Welcome to my page on Astronomy.

Contents:-
  1. Introduction
  2. Star-gazing
  3. Astrophotography
  4. Interesting Links

Introduction

Astronomy is a wonderful hobby and one that finds favour with a wide variety of individuals. For some it becomes an occupation. Indeed the field of space research is ever growing as man starts to turn his attentions evermore to the final frontier.

Star-gazing

Star swirl above house When I gaze upon the heavens above it is with a sense of wonder. For the universe is an enormous, ever-changing place filled with spectacles and structures, the scale of which is often beyond our comprehension. The mechanisms behind some of the formations in the universe continue to baffle scientists, although new discoveries are being made almost every day. The universe is a source of never ending diversity and beauty.

If you are new to star-gazing then next time you are out at night just gaze at the night sky for a few minutes. Imagine each tiny star as our sun, many perhaps with other worlds in orbit around them. Watch for shooting stars and man-made satellites moving across the sky. From a dark site look for the milky white band of the milky way, the edge on view of our own galaxy, and reflect for a moment that almost all the stars and everything you see in the night sky is a part of that structure. And our galaxy is just one of billions of other galaxies that make up the universe. It really is staggering and can often leave you feeling rather small and insignificant!

Astrophotography

Recording views of objects in the night sky is great fun and provides your very own keepsake of what often are very memorable events.

Comet Hale-Bopp B/W This view of comet Hale-Bopp was recorded on 28/03/97 from Suffolk, UK using black and white 1600 ASA film. The exposure time was approximately 10 minutes. Both of the comet's tails are visible, the brighter dust tail and the fainter ionised gas tail.

Unfortunately I cannot afford expensive photography equipment so have a very simple setup. I use a fully manual Praktica Nova SLR camera with a standard 50mm lens. For night sky photos I put the camera on a tripod and leave the shutter open for a period of time. It is neccesary to try a range of exposure times and f-stops (shutter apertures), and make a note of these, in order to acheive some good results and be able to repeat them. I have recently purchased a wide-angle 28mm lens, which will enable me to capture a larger area of the night sky, although I have not yet used it.

Comet Hyakutake The photo of comet Hyakutake to the lower right was taken on 18/04/96 from North Devon, UK using 100 ASA film. The exposure was 10 minutes. It is possible to see the orange colour of the tail near the head of the comet receeding into a faint blue colour further along the tail.

Comet Hyakutake was an incredibly impressive sight. It was the most impressive object I had ever beheld in the night sky. When I saw it in Devon it was like a fireball hanging in the sky, chasing after the setting sun. It's tail stretched for nearly half the height of the visible sky because the site was sufficiently dark. Amazingly the same time next year another icy visitor from the cold depths of space graced our skies, comet Hale-Bopp. This time the comet was even brighter and with twin tails. Comet Hyakutake will always be the most memorable for me because of it's beauty and elegance of form. Also, prior to that, the only other comet I had seen was Halley's comet in 1984? which appeared as a tiny fuzzy patch in the field of a small telescope.

Stars swirl around pole star The picture to the left is a view looking at the pole star showing the rotation of the stars (caused by the Earth's rotation) over a period of half an hour. It is interesting to note the variations in colour of the stars. This is because stars are burning different mixtures of gases and are at different temperatures. Hotter, younger stars are blue in colour, whereas older stars appear red.

Below and to the right is a spectacular colour picture of comet Hale-Bopp. This was taken on 07/04/97 from Suffolk, UK using 400 ASA film. The exposure was around 2 minutes so the movement of the stars and comet have been kept to a mininum. The orange dust tail and the fainter blue gas tail are very well defined. A faint nebulosity seems to be visible above the chimney of the house.

Interesting Links

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Last updated: Wednesday, March 04, 1998
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