Posts Tagged ‘ccd’


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


Astronomy Events – September 2011

September 1, 2011

by yaska77

Here is a list of upcoming Astronomy events for September. Night clouds all but ruined most viewing in August, however we did have some successes!

Friday 2nd September – Looking south, Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd passes in between the easily indentifiable stars Vega and Altair (and directly below Albireo), just south of Brocchi’s Cluster over the next 3 evenings. Also known as the Coathanger Cluster, it resembles an upside down coathanger and the comet will almost pass parallel to the line of the “hanger” part, just below the hook (which it is closest to on the 3rd)

Comet Garradd position on 2nd, 3rd and 4th September, below Albireo (click to enlarge) - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching

Saturday 3rd September – Mercury is at its greatest western elongation, meaning it will rise (and should be visible) just before the Sun early morning

Sunday 4th September – First Quarter Moon. The recently discovered supernova in M101 (the Pinwheel Galaxy, in the Plough constellation) should be visible through binoculars over coming days. Click here for a guide to locating M101!

Thursday 8th September – NASA is due to launch the twin Grail spacecraft to the Moon, where they will map the gravity field and provide details about the inner core. Grail will launch on a Delta II rocket, to be covered on NASA TV. There are two launch windows at 08:37 and 09:16 EDT (13:37 BST and 14:16 BST), but the launch period extends through to 19th October, with launch times occurring around 4 minutes earlier each day

Using precision formation-flying, the GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon's gravity field (artist's rendering) - Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Monday 12th September – The Full Moon tonight is also known as the Harvest or Wine Moon. Due to its tilted orbit the Moon in September runs roughly parallel to the horizon, and rises around the same time for consecutive evenings (18:38 BST on 11th, 18:55 BST on 12th and 19:12 BST on 13th)

Thursday 15th September – Moon at Apogee (the point of its orbit farthest away from the Earth) 406,065 km

Tuesday 20th September – Last Quarter Moon. Jupiter (which is present in the night sky all month) rises at 20:20 BST, about 3 hours before the Moon. A truly beautiful sight through a telescope, we’re hoping to get a better look (and take some more images) this month

Our image of Jupiter taken on 21st September 2010, we're hoping to get more pics this year (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Friday 23rd September – Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere (at 09:04 GMT). Equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither toward or away from the Sun (the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator), so day and night are about the same length. This near equilibrium is referred to as the Equilux, where night and day are closest to being 12 hours each (and occurs over 24-25th September)

Sunday 25th September – The gas giant Uranus is at its closest to the Earth today (this year) and should be visible to an unaided eye if your skies are dark enough. Found in the constellation Pisces, Uranus is the only planet to orbit the Sun on its side (possibly the result of a collision in its infancy) and at last count had 27 Moons!

Uranus is closest to Earth this year on 25th September (guide above at 23:30 BST) Click to enlarge - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching

Tuesday 27th September – New Moon, a great time to observe deep sky objects without disruption

Wednesday 28th September – Moon at Perigee, the closest point to Earth in it’s orbit (357,560 km)

We’re hoping to finally get a look at Comet Garradd this month, re-image Jupiter and have a look for the new supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy! Rather ambitious given our luck this year with the weather, but we’ll see!

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!

We recently added the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right (where this guide will appear), so next time you visit you can find it again easily!

Guide images created with Stellarium

Astronomy Events – August 2011
Astronomy Events – July 2011

Astronomy Events – June 2011


Astronomy Events – August 2011

July 30, 2011

by yaska77

Strap yourself in for the latest edition of our monthly posts, listing upcoming Astronomy events for August! The British skies have been particularly cloudy of late, which means our telescopes are sat under a layer of soft downy dust, so we’re hoping for clearer (and warmer) nights in August!

Monday 1st August – With the Moon still virtually absent after the new Moon of 30th July, it’s a prime time to spot Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd as it starts its pass of globular cluster M15 over the next couple of nights (it will be visible all month in the constellation Pegasus). The comet will reach a maximum solar elongation of 149 degrees on 8th August. Click here for related NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (from 27th July)

Tuesday 2nd August – Moon at Perigee (365,760 km)

Thursday 4th August – The planet-esque asteroid Vesta might just be visible to the naked eye if your skies are dark enough (certainly with binoculars). At around mag 5.48 at its brightest (the lower the mag the brighter the object appears from Earth), it will stay in Capricornus throughout August, following the diagonal line of the brightest stars at the bottom of the constellation (as the month progresses)

Vesta in the constellation Capricornus - Southern sky 4th August 2011 (00:00 GMT/ 01:00 BST) - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching (Click to enlarge)

Sunday 7th August – Jupiter (in Aries) is the bright object high up in the east by midnight. For those up later Mars rises at 01:00 GMT (02:00 BST ), drawing a line to Jupiter straight through the middle of the constellation Taurus

