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

 

M31, the Great Nebula in Andromeda, is the nearest major galaxy to our own. It has roughly twice as many stars as the Milky Way, but a similar structure and appearance (if we could see the Milky Way from outside). You can see how brighter, bluer stars are concentrated around the outside of the galaxy, while those in the centre are cooler and hence redder/yellower.

It is possible to observe and photograph globular clusters of stars that form a halo around M31, just as similar clusters surround our galaxy. Around twenty such clusters are visible in the image below. Two smaller galaxies, M110 (top centre) and M32 (below M31, to the left of the bright star) are visible in the image below.

M31 The Great Nebula in Andromeda

The Great Nebula in Andromeda

M110 is an elliptical galaxy that is a small companion in orbit around the larger spiral galaxy M31. Charles Messier actually only listed 109 objects, but M110 is usually added as he did describe it in his journals. Although it is of similar brightness to the other companion galaxy M32, as it is larger its surface brightness is lower, making it more difficult to see.

M110, small galaxy in orbit around M31

M110 is a small galaxy in orbit around M31

M32 is a small but bright elliptical galaxy that orbits the much bigger spiral; galaxy M31. the bright glow in the image below is part of the outskirts of M31.

M32, a small companion galaxy to M31

M32 is a small companion galaxy to M31

M103 is an open cluster of about forty stars near the bright star Ruchbah in Cassiopeia. It is relatively easy to find with binoculars or a telescope. Not all of the stars appearing in the area of the cluster are associated with it. The central red giant star is magnitude 10.8.

The open cluster M103

The open cluster M103

This is a stack of several images taken while hoping to capture shooting stars from the Perseids meteor shower on 12 August 2015. Each image is just a fourteen-second exposure at ISO 100, showing what can be done under relatively dark skies.

Unfortunately there was rather a lot of thin cloud - not enough to obscure the stars, but it picked up light pollution from Burton Upon Trent about eight miles away and can be seen as faint bands from lower left to upper right.

The constellation Cassiopiea is clear at top left and Andromeda is at bottom right. Just above Andromeda near the middle of the image you can see the elongated smudge that is the Andromeda Galaxy. Much of the constellation Perseus can be seen at bottom left.

Still a lot going on in this picture :-)

Constellations Andromeda and Cassiopiea, with the Andromeda Galax

Constellations Andromeda and Cassiopiea, with the Andromeda Galaxy.