Posts Tagged ‘Sky-Watcher’


Astronomy Events – April 2012

March 31, 2012

by yaska77

March was a good month for sky watching! The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, followed closely by the appearance of the crescent Moon sparked a lot of interest. So what is happening in April to keep that enthusiasm going?

To help out we’ve listed some astronomical happenings of note for the next month, hopefully with a little bit of something for everyone!

Sunday 1st April – Today sees the start of Global Astronomy Month, encouraging all to look to the night sky!

Tuesday 3rd April – Venus is still present as a spectacularly bright object in the early evening sky. Tonight it will appear to pass closest to the Pleiades or “Seven Sisters” (so it should be a great photographic target) but the planet will be just below the open cluster on the 2nd and to the left on the 4th, so we’ve got three evenings to get some images (hope for clear skies!)

Venus will appear in the Pleiades on the 3rd April 2012 shown at 20:00 GMT (21:00 BST). The star cluster is also known as the Seven Sisters (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Friday 6th April – The first Full Moon of spring is sometimes known as the Paschal Full Moon or the Paschal Term

Also called the Pink Moon, supposedly because the grass pink (or wild ground phlox) is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the season, other monikers (varying by location) are the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and – among coastal tribes – the Full Fish Moon, when the shad come upstream to spawn

Traditionally, Easter is observed on the Sunday immediately after the Paschal Full Moon (Paschal meaning passover)

The Paschal Full Moon fell on 17th April in 2011, imaged here using a Sky-Watcher 200P Telescope and a Canon Eos 550D (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Saturday 7th April – Moon is at Perigee (358,315 km) the closest point of its orbit to the Earth, rising soon after 20:00 GMT (21:00 BST)

Tuesday 10th April – As the Moon doesn’t rise until after 00:00 GMT (01:00 BST) tonight is a good opportunity to look at some deep sky objects earlier on without the moonlight interfering!

Friday 13th April – Last Quarter Moon which doesn’t rise until after 02:00 GMT (03:00 BST), another good evening for deep sky observing

Sunday 15th April – Saturn is at Opposition in the constellation Virgo. This means it’s in an opposite position in the sky to our Sun so will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, making it observable all night long. The rings are beginning to open too (as the planet tilts) so they will look impressive even in a small telescope

We captured this image of Saturn by using a CCD camera and then stacking the frames, from March 2011 (click to enlarge) Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Wednesday 18th April – Mercury is at its Greatest Western Elongation so will rise before the Sun and be visible to morning observers, close to the waning crescent Moon

Saturday 21st April – Tonight the New Moon sets at dusk, coinciding with the peak of the Lyrids Meteor Shower (from 16th to 26th April), which will start this evening and last into the early hours of the 22nd

The radiant point will be near the constellation Lyra with a ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate) of around 20 meteors per hour (but it has been known to go as high as 90)

The meteors will seem to come from the direction of Lyra, but should appear all over the sky. Image shown at 00:00 GMT (01:00 BST) on 22nd April 2012 (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Sunday 22nd April – Moon is at Apogee (406,420 km) the furthest point of its orbit from the Earth

Jupiter will appear very close to a thin crescent Moon, about 6° up in the west-north-western sky after sunset

Monday 23rd April – The waxing crescent Moon appears just beneath the Pleiades soon after sunset this evening. With the Hyades and Venus both nearby (all to the right of Orion), those with a flat enough western horizon may find this a good photo target

The large craters of Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina will appear very will illuminated close to the terminator on 26th April 2012 (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Thursday 26th April – Fans of the Moon have the chance to see (and image) three large craters this evening. Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina will all appear close to the terminator, similar to the image above that we took on 9th April 2011

Sunday 29th April – First Quarter Moon

Mars, Regulus and the waxing gibbous Moon form a triangle in the sky on 30th April 21.30 GMT (22.30 BST), we'll be aiming to get some images! (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Monday 30th April – Mars, the waxing gibbous Moon and the star Regulus (part of the constellation Leo) form a triangle in the sky this evening. Shown above at 21:30 GMT (22:30 BST), it should be a good target for some photos!

Planets visible this month:


Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! :)

Guide images created with Stellarium

Astronomy Events – March 2012
Astronomy Events – February 2012
Astronomy Events – January 2012


Astrophotographers capturing the heavens

March 7, 2012

by yaska77

Space pics are cool, no argument from us there. Since we started this blog we’ve brought you enough images to fill a photo album (and have slipped in quite a few of our own along the way).

