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Job Profile

Astrophotographer

Astrophotography is one of the earliest types of scientific photography, capturing celestial events and astronomical objects. The field of astrophotography accelerated the accomplishments of astronomical research while engaging viewers with more intrigue and passion for astronomy.


What you are actually doing? 

Astrophotographers typically capture aesthetic, beautiful images of the night sky or more scientific images for scientific research. It allows us to see objects, such as stars, nebulae, the Moon, Sun, planets, eclipse, and even transits through telescopes that we otherwise would not.  Their media usually falls into one of the following categories: deep space objects, time-lapse, or wide field. Deep space photographer is the most difficult and technical means of astrophotography, using telescopes beyond our solar system, galaxies, and nebulae. Wide field is the most accessible form of astrophotography, as it uses DSLR lenses to capture large images of starry nights. Lastly, time-lapse astrophotography is similar to wide field but takes many exposures over time, and the combined frames create a time-lapse video. 

What does a typical day involve?

Astrophotography involves a great deal of planning, observing, exploring, and capturing scenes of the night sky. Photographers travel to remote locations, staying up late and sleeping during the day to take the perfect shot. It involves a great deal of technical set up and waiting for the exact scene to appear. 

What type of skills or qualifications are needed?

An astrophotography career requires a level of commitment as there is a lot of searching and waiting involved. Photographers try to capture a beautiful scene and therefore require an artistic vision. It might be aimed towards scientific research, and in that case knowledge in astrophysics is required. For these more scientific images, knowledge and practice using advanced technical telescopes, optics, digital sensors, and software are required in addition to astrophysics. They might be searching for a new star or galaxy, therefore elements of interest and curiosity are involved.  

What are some different routes into this career?

Astrophotography can either be a hobby or a profession, therefore there are many different routes one can take. With astrophotography, you can even turn a hobby into a career. You can start off taking simple shots of the night sky, then with practice move up to an astronomy camera and telescope. Advanced professional astrophotographers are hired by large organisations such as universities or government agencies for scientific research-oriented work. Alternatively, you also can work in freelance and be published in magazines and books. Companies advise photographers to build a portfolio of their work. This is a profession that is not dependent on age, you can start early or late in your life. 

Who are some key people in industry? 

Justin Ng - CNN, geographic, Space.com

Mark Gee - night sky photographer 

David Lane - deep sky photographer 

Where can I get some more information?

https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-resources/astrophotography-tips/

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a25697/beginners-guide-to-astrophotography/

https://astrobackyard.com/beginner-astrophotography/

Author

Caroline Swenson

Caroline is an undergraduate studying Physics with a concentration in Aerospace and Journalism at the University of Notre Dame.

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