Hybrid solar eclipse: What is it and how does it occur?


A hybrid solar eclipse is a very rare and strange astronomical event — and there’s one coming soon on April 20, 2023.

Talk to most eclipse-chasers and they’ll tell you that there are three types of solar eclipse. The first is a partial eclipse of the most common and the least impressive because the moon merely blocks out part of the sun sending a shadow — the penumbra — across a swathe of Earth.The second is an annular solar eclipse, where the moon blocks out the center of the sun, but leaves a circle of light from the sun visible from within a shadow called the antumbra. It’s often called a “ring of fire”. The third is a total solar eclipse where the entirety of the sun’s disc is blocked by the moon, revealing the spectacular sight of the solar corona, which can be viewed with the naked eye from within the moon’s dark shadow, the umbra. 

However, there is an intriguing fourth type of solar eclipse — a hybrid solar eclipse — that occurs only a few times per century. It’s a combination of the other three types yet it’s also impossible to experience in all its glory. As luck would have it, the next solar eclipse to occur on Earth will be a hybrid solar eclipse. Here’s everything you need to know about the coming hybrid solar eclipse — the rarest, most intriguing, and arguably the most globally spectacular and interesting type of solar eclipse there is. 

Related: Solar eclipses 2023: When, where & how to see them

Jamie Carter

WHAT IS A HYBRID SOLAR ECLIPSE?

A hybrid solar eclipse combines an annular and a total solar eclipse where the former becomes the latter and then usually reverts back. Therefore, observers at different points in the eclipse path can experience different phenomena. For example, if you watch a hybrid solar eclipse at sunrise or at sunset you may see a brief “ring of fire”. If you watch it at midday — so at the mid-point of the eclipse’s path across the surface of Earth — you’ll experience totality. It’s therefore impossible to experience both an annular and a total solar eclipse during a hybrid event — you have to make a choice. 

Remember, NEVER look at the sun without adequate protection. Our how to observe the sun safely guide tells you everything you need to know about safe solar observations. The guide also informs you on what solar targets you can look out for and the equipment needed to do so.  

If you want to get all set up to view a solar eclipse, we have guides to the best cameras for astrophotography, and the best lenses for astrophotography. Our how to photograph a solar eclipse guide will also help you plan for your next solar-observing adventure. 

WHY DO HYBRID SOLAR ECLIPSES OCCUR?

Hybrid solar eclipses occur when the moon’s distance is near its limit for the umbral shadow to reach Earth and because Earth is curved (opens in new tab). The moon is just at the right distance from Earth for the apex of its cone-shaped shadow to be slightly above the Earth’s surface at the beginning and end of the eclipse path, causing the moon’s antumbral shadow to move across Earth causing an annular solar eclipse. However, in the middle of the eclipse path, the apex of the moon’s umbral shadow strikes Earth’s surface because that part of the planet is slightly closer to the moon.  

Each of the three types of solar eclipse is caused by the moon blocking light from different parts of the sun. (Image credit: Wikimedia Cmglee)

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This diagram of a hybrid solar eclipse shows how the moon’s distance from the Earth determines the shadow projected onto the Earth’s surface, from the faint penumbra of a partial solar eclipse to the deep, dark umbra of totality and the antumbra — a kind of half-shadow — of annularity.  

WHEN IS THE NEXT HYBRID SOLAR ECLIPSE?

The next hybrid solar eclipse will occur on April 20, 2023 in the southern hemisphere. It will transition from annular to a total and back again at two specific points, but both are at remote locations at sea. 

So for all intents and purposes, this will be exclusively experienced as a total solar eclipse from Exmouth Peninsula in Western Australia (up to 1 minute), Timor Leste (1 minute 14 seconds) and West Papua (1 minute 9 seconds). Just before and just after totality, a big display of Baily’s beads will be visible. 

If you want to see the path of the eclipse, along with the eclipse timings for each location, check out this interactive eclipse map by Xavier Jubier (opens in new tab). It’s one of two solar eclipses in 2023.  

WHAT ARE BAILY’S BEADS?

The Baily’s Beads effect is seen as the moon makes its final move over the sun during the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon.  (Image credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

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Named after English astronomer Francis Baily, who observed them in the early 1800s, Baily’s beads are the last rays of sunlight that can be seen streaming through the valleys of the moon just before totality. They can also be seen as totality ends. During a hybrid solar eclipse, the displays of Baily’s beads are longer because the moon is almost precisely the same apparent size as the sun.  

HOW OFTEN DOES A HYBRID SOLAR ECLIPSE HAPPEN?

There are between two and five solar eclipses each year, though during the 21st century just 3.1% (opens in new tab) (7 out of 224) of solar eclipses are hybrid solar eclipses. Between 2000 BCE to 3000 CE just 4.8% (opens in new tab) of solar eclipses are hybrid events. 

The last hybrid solar eclipse to occur was on November 3, 2013. It was visible as a total solar eclipse in central Africa, including northern Kenya and Uganda, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cruise ships in the mid-Atlantic Ocean also experienced totality, for up to one minute. 

WHAT IS ANOTHER NAME FOR A HYBRID SOLAR ECLIPSE?

Hybrid solar eclipses are often called annular-total eclipses, “beaded” solar eclipses or “broken” annular eclipses, the latter two because they feature particularly long displays of Baily’s beads.

Because the moon appears to pass directly in front of the sun, hybrid solar eclipses are classified as “central” solar eclipses — as are total and annular solar eclipses — to differentiate them from partial solar eclipses.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing solar eclipse photo and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com

Jamie Carter is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com (opens in new tab)

Join our Space Forums (opens in new tab) to keep talking about space on the latest missions, night sky, and more! And if you have a news tip, correction, or comment, let us know at: community@space.com. 

