I've been interested in astrophotography for a number of years and dabbled with it on and off, taking the ubiquitous star trail type images and also using a barn door mount for taking longer exposures.

It was only after I bought a telescope that I became any way serious about astrophotography. Below you'll find a number of photos I've taken in the past with my equipment, a Vixen VC200L 8" reflector, an f/6.4 focal reducer, an old Olympus OM-1 camera and Starlight Xpress CCD cameras. Unfortunately, many of these photos have been lost over the years through changing PCs and webservers.

In order to get into imaging, I needed a permanent setup which would allow for quick set-up and take-down times to take advantage of good observing conditions and to protect equipment when the rain rolled in. So I built an observatory. The details of the construction process are in my Building Your Own Observatory article. The observatory also provides some protection from wind although, where I live, the observatory sits in something of a wind tunnel! Having tried imaging with and without an observatory, I can definitely recommend buying/building/using one as it gives you more time for imaging and observing and cuts down on the frustration of having spent time setting up only to have to take it all down again because the clouds have rolled in or its started raining!

At one stage, I got into receiving weather satellite images which were downloaded and processed on the PC. Unfortunately, a number of those satellites are no longer functioning (particularly the Russian ones) and newer technology has meant different receiver systems are now needed to pick up images. However, the resolution of these images is much higher than the ones I used to pick up but the receivers are proportionally more expensive.

For books on astrophotography and high-end observatory systems, see the end of the page.

I'm documenting my progress back into astrophotgraphy at this blog, after a number of years absence.

I started my journey back to astrophotography by replacing my GP-DX mount with an EQ6 Pro. While the mount is excellent, taking images with pinpoint stars through an 1800mm scope is problematical. Any deviation due to the scope not being adequately polar aligned, periodic errors in the mount or vibrations induced from other sources show up in blurred or trailed star images. The solution was to get an autoguider and the one I picked was the LVI Smartguider. Buying one from Germany instead of the UK saved me 40% on the price!

Once I get the LVI Smartguider up and running, I'll start adding new images to this page.

