Still trying to figure this out.

Hello, you may recall that back in December I acquired a new telescope, a lovely 6 inch aperture newtonian. It’s taken 6 weeks until I had the chance to get out with. Such is the curse of new kit.I have done some imaging with it, but I’m missing something, I know the tracking is slightly out but when I try to stack the images the software I use doesn’t detect any stars. Which is odd as the images are full of stars, so I need to figure that out.

So I’m not posting those images on this entry, instead I’m posting some images that I’ve taken using the D3200 with a 70-300 lens. I set the lens to maximum zoom and took a few images to make sure it was focussed. In total I took about 100 images; after removing the first few that were focussing shots and those that had severe star trailing or other issues, I ended up with about 47 images that are worth keeping. So out of those 47 images here are a few that I’m very pleased with.

The bright orange object in this image is the Star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. it is 66 light years from Earth. The planetary exploration probe Pioneer 10 is currently heading in the general direction of the star and should make its closest approach in about two million years.
The bright orange object in this image is the red giant betelgeuse.
In the centre of this image is a very faint Flame nebula. (NGC 2024)
Roughly centre of this image is a cluster of stars in the constellation of Gemini.
I can’t remember where the camera was pointed when this image was captured, but I really like it
The Orion Nebula, there’s a bit of star trailing but I’m pleased with the result
The Pleiades Cluster, M45.
The bright object in this image is the star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major, at magnitude -1.46 it is the brightest star in the night sky.

So there you go, I plan to mount the camera on the EQ3 mount to get some long exposure images in the near future. I will post any that are of any merit.

Clear skies


Oops, I think I may have broken the weather!

Hello, not much has been happening with photo taking for a while, as I posted a while back I’ve been using a 127mm Maksutov Cassegrain as my primary telescope, it’s an excellent piece of kit for visual observing, but its long focal length, 1500mm, isn’t that great for astrophotography. This means that I need a telescope that has a shorter focal length and a larger aperture, I decided that Newtonian is the way to go.

About two weeks ago I went up to the site I use in Cape-le-Ferne with the intention of just doing some visual observing. However the sky conditions were near perfect and I was getting exquisite views of M42 the Orion nebula, M31 the Andromeda galaxy and a few others, add to that the fact that the mount was tracking perfectly, I decided to set the camera up to do some imaging. I took around 160 photos and, unfortunately, not one was usable as the whole lot were out of focus. I realised that what I needed is a piece of kit called a Bahtinov mask, google it! The next day one was ordered and it arrived three days later. The timing couldn’t have been better as I’d been invited to attend an imaging evening under some of Kents darkest skies.

I gathered up my kit, made up a flask of tea and was picked up by a chum and we headed off. It was a bit of a pain having set up in the dark but luckily we were allowed to use ordinary torches to set up, phew! Once we were all sorted and had filled up on chilli we were all set. I used my newly acquired Bahtinov mask to focus the scope with the camera attached and started imaging.

The images we good, I was getting 20, 8 second exposures, but because the 127 isn’t the best ‘scope to image with I can’t stack them. Some of the images are featured on this post.

So now we come to last week, Wednesday the 7th to be precise, I took possession of a shiny new Skywatcher Explorer Newtonian. It has a 150mm aperture with a 750mm focal length. That’s an additional 23mm width with a 50% reduction on focal length. According to the blurb the ‘scope gives outstanding results visually and it has been designed with the astrophotographer in mind, thank you Skywatcher; at some point in the near future I will add a guide ‘scope which will enable much longer exposures as the guidescope sort of locks on to a bright star and continuously makes minor adjustments to the mount to stay centred on the object that’s being imaged.

The down side to getting a new telescope is that the rule of getting a new scope has kicked in and the night sky isn’t going to be clear for the next three weeks. Right now I’ll be happy with on clear sky over the Christmas break.

That’s it for now, I hope you like the images, nestled among them is the new scope, and have a happy whatever festive thing it you celebrate at this time of year.

Space, the final… oh you know the rest!

My readers may not be aware of the fact that I’m a keen amateur astronomer, I say keen, I live in England so clear night skies are a rare treat.

I’ve always marvelled the amazing images that are captured with a telescope and a camera. So I decided to have a bash at astro-imaging. My efforts range from down right awful to sub par; but they’re my images so I’m quite pleased with them.

I’ve imaged the moon through its various phases, I’ve photographed the stars and had a bash at DSOs, Deep Sky Objects, as I mentioned earlier my success is below average. There are some chanmakges I need to make to improve the quality of my images. I’m currently using a 127mm aperture Maksutov Cassegrain telescope with a 1500mm focal length, google it :D. This type of scope is not ideal for astro-photograpy. What I need is a Newtonian reflector of at least 150mm aperture.

Whilst the MAK, top image, isn’t ideal, the Newtonian has much more light gathering ability. So that’s one thing I need. It’s not too bad, a Newtonian is a relatively low priced scope. The biggest set back is my knowledge, my understanding of the techniques applied for astro imaging is somewhat lacking.newt

However, I have the good fortune to have a friend that has a great deal of experience with imaging the night sky, even better that he is very happy to share his wealth of knowledge. So with the proper kit and a few lessons, I should get the images I aspire to. Lessons have started and there have been results.

The first image is Messier 31, The Andromeda Galaxy. WARNING: educational info ahead! M31 is a spiral galaxy some 2.5 million light years from earth. With approximately 350 billion stars it is much larger than the Milky Way. M31 has a magnitude 0f 3.5 (ish). It is visible to the naked eye but very clear, very dark skies are needed. What can actually be seen is the bright core or centre of the galaxy. If it were just a magnitude brighter it would appear to be larger than the full moon. One more interesting fact, in about 4 billion year the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way will collide.