Additional resources

Explore the different types of solar eclipses in more detail with this informative NASA article (opens in new tab). Texas State University (opens in new tab) has a useful list of several videos explaining the different types of eclipses.  

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bikos, K. (2022, November 13). What Is a Hybrid Solar Eclipse? Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/hybrid-solar-eclipse.html (opens in new tab)

Espenak, F. (2007, February 13). Five Millenium catalog of hybrid solar eclipses. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEcat5/SEhybrid5.html (opens in new tab)

Jubier, X. (2022, November 13). Five Millennium (-1999 to +3000) Canon of Solar Eclipses Database. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from http://xjubier.free.fr/en/site_pages/solar_eclipses/5MCSE/xSE_Five_Millennium_Canon.html (opens in new tab)

Nemiroff, R. and Bonnell, J. (November 3, 2013). Astronomy Picture of the Day. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap131103.html (opens in new tab) 

Stunning meteor over North Island leads to hunt for meteorite


Footage captured of a large meteor entering the earth’s atmosphere over the top of the North Island. Video / Supplied by Logan Carpenter

A stunning event lit up the early morning sky across the top of the North Island as a meteor crossed into the earth’s atmosphere, and astronomers are on the hunt for more sightings.

Witnesses reported a large meteor soared over the North Island at 4.26am on Saturday, being spotted from Kaikohe to Auckland, with its calculated trajectory breaking up east of Dargaville.

One of five current witness accounts on Fireballs NZ said they first noticed the meteor when the paddocks in front of them lit up in a pulsing, light green hue.

“Initially I was facing away from the object (and) I turned around thinking it was a vehicle on the road that was behind me. I saw it falling from the sky in a northerly direction where it changed from green to orange-yellow.

“My relief milker who was 30 minutes north driving southwards also saw it and asked about it on her arrival. Another person on the farm also commented. I was unable to hear any sounds as I was on a motorbike. By far the biggest event I’ve seen in the night sky before. And I’ve spent a lot of hours following cows in the dark.”

Logan Carpenter captured a “fireball in the sky” on a security camera on top of his house and felt very fortunate the camera was facing the right way at the right time.

Based in Castor Bay, Auckland the amateur astrophotographer was looking at the stars through his telescope at the time and didn’t notice the event or footage until his wife checked the home security camera the next day.

“I just love all sorts of this thing and thought wow!”

Another witness reported hearing a sonic boom that sounded like an explosion lasting five to seven seconds.

Associate Professor of Geology at the University of Otago James Scott said a sonic boom results from the meteor travelling faster than the speed of sound.

He believed there will be far more people who saw the event but have not yet logged it with Fireballs Aotearoa. With more information, examiners can then analyse the trajectory and hope to recover freshly-fallen meteorites in New Zealand.

“The key thing is that this seems to be over land and not sea, and there may be a meteorite associated with it since it travelled for several seconds in the atmosphere and therefore got low.

“The colour of the fireball relates to the ionisation of elements, principally oxygen, in the meteor trail, due to the heat build-up as the rock travels through the atmosphere.

“The last part of the path was not luminescent because either all the material was burned up, or the meteorite got to a low elevation and slowed down so much that melting of the edge of the fireball ceased and the rock then entered ‘dark flight’.

“These are the most exciting because they can drop meteorites. New Zealand has 9 so far, but it is estimated that 3-4 > 100 gm meteorites should be ‘dropped’ each year on our land mass.

There are currently no Fireball cameras in the region. The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) has just helped to sponsor the rollout of 20 Fireball cameras across the country.

Further public reports could be loaded at www.fireballs.nz.

How to create a 24-hour star trails image


Star trails are relatively simple to do yet produce very striking results, especially when centred around the north or south celestial poles.

These images capture the movement of Earth as it rotates on its axis, producing star trails that are comprised of fragments of concentric rings.

If you are in the polar regions during the winter and have clear, dark skies for 24 hours, the trails will form complete circles, including the pole star Polaris – also known as the North Star – because it is not perfectly aligned with the celestial pole.

However, you don’t need 24 hours of darkness to create a 24-hour star trails image.

The above image was captured from the UK, and is effectively a 24-hour star trails image.

In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how we did it.

For more advice, read our guide on how to use a DSLR camera or our beginner’s guide to astrophotography.

Star trails captured by Adam Jeffers, Cookstown, Northern Ireland, August 2020 Equipment: Nikon D800E DSLR, Nikon 28–80mm lens, static tripod

What is a 24-hour star trails image?

Most of us will never experience a polar winter, but it is still possible to create a 24-hour star trail photograph by merging together a stack of many images taken with the same setup, from exactly the same spot, on different nights throughout the year.

Although taking a star trail image on a single night is straightforward, replicating it exactly on multiple dates, then merging them together successfully, is the challenge here.

First, the camera location must be identical.

We placed marks on the ground to ensure the tripod was in exactly the same spot, but attaching the camera to a fixed structure would be even better.

Point at the north celestial pole to give your stra trails that attractive circular focal point. Credit: Anthony Beavers.

Focus must also be the same, otherwise the width of the star trails will differ, and they won’t line up perfectly.

Circumpolar star trails can be created under moonlight, but doing so will affect the fainter stars, so try to ensure the Moon’s brightness – its phase – is consistent between sessions.

Also, when you blend your final stacked images, the overlapping regions will be brighter, so only stack what’s necessary to complete the full circle.

Pick your foreground wisely

A good foreground can really make a star trails image! Credit: James Billings

Another consideration is the foreground. It’s important to have something in the foreground for context and scale.

I had a large tree in mine, which grew during the year and then required an extra layer-masking step at the end to compensate for the different tree size.

