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NEW PRODUCT: Vixen Polarie Star Tracker

Graphic of Vixen Polarie with sky photograph background

The easy-to-use Vixen Polarie star tracker lets you take impressive long-exposure images of the night sky.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE YOUR OWN sky photographs but don’t have a telescope? The new Vixen Polarie Star Tracker lets anyone with a digital SLR (and some digital compact cameras) take impressive wide-angle sky shots with ease.

To get the best sky shots, you need to take exposures that are much longer than the fraction of a second typically used for daylight terrestrial photographs. You might need anything from tens of seconds up to tens of minutes.

The problem is that the Earth is turning, and this makes everything in the sky seem to move through the field of view of your camera, resulting in stars that look like streaks of light instead of fine pinpoints.

What you need is a way to move your camera to track the movement of the sky. The traditional way to do this is to set up a telescope, carefully align it with the Earth’s rotation (ie. the angle up from the horizon and pointed directly south or north), and piggyback your camera on it.

But this can be a lot of hassle, and most people don’t cart their telescope around when they go on holidays.

Enter the Vixen Polarie Star Tracker, which is designed to be used without a telescope. The Polarie sits between your tripod and your camera. Simply angle it upwards according to your latitude (using the easy-to-read scale on the side), point it south (for the Southern Hemisphere) or north (N. Hemisphere) using the inbuilt compass, and you’re ready to go!

The Vixen Polarie's features
How to set up the Vixen Polarie

The Vixen Polarie sits between your tripod and your camera. Alignment is as easy as adjusting the vertical angle for your latitude, and using the in-built compass to find north or south.

The battery-powered unit swivels your camera at the same rate as the Earth turns, tracking the moving sky and letting you take long-exposure images to bring out detail and colour.

The unit is compact and portable, and because it attaches to any standard tripod, you don’t need any extra gear…although Vixen does make a purpose-built tripod and handy carry bag to give you a complete system.

The Polarie already has received rave reviews—and here are some examples of shots taken using it:

Image of nebulosity

With the appropriate lens, you can take dramatic shots of deep sky objects.

The Orion Nebula

A tracked photo of the famous Orion Nebula using the Vixen Polarie.

Wide-angle view of Orion

A wide-angle view of the constellation Orion, with the Orion Nebula in the centre.

Wide-angle view of the Milky Way

Wide-angle views of the Milky Way are popular amongst astrophotographers, and are now much easier to achieve using the Vixen Polarie.

This sort of tracking unit is ideally suited to producing those beautiful wide-angle shots of the sky we all admire so much, especially of the Milky Way. It’ll also be incredibly useful during the upcoming November 14 total solar eclipse.

Powered by two AA batteries or via USB, the Polarie can carry up to 2kg (camera or spotting scope).

The Vixen Polarie is available in Australia exclusively through AstroShop.com.au.

You can also get a complete package of the Polarie plus a Velbon tripod and custom carry bag.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Photos courtesy Vixen.

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World record Moon image

Image of the Moon

This image of the Moon was made by piecing together almost 300 individual frames, resulting in one of the best lunar images ever made by Earth-bound astronomers.

  • Best image of the Moon
  • Over 1 million frames collected
  • Best frames selected and joined

A team of some of the world’s foremost astro imagers has completed one of the biggest and best images of the Moon made.

Using specialist astronomy video cameras along with high-end amateur telescopes and special software, their image has eclipsed any other so far taken of the Moon by ground-based astronomers.

A team of people, comprising of some of the world’s foremost astro imagers, gathered at the home of Sir Patrick Moore in April this year. Using specialist astronomy cameras with high-end amateur telescopes and special software to compile and mosaic the frames, they have created an image which has eclipsed any other so far taken of the Moon by ground-based astronomers.

The full-size image can be downloaded from the Lunar World Record web site.

Like a giant jigsaw

Each astrophotographer took an image of a small section of the lunar surface at high resolution. The individual images were then assembled, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, into a complete image of the nine-day-old Moon.

The team submitted close to 1,000 panes from the individual image runs, with close to 1.2 million frames of video captured, totalling 1.1 terabytes of data. The image panes were individually “stitched together” by each team member who then submitted their region for inclusion in the final image.

Nick Howes and Sir Patrick Moore

Nick Howes, who came up with the idea for the image, and Sir Patrick Moore, host of the BBC's Sky at Night programme.

The images that make up the final master were selected based on their overall quality. A significant amount of overlap was used. In total, the image utilises 288 high-resolution panes.

The end result is a high-resolution 87.4 megapixel image of the Moon, bigger even then previous images taken by some of the world’s largest observatories, allowing features as small as 1km to be clearly seen.

Proceeds to charity

The imaging team saw the likes of Damian Peach, Pete Lawrence, Dave Tyler, Bruce Kingsley, Nick Smith, and more, work in sync on assigned segments of the Moon from Sir Patrick Moore’s Selsey home and locations around the UK.

Sir Patrick is well-known to astronomers worldwide as host of the BBC’s Sky at Night television programme.

“This is a monumental image, worthy of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, and our way of honouring Sir Patrick’s incredible work in mapping the Moon for the Russian and American Moon missions in the 1960s, on this, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing”, says Nick Howes, who is part of the imaging team, and came up with the original plan for the record attempt.

All proceeds from the image—which is already being mooted for use at various planetariums around the UK, and which will be available to view and purchase from the Lunar World Record website—will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a charity designated by Sir Patrick, with all team members contributing their time for free.

Web site: Lunar World Record

Adapted from information issued by Lunar World Record.