A busy start to 2017!

What a busy start to 2017 I’ve had! Four workshops and counting, public talks to well over 100 people, 60hours/month volunteering at the Perth Observatory and so much more! It’s no wonder that it’s hard to find time for astrophotography other than regular scripted research observations.

Here are some photographs from a recent astrophotography workshop held at the Perth Observatory. It was full day, going from 12:30pm until 10pm, but for me that means 10am until midnight.

After all these workshops it’s been good to spend a small but enjoyable amount of time in my own observatory with my simple little camera (Fuji X-E2) mounted on my Megrez 90 refractor telescope. This rewarding combination is a great fun way to reinvigorate astrophotography interest. While the following images are only short sequences, resulting in less than perfect results, it shows what can be done in a night of fun light-hearted astrophotography.

Horsehead Nebula – Fuji XE-2, 1600ISO, 10 x 5 minute exposures.

Millions and Millions – Omega Centauri with about 10 million stars.

Millions and Millions – Omega Centauri with about 10 million stars (cropped view).

Perth Observatory Astrograph Telescope

Perth Observatory Astrograph Telescope with the Southern Cross, Coalsack and Eta Carina Nebula visible through the roof.

It’s so much fun to be involved at the Perth Observatory (where I volunteer with the Perth Observatory Volunteer Group), and it’s nice as a little reward for the hundreds of hours volunteering every year to have the pleasure of photographing on-site now and then (although it is hard to fit around the things to do!).  Last night I enjoyed some late night photography after a tour and this photograph of the historic Astrograph Telescope is one of the highlights from the evening.

Visible through the opening of the dome is the Southern Cross, Coalsack (dark nebula) and Eta Carina nebula. Good timing to nab them through the roof!

Natures Window (Kalbarri, Western Australia)

Natures Window (Kalbarri, Western Australia)

Natures Window (Kalbarri, Western Australia)

Natures Window wth the Milky Way astrophotography

Natures Window wth the Milky Way astrophotography

Back in August 2016 I had family holiday up in sunny Kalbarri and managed to get out to do astrophotography on one night. Natures Window has long been on my target list but it has it’s challenges! So many challenges that I’ve been sitting on the images and processing them on and off over the last 3 months, still struggling with most.

If you think of doing astrophotography at Natures Window take precautions!

  • There is no mobile reception
  • It is VERY dark
  • There are steep cliffs surrounding the window
  • It is easy to trip on the undulating rock in the dark
  • It’s quite a drive inland, some of it un-surfaced and bumpy, which you need to take carefully due to the abundant wildlife that can jump out in front of your car

To manage the risks I had my Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) with me, had a set time my family was expecting me home and used white light whenever moving around the rock feature near the cliffs, to easily see what was in front of me (I find red light can easily hide detail, especially hen the ground is red!).

Natures Window is difficult to photograph for astrophotography. The primary reason is that you cannot get away from it! Once near it, the cliffs drop away on either side after a short distance. This leaves you with limited framing opportunities and the need for a very wide angle lens.

I have many more photographs of it to process, but they are taking some time! Maybe another 3 months 🙂

Mercury, Jupiter and Venus – August to September 2016

Late August to early September 2016 features a nice showing of planets and the moon in the western sky shortly after sunset. Mercury, Jupiter and Venus do a little dance, joined in early September by the crescent Moon.

Here are some photographs of Mercury, Jupiter and Venus from the 25th August 2016. They are taken from Kalbarri in Western Australia, specifically at Blue Holes, a beach just a short walk from town.

Planets labelled: Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. The planets are barely visible at this wide angle scale but the twilight colours and foreground rock pools make up for it.

Planets labelled: Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. The planets are barely visible at this wide angle scale but the twilight colours and foreground rock pools make up for it.

Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. The planets are barely visible at this wide angle scale but the twilight colours and foreground rock pools make up for it.

Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. The planets are barely visible at this wide angle scale but the twilight colours and foreground rock pools make up for it.

Zoomed in to 100mm this is a photograph showing Mercury, Jupiter and Venus on the 25th August 2016.

Zoomed in to 100mm this is a photograph showing Mercury, Jupiter and Venus on the 25th August 2016.

Jupiter and Venus reflecting brightly in the foreground ocean at Blue Holes, Kalbarri (Western Australia) as they set over the Indian Ocean. Mercury is also visible.

Jupiter and Venus reflecting brightly in the foreground ocean at Blue Holes, Kalbarri (Western Australia) as they set over the Indian Ocean. Mercury is also visible.