Capture SpaceX's Starlink Satellites From Your Backyard

Capture SpaceX's Starlink Satellites From Your Backyard

We've seen Elon Musk's company SpaceX in the news consistently since their launch of the Starlink satellites, and with 12,000 set to be released into low earth orbit in the future, it might mean some pretty cool light trails for astro photos. Follow the steps below on how to take photos of the Starlink satellites from your backyard.

Keep Things Steady

The camera has to remain motionless during exposure if you want to capture the satellites without camera blur. A tripod is your best option for this. Try to use a columnless tripod, as they offer the best stability. Tripods with columns tend to sway in the wind, and cause the camera to move during long exposures. Alternatively, you could prop it up on your window sill or on a wall, but you'll get better composition flexibility if you use a tripod.

Check When the Satellites Will Appear

To see when the Starlink satellites will appear in your area, head over to Findstarlink.com and type in your location to get the next appearances in the sky. You'll get date, time, and direction details, but it's important to remember that you won't see them unless the sky is clear enough. If there's heavy cloud cover on that night, you probably won't see them. Check the weather beforehand using a reputable source such as the Met Office.

Set a Long Exposure

In manual mode, set a long shutter speed of between 10 and 30 seconds. The longer your exposure time, the longer the satellite trails will be. So, if you want shorter streaks, use closer to 10 seconds, and for longer, try 30 seconds. The aperture should be set as wide as possible, such as f/2.8, and ISO quite high, around 1,000 or 2,000, depending on how dark your skies are.

Experiment With Foreground Elements

Play with composition by placing houses, a bush, or a fence in your foreground if in your backyard. Just make sure your horizon is level if including architecture or fences to keep things straight. If you travel somewhere more magnificent to capture your Starlink shots, then look for leading lines and frames within frames for something a bit more special.

Create Happy Accidents

With some time photographing the night sky, you may find that you capture other satellites orbiting the earth as well. These happy accidents can sometimes look good or be a hindrance crossing over your Starlink trails. The worst culprits are planes flying overhead, polluting your clear night sky shot with flashing, colored lights. You could take these out in post-processing software using a clone tool easily enough, though. The best shots are when you capture something else extraordinary, like meteors, star constellations, or even the Milky Way.

Images used under creative commons courtesy of Brett Sayles via Pexels

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9 Comments

Jeremy Lusk's picture

"Pretty cool light trails?" Maybe once, but what about when we have to remove those trails from stacks of night sky images when we're trying to shoot the Milky Way? Maybe Elon could also release some free software to handle that for us.

Capturing those stupid satellites is likely to do only one thing in my case, that is to make me angry. Just more light pollution to deal with.

Marcus Nolte's picture

Cool light trails? Seriously? So, dumped cans in a national park are "pretty cool sparkly elements" to add to our otherwise boring landscape shots? Oil carpets are "pretty cool swirls of color" on monotone blue oceans? Sorry, I don't know what's less short-sighted... Elon dumping his trash in our orbit or the fact that people cheer to him for doing it...

And there's gonna be 12,000 of them!!
Grrrrrrrrrrr........

Brook Brown's picture

Sarcasm, maybe?

And when the 12000 of them are Released what else will we See on our images, Whites lines everywhere? that will be awesome ! Plus what about the scientific community which will have to find “windows” for the observations not to have the images polluted by these satellites?
Next step is what a Russian guy tried to do: commercials in space so we cannot miss them 🤦‍♂️

I agree. Anyone who shoots any type of astro or serious night time landscape work has an issue on thier hands now.

We get few enough clear nights, and now we have this to contend with too

So now we need Photopills or somebody to do the inverse of that guy's web site and tell us when they won't be visible.