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My latest & best astrophotographs

This page has two main sections. First some links to the photos I consider to be among my best so far. Then a log of latest photos, in reverse chronological order. I gradually move the latest photos to relevant other pages and leave a link.

Some of my best:

Telescopic photo of M42 nebula in Orion

Larger versions of some of my astrophotos may be found on my Flickr page.


The Dark Skies of the North Pennines
An amateur photographer's delight

Helping digital camera owners every-
where to discover for themselves the
wonders of the night sky.

More details & sample pages


Some creative images to encourage photographers to get out there at night and be amazed.

News, 2012 Sep 20

I am delighted that my image of Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd taken on March 19 was HIGHLY COMMENDED in the 2012 Astronomy Photographer of the Year Competition. It was in the Exhibition at the Royal Greenwich Observatory until 2013 Feb 13 and appears in the book of the event.

 2019 Mar 30

Items previously on this page which involved narrowband filters for hydrogen-alpha and OIII have been moved to a new page: halpha.html.

I have now stopped doing astrophotography because arthritis makes it too uncomfortable. I am still keen to assist and encourage others.


 2016 Feb 10


The "old Moon in the new Moon's arms" was very easy to see at dusk this evening. This is just a single frame with the camera set to automatic.

Canon EOS 5D MkIII + Canon 200mm f/2.8 lens on HEQ5 mount
f/2.8 ISO 800, 1/8s 2016 Feb 10 at 17:59:33

 The Heart & Soul nebulae

Moved to halpha.html


 Jupiter with no telescope

Jupiter is currently very bright in the eastern sky after about 10pm.

Just to demonstrate that a telescope is not needed for seeing the Galilean moons of Jupiter, this photo was taken with a 200mm lens on an HEQ5 mount (motor driven at fixed sidereal rate). Binoculars should suffice for visual observations.

Canon EOS 5D MkIII + Canon 200mm f/2.4 lens on HEQ5 mount
f/5 ISO 400, 8s 2016 Feb 10 at 23:05:08

This is a 100% view cropped from the centre of the photo.

From left to right in the photo the 4 moons are Callisto, Europa, Io and Ganymede. I was able to identify them on my own Jupiter satellite calculator page.

The spikes around Jupiter are due to the iris diaphragm in the lens. I should have left it fully open at f/2.8.


 2016 Feb 2

 Nacreous clouds

This was photographed at 17:02 GMT with the camera set to automatic. The Sun had set at 16:43 and civil twilight ended at 17:23 (according to The Photographer's Ephemeris for my location). So the Sun was nearly 3 degrees below the horizon which accords well with the Wikipedia description of this type of cloud. See polar stratospheric cloud.

Wispy clouds continued through the night, making the following image difficult.


 Hydrogen in Orion

Moved to halpha.html

 2015 Nov 19

The Moon was just past first quarter and clouds kept coming across the sky but nevertheless I managed to get the following 2 whole-constellation views with my unmodified DSLR by using narrow-band filters.

This time I have drawn lines for the constellation shapes because the camera detects so many more stars than the naked eye that the shapes get lost.

 Nebulae in Cassiopeia

Moved to halpha.html

 2015 Nov 6

A clear evening without the Moon. Not perfectly clear: I could only make out 2 stars in the Pleiades and M31 was not detectable as it sometimes is from here in suburbia. However I was able to get some very decent (amazing) results using narrow band filters in front of my unmodified Canon 5D3.

 The Veil Nebula (H-alpha & OIII)

Moved to halpha.html

 Hydrogen clouds around Gamma Cygni

Moved to halpha.html


 A note on processing

Moved to halpha.html

 2015 Oct 24

This evening was frustrating: the first forecast clear night for ages but it turned out to be plagued by wisps of high thin cloud. A two-thirds Moon was not likely to help either, except that I am using narrow-band filters. The temperature fell so rapidly that I could not keep the filters free from dew and I had to give up after a couple of hours. Half the exposures taken turned out to be useless. Despite all this I made a promising start on the following.

 The Veil Nebula (H-alpha & OIII)

NB: From light-polluted suburbia with an unmodified Canon DSLR.

Moved to halpha.html

 2015 Oct 1

 Hydrogen in Cygnus

Moved to halpha.html

 2015 Sep 6

 H-alpha light from NGC7000

Moved to halpha.html

 Fewer photos


New images on this page are much less frequent than they used to be. The reason is that I have given up my observatory site in Weardale (as of 2015 March). I have donated my observatory and telescope to a project being run by the North Pennines AONB management team, to provide a public observing site within the AONB. That will probably be located at Allenheads. More information should be available on the AONB web site in due course.

