Worth getting up at Stupid o’clock for…

Asrtronomy can be a very anti-social hobby, and that’s never truer than at times like this, when all the “good stuff” is visible in the wee small hours and an intrusive big bright Moon means you only have a small window of opportunity, just before the sky starts to brighten, in which to see or do anything useful. Which is why I got up at 3am on Friday morning, grabbed my camera gear and tripod, and headed out to my nearby dark sky oasis, a woodland clearing at the foot of Kendal Castle, to try and photograph the Milky Way, Mars, and a comet…

Often when I do this I arrive at my observing site to find that while I’ve been walking the clouds have rolled in, covering everything, and I have to trudge home again without a single new photo on the memory card. Thankfully on Friday morning the clouds stayed away, and I was able to tick off everything on my astrophotographic hit list…

Should note here that all these photos were taken with the most basic set-up – my entry level Canon digital SLR, mounted on a tripod, fitted with a fast or wide angle lens and set at a high ISO (what we used to call “film speed” in Ye Olde pre digital days!) taking time exposures of several seconds, which were then combined together (or “stacked”) to create a single more detailed image. One of my friends from the Cockermouth AS very kindly made me a mount last year which will allow me to track the stars, but I have yet to use it because I’m saving it now for nights when the Milky Way is dominating the sky.

Ok, here’s what I managed to take. I try to take pictures which are attractive visually as well as interesting astronomically, so I hope even if you’re not into astronomy you’ll like them. Click on the images to enlarge them…

The Milky Way rising over the treetops…

m way s

Mars (right) and Spica sinking lower as dawn approaches…

Mars spica s

The Milky Way around the bright star Deneb…

NA Neb2 s

The constellation Lyra…

lyra s

And finally, comet Panstarrs K1, which is still very faint but might get brighter in a while…

panstarrs close up circle

Yes, definitely worth getting up at Stupid o’clock for…

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