Phil's blog

Software for Night Sky Photography

Planetarium and other Planning Software

Stellarium: Stellarium is a superb piece of planetarium software that renders a beautiful simulation of the sky at night (or day) for any time you like and from anywhere on Earth (and even other locations around the solar system). It's easy to use, and free!

A Winter Night at Heathcote

There's nothing I love more than a cold, frosty and clear winter night under the stars. Central Victoria turned on two great nights on Friday June 7th and Saturday 8th, with just a little cloud in the wee morning hours. I managed to get out and about a bit, to capture the evening conjunction and several other nightscapes a short distance away from the Astronomical Society of Victoria's Leon Mow Dark Sky Site.

Panorama of the Milky Way, Magellenic Clouds and the distant lights of Melbourne and true sky reflection in a dead calm farm dam.
Panorama of the Milky Way, Magellenic Clouds and the distant lights of Melbourne
Canon 6D, 14mm Lens

Dew Heaters for Night Sky Photography

This article describes a cheap, lightweight and effective solution to dew for night sky photography.

One of the more annoying aspects of Night Sky Photography is dealing with dew. Particularly in moist climates on a cold night, moisture in the air can condense onto the cold front surface of your lens quite quickly. This can bring a night of winter photography to a rapid close and can rule out long star trail exposures or timelapse sequences.

The Yukon's Northern Lights

Image processing has got nothing on editing timelapse videos when it comes to consuming your life's spare moments! Especially if the timelapse involve rapidly changing aurora and day-night twilight transitions captured in challenging circumstances. But after a hectic summer, I have finally made time to get back to the footage from my Yukon Aurora Adventures and produce video #3.

Originally conceived as a seven minute version which included some 'behind the scenes' type sequences, I was prompted to create this short two minute version first from the best of my Yukon footage for the 2013 David Malin astrophotography awards.

Comet Hunting in March

Sunday 3rd March

I went back down to Cape Schanck again, but this time rather than heading down to the lighthouse, I stopped on the side of the road looking out over a farm (that I had scoped out on Google Streetview). This is the kind of image I was hoping to capture - I love it when a plan comes together!

Comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs, Sunday 3rd March 2013, Cape Schanck.
Comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs, Sunday 3rd March 2013
Five frame panorama with Canon 6D DSLR and 300mm Pentax lens. Each frame 3 secs, f4, ISO800

Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6) in February 2013

I've just come back from three nights running a Night Sky Photography Workshop at Lake Eppalock, and while I was supposed to be instructing, I was also very keen to capture some images of Comet Lemmon (and Comet Panstarrs) over the weekend.

The weather continued hot and dry like it has all this Victorian summer, and so while we had largely clear skies at night we were battling a lot of smoke haze (and some high cloud) that made the sky low in the south quite murky (at best) on Friday and Saturday nights. The night of Sunday 17th February 2013 was considerably better, and so I was very pleased to be able to capture this image.

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon
Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon, 17th February 2013
Takahashi Epsilon 160 (530mm, f3.3) and Canon/Astro 40D
100 * 1 minute exposures @ ISO1600

Bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes (again)

It's been four years since my first amazing photographic experience with bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes, but it has finally made another appearance. These images were taken between the 11th and 16th January 2013, while I was again a Program Director for Camp Cooinda, a voluntary organisation running summer camps for teenagers down at the Lakes.

Solar Eclipse in Queensland: 14th November 2012

Solar Corona during 14th November 2012 Total Eclipse

Even though this total solar eclipse was 3000km from Melbourne, it was still on home territory which meant it was an opportunity too good to miss. So with some friends in the Astronomical Society of Victoria (ASV), I arranged to have a serious amount of astrophotography gear freighted up to Queensland several weeks in advance.

With the eclipse occurring on the morning of Wednesday 14th November, we arrived in Port Douglas the weekend beforehand, just as a big, wet and cloudy weather trough moved through. But the weather settled back into a more normal easterly pattern in the following days, which meant that on eclipse day there was likely be partly cloudy conditions on the coast but good prospects of clear skies inland. So Monday was spent scouting locations inland with James McHugh from the ASV and Russell and Julieanne from Adobe.

After dinner for my partner Karen's birthday on the Tuesday evening, I headed to our chosen site on the Mulligan Highway together with my dad who was keen enough to increase his chances of seeing his first eclipse to sacrifice the comfortable bed in our beach house accommodation.

Valentine's Aurora

It's been a long learning curve, but I'm pleased to have finally released my second timelapse video from my 'Aurora Adventures in the Yukon' earlier this year.

Conjunction Colours

The last few nights have held a lovely conjunction with Mars, Saturn and the bright star Spica forming a striking triangle in the evening sky.

Although Mars and Saturn are not the brightest planets, I was keen to capture an image that would show the colour variation between the orange-red of Mars, pale yellow of Saturn and the brilliant blue of Spica. Hope you like this image I captured as the three set behind some eucalyptus (gum) trees on the evening of Sunday 12th August, while I was running a workshop on the shores of Lake Eppalock, in central Victoria, Australia.

Colourful Conjunction of Saturn (right), Mars and Spica (left). 12th August 2012.
Colourful Conjunction of Saturn (right), Mars and Spica (left): 12th August 2012
Canon 5D mkII, Pentax 300mm lens
20 minute exposure, f5.6, ISO100
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