I hope to continue with some astrophotography. I still have an HEQ5 mount for my camera, the lenses for which range from 15mm (fish-eye) to 400mm. I will continue to encourage other photographers, partly by demonstrating what can be done without telescopes or guiding systems.


 2015 March 20

 Partial solar eclipse

The weather in Whitley Bay improved enough to enable the eclipse to be seen and photographed through the clouds, from just after maximum eclipse. No filters were needed, the camera was set to P (mostly automatic, aperture priority).














 2015 February 8


Canon EOS 5D MkII ISO6400
Canon 50mm (f/1.4) lens, f/2.8
Fixed tripod, 99 x 10s = 16.5 minutes total exposure
2015 Feb 8 at 21:44:19-22:03:45 UT

This is another example of what can be done from a dark site with just a camera on a fixed tripod.

Near the top left of this image is a curious feature which I had never noticed before: a thin dark nebula that wraps snake-like around Betelgeuse. I can find no mention of it in any catalogues or on charts although I can see it in other photographs of the same area. The following is an enlargement of that part of the photo.

Dark nebulae like this are clouds of dust. But what could have caused this one to form such a narrow strip? If it lies at about the same distance from us as Betelgeuse then one possibility might be that wind blowing out from the star (as stars are known to do) could have compacted the cloud in this way. To see whether this might be feasible I used GRIP to measure the angular distance of the nebula from Betelgeuse. At its nearest, on the right, it is 1.1° from the star but generally it is more like 2.5° away from it. At the distance of Betelgeuse (640 ±140 light years) that would mean the nebula is generally 28 ±6 light years away from the star. I doubt whether a stellar wind could have much influence over such a distance. However, Betelgeuse is nearing the end of its hydrogen fuel supply and therefore may be subject to outbursts. It is expected to explode as a supernova within the next million years.


 2014 Nov 23

 The Milky Way between Cepheus and Cygnus

My best shot so far of this interesting region, taken with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. I now have interesting comparisons between this lens and the much cheaper 50mm f/1.8 lens, which I will show. There are both pluses and minuses for the f/1.4 lens. More...

Canon EOS 5D MkII
Canon 50mm (f/1.4) lens at f/2.8
HEQ5 mount unguided
(ISO3200, 64 x 32s) + (ISO800, 17 x 32s) = 43.2 minutes total exposure
2014 Nov 23 at 18:55:26 - 19:58:39 UT
From Rookhope 54.8N 2.1W 330m asl. Rural, almost no light pollution (3 Bortles)

This photo covers a sky area measuring 27.0 x 39.6 degrees. At the top (due north) is part of the constellation of Cepheus and the bottom covers the northern part of Cygnus. The bright pinkish area below the centre is the North America Nebula (NGC7000, see my other photos of this).


The Garnet Star

Above the centre, at the tip of the reddish part of the image, an orange star really stands out. This is μ Cephei, known for a long time as the Garnet Star because of its intense colour when viewed in telescopes. I find it interesting that it stands out so well in my image. It lies on the northern edge of a faint nebula catalogued as IC1396 (which I must try to photograph telescopically). Here is an enlargement of that part of my image:

Exposure details as above

 Comet C/2014 Q3 (Borisov)

Image moved to C/2014 Q3 page.

 Comet 108P/Ciffreo

Image moved to 108P/Ciffreo page.

 2014 Oct 1

 Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques)

Image moved to C/2014 E2 page.

 The Milky Way in Cygnus

Canon EOS 5D MkII ISO6400
Canon 50mm (f/1.8) lens, f/5.6
HEQ5 mount unguided, 44 x 64s = 46.9 minutes total exposure
2014 Oct 1 at 22:15:46 - 23:10:21 UT
From Rookhope 54.8N 2.1W 330m asl. Rural, almost no light pollution (3 Bortles)

Compare this with the image below taken on 2104 Aug 24. That image was taken on a fixed tripod and so exposures were limited to 10s each to avoid trails. Today's image was on a motorised tripod and so each exposure was 64s long but the aperture has been stopped down in order to make the focus sharper. Unfortunately the lossy JPEG compression necessary for putting this on the web makes the detail much less good than in the full sized original which, like most of my original images, is printable at poster size (A2).

