planets, colliding galaxies and nebula are just some of the shots
taken by an amateur photographer from his back garden in Wiltshire.
And the shots are literally out of this world.
Spectacular stellar firework displays of swirling gases, ghostly fogs
and drifting dust clouds snapped from literally thousands of light
years away. And with sunlight taking just eight minutes to reach us,
you get the idea of the distances we're talking about. If it's only
eight minutes to the sun imagine where you'd end up in a thousand
to deep space photography or astrophotography as it is known.
Astrophotography, not surprisingly, is not like taking your average
fact it is one of the hardest forms of photography to master.
only have you got your lens trained on a rapidly moving object thousands
of light years away but the earth's rotation means that you're constantly
being shifted away from what you're trying to snap and the earth's
atmosphere doesn't help.
layers of hot and cold air jostling for position the earth's atmosphere
is constantly shifting. It can make stars appear to twinkle to the
naked eye. To a deep space object, magnified through a telescope,
the result is an image that wobbles like a jelly. Not ideal for
crisp, clear pictures.
with distant galaxies and nebulae you've got the additional problem
that you can't actually see what you're focusing on. The light they
emit is just too faint to register on the human eye.
colour film and digital cameras don't have that problem.
self-taught astrophotographer, Philip Perkins, it's a question of
what you can't see you can at least photograph:
your eyes were hundreds of times more sensitive you would see close
to the images I produce here.
eye can't retain photons for long enough for us to see these objects.
The difference with film or digital camera is that they can build
up the photons over a period of time. They build up and build up
so that over minutes or hours you can pull out of the sky wonderful
things you can't see at all."
it's not as easy as point and click.
image, Philip creates, is a composite of six individual shots. And
each individual shot, to capture enough photons, has a massive exposure
time of up to 50 minutes.
- Andromeda Galaxy - Beyond the Milky
- Eagle Nebula - Serpens
- Great Orion Nebula
- Planets over Stonehenge
- Trifid Nebula - Sagittarius
- North America Nebula - Cygnus
Nebula - Orion
- Dumbbell Nebula - Vulpecula
- Flame Nebula - Orion
do you focus on a speeding object in deep space, for up to five hours
at a time, whilst being rapidly whisked away from it by the earth's
some heavy-duty specialist equipment or an astrophysics mount to
be specific. Not only does it locate a star for you, lock on to
it and track it but even rotates in sync with the earth's rotation.
with a telescope and specialist camera attached even if you can't
see your subject you can, at least, point your lens in the right
direction. Which is good to know especially when you're focussing
on say a nebula:
know where it is but you can't see it," says Philip. "All
you see is stars, a field of stars."
to the naked eye, they may be, but thankfully these beautiful objects
are not camera shy.
of light years across, and made up of dense clouds of dust and gas,
they drift through the cosmos like ghostly fogs taking on intricate
shapes like pictures in the clouds.
Horsehead Nebula, in Orion, for instance looks distinctly horsehead
shaped and glows with a deep red aura. Alnitak, a nearby bright
young star in Orion's belt is to blame. Pumping out great lethal
doses of radiation the hydrogen and oxygen gases, surrounding the
nebula, literally glow like a fluorescent bulb.
hundreds of light years across and just happens to be in the shape
of a horse's head," says Philip. "It's actually changing
quite rapidly but it's so far away we don't see the changes. It
seems constant to us."
it's not just the nebulae close to home, in our own Milky Way Galaxy,
that are within photographic reach.
another nearby island galaxy, just 37 million light years away,
Philip has caught on camera images of the photogenic Whirlpool Galaxy
Whirlpool Galaxy is suffering from a close encounter with a nearby
companion galaxy. Over 200 million years ago they collided and the
Whirlpool Galaxy, now severely distorted, is slowly being pulled
But it's the surprising colour that dominates these beautiful images.
the misty electric blues radiating from the energetic, bright young
stars clustered along the spiral arms of a galaxy to the reds and
browns of their older, colder counterparts at the system's core.
"It's a huge adventure to be revealing things that cannot be
seen at all, very significant things, that are part of our greater
is there life out there?
yes, there's got to be, based on probability. The universe is so
huge. It is inconceivable that there's not other life out there.
In what form, I've no idea."