A lot of people think you need in depth knowledge or mega expensive gear to take astro photos, but from our time spent in the “twitterverse” we’ve learnt that not only are there thousands of enthusiasts eager to get stuck in, but a multitude of talented people who do extraordinary things with a range of equipment!

The Moon

The first point of call for most night sky snappers is our beautiful Moon. We first started imaging the Moon using handhelds and camera phones (held up to the eyepiece of the telescope), but there are a variety of ways to get great images!

This waning Moon image shows great colour! (click to enlarge) - Credit: CJ5ive

If you don’t have a telescope, a DSLR can capture superb images all on its own. Twitter user CJ5ive used a Nikon D200 to grab this shot, and it looks great! Having a sturdy tripod helps remove any camera shake caused by the shutter opening, and with good seeing conditions you can get crystal clear shots.

Moon crater details are well defined in this iPhone 4s image (click to enlarge) - Credit: Phil Hammond

Don’t have a DSLR but have a telescope? With a steady hand Phil Hammond took this great example of afocal photography, using an iPhone 4s and a Sky-Watcher Evostar 102 Telescope. It can take a little patience to get it lined up, but you can get some great close up images.

Using a CCD camera you can capture superb detail, as demonstrated in this image of the Clavius crater (click to enlarge) - Credit: Paul Wharton

Want to get even closer? By using a CCD Camera (like a webcam) you can record video of your target and then stack the individual frames to bring out the details. Paul Wharton provided us with this great close-up of the Clavius crater on the Moon, taken using a Sky-Watcher 200P Telescope and a Trust webcam from eBay bought for 99p!

The Planets

Getting a close up look at the planets through a telescope can be awe inspiring, so imaging them can be very rewarding.

Using a webcam attached to a telescope you can get great images like this great view of Jupiter (click to enlarge) - Credit: John Mason

Jupiter is always a good target as through a telescope you can see clear details. John Mason‘s image shows Jupiter as a beautiful marble in space, captured using a Nexstar 6SE SCT Telescope and a SPC800 webcam (compiled using the stacking software Registax).

The superb clarity of this image of Jupiter (complete with two Moons) by Paul Wharton shows the beauty of the planet (click to enlarge) - Credit: Paul Wharton

The brilliant clarity of this image of Jupiter (complete with two Moons) highlights the beauty of the giant planet - Credit: Paul Wharton

Getting even closer to Jupiter this shot from Paul Wharton shows the different bands, the famous spot and two of Jupiter’s moons. You can even make out the shadow of a moon transiting the disc of the planet! This fantastic image was captured using a Sky-Watcher 200P Telescope and a Philips webcam.

Saturn is another must see through a telescope, and Jamey imaged it incredibly clearly (click to enlarge) - Credit: Jamey Erickson

There’s also nothing like the feeling of viewing the rings of Saturn with your own eyes. Very little compares to seeing it live (as it were) but the picture produced by Jamey Erickson comes awfully close! Created by stacking 40 light frames (with no dark frames) using a Celestron CGE-1100 SCT Telescope, a Canon 5D Mk II remote via MacBook Air, all guided with an iPad via SkySafariPro. That’s quite a setup!

Stars and a Nebula

Most of the time clouds are an astrophotographer’s nemesis, but they can help provide great atmosphere to a photo of the stars.

Cloud movement in a long exposure shot can create a beautiful ethereal feel when in front of a clear star filled background (click to enlarge) - Credit: John Mason

Orion is one of the most easily recognisable constellations in the night sky, and John Mason took this great shot of it framed by clouds using a Canon 1000D at 18mm on a 7 second exposure.

A similar shot of the fantastic Orion, with added International Space Station goodness (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sarah (purpleface)

The ISS frequently passes over the UK, an example of such a pass can be seen in Sarah’s image featuring Orion and the Hyades cluster above. Taken using a Canon 7D with the 18-55mm kit lens, 15 second exposure at ISO 400 (f/3.5). It also helps demonstrate just how far the space station travels across the sky in 15 seconds when moving at around 17,500mph.

It’s about 73 miles, the equivalent driving distance from Peckham in London to Dover by the English Channel!

