Images representing different hobbies

Astrophotography

You are never too old to learn, and one of the thing that has opened my eyes  has been discovering the quality of astronomical images that can be produced by amateurs with very modest equipment. By using digital cameras and image processing software it's a realistic ambition to produce images that compare favourably with those produced by the world's biggest telescopes fifty years ago - right in your back yard!

This website does not showcase the best astronomical pictures on the internet! It's a selection of pictures I have taken myself with basic equipment and free software. Producing images like these below, or even better ones, is within your reach!

Most importantly, you don't have to spend a fortune. My scope, mount and tripod coast £180 on Ebay. I spent £40 on a more solid tripod, and about £200 on various bits and pieces including books and an ancient Canon EOS DSLR and a seconhand Microsoft HD Webcam. The results shown before are  some of my best so far, and will be updated from time to time.

Perhaps the easiest target in the sky is the moon. You can get good pictures with any long or zoom lens, this is a 'stack' of six pictures taken with an ordinary bridge camera:

A Gibbous Moon photographed over thr Isle of Skye in near-poerfect seeing conditions

A gibbous moon photographed on the isle of Skye.

Follow the links below for introductions to some of the other things you can image in the night sky:

The Moon

The Sun

The Planets

Messier Objects

Star Clusters

Nebulae

Galaxies

Constellations

Meteors

Have a go!

I hope I have convinced you to have a go at photographing the night sky - these photos may not hold a candle to some of the work of professionals like Damian Peach or even dedicated amateurs, but I hope you are surprised what can be done with kit that has cost me well under £500.

There are lots of places to find out more on line, but perhaps the easiest place to start is the StargazersLounge webiste.

As well as the subjects covered above there are all sorts of other things to look out for - comets, asteroids, meteors, aurorae, noctilucent clouds and various metereological effects such as sundogs and lunar halos. And sometimes there are just picturesque events such as this near conjunction of the Moon and Venus.

Conjunction of Moon and Venus seen ona slightly misty night, with teh moon partly behind trees

A Conjunction of Moon and Venus

 

M44, the Beehive Cluster is also known as Praesepe or 'the manger' as the two brightest stars near it are supposed to be donkeys having their lunch(!)

Just visible to the naked eye as a fuzzy patch in dark skies, through a telescope it is a rich area of jewel-like stars. Photographed it is less spectacular. It covers a large area about three times as wide as the full moon so it is best photographed or observed with a fairly short focal length.

M44 Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster

M44, The Beehive Cluster or Praesepe - best seen with the naked eye like many star clusters.

M57 is a ring of gas expanding outwards after being thrown off by a red giant star, that now glows faintly as a white dwarf, visible in the centre of the ring.

It is easy to find in the constellation Lyra and can be seen through small telescopes.

M57 Ring Nebula  - you can't argue with the name

M57 the ring nebula - the central star is just visible here.

This is a spectacular oblect when photographed well -so I hope to do much better this year!

M33

M33 - this target clearly needs a lot more effort :-(

M27 is a relatively bright planetary nebula in the obscure constellation Vulpecula. Having the appearance of a BMW symbol, it is popularly called the 'dumbbell nebula'.

Although it has a totally different look to the nearby M57 ring nebula, the three dimensional shape of both nebulas is actually more or less the same -we just see them from differnet angles.

Like M57, M27 is an expanding cloud of gas thrown off by a red giant star at the end of its most active phase and now contains a white dwarf star.

M27 the Dumbell Nebula

M27 the Dumbbell Nebula. Note the faint outer circle of red oxygen around the blue hydrogen cloud.

Messier 2 is one of the largest globular clusters known with over 150,000 stars. It is thought to be 13 billion years old, so it is also one of the oldest.

Messier 2, a globular cluster in Aquarius

Messier 2 contains over 150,000 stars.