Friday 12th August – The Perseid meteor shower starts 2 evenings of peak activity tonight, although tomorrow’s Full Moon will wash out a lot of the weaker meteors. With an expected ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate) of 100 however you should still be able to catch the brighter ones as they blaze a trail across the sky

Perseid Meteor Radiant guide - Northern sky 13th August 2011 (21:00 GMT/22:00 BST) - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching (Click to enlarge)

Saturday 13th August – The Full Moon this evening is also known as the Barley Moon and apparently tells of the ripening crops of summer! Second peak night for the Perseid meteor shower, look to the north towards the W shaped constellation of Cassiopeia

Tuesday 16th August – Venus in superior conjunction, meaning the planet is too close to the Sun to see this month

Wednesday 17th August – Mercury is in inferior conjunction, so along with Venus is lost in the daylight

Our first CCD capture of Saturn, we'll have to wait a while until we can try again! - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn (Click to enlarge)

Thursday 18th August – Moon at Apogee (405,160 km). Saturn will soon be leaving our night skies, but should still just be visible low down in the west soon after sunset

Monday 22nd August – Neptune at opposition in Aquarius, the planet will be visible to the south east rising at dusk, being followed across the sky by Uranus, appearing over the eastern horizon after 20:00 GMT (21:00 BST)

The Moon flanked by Mars and Jupiter - Eastern sky 23rd August 2011 (02:00 GMT/03:00 BST) - Credit: Stellarium/Sky-Watching (Click to enlarge)

Tuesday 23rd August – Early risers (or those up late!) will be able to see the dawn Moon in the Taurus constellation flanked by Mars and Jupiter above the eastern horizon. Orion is also making a welcome re-appearce to our skies, with the red supergiant Betelgeuse rising about the same time as Mars

Monday 29th August – New Moon. If your skies are clear tonight the absence of moon glare make observing deep sky objects (like nebulae and galaxies) easier

Tuesday 30th August – Moon at Perigee (360,860 km)

Should the weather allow we’re targeting Comet Garradd and maybe the Perseid meteor shower for imaging this month.  We’ve been particularly unlucky with regards to night clouds in recent weeks, so surely it’s about time we got a break!

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!

We recently added the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right (where this guide will appear), so next time you visit you can find it again easily!

Guide images created with Stellarium

Astronomy Events – July 2011
Astronomy Events – June 2011

Astronomy Events – May 2011


Astronomy Events – July 2011

June 27, 2011

by yaska77

Latest edition of our monthly posts, listing upcoming Astronomy events for July. Should all go to schedule the last ever Shuttle launch will happen on 8th July, so keep an eye on Sky-Watching for details and updates!

Friday 1st July – Start the month with a new Moon!  Darker skies provide great conditions for astrophotography.  There is also a partial solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere. Noctilucent clouds are still sometimes visible in the northwest (after sunset) and northeast (just before sunrise) at the beginning of July.  Try catching them on camera using a 5 to 10 second exposure, trying different ISO’s to find which work best for you! Also, Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede will transit the planet’s South Pole region early this morning (best viewed through a telescope around 03:50 (BST))

Sunday 3rd July – The crescent Moon can be located close to the western horizon soon after sunset, with Mercury located to the right of it just about visible in clear skies. Photographing the Moon when it’s waxing or waning can reveal the features behind the shadow, a phenomenon known as Earthshine. This is where light reflecting back off the Earth is strong enough to illuminate the night side of the Moon

Earthshine on a crescent Moon (7th March 2011) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Monday 4th July – The Earth will be at aphelion today, the farthest point from the Sun on its elliptical orbit. Remember if planning to observe the Sun only use certified filters or Solar Telescopes

Thursday 7th July – Moon at Perigee, the closest its orbit comes to Earth (369,570 km)

Friday 8th July – Although generally fairly weak, the Capricornids Meteor Shower reaches the first of three predicted peaks tonight.  The ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate) is around 5 meteors per hour (peaking up to 9), with similar rates expected on both 15th and 26th July. NASA’s last ever shuttle mission (STS-135 Atlantis) is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center at 11:26 EDT (15:26 GMT/ 16:26 BST)

NASA STS-135 astronauts Commander Chris Ferguson (center right), Pilot Doug Hurley (center left), and Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus (mission specialists) - Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

Tuesday 12th July – Today the planet Neptune completes its first full orbit of the Sun since its discovery in 1846. That’s some year!

Friday 15th July – Full Moon. Tonight is another good night to witness the “Moon-Illusion” as it lies quite low in the sky.  It’s also the only night this month the Moon will be in visible in the sky all night, from sunset to sunrise.