Using a good zoom lens you can clearly capture the dusty shape of the Orion Nebula (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sarah (purpleface)

Using the same camera but this time a 90-300mm lens, Sarah’s shot of the Orion Nebula shows clear definition of its familiar shape, taken at an exposure time of 3.2 seconds, ISO 5000 (f/5.6).

Stacked shots taken via a telescope can provide far more detail than a single exposure alone, as this fantastic image demonstrates (click to enlarge) - Credit: Jamey Erickson

This jawdropping picture of the Orion Nebula from Jamey is the result of stacking 50 light frames and 50 dark frames (with the same equipment as his Saturn image above). Both images were stacked in Nebulosity and processed in PixInsight.

If you’d like to have a look through more of our contributor’s photographs, click on their name below and you’ll be transported to their snaps or Twitter feed. This is just a small example of what our friends on Twitter are doing, so they’re well worth a look through!

Come and join in the fun :)


CJ5ive on Flickr
Phil Hammond on Twitter
Paul Wharton on Flickr
John Mason on Twitter
Jamey Erickson on Flickr
Sarah (purpleface) on Flickr

All images are copyright their respective owners


Spying on the Universe – A good night stargazing

October 8, 2011

by yaska77

Just over a week ago I posted our monthly guide for October, and as it was clear that night I set up my scope looking forward to a long session.

After alignment I pointed it at Jupiter (which looked fantastic) and went to make a drink. Usually (as I can’t actually see Polaris from my patio for proper alignment) the object I’m looking at will drift out of the eyepiece over 10 minutes or so, which is fine for obeservation but not so good for photos.

With a fresh mug of steaming hot tea in hand I was surprised so see Jupiter almost exactly where I left it!

Single shot image of Jupiter with three moons to the left (Callisto, Ganymede and Io) and one (Europa) to the right from 1st October (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

This was the chance I’d been waiting for to give image stacking a go, so I attached the Canon EOS 550D to the telescope and set the intervalometer going. I’ve posted many images on this blog and I’ve been pleased with all of them, but the final stacked images were something else!

Not because they’re perfect (far from it) and not because they’ll give Hubble a run for its money (hardly!) but because I took these, stood in the dark, staying up all night. It’s immensely satisfying!

So here they are, along with a single shot so you can compare what stacking the images has done!

Single image shot of M31 Andromeda, an elliptical smudge in space! (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

My first target was Andromeda, as it was pretty much overhead. Even through the eyepiece of the scope it doesn’t look much different from above.

Stacked using 50 images, far more of Andromeda's shape is visible (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

At the time, I had no idea if my efforts would result in anything, so to say I was surprised with what I got is an understatement! Andromeda looks great in the final stacked image, the dust disc is clearly visible with even a hint at some of the lanes in the disc itself. I’m looking forward to imaging other galaxies in the near future, and there are many to choose from!

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, was relatively close to Andromeda in the sky so I had a look at that next.

M45 the Pleiades is a cluster I'd photographed before (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

M45 was the subject of our first (and thus far only) quick snap feature. More will follow, honest!

The Seven Sisters glow brightly after the images taken were stacked (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

I’ve tweaked the colour saturation settings slightly, but other than that this is how I saw the Pleiades that night! Sparkly!

It was now well into the early morning hours, the beginning of October, and I was still outside in just a t-shirt. English weather never fails to confuse (and usually frustrate) but the bonus was that it meant no dew build up on the scope, so this far I still had perfect seeing conditions!

The constellation Orion was now well up in the sky, so I pointed the scope at a familiar friend…

Another target I've snapped before, the Orion Nebula is beautiful (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Orion is possibly the most recognisable constellation in the sky, the first I photographed and the Orion Nebula was the first deep sky object I ever imaged. But not like this!

Comprised of 60 shots, the dusty features of the nebula are more prominent (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Again, I tweaked the colour saturation a bit to bring out the colours, but this instantly became my desktop wallpaper :)

Now past 4am, Mars was up past the neighbours houses so I could finally get a look at it passing the Beehive Cluster. The guide image I created for the first entry in our October Events post suggested what it would look like, but to see it so clearly match the astro software Stellarium was great to see.

The sky was just starting to get lighter too, so I knew this would probably be the last sight of the evening.

Mars looks bright, but the Beehive cluster isn't so clear (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

You can compare the stacked image below to the guide image here (opens in new tab).

