A great day

I just popped out on the off chance I might be able to spot Comet Panstarrs tonight. I had a clear sky, a rough idea of where to look and my binoculars. And there it was. Just peeping above the hedge to the north west.

I grabbed the camera and took a few hasty shots before it dipped below the trees and shrubs. In some of the photos, you can see the Andromeda galaxy, too.

I’ve had a lovely birthday today and this just ends it on the right note.

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Remember, remember…

…when you were a kid and fireworks were the coolest thing ever? Well, in that respect, I never grew up. I love fireworks. I love the smell, the sound and the light. I’m fortunate where I live that I have a grandstand view of most of the organised displays in the area. After festivals, parties in the park and on the 5th of November, I get to see the fireworks in all their glory.

Tonight was no exception. In fact, it was a lovely clear night, with the stars out and good visibility. Our council put on yet another brilliant display that lasted around 30 minutes. I enjoyed every second.

I couldn’t resist taking some photos of Andromeda afterwards.

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Cold and Clear

Driving home last night, I was conscious that I was following Jupiter and Orion for most of the journey. The sky was clear and the temperature was close to freezing. I decided to have another go at getting some images of the Andromeda galaxy.

I was using my 150-500mm lens and it’s notably heavier than the set up from last time. This came over in the blips as the telescope mount motors tried to smooth out the tracking motion. I must have spent over an hour taking photos ands this time I set up a second camera to take a long exposure of stars circling the pole star.As a result of the blips only a few frames were usable.

I’m really pleased with the image of Andromeda. In the picture on here, you can make out two almost parallel dark dust lanes in the bottom part of the galaxy. The slightly fuzzy ‘star’ at about 11 o’clock is the companion galaxy M110 (proper stars in this image have a more defined edge). Further away at about 7 o’clock is M32.

I think this is the limit of clarity I can get from the back garden as there is a significant amount of light pollution evident in the final images – hence the conversion to black and white. The next move will be to find a dark sky site and start again.

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Starry Starry Night

By fortune, I popped my head out of the door last night to see clear sky. It only lasted a short while as fast moving clouds scudded past. The moon was up and very bright. But despite all this, I managed to get a few photos of the stars that I was pleased with.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get long exposure photos of the stars without getting trails. I have a motorised telescope mount but attaching the camera to the telescope makes the combination too heavy for the motors to track properly. In work yesterday, I was thinking about the problem whilst working hard and remembered an old tripod mounting plate I had. So when I got home, I dug it out, fitted it to the camera and then attached it to the telescope mount. Then fortune smiled and the skies cleared.

I used an old 180mm manual focus lens I’ve had for a while. It’s a lovely lens, but very heavy. I focused on the moon before moving to my chosen targets. The sky was quite bright with light pollution and the original images are a light pink in colour., I’ve converted them to black and white and adjusted the levels to boost the contrast and bring the blacks back.

Success! Of the 15 images, 11 worked well. I’ve added three in the slide show below.

I’ve been particularly keen to capture the Andromeda Galaxy. I’m really pleased with the result below, mainly because I have proved the camera mount works and I know I can improve on the picture. It’s great to have captured the smaller galaxy M32 as well (it’s more prominent in the original uncompressed image).

(Andromeda is 2.3 million light years away from us. The Pleiades are 400 light years distant and the nebula in Orion is 1,500 light years away.)

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The Night Sky

Just got back from a couple of chilly hours on Cefn Bryn, where I had originally gone to take some photos of the trails of light left by cars as they driver across the North Gower road. But when I parked up, the night sky was so magnificently clear that I abandoned the plan and set about taking some photos of the stars instead. I used long exposures of up to 10 minutes at a time and played around with the settings on the camera and came away with a set of photos I was very happy with.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way, a concentration of stars as we look through the plane of our own galaxy.

The Night Sky

The glow from Swansea's street lighting silhouettes a car on Cefn Bryn. Jupiter is the bright light on the right.

Star Trails

Star trails centred on Polaris, with the glow from Llanelli lighting up the horizon.