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 first serious scope, mount and tripod cost £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

 

M82 is an exceptionally bright 'starburst' galaxy in Ursa Major. It lies close to Bode's Galaxy, M81. Observations in infra-red show that it is an edge on spiral galaxy. Narrowband Hydrogen alpha images show perpendicular bright tarils of Ha leading from the core, only faintly visible in the image below.

M82 L

M82 the Cigar Galaxy

Bode's Galaxy or Bode's Nebula is about half the size of the Milky Way, but being relatively close it appears large and is well studied. It is a 'grand design spiral' with a large, bright core.

M81

M81, Bode's Galaxy

Aside from the cringe-worthy name, M76 suffers from being less spectacular than other nebulas in Orion such as the Flame, Horsehead, Running Man and the Orion Nebula (M42 and M43). It certainly deserves more attention that the faint smudge in the centre of the image below. The red struture at the left end of Orion's belt is teh Flame Nebula.

M78

M78 lies close to the centre of this image.

M76 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Perseus. It has a complex structure and is named for its similarity to M27, the Dumbbell Nebula.

M76

M76, the Little Dumbbell Nebula

M74 in Pisces is a face-on 'grand design spiral galaxy' - that is one with two well developed arms and a very clear structure. It has the lowest surface brightness of any Messier Object making it challenging to observe and photograph.

M74

M74, the Phantom Galaxy, so called because it is hard to find