You might want to opt for a non-organic foreground object!

Star Trails over 18th Century Loop Tower by Peter Brown, Guernsey, Channel Islands. Equipment: Cannon 1100D Camera on Tripod.

Choose some potential imaging dates that are spread across the whole year and if you have a clear sky forecast, be ready on those nights (for help, read our guide to weather forecasting for astronomy).

I took images on seven nights during the year, but only used the photos taken in February, April, July and November.

During the winter months you will have many more hours of imaging available to you, but in the summer you need to grab every minute of darkness.

If thin cloud moves through your field of view, don’t worry; the stars will still shine through.

Star trails captured on a smartphone with NightCap by Iain Todd, Bristol, UK, 26 February 2022.

Issues such as aircraft lights can be omitted from the image stack by using a program called StarStaX, which can fill the gaps.

Before you attempt to merge the stacked images, adjust the brightness and colour balance to make them as similar to each other as possible.

You may also have to apply a lens distortion correction to successfully line up the images. But all this effort is well worth it for the end result.

What you’ll need

  • A DSLR camera with a widefield lens and a high-power battery or mains power lead
  • A remote shutter release cable that locks in place
  • A sturdy tripod
  • A dew heater to prevent the lens from fogging up during long imaging sessions
  • Software for image stacking and processing, eg StarStaX for stacking, and Photoshop or GIMP for merging and processing the stacked images

Create a 24-hour star trails image, step-by-step

Photo editing against the algorithm


Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Google Pixel phones have been praised and recognized for their camera prowess since the Pixel 2. Interestingly, it wasn’t the camera hardware that made them better. In fact, Google managed to beat most of the best camera phones year after year, all with average camera hardware. For example, it wasn’t until the Pixel 4 that Google started adding more than one camera to its Pixel devices. And the camera hardware didn’t really get much better until the Pixel 6 series.

What made Pixel devices so good at photography? We can thank Google’s algorithm and computational photography for such great results. In short, it was all about AI and post-processing. Google knows what generally makes an image good, and it enhances images intelligently. The trick is to improve exposure, balance highlights/shadows, increase contrast, boost colors, and so on.

Additionally, Google can recognize skies, faces, objects, pets, and many other objects. It can then enhance these sections without affecting the rest of the image. Then you have modes like Night Sight, Astrophotography, HDR, and more, which can take a series of shots and merge them together to create a single, better photo.

Google Pixel phones have been praised and recognized for their camera prowess since the Pixel 2.

Knowing most of it is thanks to editing, we’ve been wondering if it’s really all that good compared to someone who knows his way around photo editing. I’ve accepted the challenge and went against the Pixel 7 Pro to find out who edits photos better. Has machine managed to beat man in photo editing? Let’s find out together!

A little about the photo editor

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Hi there. Edgar here! I am Head of Imaging and Photography at Android Authority and have been a professional photographer for over a decade. Most of my work revolves around product photography, with a strong focus on mobile technology. I’ve done photography for a series of publications, as well as a variety of brands in the commercial sector.

Needless to say, I have plenty of image post-processing experience and know my way around Photoshop, Lightroom, Affinity Photo, Capture One, and others.

Photographer vs Google Pixel 7 Pro: The rules

The whole idea of this challenge is that we want to showcase what a little bit of editing knowledge can do for the average consumer. As such, I won’t be going too crazy with editing, and we can consider most of this post-processing as developing photos instead. We’ll play a bit with simpler edits, like changing the exposure, contrast, colors, shadows, etc. I won’t be replacing large objects or doing anything fancy. I might spot-heal some unwanted distractions, but that’s a simple feature anyone can do. I’ll also try to limit cropping unless I feel it makes a significant difference.

The Pixel 7 renders images in a split second, but I am not a machine so I gave myself a 5-minute limit on editing time. And because we know most of you probably don’t have paid photo editing software, I did it all with Lightroom. You can get the mobile Lightroom version and use most features for free. If you want a completely free alternative, Snapseed is just as good.

Furthermore, I did not shoot any of these photos. These were captured by our writer C. Scott Brown, an amateur hobbyist photographer with a more casual perspective on photography. Simply said, he is an average camera phone user. He shot all images in both RAW and JPEG. I will manually edit the uncompressed, unaltered RAW photos, and the Google Pixel 7 Pro will handle the JPEG post-processing.

Photographer vs Google Pixel 7 Pro: Let’s compare!

Any camera, including the Pixel 7 Pro’s, will get its best results with ample lighting. The sun is a powerful light source, so let’s take a look at some daylight photos first to see what we’re working with.

Both of these cactus images seemed a little dull and slightly under-exposed, so I increased the exposure and contrast to give the image more depth. I also lowered the highlights and increased the shadows to give it a more balanced look. The colors needed a bit more oomph, so I went ahead and increased the vibrance to give it a more fun aesthetic. Because Lightroom allows for automatic sky selection, I was able to focus on reducing exposure and highlights on the sky, while deepening the shadows and making the temperature cooler to make the blue sky pop.

On the prickly pear fruit image, I also increased the sharpness and texture to enhance the detail a bit.

I was more playful with this roses shot, as I noticed it had plenty of colors to play around with. Also, while the bigger flower was the clear subject, it got mixed up with everything going on in the image. I fixed the exposure and increased the contrast to give the image more depth. Then I increased the vibrance and saturation to enhance the colors. When all was done, I decided to give more emphasis on the main flower by making everything else just a bit darker. I used a mixture of vignetting and the brush tool to do this. When I had selected all but the flower, I reduced the exposure a bit.

I went a bit lighter on this flower, as all I wanted was to make it pop a bit more. I made the temperature warmer and increased the color vibrance. After that, I made slight edits to the exposure and lowered the highlights.

