Images representing different hobbies


You are never too old to learn, and one of the thing that has opened my eyes  has been discovering the quality of astronomical images that can be produced by amateurs with very modest equipment. By using digital cameras and image processing software it's a realistic ambition to produce images that compare favourably with those produced by the world's biggest telescopes fifty years ago - right in your back yard!

This website does not showcase the best astronomical pictures on the internet! It's a selection of pictures I have taken myself with basic equipment and free software. Producing images like these below, or even better ones, is within your reach!

Most importantly, you don't have to spend a fortune. My scope, mount and tripod coast £180 on Ebay. I spent £40 on a more solid tripod, and about £200 on various bits and pieces including books and an ancient Canon EOS DSLR and a seconhand Microsoft HD Webcam. The results shown before are  some of my best so far, and will be updated from time to time.

Perhaps the easiest target in the sky is the moon. You can get good pictures with any long or zoom lens, this is a 'stack' of six pictures taken with an ordinary bridge camera:

A Gibbous Moon photographed over thr Isle of Skye in near-poerfect seeing conditions

A gibbous moon photographed on the isle of Skye.

Follow the links below for introductions to some of the other things you can image in the night sky:

The Moon

The Sun

The Planets

Messier Objects

Star Clusters





Have a go!

I hope I have convinced you to have a go at photographing the night sky - these photos may not hold a candle to some of the work of professionals like Damian Peach or even dedicated amateurs, but I hope you are surprised what can be done with kit that has cost me well under £500.

There are lots of places to find out more on line, but perhaps the easiest place to start is the StargazersLounge webiste.

As well as the subjects covered above there are all sorts of other things to look out for - comets, asteroids, meteors, aurorae, noctilucent clouds and various metereological effects such as sundogs and lunar halos. And sometimes there are just picturesque events such as this near conjunction of the Moon and Venus.

Conjunction of Moon and Venus seen ona slightly misty night, with teh moon partly behind trees

A Conjunction of Moon and Venus


Here's the home of 2018's 'Image of the Month' pictures. Enjoy!

See the 2017 images here.

See the 2016 images here.

See the 2015 Images here.

Image of the Month for May 2018: Markarian's Chain

 Markarian's chain

Revisiting the subject of an earlier image of the month, with much more natural colour and greater detail, delivered by a combination of cooling, guiding and longer total exposure.

Image of the Month for April 2018: The Lunar X and V in Colour

 The  unar X and V 22 Feb 18 COLOUR

In February it was almost perfect observing conditions for the two well-known ‘lunarisms’ the ‘X’ and ‘V’. These are both effects caused by crater rims/ridges that reach up above the lunar shadow. They can both be seen along the lower part of the lunar terminator (the line between light and shadow).

I used my astro-modded and cooled Canon 450D (although the cooling was switched off) with a Celestron C90 Maksutov on a hybrid bresser/skywatcher EQ mount. Despite being a small scope this gives a near ideal match of resolution with sensor so works well for the bright moon, with the advantage that distortion due to poor seeing is minimised compared to my larger newtonian.

98 RAW frames were pre-processed in PIPP using AHD debayering and preserving the colour information to give centred and cropped 16-bit TIFFs.

These were stacked in Autostakkert3! using rather large (200 pixel) boxes. 60% of frames were stacked. The resulting image was duplicated. One was processed as a ‘conventional’ mono image with a relatively light hand – adjustment of curves to reduce the contrast between the rim and terminator, noise reduction was unnecessary, followed by Lucy-Richardson deconvolution. As the image was already sharp a combination of a small kernel with stronger than usual deconvolution was successful and did not create artefacts, notably no ringing was created along the rim, often a problem with deconvolution.

The second image was also adjusted to reduce contrast and using a temporary high-saturation layer the colour balance was adjusted, the main requirement being reducing the red content to compensate for the astro-modification of the camera. The high saturation layer was then removed. Cycles of a soft light + luminance layers process to gently increase saturation were applied – this approach is less likely to ‘blow out’ colours and keeps them more faithful than simply increasing saturation.

The mono version of the image was then applied over the colour one as a luminance layer and merged down.

I am very pleased with the final image as it captures one of the classic moments in the moon’s monthly phases and faithfully demonstrates the faint colours of the lunar surface without over exaggerating them.

Image of the Month for March 2018: The Horsehead and Flame Nebulas in Ha

 Horsehead and Flame nebulas in Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) light

This is a 7nm hydrogen alpha narrowband image taken using a cooled and astromodified Canon 450D with a special Baader filter.

Image of the Month for February 2018: The Rosette Nebula

Rosette Nembula in Ha plus OSC

Revisiting one of the most remarkable objects in the sky, blending a 7nm hydrogen alpha narrowband image with a one-shot colour image, both taken with the modified and cooled Canon 450D. Using the Ha layer reduces the stars (small ones disappear) and highlights the nebula which is composed of hot hydrogen.

Image of the Month for January 2018: The California Nebula

California HaOSC

 The California Nebula, a narrowband Ha image combined with a one-shot colour image.

See the 2017 images here.

See the 2016 images here.

See the 2015 Images here.

