After Hours

Photographer captures entire night sky in massive image

Astrophotographer Nick Risinger traveled 60,000 miles and took 37,440 exposures to create a 5,000 megapixel photo of the entire night sky. Learn more about his Photopic Sky Survey.

How long would it take to photograph the entire night sky? Even more, what would it take to capture tens of millions of stars — more than are commonly visible to the naked eye? Photographer Nick Risinger has the answer: one year and 60,000 miles of travel thanks to his Photopic Sky Survey, which consists of 37,440 exposures captured in the American west and South Africa.

Using an array of six cameras mounted on a tripod designed to move with the Earth's spin, Risinger spent innumerable nights under these same stars listening to the click-clack of camera shutters opening and closing. Using a grid of 624 uniformly-spaced areas of the sky — each a mere 12 degrees in height and containing 60 exposures to reduce the amount of satellites, meteors, and other unwanted objects — he then stitched the images together to form a gigantic, 5,000 megapixel photograph that can be viewed on his site using a simple zoom applet or more in-depth with the Interactive 360 degree panorama.

The Interactive view is especially nice because it comes with a constellation and key objects overlay. Several objects, such as the planets and some nebulae, even have clickable links to the Wikipedia article about that object.

If you really like what you see on the Photopic Sky Survey site, you can order an archival print of an image.

Image courtesy of Nick Risinger,

(Thanks to TechRepublic's Mark Kaelin for the tip.)

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