20160831 Andromeda.jpg

This image wasn’t taken by me, oh how I wish. However I really hope that by the time M31 is in the best position for imaging I will have the new kit.

My next image is of Messier 51, the Whirlpool galaxy. It’s a fine example of a spiral galaxy, and a companion galaxy can just be seen above the main object. M51 is 24 million light years away and at magnitude 8.4 a reasonable sized scope is needed. The image isn’t great because there was some high altitude cloud.




This image is taken by me, it’s a one minute exposure at ISO 1600.

My third image is a favourite target for astronomers, Messier 13; The great cluster in Hercules. M13 is a globular cluster that contains around 300, 000 stars. It s about 145 light years in diameter, it is 25,100 light-years away from Earth.

The Arecibo message of 1974, which contained encoded information about the human race, DNA, atomic numbers, Earth’s position and other information, was beamed from the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope towards M13 as an experiment in contacting potential extraterrestrial civilizations in the cluster. While the cluster will move through space during the transit time, the proper motion is small enough that the cluster will only move 24 light years, only a fraction of the diameter of the cluster. Thus, the message will still arrive near the center of the cluster.

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The top image is made from 37 images of 20 second exposures which have been stacked using Deep sky stacker, other than that there has been no other processing. The second image is a single 20 second exposure at ISO 1600  which has been darkened.

Image 3 is an unprocessed 20 second exposure ISO 1600.

If you look to the left of the cluster in images 2 & 3, at about the 7 o’clock position you can just make out a very faint object. This is NGC 6207, a spiral galaxy that is approximately 30 million light years away. NGC 6207 has a magnitude of 11.7.

I hope you enjoy the images, and that you weren’t too put off by the info blurb.

Astronomy Images.

I’m a keen amateur astronomer, I have a 127mm aperture 1500mm focal length Maksutov Cassegrain telescope on an EQ3 mount with dual axis tracking. Last year I upgraded my camera from a Samsung instamatic digital camera to a Nikon 3200 DSLR. I also purchased a few extras that would enable me to take prime focus images, something I was told I would be able to do with my type of ‘scope. I have the potential to capture some amazing images of the night sky, sadly I’m somewhat lacking in both skill and knowledge. One thing I don’t lack however is persistence, I am certain that if I keep at it I will get the images that I can be proud of.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased with the images I have taken, but I know that I can do better. So here are a few of my images, and one rather spectacular image that isn’t mine, I’ve included it to illustrate what I hope to be able to do after lots of practice.

The moon
Jupiter, The Great Red Spot is visible
The Coat Hanger asterism
tpot 2
The Teapot asterism
Messier 31, The Andromeda Galaxy
The bright streak is the International Space Station
M31 with a meteor
Close up of the moon
The Pleiades cluster
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M31 comprised of 20 x 1 minute exposures, image courtesy of Ewan Vellacot.

Messier 31, The Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant object that can be seen with the naked eye. It’s 2.5 million light years away. It is about twice the size of the Milky Way, our home galaxy, and contains around 1 trillion stars.

I hope that it won’t be too long before I have some stunning images of my own to share with you,

Need more practice.

The plan for the photos in this entry was to head up to the Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel le Ferne. The moon was 98% illuminated, it’s full on the 1st of July, and Venus and Jupiter would 0.5 degrees apart. I arrived on site in the brilliant sun light, set up the telescope and then pottered about a bit whilst waiting for the moon to rise. Because of the smog over France I couldn’t see the moon as it first appeared on the horizon, so I had to wait about 40 minutes until the moon was in the right position for imaging. By the time the moon was right the wind had picked up and was causing very bad vibration on the ‘scope. I think that is part of the problem with the quality of the close up moon photos. My favourite photo in tonight’s set is the one of the bird that is looking to the left. The image is crisp and sharp, I think I have the focus just about right, not bad considering the little bugger wouldn’t keep still.

Feel free to comment, but keep it polite.

I went on a bus trip with the intention of going down to Lydd-on-Sea to photograph soe of the derelict fishing boats. The bus arrived at the Pilot at 19:35, “jolly good” though I, I’ll have plenty of time to get a few shots in and grab the next bus up. I checked the times with the very helpful driver to discover that the next bus back to Folkestone was at 21:15, bugger!. In view of this I decided to stay on the bus and head back to Hythe. Know that the would be a bus up to home at about ten to nine I got off at St Saviours and walked down a path to the canal. With a twenty five minute window I took the pics that are displayed with this entry. For some reason the focus is a little off in some of them, despite the fact that the camera was set to autofocus, I will have to convince my mentor to come out with me one day.

Enjoy the photos, I’m particularly chuffed with the images of the moon.

Tomorrow the planets Venus & Jupiter will appear very close optically, don’t worry there won’t be any ill effects, so I’m going to have a go at that and get a couple more shots of the moon, this time though a telescope. I’ll publish the results when I get home.

“and so it begins!”

The images were taken on a sunny, but very windy, evening. Being a complete beginner my subjects are a little random. The camera I’m using is a Nikon D3200 with an 18-55 lens and a 55-300 zoom lens. It’s an upgrade from a Sony SLT a37. The Sony is a very good camera but I felt it was time for an upgrade, I considered a Canon but after a lot of research and knowing what I wanted to use the camera for the Nikon was the one I went for, obviously. The Nikon is very different to the Sony and there’s a lot for me to learn, so this blog will, hopefully, serve as a chronicle of my improvement in choice subject, framing and generally learning about the cameras capabilities.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, as things progress I’ll write a bit more about some of the images.