This park photo is one of my favorites. As soon as I saw it, the image of what I wanted it to look like popped right into my head. The image was great, but the Pixel 7 Pro really didn’t make the best out of this photo. In fact, it all looks a bit dead to me, which is not what a park should look like in real life. It needs to feel alive, colorful, and warm. Something that takes you away from the dryness and coldness of the city. It had to be almost like a cartoon or painting.

I increased the exposure and contrast to make everything pop more. I lowered the highlights to ensure the sky wasn’t too bright. Now, the magic happens when you edit the colors. I increased the vibrance to highlight the colors more, then moved the saturation up to deepen the colors and give the image a cartoon-esque look. It was also important to make the temperature warmer, to give everything that warm sunny day feeling that’s so inviting.

Like other images in this post, I smart-selected the sky and made the temperature cooler for a blue sky. I also removed the airplane trail in the top-right corner.

How about a selfie? And not just any selfie! This is a portrait mode selfie, with a blurred background and all. You’ll be glad to know you can accomplish this bokeh effect in post-processing. This is the only image in which I got close to my 5-minute limit, so just know that creating fake bokeh takes a bit.

Lightroom offers a person selection tool, so I went ahead and used it to outline our friend Scott, here. After this, I had to invert the selection, so everything except Scott was selected. As you can see, the Pixel-processed image has some outlining issues in the helmet’s top and the straps. Lightroom’s selection wasn’t perfect here either, but I added those parts manually using the brush tool. When I had Scott outlined, I went ahead and reduced the sharpness all the way down on the selected area. I also increased noise reduction as much as I could. This created the soft, bokeh effect everyone loves so much.

Of course, I also made general enhancements to exposure and color.

This shot is very similar to the other image of the park. I increased the exposure and contrast, reduced highlights, and enhanced colors. Additionally, I created a bit more of a shadowy area in the lower section of the image. It’s a slight one, but it helps make you feel like you’re there, enjoying the tree’s shade and looking at the landscape.

Not much to do here. I increased the exposure and contrast, while also increasing the texture and sharpness to make all that detail in the wood stand out. I also made the temperature warmer for a more realistic daylight look.

I just couldn’t leave the greens and purples so muted. This gorgeous flower had to stand out more. After fixing the exposure settings, I raised the vibrance and saturation just a bit. I also deepened the blacks to give everything a richer, darker look. It just makes plants look more luscious.

This pic reminded me a lot of that Windows XP wallpaper, albeit in yellow instead of green. I wanted the picture to assimilate that look, but more subtly. The first step was to fix exposure and increase vibrance. I also selected the sky to make it bluer, but with a more aqua tone. The temperature was warmer, and the photographer’s shadow was removed.

Aside from exposure settings, I went manual on this lake shot to make select edits to the sky and the water. I made both bluer. Additionally, I made sure to make the reflection of the mountain more green.

This cabin was a simpler edit. It was mostly fixing exposure, reducing the highlights, making the temperature warmer, and increasing the color vibrance to make the painting colors stand out.

Jack-o’-lanterns are naturally connected to Halloween. This image needed to be darker and gloomier, while also highlighting the intensity of the flame inside. It’s all about the contrast. I increased the exposure, but reduced the highlights and whites. I also deepened the blacks and added a smooth vignette around the frame, which I cropped to center the pumpkins. A warmer look goes better with Halloween and the fire, so I changed the temperature accordingly and increased the vibrance to bring the colors to life.

I did something very similar to this image. I wanted to keep its dark essence while enhancing it. So I lowered the highlights and increased the shadows a bit. I also got rid of that red hue in the fence, making it more naturally brown by cooling the temperature of the photo.

This particular photo was very complex, as the camera shot almost directly into the sun, creating a very high contrast that usually kills both the highlights and the shadows. I’m happy with my results, though. First, I had to even out the exposure, which I did by reducing contrast, highlights, and whites. You should also increase shadows. I wanted the fence and trees to look natural, so I balanced the washed-out look by deepening the blacks.

The photo still looked a bit muted, thanks to all the contrast reduction. I used the dehaze tool to deepen colors further. I also brought out more detail in everything by increasing the texture. Once again, the sky was a bit too mute, so I selected it and made it bluer.

Which photos did you like better?

142 votes

What do you think of the results? Of course, photography is highly subjective, and we all have different thoughts on what is aesthetically pleasing and what isn’t. My biased opinion is that machine is far from beating man in photography. This is because there is no such thing as a perfect algorithm or solution for creativity.

There is no such thing as a perfect algorithm or solution for creativity.

We all have a different idea of how a photo should look, and it changes depending on many factors, including your mood, the surrounding light, memories, psychology, and more. Learning to edit ensures that photos end up just the way you want them, not how an algorithm thinks you’ll like them.

Deal Alert: Save $100 on the Tokina atx-m 11-18mm f/2.8 for Sony E


Looking to expand your lens collection for your crop-sensor Sony mirrorless camera or a perfect holiday gift for a Sony shooter in your life? The Japanese lens manufacturer Tokina has an instant savings deal just for you. For a limited time, get $100 off the new Tokina atx-m 11-18mm f/2.8.

Announced in mid-September 2022, the Tokina atx-m 11-18mm f/2.8 E is the first super-wide-angle zoom lens designed exclusively for mirrorless cameras.

Fully compatible with Sony E-mount APS-C bodies, the lens features a constant f/2.8 aperture and a 17-27mm equivalent focal range in 35mm full-frame terms, providing an angle of view of between 104 and 77 degrees.

Features and specs of the lens include a compact and lightweight body, 13 elements in 11 groups (including two aspherical elements and two super-low dispersion elements), a 9-bladed aperture diaphragm, a stepping motor, a close focusing distance of 0.62 feet (0.19m), a filter size of 67mm, a macro ratio of 1:9.2, and a micro USB port for future firmware updates.