Astrophotography
M57, Aug. 03, 2003
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L with a focal reducer working at f/6.3 and a Starlight Xpress SXV-H9 CCD camera. Sum of a 30 20-sec exposures (overall 10min exposure). Summed image processed using the Richardson-Lucy Deconvolution filter in AIP4WIN. Final tweaking with an unsharp mask and adjustments to brightness/contrast in PhotoShop. This image is about 60% of the full image captured by the camera (centered on M57).
Western Europe 09:15UT, 26 March, 2002.
A false-colour image from the NOAA 14 weather satellite showing eastern Ireland and the western UK (at right of image). Norway is just peeping out of the clouds directly above the UK. A snow-covered Iceland lies to the left of Norway at the middle of the image. The western tips of France and Spain can be seen below the UK.
M51 (The Whirlpool Galaxy in Ursa Major), Mar. 16, 2002.
Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f6.3 (using a focal reducer) using a Starlight Xpress MC516 CCD camera and STAR2000 tracking. Ten 5-minute exposures stacked.
M81 (Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major), Feb. 20, 2002.
Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MC516 CCD camera and STAR2000 tracking. Four 5 minute and six 2 minute exposures stacked.
Lunar Terminator, Feb. 20, 2002.
Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f/6.4 (using focal reducer) using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera. Mosaic of five 0.01 sec exposures.The large large circular area at the top of the imagw is Mare Imbrium. To the right of it is Mare Serenitatis. Crater Plato is just on the terminator above Mare Imbrium.To see an image with feature names, click here.
M37 (Open CLuster in Auriga), Feb 16, 2002.
Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f/6.4 (using focal reducer) using Kodak Elite Chrome II 200 ISO slide film. Three 10 minute exposures and a 5 minute exposure stacked. Tracking with STAR2000 using a guidescope.
NGC 2683 (galaxy in Lynx), Dec. 6, 2001.
Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera tracking with STAR2000. Four 1-minute, six 2-minute and one 5-minute exposures stacked.
M45 (the Pleiades), Sept.13, 2001.
Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f/6.4 (using focal reducer) using Kodak Royal Gold 1000ISO negative film. Stacked 5 minute and 9 minute exposures. Tracking with STAR2000 using a guidescope
The Double Cluster (between Casseopiea and Perseus), Sept.13, 2001.
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/6.4 (using focal reducer) using Kodak Royal Gold 1000ISO negative film. 5 minute exposure.
M31 (in Andromeda), Sept.13, 2001.
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/6.4 (using focal reducer) using Kodak Royal Gold 1000ISO negative film. 10 minute exposure. Tracking with STAR2000 using a guidescope
M15 Globular Cluster, Sept.13, 2001.
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/6.4 (using focal reducer) using Kodak Royal Gold 1000ISO negative film. 5 minute exposure. Tracking with STAR2000 using a guidescope
M27 Planetary Nebula, Aug.27, 2001, 23:20 UT
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/6.4 (using focal reducer) using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Three 2-min and one 5-min exposures stacked. Dark frames subtracted but no flat fielding applied. Deconvolved in AIP4WIN. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
NGC 6503 (galaxy in Draco), Aug. 26, 2001.
Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera tracking with STAR2000. Two 2-minute and two 5-minute exposures stacked.
M92 Globular Cluster, Aug.24, 2001, 22:20 UT
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Two stacked 120s images. Dark frames subtracted but no flat fielding applied. Deconvolved in AIP4WIN and then DDP applied. Gamma brightness scaling appied to resulting image. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
Moon, Jan 15, 2001, 01:50 UT
Mare Nubium, craters Ptolomaeus, Alphonsus, Arzachel and Purbach. To see an image with feature names, click here. Two stitched prime focus 0.1s images through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Scope was stopped down (two holes in a 3-hole Hartmann mask were closed off). No dark frames or flat fielding applied. Stitched imaged deconvolved and unsharp masked in AIP4WIN. Resulting image histogram shaped using a Gaussian filter.
Moon, Dec.17, 2000, 02:10 UT
Lunar Terminator: The terminator cuts through Mare Serenitatis at the top of the image. To see an image with feature names, click here. Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Mosaic of eight 0.1 second images. Scope was stopped down (two holes in a 3-hole Hartmann mask were closed off). No dark frames or flat fielding applied. Final mosaic processed using the Unsharp Mask and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
M81, Dec.17, 2000, 02:00 UT
M81 (Galaxy in Ursa Major): Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Sum of four 5-min exposures. No dark frames or flat fielding applied.
Jupiter, Dec 17, 2000, 01:30 UT
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and a 2x barlow. Average of five 1-sec exposures. Taken through fast moving high thin cloud. Averaged image processed using the Unsharp Mask and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
NGC 2397, Dec.17, 2000, 00:20 UT
NGC 2397 (The "Eskimo Nebula" planetary nebula in Gemini): Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Sum of one 3-min and one 5-min exposures. No dark frames or flat fielding applied.
M1, Dec.16, 2000, 21:45 UT
M1 (Crab Nebula in Taurus): Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Sum of three 3-min exposures and three 5-min exposures. No dark frames or flat fielding applied.
Moon, Dec.13, 2000, 01:15 UT
Moon (17days 1hour old - just past full): The terminator cuts through Mare Crisium with the edges of craters Picard and Pierce A/B just being visible. Crater Taruntius lies just below and Macrobius just to the left. To the East is Mare Serenatatis with Posidonius A at its northwest end. The single prominent crater in Mare Serenitatis is Bessel which is only 19km in diameter. The small crator to the right of Bessel is Deseilligny, 9 km in diameter, about the smallest feature visible in this image. The two prominent craters in from the edge at the top of the image are Hercules and Atlas. To the east lies Burg and Eudoxus and Aristoteles. To see an image with feature names, click here. Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera. Mosaic of nine 0.1 second images. Scope was stopped down (two holes in a 3-hole Hartmann mask were closed off). No dark frames or flat fielding applied. Final mosaic processed using the Unsharp Mask and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
M1, Dec.13, 2000, 00:20 UT
M1 (Crab Nebula in Taurus): Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Sum of three 1-min exposures and two 2-min exposures. No dark frames or flat fielding applied. Summed image processed using the Unsharp Mask and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
M43, Dec.12, 2000, 23:30 UT
M43 (Bright nebula detached from M42): Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Sum of three 2-min exposures and three 3-min exposures. No dark frames or flat fielding applied. Summed image processed using the Unsharp Mask and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
M82, Dec.07, 2000, 00:30 UT
M82 (irregular galaxy in Ursa Major): Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Sum of three 1-min, one 2-min, two 3-min and one 5-min exposures (equivalent of 16-min exposure). Dark frames subtracted from each image. No flat fielding. Summed image processed using the DDP and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
M42, Dec.06, 2000, 22:30 UT
M42 (Trapezium area of the Orion Nebula): Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000. Average of three 3-min exposures. No dark frames or flat fields subtracted. Averaged image processed using the DDP, Unsharp Masking and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0.
Saturn, Nov.20, 2000, 23:00 UT
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and a 2x barlow. Average of seven 5-sec exposures. Taken through fast moving high thin cloud. Averaged image processed using the Unsharp Mask and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
Jupiter, Nov.20, 2000, 20:40 UT
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and a 2x barlow. Average of five 1-sec exposures. Taken through fast moving high thin cloud. Averaged image processed using the Unsharp Mask and High Pass FFT filters in Astroart 2.0. Final tweaking with adjustments to brightness/contrast.
M57, Nov.19, 2000, 20:30 UT
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera. Average of a 30 sec exposure and a 120 sec exposure. Minor tracking errors occurred during 120 sec exposure and camera wasn't quite focussed. Averaged image processed using the Maximum Entropy filter in AstroArt 2.0. Final tweaking with an unsharp mask and adjustments to brightness/contrast. Granular background is a result of Maximum Entropy filter.
Jupiter and Satellites, Nov.19, 2000, 21:00 UT
Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L at f/9 using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera. Average of 8 0.01 sec exposures. Image was then processed using a High Pass FFT filter to bring out detail. An unsharp mask was then applied to sharpen the image and contrast/brightness tweaked to improve final image. The satellites came out from the background during processing.
Jupiter, Saturn, Pleiades and Taurus. Early October, 2000.
50mm lens at f/2.8. 4min exposure on Ektachrome Elite 200 slide film through a Skyglow filter to cut background light pollution. Colour corrected in AstroArt 2.0.
Auroral display April 6, 2000
28mm wideangle lens (lens hood caused vignetting at corners). Taken on Fujichrome Sensia II ISO 400 slide film.
Auroral display through Ursa Major on April 6, 2000
28mm wideangle lens (lens hood caused vignetting at corners). Taken on Fujichrome Sensia II ISO 400 slide film.
Auroral Coronal display April 6, 2000
28mm wideangle lens (lens hood caused vignetting at corners). Taken on Fujichrome Sensia II ISO 400 slide film.
Auroral Coronal display April 6, 2000
28mm wideangle lens (lens hood caused vignetting at corners). Taken on Fujichrome Sensia II ISO 400 slide film.
The Moon on March 14, 22:31
Taken at prime focus of a Vixen VC200L on Agfa 200 colour print film (1/125 second exposure).

 

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Filed under: Astrophotography