Adventures in Astrophotography

I have been looking at the stars ever since I was a young boy. One night instead of going to sleep I was looking out of the bedroom window at the stars and saw a group of stars that looked like the ones in a science magazine I'd been given called Finding Out. It was the asterism known as the plough. That Christmas I had a small refractor and a copy of Philips, Signpost to the Stars. I was hooked, although didn't know it at the time.
That seems like a lifetime ago now but the stars have always fascinated me. From time to time I have attempted to photograph what I saw but generally it was not successful. Comets made the news from time to time and in 1973 I can remember looking for but failing to find Kohoutek. I can recall seeing Hale Bopp in 1995 but didn't get a successful image. Then in 1996 comet Hyakutake put in an appearance. I tried to capture an image using my Olympus OM1 on a tripod with a 135 lens and a cable release. It looked like this (below left).

Well not exactly like this, the image did have telephone lines going across it to the house. All the same I was happy with the result, but in this digital age having scanned the image I decided to do a little work with Photoshop Elements and remove the lines.

About the same time I decided to build a barn door tracker. I knew what I had to achieve but not really how to get it right. The information was not as easy to obtain in 1996 as it is today, as at that time I did not have a computer to access the Internet.

Despite that I had a go and achieved a somewhat blurred image of M42

Then came the transit of Venus in 2004. Here I used a cheap 60mm refractor and put the supplied sun filter in place and covered the objective with the stopped down lens cap. I then placed my Olympus point and shoot digital camera to the eyepiece and took this image. The green dot is Venus. Green because that was the colour of the filter. I won't be around to see the next transit so this picture is a special one in my collection.

Before I go on. DON'T do what I did photographing the sun, you can very easily permanently damage your eyes. Always use proper solar filters from reputable suppliers. I did not have the experience to know better in those days. The cheap sun filter I used is not a recommended method as they can easily crack due to the heat of the sun. I did not know this at the time. So I chose to risk the camera and not my eyes. I was lucky, you may not be.

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