“Engineered from the ground up, Tokina has brought the legendary, multiple award winning optical technology from the ATX 11-16mm f2.8 to mirrorless cameras,” Tokina says. “The new Tokina atx-m 11-18mm f2.8 sets the new standard for compact, fast aperture super wide-angle lenses specifically engineered to meet the high performance requirements of today’s crop-sensor mirrorless cameras.

“At the heart of the new optical design are two aspherical elements combined with two super low-dispersion lenses that suppresses chromatic aberrations, nearly eliminates coma at the edges at f2.8, and produces superior contrast and color reproduction. Making the lens an excellent choice for any type of photography including astrophotography.”

Tokina says the the atx-m 11-18mm f/2.8 E is ideal for landscapes, group photos, environmental portraits, architecture, astrophotography, automobile photography, street photography, documentary videos, and vlogging.

Here are a few official sample photos captured with the lens (a larger selection of images can be found on Tokina’s website):

While the lens ordinarily carries a price tag of $599, Tokina is offering $100 in instant holiday savings, allowing you to purchase one for just $499 while the deal lasts.

Head on over to the Tokina USA online store if you’d like to order the lens. Shipping is free on orders of $75 or more.

How to produce space images using James Webb Space Telescope data


We live in rather amazing times, with private citizens travelling to space and citizen scientists contributing to the knowledge base of professional astronomy.

Now, just as it did with the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA has made data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) available for download, for anyone to process for themselves.

Below is our final image of NGC 3132, processed from raw Webb data. Here we’ll walk you through how to do it, step-by-step.

See the James Webb Space Telescope’s latest images for inspiration and read our guide to image processing for more advice.

NGC 3132, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope and processed by Warren Keller.

How to get raw data from James Webb Space Telescope

Visit the MAST Portal, an archive named after Barbara Mikulski, a retired US senator and staunch supporter of space exploration.

Clicking on Advanced search at the top of the page opens a new window.

On the far right, type ‘JWST’ in the Mission box and press Enter.

At far left, under Columns, select Release date and scroll down to the box of the same name.

Type ‘2022-07-13 14:00:00’ as the beginning date and time – 13 July 2022 being the day on which the first observations were released to the public.

With the end date at default (the year 2050), note the number of Records found at the top of the page.

At the time of writing, there were already over 120,000 in the archive.

As NGC 3132 is our target and was one of the first data sets released, entering an end date of ‘2022-07-13 16:00:00’ displays a manageable 2,325 records.

Clicking Search at top left reveals the individual file folders and you’ll need to narrow the field yet again.

Under Instrument in the Filters box at left, choose the near-infrared data by checking NIRCAM.

Depending on the width of your monitor and browser window, you may need to use the scroll bar at the bottom to slide over to the Target name column.

Also note the Filters column. I found F187N, F356W and F444W to be the most useful filters.

Click on the floppy disc icons of records 13, 15 and 18 to download the zipped folders to your computer (see image below).

Choose your colours

Unzip the folder to a suitable location on your computer then open the parent folder, then a second folder with the same name and, finally, the JWST directory.

Next, open the Nircam folder, discarding all but the FITS file ending in ‘i2d.’

Double-clicking that file will open seven individual files in your program of choice, mine being PixInsight.

Of these, the seventh and last to open has a _SCI suffix and is the only file that you’ll need.

When finished, you will be left with three files to post-process, each ending in ‘i2d.fits’, with the filter names f444w_f470n, f356w and f187n.

Those of us who process narrowband images will understand the concept of ‘mapping’ data that’s invisible to the human eye to colours that we can perceive.

The same is true here. Rather than the emission lines of the Hubble palette, we’re now dealing with Webb’s near-infrared information.

How best to assign these filters? For guidance, search online for ‘NIRCam Filters – JWST User Documentation’ or visit the NIRCam Filters page.

There you will find a full-colour graph illustrating the transmission lines of each filter from short to long wavelengths.

While there’s no single, correct way to proceed, it made sense to me to assign the shortest wavelength data (F187N) to the blue channel, as blue is on the shorter end of the visible spectrum.

Conversely, I mapped the long wavelength F470N data to red and the medium F356W to green.

I found this to be the most aesthetically pleasing colour blend for this particular object, and strikingly similar to the Hubble SHO palette (see image below).

After marrying the channels with PixInsight’s Channel combination process, the images were cropped of edge artefacts and stretched with Histogram transformation (HT).

Transferring a Boosted autostretch from the STF (Screen transfer function) to HT with the RGB channels unlinked provided a great start to good colour.

PixInsight’s SCNR (Subtractive chromatic noise reduction) was then applied to reduce an undesirable green cast in the stars (see image below).

From there, a range mask was applied, so that contrast, sharpness and colour saturation could be boosted in the nebula only.

As the data was so clean, no noise reduction was needed for our final image, which you can see at the very top of this page.

If you’re a Photoshop-based processor, be sure to view Nico Carver’s excellent tutorial, ‘Can I process the JWST data better than NASA?’ on his ‘Nebula Photos’ YouTube channel, which you can view below

Processing JWST data: 3 quick tips

  1. Knowing the release date of a particular data set will help narrow your records search considerably.
  2. Note that the strength of the NIRCam’s infrared signal may render noise reduction unnecessary.
  3. While gathering the data is a rather tedious process, the end result is well worth the effort!

Have you processed your own James Webb Space Telescope data? We’d love to see it! Get in touch by emailing contactus@skyatnightmagazine.com.

