Astrophotography: The Southern Cross & Pointers

As a teenager, from my earliest days of interest in astronomy and photography, I had a famous (in the southern hemisphere) image of the Southern Cross and “The Pointers” as a poster on my wall, captured on a medium-format camera by Japanese astrophotographer Akira Fujii. Fujii used a blur filter to highlight the famed bright stars of the cross and alpha and beta Centauri pointing to it, creating a very aesthetic portrait of this region of sky, and one that was technically brilliant in its day.

While I had captured views of this area many times on single 35mm photographic frames through the 1990s, I made my first attempt to capture this area in a detailed digital image in February 2008, with this mosaic image captured with a Hutech modified Canon 40D and 50mm lens. The blur effect on that occasion was achieved by shooting through high cloud. Resolution of the mosaic on this attempt was 6600 pixels wide—more than enough to beat the resolution of Akira Fujii’s original. This image was recognised that year by David Malin, also a colleague of Akira Fujii’s, at the CWAS Astrofest awards.

southern cross astrophotography tips

Southern Cross photo from 2008, with Hutech modified Canon 40D and 50mm lens

With some time and inspiration in isolation in early 2020, I set up my QHY367C CMOS camera and a Canon 85mm lens to repeat my capture of this stunning region of sky, with 20 hours of exposure across three panes of the mosaic, plus some additional frames to catch the red nebula through a hydrogen-alpha filter and multiple layers of blurred stars through Lee soft effect filters. Mosaic image resolution this time is double that from 2008, more than 12,000 pixels wide—more than enough to create a stunning poster of my own!

southern cross astrophotography tips

Southern Cross and “The Pointers” in May 2020; QHY367C camera and Canon 85mm lens at f/5.6, 20 hours total exposure

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