Monday, 12 May 2014


Only had two clear skies since moving up to Shetland, but the stars were amazing with very little light pollution. Unfortunately it was too windy for photos and now the days are long with little darkness so it may be a while before i can get any more star photos. I will be adding more sky photos soon. For now its good to remember Orion.

Anyone looking up at the night sky to the south cannot fail to see the Orion constellation. It is recognised by the bright stars of Rigel and Betelgeuse top and bottom. The three stars in the middle are know as Orion's belt and looking closely at the three stars  the Orion Nebula can be seen lower down on what is named as Orion's sword.

Orion is most visible from January - March in the northern hemisphere, but May - July it cannot be seen as it appears in daylight hours.

Orion can be used to locate other stars, by extending the belt south Sirius can be found and like wise north Aldebaran can be located.

The three stars in the belt are

  • Alnitak which is a triple star 736 light years away
  • Alnilam is a large blue super giant the 30th brightest star in the sky
  • Mintaka is 916 light years away and is the faintest of the three stars
Orion Nebula (Messier 42) is possibly the first deep sky object people want to photograph, after all its easy to find and can be seen by the naked eye. The Trapezium is a cluster of quadruple star system and  has many new born stars together with luminous gases and dust make a great object to photograph. It is amazing to find that it is 1,344 light years away and is thought to contain over 1,000 young stars and 700 other stars in various phases. 

The first ever photo of Orion Nebula was back in September 1880 when Henry Draper used an 11 inch refractor telescope to take a 51 minute exposure. It was also the first object that the Hubble telescope observed in 1993

the above Nebula photos are 17 images @ 50 seconds guided then combined.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Reducing Light Pollution

                                                           New light pollution map of Europe

At least most of Shetland, apart from Lerwick, Scalloway and Sullom are reasonably dark sites. I know I keep on about this but in Sheffield light pollution is a major problem, even in the depths of the Peak District you have Manchester at one side, Sheffield at the other.

This makes it impossible to take an exposure of more than 40 seconds otherwise you can see an orange glow appear in the image. Perhaps a light pollution filter might help, or in my case make a drastic move to Shetland where this is less of a problem.
                                       Unprocessed Photo except for noise reduction at ISO 1600

To see the Milky Way and other constellations you need to view from a dark area otherwise the light drowns out the stars. This is also the case when a full moon appears. I have been surprise that many people think that the moon is needed to provide a light in the sky to illuminate the stars, sorry but this is far from the truth.

People often say that you need to be more than 100 miles from a city to benefit, some chance in the UK. One thing to help is to shoot in RAW and then adjust the white balance after, but those shooting in jpeg should set for daylight white balance. Using an Astronomik CLS Filter will reduce the light pollution and bring back the colour of the stars. Don't forget the optimum time for photography is around 2 am when most people have turned their lights off and gone to bed.

While you are out waiting for a long exposure you need something to do, so when not some light painting

                                                                                                                                                      It's me !!!