This guide originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Twitter bans astrophotographer for three months over an “intimate” shot of a meteor


Can you imagine seeing anything “dirty” in a photo or video of a meteor? Yeah, neither can I. However, Twitter can, and it banned an astrophotographer this August because of that.

Astronomer and astrophotographer Mary McIntyre published a video of a meteor she took during the Perseid meteor shower. Twitter flagged it as “intimate content,” which resulted in banning the photographer for the whole three months!

The Perseid meteor shower is visible from mid-July to late August, and Mary took her photos on 11 August in Oxfordshire, UK, using a Canon 1100D and a kit lens. The meteor she shot left an ionization trail behind, making it quite a sight! “I honestly didn’t expect to see any of those with so much moonlight,” she wrote on Twitter. She posted a short video she composed from a fireball shot and seven subsequent images… And Twitter saw it as something that wasn’t allowed on the platform.

Here is the #IonizationTrail from the #Perseid #Fireball at 01:37 BST / 00:37 UT 13/08/22 from #Oxfordshire. Visually it was epic! Canon 1100D 18-55mm lens 8sec ISO-800 f/3.5. Video is made from the fireball + 7 subsequent images #Perseids2022 #PerseidsMeteorShower https://t.co/jSw3OTSw15

After Twitter flagged her video as “containing intimate content,” her only option was to delete the tweet. If she had accepted, she would have had to agree that she’s broken the rules. “It’s just crazy,” Mary told the BBC. “I don’t really want it on my record that I’ve been sharing pornographic material when I haven’t.”

Since she refused to delete the tweet of the sexy meteor, Twitter “rewarded” her with a three-month ban. She tried to appeal the decision but had no luck. Her account remained visible for three months, but she wasn’t allowed to access it.

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“I miss the interaction,” Mary said, adding that she felt “a bit cut off from the astronomy world.” But since the ban was placed in August – she’s now back on the platform.

I’m back!!!!!!!!!! After 3 months of being blocked due to my Perseid meteor video being flagged as intimate media, I wasn’t able to get my account back unless I admitted to breaking the rule. Huge thanks to the BBC & to everybody who has been tagging support for me 🙂

Speaking with the BBC, tech commentator Kate Bevan said that this was an example of the limitations of AI tools that Twitter and other social media use for content moderation. “AI tools are OK for quick and dirty decisions, but it shows that content moderation at scale is really difficult – both for humans and for the AI tools that are supporting them,” she said. “It’s even worse when there are no humans available to review bad AI decisions. Apart from the unfairness, it means the AI model isn’t getting feedback, so it will never learn to improve.”

This reminded me of my favorite story ever, when an AI tool for detecting explicit content kept flagging photos of deserts as “nudity.” Comments on that article were brilliant (“Send dunes” still cracks me up), but honestly, I can see how AI can identify some dunes as nudes. But I can’t understand how on earth even artificial intelligence can see anything dirty in photos of a meteor. How?! Do you have any idea? Enlighten me in the comments.

[via the BBC]



See the Sun’s surface like never before in this stunning solar telescope photo


Looking at the sun through a telescope can cause serious damage to your health and vision, so how exactly are we meant to get pictures of the Sun’s surface if we can’t even look at it? Well, that’s where specially-made telescopes like the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope come into play. This massive solar telescope is the most powerful in the world, and it just released new images of the Sun’s surface.

The images, which showcase the Sun’s chromosphere, a layer of the Sun’s atmosphere directly above the surface, are unlike anything that we have captured before. The Inouye Solar Telescope, one of the few capable of capturing pictures of the Sun’s surface in such detail, is funded by the United States National Science Foundation and is run by the National Solar Observatory.

This observatory, along with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and others, has been designed specifically to study the Sun to help scientists better understand solar events like solar flares and more. And now, with these new pictures of the Sun’s surface, we could get even more insight into the star that our planet revolves around.

Image source: NSO/AURA/NSF

The telescope captured several new pictures of the Sun’s surface back in August, with the fiery chromosphere the main focus of them all. Each image is also representative of almost 32,000 square miles, though it might not look that big when you’re looking at it here. You can, of course, see the images above.

When comparing these newest pictures of the Sun’s surface with others that astrophotographers have captured, it’s easy to see just how powerful the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is, and why the NSF and NSO are working so diligently to inspect and observe the Sun. Further, any insights that these images unlock for astronomers are even more data and knowledge for them to dig into.

This knowledge and these pictures of the Sun’s surface could then help us better understand and prepare for massive solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other solar events.



Save up to $1000 with these Unistellar Black Friday deals


Unistellar is offering one of the best early Black Friday deals we’ve seen as their eQuinox telescope is $1000 off (opens in new tab) and their eVscope 2 model is $900 off (opens in new tab) too. 

The manufacturer is calling these discounts early Black Hole Friday Deals and the telescopes will be on offer from November 18 through to November 28. So if you’re looking for a high-end, high-spec, powerful telescope now is the time as you can either save $1000 on Unistellar’s eQuinox telescope (opens in new tab) or get $900 off their eVscope 2 model.  

This time of year is always great for telescope deals and trying to bag a bargain on the best telescopes around. The appeal of these telescopes is their ease of use, their power, the sophisticated design and the use of technology all contributing to an out-of-this-world stargazing experience. If you want to take a look at more fantastic deals on telescopes that are more suitable for a smaller budget check out our guide to the best budget telescopes under $500.

It’s easy to look at the huge amount of money off these two telescopes and see the value in these deals, but what makes the telescopes worth getting? Well, the specs on these scopes are enough to make you want these alone, and the savings might just tempt you. Both make use of an app and because of the sophisticated technology, not much experience is required as they can auto-detect night sky objects for you to view.