The stacked image of Mars in the Beehive cluster (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

So there you go. Overall I was outside in the dark for 7 or 8 hours, but to me the results made it worth every minute. As an amateur astronomer and photographer this is as good as it’s ever got, but I’m looking forward to using what I learnt next time, and hopefully with more targets I can add to our ever growing blog gallery category!

The 2011 Draconid meteor shower (also known as the Giacobinids) hits it’s peak this evening, and as it seems to have been with every other major astro event this year it’s currently cloudy. But if there’s even the slightest hint at a break in the clouds I’ll be out there again, camera pointing skywards, trying to catch an image or two to bring you.

I love this stuff, and here at Sky-Watching we’re pleased so many of our visitors show they love this stuff too.

Thanks everyone!

Equipment used:
Unmodified Canon EOS 550D (with T-Ring)
Sky-Watcher Explorer 200P EQ5 PRO SynScan 200mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope
DeepSkyStacker Software


My starry starry night

August 22, 2011

by yaska77

Last night was a good night. One of those rare evenings where things just seem to go your way. They just worked.

For the first time in a while now the skies were clear as darkness fell. So frequently it seems a fine day ends with annoying cloud build-up, but I set up my telescope in the garden hopeful I’d see something of interest. My success at accurately aligning my scope from the small back garden I call my observatory is fairly hit and miss, sometimes I can get the scope to go straight to what I want, other times I can spend literally years trying to find anything of note in the eyepiece (this is a lie).

For the first time in months though my scope successfully aligned (enough so I could get objects more or less straight in the eyepiece anyway), and as I left it to cool to outside temperature (busily tracking the star Vega) I set up the camera for the ISS pass. Starting at 21:46 (BST), this first photo shows the very bright ISS passing near the Plough (Big Dipper) constellation.

21st August 2011 - The ISS passes by the Plough (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

The Milky Way is not often visible where I live, but the faintest hint of it was there last night. You might just be able to make it out to the right of the ISS line below. It still amazes me to think the space station is travelling at around 17,500 mph and is as big as an American Football field!

The ISS line crosses the faint Milky Way (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

And that’s nearly where I left it, but figured one more snap couldn’t hurt. Enlarge the photo below and you’ll see the fainter line of a satellite moving from right to left as it crosses the path of the ISS. They actually met at exactly the same time, so it almost looked like they were going to collide! And yeah, the image would’ve been better if my neighbours didn’t have the brightest kitchen light known to man…

Faint satellite crosses the path of the ISS (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

And then it was over to the ‘scope. I re-checked the alignment and found it was still tracking fairly well, so my first target was the double star Albireo, a bright yellow star and its smaller blue companion. I’d never actually seen it before but it was shown on the BBC’s wonderful “The Sky at Night” not too long ago so I wanted to give it a look.

Albireo is 380 light-years away from the Earth (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Albireo really is very bright, and the contrast of colours in this binary system make it a lovely sight to see. The night was going well, I wasn’t used to this. Normally by now I’d have trodden on the power cable and wrecked the alignment, thick clouds would have rolled over or the battery in my camera gone flat. Now I was going to be ambitious. I’d seen images of Messier 57 (M57) the Ring Nebula, but never thought I’d view it with my own eye from my own garden. On a roll I keyed it into the scope and without hesitation it moved straight to it!

Messier 57 (the Ring Nebula) is in the constellation of Lyra (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

A massive cosmic doughnut! I still geek out knowing stuff like this exists. Really I should have called it a night there, thin cloud was starting to make itself known but there was still something I wanted to see. M2 is a globular cluster about 37,500 light-years from Earth and is thought to contain around 150,000 stars!

M2 is a globular cluster in the constellation Aquarius (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

The light cloud slightly dimmed the picture above, but for unprocessed images (I have the RAW files to play around with) I’m pretty chuffed with the evening’s work if I do say so myself!

So I’ll be out there again the next clear night we’re graced with, and with the waning Moon bringing darker skies who knows, I may go back to have another go at these beautiful objects, or I might go hunting for new wonders to marvel at, there’s so much yet to see!

Equipment used:
Canon EOS 550D (Unmodified)
Sky-Watcher Explorer 200P EQ5 Pro SynScan 200mm Newtonian Reflector Telescope


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