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

 

M108 is was discovered by Messier's colleague Pierre Mechain in the 1870s. It is a barred spiral galaxy in the consetellation of Ursa Major, but to see this you need much more detailed shot than the one below. This is a stack of five rather short exposures against a background of light pollution, I was pleased to get any detail at all in this image, as I was just expecting a blurred streak!

M108, the Surfboard Nebula

M108, the Surfboard Nebula

 

M92 is a quite bright globular cluster above the constellation of Hercules. It is hard to see with the naked eye, but easily observable in binoculars. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this cluster is that its age has been estimated to being about the same as the age of the universe - in other words it is one of the oldest objects it is possible to observe.

M92 - a bright globular cluster in Hercules

M92 - a bright globular cluster in Hercules

The Pinwheel Galaxy lies close to the 'handle' of the Plough. Its is an excellent example of a spiral galaxy, although good skies and a reasonably sized telescope are required to make out its spiral arms by eye. It is 21 million light years away from Earth.

M101 - the Pinwheel Galaxy

M101 - the Pinwheel Galaxy

De Mairan's nebula is the northern part of the Orion Nebula, separated from the main M42 part of the nebula by a lane of dark dust.

M43, de Mairan's Nebula

M43, de Mairan's Nebula

To the naked eye, Orion's 'sword' appears to be three stars in a line. Look carefully and the central star appears a bit fuzzy, this is M42, the Orion Nebula. It is a huge cloud of gas brightly lit by a concentration of bright, blue, young stars. Right in the heart of the nebula are four quite distinct stars known as the 'trapezium'. In fact, the nebula is the closest area of intense star formation to the Earth. Just above the Orion Nebula is a smaller nebula M43, looking like a bird's head to M42's 'wings'.

M42, the Orion Nebula

M42, the Orion Nebula