While these aren’t like traditional telescopes, the two do share similarities with each other. Firstly, focusing on the eQuinox telescope and the $1000 saving (opens in new tab), it has a focal length of 450mm and a digital magnification of up to 400x meaning that given its wide field of view, deep-sky and faint objects like star clusters, nebulas are clearly visible. What’s more, there’s a light pollution reduction system so you’ll even have a good star gazing experience in built-up areas. 

Then there’s the eVscope 2 which you can save $900 (opens in new tab) on, which somehow offers even more. The telescope operates solely through the use of a smartphone so it’s fantastic for astrophotography too. It also comes with 7.7MP enhanced image resolution and a Nikon eyepiece so there’s no need to purchase any extra astrophotography equipment. 

These are highly sophisticated telescopes and although Unistellar is advertising these as Black Friday deals, you can actually save big ahead of the day itself. With savings of $900 and $1000 respectively, these discounts are not to be missed so easily.

Follow Alexander Cox on Twitter @Coxy_97Official (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab).



Best star trackers for astrophotography this Black Friday


The best star trackers for astrophotography have changed the scene forever by counteracting the rotation of our planet and over Black Friday you’re sure to pick up some excellent discounts on these fantastic devices. It was only until a few years ago a long exposure of over about 10 seconds caused stars to blur. That made it very difficult to extract much data from deep-sky objects such as nebulae, but also from the Milky Way. Cue the invention of the star-tracker, which is basically a shrunken equatorial mount, but designed for cameras instead of telescopes.

Like an equatorial mount, a star tracker needs to be aligned (often with the help of a smartphone app) with the north celestial pole (the star Polaris) in the northern hemisphere or the south celestial pole in the southern hemisphere. It then keeps your camera in sync with Earth’s rotation. That way it counteracts the rotation of the Earth and keeps the target object still in a composition, thus allowing blur-free long exposures. 

Of course, you’ll need one of the best cameras for astrophotography equipped with one of the best lenses for astrophotography, too. But if you’d rather something more general discover our guide to the best cameras for photos and videos and either the best tripods or best travel tripods to keep things steady.


The best star trackers for astrophotography 2022

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(Image credit: Benro)

Benro Polaris

Best star tracker overall and comes with camera interface controller

Specifications

Weight: 3.3lbs / 1.5kg

Dimensions: 5.7 x 5.5 x 4.3-inch / 145 x 140 x 110mm

Max. payload: 15lbs / 7kg

Power: Built-in 2500 mAh battery

Tripod thread: 3/8-inch with 1/4-inch adapters

Alignment method: Benro Polaris app/celestial objects

Reasons to buy

+

Easy alignment

+

Camera interface controller

+

Excellent build quality 

Reasons to avoid

Very expensive 

Overkill for most

Still requires some stargazing knowledge

While most star trackers are a compromise between their own weight and their payload, the Benro Polaris is both super lightweight (at 3.3lbs / 1.5kg) and super-supportive, taking a mighty 15lbs/7kg of gear (the highest carrying capacity of any star tracker mount so far). It achieves that by using precise high torque motors and a waterproof IPX6 rating. That helps explain the very high price. It’s the first star tracker to offer built-in DSLR control and a built-in micro SD card slot. Remarkably, the Benro Polaris can even be controlled via the cellphone network. Its huge 2500 mAh battery can be recharged via USB-C while alignment is via any objects from a choice presented on a smartphone app. However advanced the best star trackers appear, there’s evidence from this electric tripod head that their days are numbered. 


(Image credit: Future)

Best star tracker for photographers whose kit is up to 3kg

Specifications

Weight: 1.4lbs / 650g

Dimensions: 3 x 2.7 x 4-inches / 76 x 70 x 103mm

Max. payload: 3kg

Power: 2x AA batteries or external portable battery

Tripod thread: 3/8-inch and 1/4 inch

Alignment method: Polar scope

Reasons to buy

+

Precise tracking

+

Lightweight design

+

3kg payload

Reasons to avoid

Unreliable smartphone app

Fiddly polar alignment

No laser pen

The incessant creep of light pollution means it’s now almost inevitable that you’ll need to travel to find the darkest night skies possible. Even if you don’t travel internationally, finding dark skies often means hiking into backcountry areas away from other humans. That necessitates a star tracker that strikes the right balance between its own weight and what it can support. 

Cue the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini, affectionately known as SAM, which can take a payload of 3kg yet it is relatively easy to squeeze into a camera bag. It’s not the sleekest device ever, and nor is its SA Console app up to much. However, as we found during our Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini review, once you get used to its foibles SAM is reliable and relatively easy to use. It’s possible to get accurate long-exposure images of up to about four minutes, which makes SAM a great compromise product. Accessories include a counterweight and declination bracket to increase the payload.


(Image credit: iOptron)

iOptron SkyGuider Pro

Best star tracker for deep sky astrophotography

Specifications

Weight: 3.2lbs / 1.45kg

Dimensions: 4.4 x 4.5 x 3.7-inches / 113 x 115 x 95mm

Max. payload: 11lbs / 5kg

Power: 2000 mAh internal battery (20 hours)

Tripod thread: 3/8-inch and 1/4-inch adaptor

Alignment method: AccuAlign illuminated polarscope and app

Reasons to buy

+

Big payload (5kg)

+

Deep sky possible

+

Telephoto lenses

Reasons to avoid

Requires counterweight

Wedge lacks precision

Expensive

The priciest and one of the best star trackers around for astrophotographers is the iOptron SkyGuider Pro. Many star trackers are made for landscape photographers wanting to save on weight when out in the field searching for wide-angle compositions that include the night sky. But there are plenty of astrophotographers that only want to use telephoto lenses to capture light from distant deep sky objects. That means bigger payloads and longer exposures, which is what the iOptron SkyGuider Pro is designed for. 