 2014 Aug 24

Another clear night! I decided to continue the demonstration imaging from yesterday but this time using a cheaper lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8 (the cheap one in a plastic casing). The very low f-number of this lens means much fainter details can be captured with short exposures (I am still using a fixed tripod, no telescope, no guiding, no darks or flats). The down-side of such an aperture is that focussing is quite critical. I focussed on Vega, as yesterday, but I had to tape the focus ring to stop it slipping. On this cheaper lens the focussing ring is quite flimsy.

 The Milky Way in Scutum

Image moved to Milky Way page.

 Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques)

Image moved to C/2014 E2 page.

 The Milky Way in Cygnus

Image moved to Milky Way page.

 2014 Aug 23

An unexpected clear night after rain. I decided to take some more demonstration shots to show what can be done on a fixed tripod: NO telescope, NO guiding, NO dark or flat frames. Individual exposures had to be short to avoid star trails. I used my Canon 24-105mm zoom lens on Canon EOS 5D Mk II camera. I focussed on bright stars (Arcturus and Vega) using the camera's live view magnified by 10.

 The Plough in twilight

Resulting images moved to Ursa Major page.

 Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques)

Image moved to C/2014 E2 page.


 The Milky Way in Cepheus

Canon EOS 5D MkII ISO6400
Canon 24-105mm L IS lens at 32mm, f/4.8
Fixed tripod, 34 x 8s = 4.5 minutes total exposure
2014 Aug 23 at 21:33:57 - 21:40:06 UT
From Rookhope 54.8N 2.1W 330m asl. Rural, almost no light pollution (3 Bortles)

This is the stretch of Milky Way from Casssiopeia through Cepheus to Cygnus. I had some trouble with the zoom shifting due to the weight of the lens when looking up. I should have taped it but didn't. The result was that I could not stack the full set of images I took. So the result is not as good as I hoped.

 2014 Mar 23

A truly clear moonless night at last. But there was evidently significant dust high in the atmosphere because the background of all my raw images was quite brown, due to reflected distant light pollution.

 Spiral galaxy M101

Image moved to M101 page.

 Comet 290P/Jager

Image moved to 290P/Jager page.

 The Rosette Nebula, wide field view

Image moved to Rosette Nebula page.

 2014 Mar 22

 The Rosette Nebula, NGC 2237 etc

Image moved to Rosette Nebula page.

 2013 Nov 19

 Comet C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy)

Image moved to C/2013 R1 page.

 2013 Nov 4

 Comet 154P/Brewington

Image moved to 154P page.

 NGC 1555, Hind's variable nebula

Image moved to NGC1555 page.


 Satellite trail & atmospheric turbulence

As often happens, I omitted from the NGC1555 stack a frame that was spoilt by a satellite trail. The satellite was clearly rotating because it reflected a varying amount of sunlight:

An enlargement of part of the trail (so 1 camera pixel = 1 screen pixel here) shows how the image of the path was affected by atmospheric turbulence:

 2013 Oct 29

The first clear moonless evening here for over a month!

 M31, the Andromeda Galaxy

Image moved to M31 page.

 2013 Sep 14

Two comets that have been bright but are now receding from us. I managed to photograph them despite a bright gibbous Moon.

 C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS)

Image moved to C/2011 L4 page.

 C/2012 F6 (Lemmon)

Image moved to C/2012 F6 page.


 2013 Aug 16

 Nova Delphini 2013

A nova was discovered in Delphinus on August 14. It has risen to about magnitude 4.9 which makes it the brightest nova since 1999. I managed to get a set of photos between clouds:

Canon EOS 5D MkII, ISO 1600
100-400mm lens at 150mm f/5.6 HEQ5 mount
23 x 32s on 2013 August 16 at 22:32:17-22:41:09 UT
From Whitley Bay 55.1N 1.5W 10m asl. Suburban, significant light pollution (6.5 Bortles)

 2013 Aug 12

 Perseid meteors

See Perseid meteors page.

 2013 Apr 6


Image moved to 273P page.

 C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS)

Image moved to C/2011 L4 page.

 2013 Apr 3

At last! A clear night and no moon. So I shot a couple of comets. There would have been more but by midnight the temperature was below -10C so I could not continue. We still have snow lying, most of which fell 3 weeks ago.