Thursday 21st July – The weak Alpha Cygnids Meteor Shower peaks tonight, with ZHR predicted at 5 per hour. Moon at Apogee (404,355 km)

A Perseid Meteor captured in 1993 - Credit: S. Kohle & B. Koch, Bonn University (Image links to NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day from 2002)

Saturday 23rd July – The Perseid Meteor shower begins today and should run until 20th August.  While the shower peak isn’t until 13th August, this will coincide with a full Moon meaning many of the meteors will be washed out in the glare

Sunday 24th July – Jupiter is easily spotted this evening (best seen after midnight), just to the right of the waning crescent Moon. It should appear very bright and be difficult to miss, despite the light coming from the Moon nearby

Our image of Jupiter captured with a colour CCD camera - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Monday 25th July – The Moon will be close to the Pleiades Open Cluster in the morning sky. Best viewed around 03:00 BST the glow from the Moon shouldn’t be too strong allowing you to locate the Pleiades with ease

Friday 29th July – The fairly active Delta Aquariids Meteor shower will reach its first peak this evening, with a ZHR of up to 20 meteors per hour

Saturday 30th July –  Tonight will see the second new Moon of July, so if your skies are sufficiently dark enough you should easily spot the Milky Way, crossing the sky in an arc from north to south (and up high to the east) from nightfall

Should the weather allow we’re targeting the Milky Way for imaging this month (with two new Moons helping keep the skies dark), with any luck we’ll bring you some new photos so wish for clear skies!

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!

Astronomy Events – June 2011

Astronomy Events – May 2011
Astronomy Events – April 2011
Astronomy Events – March 2011

Also, now follow us on Twitter @sky_watching


Astronomy Events – June 2011

May 29, 2011

by yaska77

Latest edition of our monthly posts, listing upcoming Astronomy events for June.  Get inspired, get involved and get sky-watching!

Wednesday 1st June – It is a new Moon today so it will be virtually absent all week, a great time for observing deep sky objects like galaxies and nubulae.  There is also a partial solar eclipse in the northern hemisphere. NASA space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center at 02:32 EDT (06:32 GMT/ 07:32 BST)

Thursday 2nd June – Double star Epsilon Lyrae is a challenging target.  The split star is near to Vega and will be in an overhead position at about midnight BST

Friday 3rd June – Keep watching the skies for noctilucent clouds, which sometimes appear low down in the northwest (after sunset) and northeast (just before sunrise).  These clouds are in the upper atmosphere and are usually too faint to see, becoming visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth’s shadow

Noctilucent clouds over Sweden - Credit: P-M Hedén

Friday 10th June – Saturn is close to the double star Porrima in Virgo this evening (and has been getting closer in the past few weeks).  The planet will be located at just 15 arcminutes (about half a full Moon diameter) from the star

Saturday 11th June – The waxing gibbous Moon is about 80% lit, and will appear to the south east of Spica (also in Virgo) the 15th brightest star in the night sky

Sunday 12th June – Mercury is in superior conjunction with the Sun and not currently visible.  After this date however the planet will slowly start to re-appear in the evening sky being visible from around 16th onwards. Moon is at Perigee (367,190 km)

Monday 13th June – Watch out for the Moon over the next couple of nights as it rises over the southern horizon. Now is the best time of year to experience the “Moon-Illusion” which makes the moon look bigger than it actually is

Wednesday 15th June – Tonights full Moon will be completely eclipsed as it appears above the south east horizon in the UK.  It will be visible from Moon-set in Austraila to Moon-rise in the UK. Totality for UK viewers should last for about an hour from rise at 21:00 BST, and will get easier to see as the Moon gets higher

We're hoping the skies are clear so we can take similar pictures of the actual eclipse! Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Sunday 19th June – Another beautiful double star Beta Cygni (or Albireo) is a must see tonight through a small telescope.  Located at the foot of the asterism of the northern cross (in Cygnus the Swan), Albireo has a bright yellow primary star next to a dimmer, blue companion

Tuesday 21st June – Summer solstice is today, so the Sun will be at its highest in the sky all year, perfect for solar observing. Remember, do not look directly at the Sun, or use unmodified telescopes.  Always use correctly certified filters, or better still a purpouse built Solar Telescope

Friday 24th June – Mercury is visible as a point of light low down in evening twilight sky just after sunset. Look just to the left of the point the Sun disappeared below the horizon at around 21:45 BST (20:45 GMT). Moon at Apogee (404,270 km)

Saturday 25th June – The centre of the Milky Way Galaxy will be visible in dark skies to the south just after midnight.  For the remainder of the month the Moon will be below the horizon giving you a great opportunity to view and photograph this most spectacular part of our home galaxy

The Milky Way as photographed over the French Alps - Credit: Marc Sylvestre (Image links to NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day from 2002)

Monday 27th June – The June Boötids Meteor Shower should reach its peak tonight, and although it usually only sees 1 to 2 meteors per hour, it has been known to give bursts of up to 100 per hour.  Keep an eye towards the constellation Boötes from around 22:30 BST.

Should the weather allow we’re targeting the Lunar eclipse and the Milky Way for imaging this month, so keep watching for any new photos and wish for clear skies!

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!

Archive: Astronomy Events – May 2011
Archive: Astronomy Events – April 2011
Archive: Astronomy Events – March 2011

Also, now follow us on Twitter @sky_watching

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