Astronomy Art

Solar Light Pillar

Forgot to post these…

From the morning of Wednesday 14th Feb.

Hand held Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

The first at 7.22am

70mm ISO 200 1/125sec f/5.6


and the second at 7.26am

70mm ISO 200 1/160sec f/6.3


A light pillar..?

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

An atmospheric optical phenomenon in the form of a vertical band of light which appears to extend above and/or below a light source. The effect is created by the reflection of light from numerous tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere or clouds. The light can come from the Sun (usually when it is near or even below the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the Moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.


See here for more details:




Daytime Moon over Lichfield

‎Damian and his wife Julie and I walked the route of the Erasmus Darwin walk today. The sun was shining and it was clear and we saw this beautiful day-time moon shown in photos below.

We also came across these paintings – query interpretations of famous Apollo moon landing photos in the local art galary.

The Erasmus Darwin walk is over 10 miles in length. It was one small step for Andy and one giant step for Dame – Andy’s step-counter watch recorded that he walked 27610 steps whereas Dame’s phone recorded 22200 steps – I have tiny legs!


Solargraph – worked… (sort of)!

Six months has flown by….

Time to collect the solargraph we ‘planted’…


Yes, a few days early to be collecting, but today is my last one in the office and I wasn’t thinking of doing a 124 mile round trip to collect from Leominster on the shortest day!

What a lovely start to the day, a slippy stile and muddy walk!

If you remember from the last post, the first attempt had been damaged – probably due to the shiny  ‘foil’ pinhole being pecked out by an interested magpie!

2x previous photos of new solargraph in situ…(Above and below)

The site from Google Maps:

Kimbolton Church (Nr. Leominster) is in the centre. The solar graph is sited in that first tree-line (towards 10/11 o’clock), looking back to the church – thought it would make a nice view/foreground…

This time, we had forgone the foil (you pin-prick it to get a fine hole and therefore sharper image recorded) and instead drilled (No 1 drill bit), straight into the tin. No bird was going to get through that!!

Would this one fair better…?

This was it’s rough view as seen this morning upon collection at 8.45am….

First impressions were good… the baked bean can pinhole camera looked to have survived it’s six months and was in remarkably good condition with hardly any rust – sheltered under the trees.

Back at the office, second impressions were of an unremarkable small image and some image shift (double exposure)…. look how the church is double exposed on the original below….      ;-(


I don’t think it was ‘vandalised’ if it had, it would have been ripped out and strewn across the hedgerow… ‘Mother Nature’…. perhaps…? More likely a horse or sheep rubbing up against the stake (or wire fence) – although I did try and protect it somewhat…

(Above: Initial scan – 900DPI, Colour-Millions, mirror reversed on the horizontal plane, cropped).


If this hasn’t worked, that’s 18 months from the first try (summer>winter 2016) – I didn’t have another pinhole camera prepared after the first go to put imediately back in place, so waited until this summer solstice in 2017 to try again.

Again, I didn’t have another prepared to start again this morning either, so another camera would have to wait until summer 2018….




With a little Photoshop magic, it’s amazing what can be achieved!

Phew  😉


For January’s RAG end-month meeting, I’ll bring the laptop, scanner, etc. So if you tried your own solargraph and want some help processing it, bring it along and we can have a play!

If you want to preserve yours until then, I suggest you remove from the tin, ***dry completely with a hairdryer*** and then put nice and flat inside an envelope (or two) out of direct light.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!



The Joys of RAW…

Never got time this year to build my RAG Aurora talk… it’s nearly a year since we were preparing to head to Alta, Norway….

But work is nearly finished and so I decided to have another play.

This is the jpeg off the camera – way too dark and the aurora far too green – this was a very fast moving teal green, multi-band wave that stretched across the sky. It was far more vibrant and illuminated the scenery…. which is much bigger than it looks here – width wise, this combination captures 114 degrees (84 high, so with the camera angled, the top of the pic is around the Zenith) !