Image moved to 63P page.

 C/2012 S1 (ISON)

Image moved to C/2012 S1 page.

 2013 Mar 16

 C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS)

Image moved to C/2011 L4 page.

 2013 Mar 15

 C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS)

Image moved to C/2011 L4 page.

Later I headed out to try to photograph the comet which is predicted to become very bright in November: C/2012 S1 (ISON). It is currently on the borders of Gemini and Auriga and may just be bright enough to photograph. However, having got set up and navigated almost to the target, the skies clouded over completely and that was that. Typical of weather for the whole of this winter.

 2013 Feb 17

 The Moon in daylight

Image moved to the Moon page.

 2012 Nov 17


Image moved to NGC281 page.

 2012 Nov 5


 Central Cassiopeia

I plan to photograph NGC281 but I wanted first to put it in context, so this photo shows the central part of Cassiopeia, framed by 3 of the 5 stars that form the W shape: alpha, gamma and delta:

Image moved to Cassiopeia page.

That sequence was stopped by the telescope running into a tripod leg, due to Cas being vertically overhead. So I moved the telescope a bit and it happened to include the double cluster in the field of view, so I proceeded to take some more exposures.

 The Double Cluster & the Heart Nebula

It was pure chance that the field also included the Heart Nebula (IC1805), which I will have to take a closer look at another time.

Image moved to Heart Nebula page.

Then I was stopped by the sky clouding over, as so often happens this year.

 2012 Oct 21


 Focus trouble

I had a disastrous photographic session but in the process I learnt something. Camera lenses have to be left a long time to adapt to the cold. Much longer than I have been doing for camera body plus Newtonian telescope.

A useful tip when focussing a telescope by eye is that at the best focus you can see the most stars. The faintest stars become invisible again when the focus drifts out. Well I was pleased to discover that the same applies to the algorithm I devised for detecting stars in GRIP. I am not about to divulge the details of my algorithm. Suffice it to say that it is very fast and it does not try to correlate Gaussian shapes with star profiles (which may be accurate but would take much longer).

When stacking exposures, GRIP logs the number of stars it detects in each frame. Unfortunately I do that processing the day after an observing run. Otherwise I would have spotted that my frames were drifting out of focus on this occasion, as shown by this graph (made from the CSV file that GRIP created after stacking, the next morning):

What happened was this. I set my camera piggy-back on my Newtonian in order to use the latter to point towards the centre of the Veil Nebula in Cygnus. I hoped to capture the whole extent of the nebula which is much larger than will fit into a telescopic field of view. So I was using a 100-400mm Canon lens. I focussed carefully on Jupiter and its satellites. Now, the other new factor was that I was trying out Ivaylo Stoynov's mostly excellent software, APT (Astro-Photography Tool). APT uses Canon's SDK (Software Development Kit) to control the camera (which, as an individual rather than a company, I am unable to get for integration with GRIP). APT enables me to sit in a heated shed next to my cold observatory, drive the camera via a USB cable (5m, boosted) and see each frame on my laptop immediately after capture. Or at least, that's the theory. Unfortunately there was a bug in APT which meant that after a while it was not updating the image display. I let it run for over an hour, not realising that the camera was drifting out of focus. The graph clearly suggests that the cause was temperature adjustment.

I conclude that for this kind of photography I must put the camera out in the observatory an hour and a half before starting.

I reported the bug to Ivo and he responded quickly to investigate and fix the bug. I also persuaded him to add a new feature, optionally converting the RAW file to 16-bit TIFF immediately after capture. Because this uses Canon's library I believe this will do a better job than any third-party software and it saves me having to set up a batch run in DPP (Canon's image processor that comes free with every EOS camera) the next morning.

 M45 (Pleiades)

Having realised that my first sequence of the night was useless I decided to try again but was limited by the sky clouding over after a while. So here are the Pleiades again, but with the 100-400mm zoom lens at 400mm.

Image moved to the M45 page.

 2012 Oct 16

 NGC7000 & IC5067/70

After a day of rain the skies became very clear, so I tried a closer view of NGC7000.

Image moved to NGC7000 page.

 2012 Oct 9

 The Milky Way in NE Cygnus

Image and description moved to NGC7000 page.


 2012 Sep 14

 The Milky Way through Cygnus from a fixed tripod

Image moved to the Milky Way page

 2012 Sep 11

 Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

Image moved to the M31 page.

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