Why are there no stars when the astronauts take pictures from space?
Asked by: Jay
When there is a full moon go outside and see how many stars you can find compared to a
night when the moon is not out. You will see the difference. The stars are very faint and
get washed out by the bright light of the moon.
The reason why no or very little stars can be seen is because of the Earth. The Earth,
when lit by the Sun, is many thousands times brighter than the stars around it. As a
result the Earth is so bright that it swamps out most if not all of the stars.
Answered by: David Latchman, B.Sc. Physics, University of the West Indies
The stars are there and the astronauts can see them if they look away from the sun.
The reason that the stars do not show up on the film is that the stars are so dim that
the camera cannot gather enough of their light in a short exposure. Our eyes are a lot
more sensitive to light than photographic film. A good example of this is when we take a
picture with a camera that is back lighted. The photographer can plainly see the features
and colors of the object(usually a relative), but when the picture is developed, only the
shadow outline can be seen of the person without any features.
Any picture that you may see of stars are from time-lapse photos. To take a
time-lapse photo of the stars, the shutter must be left open on the camera in order for
the lens to focus enough light on the film for the image to show up. Longer times allow
more photons to enter the camera and record the image. The image is built over time from
the total number of photons striking the film. The dimmer the object, the longer the film
must be exposed because there are fewer photons per unit of time reaching the camera than
for a brighter object. The brightness of an object is directly related to the number of
photons that reach a recording device such as your eye or a camera. For example, to get a
decent photo of the full moon, the shutter should be open for about a second or two. To
record the image of a star, the shutter must be open from several minutes to several
hours in order for enough photons to hit the film and make an image. Some of the
spectacular photos that are made by the large telescopes, which col As for the
pictures of the astronauts, the sunlight reflecting off of them is so bright that the
shutter speed of the camera has to be a fraction of a second. If the exposure was longer,
the film would absorb to many photons from the astronauts and they would become 'washed
out' and appear as a featureless form of white, the opposite of the underexposed
Answered by: Matthew Allen, B.S., Physics/Calculus Teacher Saint Scholastica Academy
Our server costs have gone up and our advertising revenue has gone down. You do the math! If you find our site useful, consider donating to keep us going. Thanks!
'In a way science is a key to the gates of heaven, and the same key opens the gates of hell, and we do not have any instructions as to which is which gate.
Shall we throw away the key and never have a way to enter the gates of heaven? Or shall we struggle with the problem of which is the best way to use the key?'
Richard Phillips Feynman