22nd Dec around 6.30pm – I only managed another 10 shots of this outbreak before the battery finally died (that was after eeking out some last shots by warming it up under my armpit!) Thankfully I’d captured the majority of this performance and it was fading out. It was then back to the lodge for dinner, a fast battery re-charge and then headed back out for our final evening….

Tripod mounted, (old) full frame D3 (only 12Mp) and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. Cable release and using mirror lock-up to reduce internal shaking.

800 ISO, 14mm,  f2/8 at only 6 seconds – shows how bright and fast it was moving when you consider what the camera recorded (and the blurring of the bands….) Keeping to 800 ISO keeps dynamic range at the expense of shutter speed. I could have pushed to around 1200-1600 ISO as the cold would have kept the noise down, but that’s how it goes…

6th Dec 2017: NEF RAW file processed in Adobe LightRoom Classic CC (2018) and finished in PS CC 2018. I’ve cropped it down to a more pleasing composition and tried to depict what we saw (although this is more saturated).

The moral of the story is… always shoot RAW!


For orientation – the diamond of ‘Delphinus’ can be seen to the lower left just past the tree. Coming out of the top of the same tree is the (Summer) Milky Way, that bright white star just clearing the branches being Deneb in the tail of Cygnus. The bright orange star in the upper left of the photograph is Scheat – if you examine your star atlas, you’ll find it as the top right star in the ‘Square of Pegasus’ !

Plus a short movie, made from 13 files (pre Photoshop) put together in iMovie (the shot above was the third in the sequence)…


International Astronomy Show and Meal Afterwards!

I have to thank Andy, he persuaded me to go along to the event – which I think I enjoyed more having not been the previous year!

I had hoped to get along to at least one talk, but there were so many new things to see that we didn’t manage it! I didn’t intend to buy anything either, but I couldn’t resist in the end…  😉

The buying even started as we entered the event (after having had a chat with two local astronomy groups with tables in the foyer – good to get an idea of the type of leaflets others produce), when we came across some nice-hand made, stained glass, astro-themed decorations at £18 a pop!

a bit cheaper than the larger artworks, like this black hole inspired piece…

I was amazed to see (and get to play with), the new Nikon full frame D850 (£3500) as it only came out a few weeks ago, plus the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ‘Art’ lens (£1650).

I had been thinking it was time to upgrade the old 12Mp D3, but having talked to astrophotographer Nigel Ball (he had a stand at the show and was one of the lecturers on Friday), who uses a 12Mp D3s and newer 36Mp D810A with the same Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens I have, he said I may be better off looking for a second hand 16Mp D4s instead…. we’ll have to see…

As well as all the nice camera gear, I especially like the Panther Alt/Az mounts which I’d seen two years ago… I got to chat to the UK distributer, but more importantly the Danish designer. He explained how it tracks, how to use the superb hand controller and with the addition of the extra field de-rotator. how they got around the problem of long exposure photography on an alt/at mount.

Andy even challenged him to set up the mount within their advertised time frame (around 5 minutes). He managed it in half that time whilst Andy did his best to put him off – taking pictures of the poor chap!!!

But with the poor weather we’re having, dropping another £5k on a new mount, no matter how cool… seems rather crazy… I still like it though 🙄😀😳

It was cheaper though than the Austrian made ‘ASA’ Direct Drive mount (uses magnets rather than gears or a disc) that caught mine and Andy’s eye at the show, a ‘snip’ at a discounted……  £11.5K !

Something else that caught my eye (and a nice change from all the usual gear you expect to see), keeping with the artistic slant, was some astro-themed paintings… The one here on the lower right looked far better in real life than that printed in the show guide. Is it a galaxy or globular cluster… that’s for the observer to interpret!

We had a good chat to the artist and talked about how to break into this market – difficult when the work was selling at £700-800 for the smaller works and £2-3k for the bigger ones. Such a purchase in our household would include the two of us. At this sort of show, mostly men…. is ‘he’ really going to buy without the OK from the wife..?!

