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God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.
Gen 1:14

How it all started.
I started this webpage in late 2015 as a sort of description of my adventures in astrophotography.  

I have used a camera since I was 16, having found a fascination with photography in school.  I had a Kodak Instamatic and took pictures of anything I could.  I progressed to 35mm photography two years later and then after a few years purchased an Olympus OM1.  That along with a lifelong interest in astronomy meant that at some point these hobbies would begin to converge.  The convergence came when a third hobby was added to the list which was to prove to be the cement which would bond the other hobbies together and propel me forward.  This was computing and without the use of a computer what we do today would not be possible for the average amateur to achieve.

I suppose it really began with the 1996 discovery of comet Hyakutake when I attempted to photograph it with my OM1.  I could see a comet but I could also see movement which should not have been there.  I took a number of photos and the one on the left is perhaps the best of the bunch.  

A few years later I built a tracking mount and put my Olympus OM1 on it to take photos of the night sky.  I only had a very rough idea of what I was doing, the Internet was in its infancy and personal computers cost a small fortune, so access to the levels of information and instruction we have today were not possible.  I managed a few photos of the night sky but there were star trails, so clearly there was still something wrong.  I have since learned a lot more about how to design these devices and how to rotate the lifting screw at the right rate to follow the stars.

Using this rather crude mount I managed this image of the Orion Nebula.  In the enlarged version the movement in the mount shows up but at the same time the Nebula does too.  I probably would have been better off just taking a 10s exposure but that is with the benefit of hindsight.




Click the image for a larger version

Click the image for a larger version
Click the image for a larger version
Another one of the first images I took was of the 2004 transit of Venus.  This was taken by holding an Olympus point and shoot camera to the eyepiece of a cheap 60mm refractor which had a sun filter fitted and simply hoping something would come out.  It did and as you see in the image on the left the sun has a greenish halo from the filter but there is a dot at the bottom of the lower half of the Sun which is Venus.  As I will not be around to see the next transit this remains a special image in my collection.

The cheap telescope I used here I still have but it has been superseded, firstly by a Skywatcher 130p on an EQ2 mount and then a Skywatcher 200p which was a Dobsonian mounted OTA without the mount.  It was damaged when I bought it and I had thoughts and prepared drawings for a wooden open tube telescope.  When I saw the damage I thought I'll see if it can be sorted out.  So the dents in the tube were beaten out, the inside flocked, a fan from an old computer added to cool the mirror and a useful instrument was the result. I built a new dobsonian mount for it and then a few months later acquired an ex-demonstration HEQ5 mount.

I've continued to dabble over the years and have some images from a stay outside Tintagel in Cornwall in 2011 in the pages on this site.

I purchased a copy of Steve Richards book 'Making Every Photon Count' which provided some much needed advice on mounts, cameras and technique. I would recommend this to anyone starting in astrophotography as it gives a good, clear explanation of the problem with examples of images which can be obtained using the equipment.

As a final word on this introduction.  Astrophotography is not a cheap hobby, you will need deep pockets, and plenty of perseverance in order to achieve the sort of results seen on websites across the Internet.   You can with somewhat more modest means achieve the kind of results I have here which were mainly obtained from my back garden on the edge of a South Wales town with the attendant light pollution but you will never escape the desire to take even better pictures and this will lead in turn to having to dip into the pocket for the kit required.

All images on this site are copyright Andrew Jeffries.  Please do not use without permission