Stars, Aurora, Lightning and That Plane- My Favorite Images From 2013

Stars, Aurora, Lightning and That Plane-
My favorite images from 2013 (In order of the date they were taken)


Room With A View

Room With A ViewHarvest Sky

Harvest SkyFly Me To The Moons

Fly Me To The MoonsLookout

LookoutCrater Lake Boat Shed

Crater Lake Boat ShedTranquility


CascadeThunder Valley

Thunder ValleyField Of Dreams

Field Of DreamsDiving In

Diving In


Fly Me To The Moons

On the 18th of February 2013 the planet Jupiter and our Moon had a meeting in the night sky.  For most of the world it was visible in what is know as a conjunction, where Jupiter and The Moon are close together.  However there was a relatively narrow strip of the Earth where Jupiter would actually pass behind The Moon in what is called an occultation.
The place where I live in southern Australia was just outside of this occultation path by about 50km.  If I stayed home I would see Jupiter and The Moon very close together indeed, but at no time would Jupiter disappear.  I wanted to photograph and observe a proper occultation so it meant packing all my telescope and photography gear into my car and heading further south.
After checking the weather and cloud forecasts and figuring in travel and setup times I decided on a general location, actually not too far from where I grew up in central Victoria.  After driving about 200km I arrived at my chosen location at about 10:30pm and I had my telescope aligned and up and running by 11pm. Jupiter was due to start its pass behind the moon at about 11:40pm.
The equipment I was using for this shoot was a 10inch (250mm) F/4 Newtonian Telescope mounted on an NEQ6 Pro Telescope Mount.  The telescope has a native focal length of 1000mm.  The camera I decided to use was a Canon 60D which is directly hooked into the focuser of the telescope by way of some adapters.  As this camera is not a full frame camera it has a crop factor of x1.6.  So I was effectively taking images of The Moon and Jupiter at a focal length of 1600mm (1000 times 1.6).  The mount is a tracking mount so once it is setup properly it can follow objects in the night sky and keep them centered in the field of view by countering the effects of the rotation of the Earth.

I had the camera imaging The Moon and Jupiter at about 10 second intervals when I noticed the lights from a plane close to the moon. I realised that there was a chance that it would pass in front of the moon, so I quickly canceled the remote timer I was using to take the shots and instead started shooting high speed continuous frames. I lost the plane in the glare from The Moon as it got closer so I wasn’t entirely sure if I had got it or not.  After a minute (long enough for the plane to have passed by) I stopped shooting frames and went back through the images on the camera.  It was a good thing that I was on a deserted country road because my scream of excitement would have echoed for miles.  I had managed to get the plane crossing the moon in five individual frames just as Jupiter was about to be occulted by The Moon, as well as a further 7 or so frames with the dissipating jet trail.  I knew right then that I had captured something unique.

“Fly Me To The Moons”

The image above is a two image composite. Click to enlarge.  The Moon, Jupiter and the plane are all one single image. I then took an overexposed image to bring up the Galilean Moons of (from left to right) Io, Callisto and Europa. Ganymede had already been occulted by The Moon.

I thought it would be fun to make all the plane transit images into an animated GIF.  I have to give a big thanks to Russell Preston Brown at Adobe for his help with this.  Russell made a tutorial, featuring all of my plane transit images, in which he explains how the above animation was created here:

A behind the scenes look at my telescope imaging the Jupiter and Moon occultation.  Note how low in the sky The Moon was at the time which made the seeing conditions less than ideal so I couldn’t get as much detail in the Moon and particularly Jupiter as I would have liked.

Nancy Atkinson from Universe Today wrote a lovely article labeling it “Luckiest Photo Ever”.  Not quite sure about that but I am certainly not complaining.  You can read that article here:

Update (25th of February,2013)             APOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Featured as the Astronomy Picture Of the Day

Yes, I was very lucky to get this shot.  I don’t know if I will ever top it, but I will continue to go out into the night and point my cameras at the sky.  You just never know…….



My Favorite Images From 2012

I thought I would put together what I consider to be my top ten images from 2012.  Some of them are far from my most popular, but all of them hold great memories for me.  In order of the date that they where taken.

“Southern Skies”
This was the first time I tried stitching together a landscape astrophotography panorama.  Stitching is far from perfect but it sparked a love affair of nightsky panos.

“Rising Tide”
I researched and checked out this location months in advance.  As soon as time and the weather allowed I  headed back.  By already being familiar with the location it was a lot easier to compose this shot.

“The Transit Of Venus”
Last chance in a lifetime event.  By far the longest time I have ever spent on an image.  Months of planning and experimentation to find the right technique.  Two hours of setting up and packing away the gear on the day.  Over 6 hours of imaging and about 10 hours of image editing to bring it all together into this single image.

“The Hanging Gardens”
9 image vertical panorama.  The night I discovered the “magic moon” phase.  Bright enough to light up the landscape, but not so bright to wash out the Milky Way.

“The Golden Mountain”
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.  Sometimes you just get lucky.  Managed to get a break in the snow clouds which allowed the sun to bathe the mountain in soft golden hour light.  The only sunlight I saw all day.

“The Sentinel”
10 image panorama.  Driving home from work a different way that I usually go I noticed this rock formation.  A few hours later I had this shot.

“Beam Me Up”
Single 30 second exposure + twirling a head lamp around myself = fun under the stars.  Really happy with how the light painting turned out in this.

“Earth, Air, Fire and Water”
My first time capturing an Aurora Australis display on camera after several failed trips.

“Aurora Australis”
Taken the very next night after the previous image.  With the aurora display still going but not as strong as the previous night I wanted to try and find a nicer composition.

“Pioneering Spirit”
Wallaces Hut, Alpine National Park.  After a month or so of not doing much photography due to work commitments and poor weather I was desperate to get away from the house as soon as work finished for the year.