Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Brit out to put stars in your eyes

Guide to capturing night sky on camera dedicated to encouraging Southern Hemisphere hobbyists

Stephen Chadwick was inspired by the New Zealand starscape when he moved from England. Photo / Stephen Chadwick
Stephen Chadwick was inspired by the New Zealand starscape when he moved from England. Photo / Stephen Chadwick

A British-born stargazer has published a world-first guide aimed at acquainting more Kiwis with the visual banquet hanging in our night sky.

Astrophotographer Stephen Chadwick, whose images have been published in international magazines and scientific journals, has spent three years producing a manual on how to take pictures of the night sky from your back garden.

Showcasing more than 150 images of nebulae, galaxies, and planetaries, Imaging the Southern Sky is the first book concentrating directly on imaging our night sky.

Most guides focused on the Northern Hemisphere and missed some of the most fascinating deep sky objects that could be photographed from Earth, Mr Chadwick said.

"There's a very good book called the 100 Best Targets for Astrophotography, but as is mostly the case it's written by someone in the Northern Hemisphere and what we can see from here is completely different," he said.

"We've got by far the best things to see here - what we have here in the south, people in the north are really envious of."

Many objects had rarely been imaged even by professionals.

"We have therefore taken the liberty to name a few such objects to reflect our New Zealand heritage - there is now a Moa Nebula in the sky."

He said it was our night sky that inspired his passion for astronomy a decade ago, having come from a country where the sky was obscured by light pollution and clouds.

"I'd only just come out here and I looked up and was just blown away by the dark sky. When I used a handheld camera with an eyepiece just to see what was there, I couldn't believe it."

Newcomers could capture some of the images in the guide with a basic SLR digital camera, and eventually see all of them with a small telescope or longer camera lens.

He considered a recent effort of his - a comet pictured every five seconds in the Milky Way - as something attainable for beginners.

"It's becoming more popular and it's definitely addictive once you've taken your first one and seen what you can do with a camera," he said. "And after that, when you read about how far away the object is and how big it is, that all triggers the imagination as well. It's mindblowing."

On the web: southernskyimaging.com

- NZ Herald

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