the ISS.

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