Stargazing

It’s stargazing season again. The temperature drops, the skies clear for a tantalising few seconds, some stars pop their heads up to see who is watching them, and away we go.

I was tired last night so I didn’t spend long at the telescope but I did set a camera up to try and get some crude shots of the Andromeda galaxy. Given that its 2 million lightyears away, it’s not a bad shot.

But we should be careful, because the Andromeda galaxy is heading our way. In a few years (quite a few years, actually) it will collide with our galaxy to form… well, a pretty chaotic thing to be honest. But on the way it should get easier to photograph.

I also managed to catch the Milky Way – our galaxy – above the house. I last showed you this from Crowcombe. It’s rare that I see the Milky Way at home because of all the light pollution from street lighting and the city.

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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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