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> Stars would look as bright as the sun to us of we were as close to them as we are to the sun, but we are in fact MUCH further away so most of the light gets scattered or absorbed along the way.
There isn’t much scattering or absorption in space and these stars are very near. They only look dimmer because they look so small. The stars look highly overexposed, this, together with the small aperture (and thus high diffraction) makes them look larger. It might be a composite of course, but just because the stars appear large doesn’t mean it is a composite.
>Something similar goes for the horizon. It’s not about absolute brightness, it’s about relative brightness. So if the light at the horizon appears brighter than the stars in reality, it will also do so in a photograph, no matter how long you expose it.
I mean that it looks much brighter on the photo than it did in reality. Its brightness is amplified, together with the stars.