Category Archives: Solar System

Lunar Eclipse

It’s been a while since I photographed a lunar eclipse; the last one was in December 2010 and the pictures are here: Lunar Eclipse. That one reached totality at dawn but this one was in the early hours of the morning against a dark sky. I took pictures from 3am until 3:20 and this is the last of the sequence. The moon is only just into the Earth’s shadow and consequently, there’s still a brighter area on the disk.

Lunar EclipsePicture was taken with a Canon 100D and 75-300mm zoom. Exposure time was 3 seconds.

Cosmic encounter

Comet Panstarrs has not put on the display that was hoped for earlier in the year but it has given a photo opportunity as it makes a close pass of the Andromeda galaxy on it’s way out of the Solar System. There’s no risk of collision here, the comet is in our Solar System and the galaxy is 2.5 million light years away.


The images were acquired using a Canon 350D with a 75-300mm zoom lens at f/4.5. Eleven 2 minute exposures were stacked in Maxim, had the light pollution gradients removed in PixInsight and final processing carried out in Photoshop.

Comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs

Tonight was unexpectedly clear when I got home from work so I picked up the Canon, 18-55mm lens and tripod and headed for the end of the lane.

One patch of stubborn cloud remained anchored over the comets position for what seemed like ages, but eventually the sky was dark enough and the cloud permitted a view.


Single 10 second exposure at 55mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Sun spots

The current active phase of the Sun continues apace with another large sunspot group crossing the face of the sun over the last few days.  I took this picture yesterday just before sunset which shows AR1520, the large grouping at the top of the picture with 1519 & 1521 the two at the very bottom.

Edit:At 16:53 UT on the 12th Jul sunspot AR1520 unleashed an X class solar flare in the direction of Earth. has further details.

More sun watching

A break occurred in the clouds just before sunset on friday so I took the opportunity to image the large sunspot group currently crossing the face of the sun. My front porch has a reasonable gap between the trees so I setup the Zenithstar on the Astrotrac and attached the Canon 350D.

Zenithstar 70 on Astrotrac

I stacked about 40 images from the Canon. Individual exposures were 0.003 seconds at ISO 100. The focal length is 420mm.

Venus transit

My original plan for the transit was to observe from Ness Point at Lowestoft; the most easterly point in the UK. However, by tuesday afternoon, the forecast, which hadn’t been looking good was getting worse so I started looking for alternative sites. The Royal Astronomical Society had a webpage showing organised events so I started comparing the sites with the weather forecasts. Abingdon stood out as being behind the band of rain and the BBC were showing a clear spell developing about 4am.

Setting out just after 8pm I drove through the rain and was on site in the car park by 11:30 where I got my head down for a few hours sleep before dawn. Upon waking, I was puzzled for a short while by the bright light in the rear view mirror until I realised that it was the setting moon, the BBC’s cloud cover forecast was correct! A few of the Abingdon Astronomical Society members started showing up after 4am so I setup the Astrotrac with Zenithstar while waiting for both the dawn and the band of cloud in the north east to clear.

Unfortunately, the cloud stuck with only a couple of short glimpses of the sun through it. Frustrating, yes; disappointing, yes; but at least I’d had better odds than if I’d stayed at home. As the transit ended, right on cue, the clouds parted. I stayed around to take a few pictures of the sun. Venus is in the picture as well, you just can’t see it.

My thanks to the Abingdon Astronomical Society for setting up a fine event. Here’s to better weather in 2117!

The Sun

As part of my preparation for the transit of Venus I constructed a Baader solar film filter for the front of my Zenithstar. I followed the instructions on the Baader website and used the card from the back of A4 photograph envelopes to construct the film holder. The resultant assembly fits snugly over the front of the dew shield.

As a practice run I took 20 exposures with the Canon 350D. Focusing is tricky and I elected to acquire the images using Maxim which displays the images on the laptop screen where they can be enlarged to any size. The images were stacked in Registax and the contrast was then stretched in Photoshop.

The resultant white light images show sunspots well and several large groups are visible in this image.

Mid point of exposures: 2012-06-04T18:04:47 UTC


Well, that was the third clear tuesday club night in a row. After the spring we had it’s certainly welcome.

After looking at the slender crescent of Venus as it moves towards transit in a few days time we turned our attention to Saturn. Using the club’s Imaging Source camera and a x2 barlow on the 20″, Dan and I shot a 7500 frame video. This is the result of stacking the best 1000 frames in Registax 6 followed by a slight blur in Photoshop.

Venus & Jupiter

Look towards the west as the sun sets at the moment and you can’t miss the close pairing of Venus & Jupiter. This picture was taken just after sunset and is a stack of 4 25 second exposures at f/4 and ISO 400 taken with a Sigma 10-20mm zoom lens on my Canon 350D. I’ve been experimenting with various techniques for reducing the halos around the planets but I haven’t found anything I’m happy with yet.

Also visible are the big star clusters M45 (Pleiades), Melotte 20 & 25 (Hyades).

These two will be joined by a thin cresent moon at the end of the month. Hopefully it’ll be clear.