All my astronomy-related posts…

  • Just in Time

    The most recent full moon didn’t appear on the horizon because of clouds but did climb over them after some minutes and looked very nice with some orangey wisps of cloud around it. This is still quite close to the horizon and still has the nice orange appearance that goes as it climbs higher.

  • Summer Skies

    The skies are still the main theme here as we’re still stuck at home. It’s been a bit more cloudy recently but there are still clear evenings. This is a star trail of about 2 hours in total. Could have left it out all night but you never know if it will rain and I’m not dedicated enough to stay up till dawn.

    The picture looks best if you can open it separately; it’ll be larger.

  • New Moon

    It’s not long since I was photographing the full moon (see the last-but-one previous post) but now we have a new moon. Well almost; the newest of new moons coincided with a cloudy day, so this is the day old moon last night. It was a lovely red colour in contrast to the almost monochrome full moon.

    Making the photograph showed how unreliable the histogram on the camera back is; this is about 3 stops less than when the full-image histogram showed nothing anywhere near being overexposed yet when I zoomed in to the edge of the moon suddenly highlights appeared. So I think you can only trust your own instinct when looking at high contrast subjects like the moon.

    And as with the full moon it looked nice with a tree in between.

    Finally another picture of Venus. Very small but you can see it’s not a dot but a disc partly in shadow like the phases of the moon.

    As with most of my recent pictures all of the above were taken on an APS-C crops sensor camera with a lens-converter combination giving the 35mm equivalent of a 640mm lens.

  • A Colourful Sky

    This is last night’s very clear sky – but as seen through an out-of-focus camera. First of all I have to say it’s based on an award-winning picture by Steve Brown; all credit to him for thinking of the idea.

    It is actually 24 pictures of the bright star Sirius, taken a few seconds apart. Photographed in-focus, Sirius is a brilliant white dot although to the naked eye it is often twinkling. The out-of-focus images reveal the varying colours of the star as seen through our atmosphere. They also reveal that my lens isn’t as clean as it might be; the amoeba-like circle in each dot is dust somewhere on or in the lens.

  • Full Moon

    This is yesterday’s full moon. And it’s got other names too! Like “supermoon” because it’s about 7% larger than an average full moon. And “pink moon” in folklore; but something to do with pink flora rather than the colour of the moon. In fact this one does look a little pink; that’s because it’s not too long after the moon rose over the horizon, and the sky was full of thin cloud; together these gave a pinky rosy glow. I did look up “Pink Moon” on Wikipedia; it’s a 70’s album by Nick Drake.

    I declare this to be a Hazy Moon. Officially.

  • Who Stole the ISS?

    Last night was supposed to be the last night (!) the ISS was visible from these parts. And it was a clear evening. But where was it? Not visible to me. I hope it’s still up there somewhere!

    As a consolation there was a great view of the moon and of Venus adjacent to the Pleiades; so it wasn’t a wasted night out in the garden.

    In taking the lunar picture I learned the value of using the mirror lock up; even at 1/250th of a second on a tripod the shaking mirror had an effect so I selected MuP (mirror up) and got much sharper results.

  • While It’s There

    At the moment the ISS is very prominent in the UK’s skies. This is 2 minutes’ worth of the ISS tracking across the sky last night. Not a great picture but you can certainly see it. Also the bright blob is the moon, and the Orion constellation is visible bottom centre – the stars have become lines showing how far the earth has turned in the 2 minutes.

  • The Only Way is Up

    At the moment we’re all stuck at home so photographic opportunities are limited. But you can look at and even photograph things miles away if you (as is becoming a theme in these posts) look upwards. Here are some pictures taken on this last Wednesday evening…

    First, two birds silhouetted in a tree about 100ft away just after sunset.

     Then a DHL A330 high above and looking like a space shuttle launch. Still sunny up at 12,000ft.

    The ISS (International Space Station) flew over about 250 miles away. It’s very bright and very easy to see, but I was surprised that I was able to get a photo that showed it’s actual shape albeit very fuzzy. This was using a DSLR + lens + converter that worked out (in 35mm terms) as equivalent to 630mm. In fact all the pictures in this post were taken using this lens combination.

    You should also be able to get a picture like this with a superzoom compact camera like the Lumix TZ series or some of the Canon PowerShot or Sony CyberShot cameras. Use it on the most zoomed-in optical zoom setting.

    The important thing is that you need to find a manual mode on the camera as the auto-exposure will see just black and be unable to cope; the ISS is actually in very bright sunlight. Set your camera to a low ISO (e.g. 200), a high shutter speed (faster than 1/1000th sec) and a medium aperture (maybe f/8). If it struggles to focus then try to focus on a distant streetlamp and keep that setting. Basically it’s a fight against the camera’s automation! Take lots of pics and download them to your computer. Amongst the blurry ones there’s hopefully a sharp one.

    And finally Venus, a mere 6.5 million miles away.

    Not bad for being stuck at home!

  • Stargazing

    Viewing the stars from the clear night skies of Lundy island in the Bristol Channel.  If you already have this picture on your wall this December then you’ve probably got the Lundy Island calendar.

  • Summer Solstice

    The weather was a bit too cloudy around sunset on the solstice but it did clear just long enough for the moon to make a hazy appearance next to Beeston Castle in Cheshire.  Peckforton Castle also makes an appearance in this photo, just visible on the skyline towards the right.