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Can you see stars from a plane at night?

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Can you see stars from a plane at night?

Old 11th Sep 2016, 21:24
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Can you see stars from a plane at night?

Please help me settle this debate i am having.

Obviously assume the cabin lights are off......Can one see stars from a plane at over 30,000 ft?
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Old 12th Sep 2016, 01:23
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Ummm... yes.
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Old 12th Sep 2016, 02:01
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Well what you can see might be limited by the quality of the window (some of the transparencies can be scratched) and also as you are obviously aware cabin lighting might interfere with your night vision but the answer is very much:

Yes you can.

TBH I'm fascinated as to why it's even subject for debate - why would anyone think you cannot see them? Then again some people do have some strange ideas about this sort of thing, such thinking that in flight you have to look down to see "shooting stars"....

FWIW from the flight deck (better windows, more control over lighting) the view of stars, meteors, aurora etc can be phenomenal.

Last edited by wiggy; 12th Sep 2016 at 08:21.
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Old 12th Sep 2016, 02:43
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Used to see lots of stars at night at over 30,000ft - especially when doing astro!
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Old 12th Sep 2016, 05:26
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Not only can stars be seen, but prior to the existence of the now ubiquitous radio/inertial/GPS navigation systems we all enjoy today, the stars were a primary means to navigate.

Some branches of the US military continued to use celestial navigation as a backup to INS and radio nav systems into the 1990s and the SR-71 Blackbird carried an electronic star sight that could update the aircraft's INS position.
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Old 12th Sep 2016, 11:22
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Excellent view of the stars at night from the front. Lately Mars and Saturn have been positioned just right for them to be on the nose when tracking from Sydney to Melbourne. I've also had some nice southern light displays.
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Old 12th Sep 2016, 14:43
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Aaaah - memories of chasing comet 'Hale-Bopp' in the north sky after dark back in the winter of 1996 when returning to the UK from the south.
Pre - 9/11 so lots of interested passengers queuing at the FD door for their few minutes communing with H-B. It was quite high in the night sky so the folks had to kneel at the centre console and look upwards. Sure made for some interesting sights!
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Old 12th Sep 2016, 14:56
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Originally Posted by wayki View Post
Can you see stars from a plane at night?
Well you can, but it involves flying very low over Hollywood Boulevard and it can get you into trouble with both the low-flying police and the privacy gestapo.

It's more easily done with a proper drone in my experience...
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Old 14th Sep 2016, 07:39
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I guess you can

http://petapixel.com/assets/uploads/2014/06/milky1.jpg

©Alessandro Merga
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Old 14th Sep 2016, 08:11
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In the absence of any further posts from the thread starter, I'm still mystified
as to why the question even had to be asked in the first place.
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Old 14th Sep 2016, 09:40
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+1.....unless it was indeed a wind up (along the lines that PDR1 was suggesting).
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Old 4th Oct 2016, 04:24
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iflytb20, is that your Milky Way photo? Nice.

How did you mask the cabin light from reflecting off the window and getting into the shot?
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Old 4th Oct 2016, 11:20
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I'd also be interested in knowing more - back in the days of film I used to take photos from the flight deck, when circumstances allowed, of the aurora - Using a Standard lens "wide open" , ISO 400, anything more than a 20 sec exposure would almost always produce star "trails", due to aircraft motion, usually manifesting in the roll plane. Also using 20 -40 sec exposure you' be lucky to image anything much fainter than magnitude 3-4 stars.

To capture stuff as this image has, down to what looks like mag 6 ( basically dimmest stars visible to naked eye) or dimmer (some of the nebula in the pic), without any significant "smudging" means the photographer must have used a heck of a fast set up.

FWIW anyone able to indentify any constellations/asterisms in the image? ....I'm a bit rusty..

Last edited by wiggy; 4th Oct 2016 at 11:56.
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Old 4th Oct 2016, 14:38
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That picture looks like it has been made using a star tracker (therefore no star tracks), however how one would use a contraption like that in an aircraft seems, well, interesting. But even than the winglet should be much brighter, so it has to be a composite image out of different single pictures. However an aircraft is never ever completely stable, so there should have been star tracks from aircraft movement.

Well, probably several ISO 25600 pictures, to remove sensor blur, superimposed to each other with a lower ISO picture for the foreground.
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Old 4th Oct 2016, 15:28
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Denti

That makes sense to me, I'd be very pleasantly surprised if it's a straightforward single image, especially (as you say) given the magnitude of stars he/she has captured I would have thought the wing and winglet would have been overexposed.

In any event and FWIW after a bit of research the star field has the brighter stars of Sagittarius above the wingtip and the Lagoon nebula (M8) off to the RHS.

In any event in the context of this thread I don't think the image is representative of the naked eye view you'll ever get from an airliner ( cabin or flight deck), since a significant number of the stars/nebula shown are so dim they'd be invisible to the naked eye, even from a perfect sight at ground level. Checking against a star catalogue a lot of the stars imaged are down to magnitude 8 or dimmer and would be invisible to the naked eye ( mag 6 is generally considered the naked eye limit) - no wonder the imaged sky looks full of stars

Nevertheless it's a nice pic.

Last edited by wiggy; 4th Oct 2016 at 15:56.
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Old 4th Oct 2016, 17:31
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The photo linked in post #9 has the following EXIF data:
Aperture: f/1.8
Exposure time: 10 sec
Focal length: 28.0 mm (lens)
ISO Speed Rating: 1600
Camera: Canon EOS 450D

I'm guessing that the camera's image stabilization system might be good enough to steady the shot for 10 seconds. And that shouldn't produce star trails with such a wide angle lens.
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Old 4th Oct 2016, 18:12
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Thanks those numbers makes sense...I'd still say there's probably an element of luck with no turbulence/shake and perhaps an element of good judgement with the wingtip being suitably exposed.

Still sadly far better than you'll see with the naked eye.
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Old 4th Oct 2016, 19:02
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Thanks EEngr, didn't have the time during the negotiation to check the EXIF data.

Still a surprisingly good picture for that camera and that lense. Remember, its not a full format sensor, therefore there is a 1.6 factor that needs to be applied to get the full format equivalent focal length. Except if the EXIF data takes that already into account.

Anyway, i always have the impression i can see far more stars from the flightdeck during cruise than on the ground. And that is actually quite natural, as we are above most of the air pollution and usually have no other lights than those in the flightdeck around.
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Old 5th Oct 2016, 14:53
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i always have the impression i can see far more stars from the flightdeck during cruise than on the ground.
Sadly that depends where you live or do your observing from.

FWIW where I am is 30 miles south of the nearest large conurbation and in very rural countryside. On a good night with your night vision fully adapted the seeing everywhere but low to the north (i.e direction of the city) knocks the socks off anything you'll ever see from the flightdeck..I think the problem on the flight deck is you can never get it really dark, and then there's definitely a slight but noticeable loss of limiting magnitude due to thickness of the transparencies.

TBH the guy who took the shot from the passenger cabin was blessed to have a very clear and unscratched window.
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Old 10th Oct 2016, 12:30
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This thread is just all to bizarre
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