New documentary shows astrophotography is possible in light-polluted Singapore

Orion Nebula (2010) by Ivan Bok. Image courtesy of OKJ and Ivan Bok.

According to an article by National Geographic published on 3 April 2019, Singapore is one of the most light-polluted places on Earth. On a clear night, Singapore residents might be able to count 15-20 stars with the naked eye, which is a very fortunate yield indeed. For this reason, many of us, although enthusiastic about stargazing, are reluctant to purchase a telescope: expensive, nowhere to put it, and worst of all, rendered useless due to light pollution.

A new short documentary, Galactic Paint, proves that astrophotography is indeed possible in Singapore, given the right equipment and techniques. This 3-minute film by documentary filmmaker OKJ gives an introduction to astrophotographer Ivan Bok, who manages to capture incredible images of the universe from his apartment, using a technique known as narrowband imaging combined with the right telescope and astrophotography software.

According to Bok’s website, Hues of Heaven, narrowband imaging requires – in addition to a telescope and mount – a monochrome camera and narrowband filters. These filters are able to isolate light emitted from elements such as hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur (the 3 most commonly-used filters), although others such as a nitrogen filter have been applied to images from the Hubble Space Telescope and its ilk. For each filter, Bok shoots multiple long exposures of 10-30 minutes, and then uses software to combine and process the images. Below are some of Bok’s images, and more can be found at his website:

Orion Nebula (2014) by Ivan Bok. Image courtesy of Ivan Bok and OKJ.
Carina Nebula (2016 ) by Ivan Bok. Image courtesy of OKJ and Ivan Bok.
Fighting Dragons of Ara (2019) by Ivan Bok. Image courtesy of OKJ and Ivan Bok.
Horsehead Nebula (2019) by Ivan Bok. Image courtesy of OKJ and Ivan Bok.

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