Hotshots 2016

The universe is a beautiful place and amateur astronomers across the world are producing wonderful images of its most stunning celestial objects. Immerse yourself in the wonder of the night sky with this new album, featuring more than 150 of these amazing photos, plus expert imaging tutorials covering the most popular targets.

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United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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1 Min.

The Universe is a beautiful place. Whether it’s aurorae or galaxies, planets or nebulae, the swirling shapes and striking colours of the night sky are begging to be captured in photographs. So it should come as no surprise that amateur astronomers across the world are producing wonderful images of celestial objects. Every month, BBC Sky at Night Magazine features a selection of your images in its Hotshots section, from where the photographs on the following pages are taken. It’s always an exciting part of the magazine to put together, as every month amateur astronomers surprise us with the colour and detail they are able to squeeze out of their cameras and telescopes. And while it’s true there can be a bit of specialist equipment involved in astrophotography – some of the images…

8 Min.

Nightscapes are the ideal introduction to astrophotography, as taking them requires no special equipment. If you can muster up a DSLR with good high-ISO performance and a wide-angle lens with a large or ‘fast’ aperture, then all the better, but there’s nothing to stop you taking nightscapes with a compact camera or even a mobile phone if you can set it to keep its shutter open for long enough – the addition of manual camera controls to modern smartphones makes this even more of a possibility. You can capture meteors, noctilucent clouds, star trails, the Milky Way and more with a simple tripod-mounted camera. STAR TRAILS BEN WILKES, SOLIHULL, AUGUST 2014 Ben says: “I was really pleased with this shot, as it was the first real star trail image I have attempted in…

5 Min.
astrophotography tutorial: noctilucent clouds

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT DSLR with a wide- or mid-angle lens, tripod, remote shutter release cable Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) are the highest clouds in Earth’s atmosphere, forming in a narrow layer within the mesosphere 76-85km up. Photographing them is actually quite straightforward, requiring little more than a tripodmounted camera with a wide-angle lens. If your camera has manual control options, the lens should initially be fully opened (low f/number), set to manual focus and pre-focused at infinity. The camera should be set to a reasonably high ISO, around 400-800, and be capable of exposures of up to 10 seconds. The most difficult aspect of imaging NLCs is getting into the habit of actually looking for them in the first place. Their low altitude means they can be hidden behind buildings or trees, and finding a…

6 Min.

As charged particles from the Sun stream toward us as the solar wind, most of them are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field. This field is weakest at the poles, so there particles can enter our atmosphere and collide with molecules of gas, producing the Northern or Southern Lights (Aurora Borealis or Australis). The aurorae appear in a band between 10° and 20° from the poles, and to see the lights from the UK requires a solar storm which increases the force of the solar wind. The most commonly seen green colour is produced by oxygen molecules about 95km above the Earth. Red aurorae come from oxygen up to 320km high, while nitrogen produces blue or purple aurorae. AURORAL CORONA FREDRIK BROMS, KVALØYA, NORWAY, 25 OCTOBER 2011 Fredrik says: “A rapidly moving auroral…

5 Min.
astrophotography tutorial: capturing the aurora

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT DSLR camera, tripod, mid- to wideangle lens of 50mm focal length or shorter, remote shutter release cable The aurora holds great attraction for astronomers and non-astronomers alike. The promise of bright colourful curtains of light filling the sky, swirling this way and that with searchlight beams reaching up into the heavens, is hard for anyone to resist. However, the visual reality often lags behind the expectations derived from looking at photos of the aurora in books and magazines. To see the aurora at its very best you need to catch it when it’s active and also be relatively close to it. Seen from afar, an aurora may show great structure but its colours may be weak and muted. A camera can bring a completely different view, turning the greyest of weak…

8 Min.
the sun

Accounting for 99.86 per cent of all the mass in the Solar System, observing the Sun requires special precautions. Never look at it with the naked eye or an unfiltered optical instrument, even a camera. Once you’re viewing it safely, the visible surface of the Sun is a fascinating thing to observe, with its sunspots, bright plages and a texture like seething liquid fire. During a total eclipse, thanks to the cosmic coincidence of the Moon appearing exactly the same size as the solar disc, light shines through the lunar valleys producing the ‘diamond ring’ effect, while the blocking out of its light makes the prominences that rise from its rim more visible, especially in photographs. A SOLAR ANALEMMA JAMES COARD, LISBURN, COUNTY ANTRIM 21 SEPTEMBER 2006 – 8 SEPTEMBER 2007 James says:…