I’ve been trying to get back into astrophotography after many years lapse. I’m still learning my way around the new technology, so haven’t yet made the best use of some wonderful clear nights.
That said, I did get out a week or so back and get around 30 minutes of total exposure time on the Orion nebula. The processing I’ve done on the image is a bit rough and ready so far – I really need more exposure time and some short exposures to fill in the over-exposed centre of the nebula.
Around 5:30 this morning I was rudely awoken from odd dreams about plastic jewellery by loud voices outside my window.
Looking out, this was the scene that greeted me.
The pipe was happily disgorging hundreds of liters of water per minute, washing away the sub-surface of the road. The water carried the mud and silt around Osborne Square, leaving a nice sticky film everywhere.
I’ve always had an interest in astronomy and have dabbled in astrophotography since I got my first digital camera back in the late 1990s. Over the years I’ve got images of all the planets except Neptune and Pluto. The latter of these is never going to be an easy target for the lazy amateur (me), but maybe, just maybe Neptune is possible.
I’ve had a soft spot for Neptune since the Voyager 2 flyby in 1989 – I’ve still got the article I tore out from a newspaper at the time.
As it happens, Neptune is nicely placed in the sky right now – just between Venus and Mars and close to a couple of guide stars.
Braving the frost, I took the camera out to the garden, mounted it on a slightly wobbly tripod and took some images of the general area of sky I knew Neptune was lurking. Some processing and stacking with ImageJ and I had a star-field that might contain my target.
It’s easier to see the faint points of light of the guide stars and Neptune if you invert the colours, so you’re seeing black points on a white / grey background.
I used Stellarium to predict the current positions of Mars, Neptune and the guide stars and overlaid that on top of my image stack. This lined up reasonably well, there are some angular offset and slight scale differences between the two images, but it’s close enough for guidance.
With the assurance that I had Neptune in my images I was able to definitely pick it out from the stellar background.
I do like a good eclipse, but not enough to be awake at 3am to photograph it. So, I set up a camera to take one picture every 30 seconds, pointed it roughly where I expected the moon to be at the time of maximum eclipse and set it recording.
Stacking the images with StarStaX produced this rather different view of the eclipse.
Using the same photographs I produced a video of the eclipse too. It starts dark until the moon moves into shot, then the moon fades out nicely, you can see the shadow of the Earth moving down the face of the moon, and then the moon reappearing.
I watched the meteor shower from the field at the Secret Nuclear Bunker where a group of us were camped doing radio stuff including bouncing signals off the ionized gas trail left by burned up meteors (meteor scatter).
I captured this time-lapse video which does include a few meteors as well as a pass by the ISS. The bright blob moving in from the left is the moon.
The circular trails are the stars moving across the sky around the pole star (not quite in frame)