Tracker Tester is a simple BBC BASIC for Windows utility for testing telescope tracking and guiding setups using a laptop computer.

Simply extract the exe file from the zip folder and save it in a sensible place.

Just click the exe file and it will introduce itself, then change to a black screen and ask you for the screen width in millimetres and the distance of the screen from your scope.

The star will appear as a single white pixel at middle left, just in from the edge. Focus your scope on the 'star'.

When you are ready press a key and the star will move across the screen at approximately sidereal rate as seen from the scope. Depending on screen size and distance it should take half an hour to an hour to cross the screen.

To exit the program, press ALT-F4 (the screen will carry a message to remind you of this).


Tracker tester comes with no warranty of suitability for any purpose whatsoever.

One of the big challenges in astrophotography is achieving really accurate focus, easiest and fastest way of doing this is with a Bahtinov Mask. there are amny ways of making your own masks, but a robust, accurate and convenient solution is 3D printing.


3D printed Bahtinov Masks


See THIS PAGE for details of how to use a Bahtinov Mask.

Here are STL files to allow you to 3D print your own Bahtinov Mask for some popular sizes of lens and telescope:

Mask.stl for 130mm reflectors with a roughly 150mm/6" tube, such as the Skywatcher 130P and 130P-DS.

Small-Mask.stl for telephoto lenses (catadioptric and conventional) with a 76mm end diameter.

Tiny-Mask.stl for short telephoto lenses such as the Zeiss 135mm F.3.5 'Sonnar' which take a 48mm filter and have an external diameter of about 52mm.

The largest mask requires two M6 nylon screws about 30mm long to be threaded into two holes, these allow it to be 'hooked' onto the end of the scope.

The smaller masks have an 8mm collar which is an easy fit over the end of the lens. if your scope/lens is a slightly different size, scale the X and Y dimensions (but not the Z-dimension) of the nearest-size mask to fit.

Masks can be used directly on a scope or on the end of a dew shield. They are not a close fit, they just 'hang there' so as not to disturb the focus/pointing when you lift them off.

These print best with quite a dense fill (30-40%) and thicker outer layers than normal.They don't need to be black, just opaque.

My masks were printed on a Prusa i3.

Don't forget to remove the mask before taking photos!



Here's the home of 2017's 'Image of the Month' pictures. Enjoy!

See the 2016 images here.

Image of the Month for December 2017: Orion's Sword

M42 with trapezium

M42, the Great Nebula in Orion, together with de Mairan's Nebula and the Running Man Nebula.

Image of the Month for November 2017: Copernicus Crater

Copernicus Crater

The crater Copernicus, named for the astronomer who set the sun at the centre of the solar system. It has three central peaks, clearly distinguished in this image.

Image of the Month for October 2017: Andromeda Widefield

Andromedas Galaxy Widefield

I know I've shown Andromeda before. This shows what you can achieve with a £20 second-hand lens off eBay, a Tokina 300mm, giving a rather wider view than my previous images.

Image of the Month for September 2017: The Sadr Region

Sadr, the bright star at the heart of Cygnus

Sadr is the star at the centre of the huge 'Northern Cross' making up most of the constellation of Cygnus in summer skies. It is surrounded by nebulosity as well as the rich starfields of the Milky Way.

Image of the Month for August 2017: The Bubble Nebula


Bubble Ha RGB

This image combines one-shot colour with an astro-modded DSLR from 2016 with narrowband Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) from 2017.

Image of the Month for July 2017: Saturn


Saturn 17 June 2017

The challenge this year is that from the UK Saturn is approaching its lowest elevation for the next thirty-two years. Next year it will be slightly lower again, and it will be around 2021 before it rises high enough to make imaging easier.

Image of the Month for June 2017: Jupiter, Io and Europa

Jupiter Io Europa 25 May 17 Winjupos
Image taken using a Skywatcher 150PL with a ZWO ASI 120MC camera.

Image of the Month for May 2017: M86 Galaxy and Markarian's Chain

Markarian Chain


Image of the Month for April 2017: M51 The Whirlpool Nebula

M51 Whirlpool Nebula


Image of the Month for March 2017: The Rosette Nebula

Rosette Nebula


Image of the Month for February 2017:The Flaming Star Nebula

The Flaming Star Nebula in glorious Stub-O-Colour


Image of the Month for January 2017: The Jellyfish Nebula, a supernova remnant in Gemini.

The Jellyfish Nebula in Gemini




 See the 2016 images here.

Sometimes (perhaps always!) you can go back and take a second look at your images and get more out of them. At the very least it pays to save the stacked but unprocessed data, if not all the RAW images.  In December 2015 I took what I thought were some very beautiful but rather sparse images of M42 and the Running Man nebulas in Orion. the nebulosity was mostly purple in colour.

Since then I have found out about ways of making the fainter parts of a nebula appear in an image, and also got better at balancing colour. This has enabled me to find the browner dust clouds in M42 while still controlling noise. Here's the reprocessed image, with a smaller version of the old one for comparison. Which do you prefer?

orion nebula reprocessed

The 2016 reprocessing of older data for M42 and the Running Man (at top)

orion nebula reprocessed deconvoluted filtered

This is the smoother and purpler original version.