After the event we all got back together for an Italian at ‘Pizza By Goli’ in Lichfield – thanks to Stephen for organising and to Heather who we toasted for her work on RAGs new Charity Status!

Ooh yes, my purchase – a pair of Vixen SG  2.1 x 42mm ‘Galilean’ binoculars. Down to £199 from £259 from The Widescreen Centre. I remember seeing these when first released 4 years ago or so for around £229.

I even got a very quick chance to use them Saturday night once home before the clouds rolled in. The huge field of view is around 25 degrees, which allows you to see the entire ‘Square pf Pegasus’!

I added the below to show you the comparison with a Telrad view…

Only the central 40-50% is really clear, but it did allow me to see stars within ‘the square’ that I couldn’t see naked eye very clearly, if at all – these were around Mag 4.5-5.5. On a good night, especially in the summer when viewing the Milky Way from Hereford, Wales or on holiday in Austria – they should really come into their own and be good fun!


A single day Solargraph.

Hi, quite a few people are running solargraphs (tin cans with pinholes containing photographic film) to capture the suns path between the Summer and Winter solstice. The one below was run for just one day.




























This is a Solargraph of the Eclipse on Aug 21 2017 taken in Idaho, for full details go to:

It didn’t use photographic film but photosensitive paper, that you stop/ develop by immersing in water, the sort of thing you can get from Hawkins bazaar.!

Pete Hill


























Bordeaux ‘Astronomy’ continued….

27-28th July

Heading back to Bordeaux. The weather has not been great to be honest. The last two days are supposed to be getting sunnier – we’ll see…

This morning (28th), before breakfast, we witnessed the tidal bore – a phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave (or waves) of water that travel up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current. As the tide is linked to the moon, I thought that was a good place to start this new blog entry.

Whilst cruising towards the next point of interest, I’ve explored the ship and had a visit to the bridge to see the goings on there – watching the surface radar was rather hypnotic. There were a number of binoculars on display as well.

On the top (sun – or lack of!) deck, are the liferafts – our first tenuous ‘Astronomy Link of the Day’ (spot the name on it!)

Yesterday we visited Saint-Emilion, in the rain… perhaps this is a good thing as J and I are slowly turning into fishes (Pisces), with all the wine we’re drinking at lunch, dinner and the many wine tastings at the different Chateaux along the way….! We don’t really drink at home and sharing a bottle of ‘Abbey’ dark beer on a Saturday over a curry zonks us out – so how we’re coping here is anyone’s guess!

…or perhaps we’re not coping! At Chateau Fombrauge….

Waiting for the wine to mature…

….just outside Saint-Emilion, there were a number of much older ways to tell the time, these sundials piqued our interest:

….including this stone multi-faceted version, dating from 1679

Sundials are one of the oldest tools for measuring time using the shadow of the Sun. The Egyptians used a shadow stick or shadow clock as early as 1500 BC. The vertical stick or “gnomon” marked the time of day by the length and position of the stick’s shadow. Gnomon in Greek means “the one that knows.” Sundials are often mounted on a base while some are designed to be hung vertically on a building, wall or tree.

Multifaceted sundials were complicated time keepers, some having up to fifty gnomons (or arms) on them and although not precise, were more a statement of an owner’s interest in science, mathematics, and art. They were also an example of a stone mason’s clever and impressive carving skills.

There were some interesting modern works of art on the estates well, including this oversized wine bottle that had a bit of a space theme:

If Jules continues to drink at her current rate, she might end up like what was on the back…!

Poor Julie!

St Emilion is a pretty place. It would have been stunning in the sun, with the light glinting off the limestone.

This last picture overlooking the town was taken from the grounds of the rather swanky ‘Hostellerie de Plaisance’ hotel and restaurant… in fact it was a Michelin…

Two (or double) Star (that’s one for Nick), establishment!

At the end of the day, I think I deserved my cold Meteor beer!

Damian & Julie