Able to take about 11lbs / 5kg, it can support long lenses or even a small telescope, making this a product that in some ways behaves more like a motorized equatorial mount, though its wedge lacks a little precision. Another downside is its use of a counterweight to reach that higher capacity than average, which adds a further 3lbs/1.35kg to the product. Aligning using its electronic polar finderscope and iOptron Polar Scope app, like most of its rivals this star trackers also tracks the Sun, Moon and allows 1/2-speed motion time lapses at night.


(Image credit: Dave Stevenson)

Best value star tracker for those that need to stick to a budget

Specifications

Weight: 1lb / 466g

Dimensions: 1.7 x 3.15 x 3.9-inches / 43 x 90 x 99mm

Max. payload: 6.6lbs / 3kg

Power: Internal 280mAh battery (5 hrs)

Tripod thread: 3/8-inch and 1/4 inch

Alignment method: Laser pen

Reasons to buy

+

Small and light

+

Easy to align

+

Green laser included

Reasons to avoid

Only accurate for a few minutes

No smartphone app

Wide-angle lenses only

Even smaller and more nimble than the SAM is the great value Move Shoot Move, a star tracker that’s suitable only for wide-angle lenses. That’s partly because of its limited payload of 6.6lbs / 3kg and partly, as we discovered in our Move Shoot Move star tracker review, because it’s just not the most accurate star tracker around. 

While that might sound like a deal-breaker, it’s actually a plus if you intend only to take wide-angle images of the Milky Way and starfields. For such photos a rough alignment with Polaris is all you need, something that can be done easily and quickly using an included green laser pointer. 

The Move Shoot Move isn’t going to accurately track Polaris for more than about two or three minutes (though the wider and lighter your lens the longer it will remain accurate enough). But if you have a reasonably fast wide-angle lens none of that is going to matter much. If you have a telephoto lens though, look elsewhere.


(Image credit: iOptron)

iOptron SkyTracker Pro

Best star tracker for travel thanks to its lightweight design

Specifications

Weight: 2.5lbs / 1.1kg

Dimensions: 4.5 x 4.5 x 3.7-inches / 115 x 115 x 95mm

Max. payload: 6.6lbs / 3kg

Power: 2000 mAh internal battery (24 hours)

Tripod thread: 3/8-inch and 1/4-inch adaptor

Alignment method: AccuAlign illuminated polarscope and app

Reasons to buy

+

Affordable price

+

Lightweight design

+

Good build quality

Reasons to avoid

Manual control only

Polar scope is easy to lose

Lacks ultimate precision

While iOptron’s SkyGuider Pro is aimed at deep sky photography, the pared-down and more compact iOptron SkyTracker Pro is aimed more at wide-angle nightscapes. Its payload capacity, at 6.6lbs/3kg, is a lot less than its stablemate and at 2.5lbs/1.1kg it also weighs less. As such it’s more suitable for those wanting to carry a star tracker in their camera bag during trips and travel. 

It has a wider appeal than just nightscapes since in addition to tracking objects in the night sky it can also follow the Sun, Moon and has a half speed for motion timelapses. As a bonus, its internal battery can run for 24 hours. Accessories include a counterweight and declination bracket to increase the payload.  


(Image credit: Vixen)

Vixen Polarie Star Tracker

Best star tracker for small cameras due to the lighter maximum payload

Specifications

Weight: 635g / 1.4 lbs

Dimensions: 95 x 137 x 58mm / 3.7 x 5.9 x 2.3 inches

Max. payload: 2.5kg

Power: 2x AA batteries or portable battery

Tripod thread: 3/8-inch and 1/4-inch adaptor

Alignment method: Polar sight hole and smartphone app

Reasons to buy

+

Compact size

+

Excellent build quality

+

Tracks Sun and Moon

Reasons to avoid

Small payload (2kg)

Rather dated

Short battery life

The Vixen Polarie isn’t for deep-sky astrophotography. In the world of star trackers, it’s always a trade-off between size and versatility, and the Polaris compact size means it can support a payload of just 2kg. Therefore, it is best used with not only wide-angle lenses but fairly lightweight models, though using a mirrorless camera body will give you more flexibility. Alignment is via a supplied compass, a built-in latitude meter and a polar sight hole, so you will have to know how to find Polaris and/or the south celestial pole. 

On hand to help are both red light illumination and the Vixen PF-L Assist app for smartphones. As well as long exposure astrophotography the Polaris can track the Moon and the Sun (the latter useful for solar eclipses) and its half-speed allows motion time-lapses at night. Its short two-hour battery life can be augmented by instead attaching a portable battery to its micro USB slot. Optional accessories include a counterweight to boost the payload to 6.5kg, a polar axis scope and a time-lapse adapter.


Best star trackers for astrophotography 2022: What to look for

However, star trackers — which sit between a tripod and a camera — are not all the same. They have varying weights and designs but also manage different payloads. While some are ideal for telephoto lenses pointed at specific targets, others can only handle wide-angle lenses for capturing the Milky Way. Both the maximum payload and the accuracy of star trackers vary. They are often fiddly and time-consuming, but at their best star trackers can deliver addictively good images.

As well as weighing your camera body and lens before making a purchase do remember to take into account the added weight of a couple of ball-head mounts and the load-bearing ability of your tripod. If in doubt, go for bigger capacity mounts because as a rule of thumb it’s best to have your rig’s total weight about half the capacity of the mount.

How we test the best star trackers for astrophotography

In order to guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best star trackers for astrophotography to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every star tracker through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each star tracker is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an imaging instrument and its performance in the field.

Each star tracker is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each star tracker and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.

We look at how easy it is to set up, whether the star tracker mounts are reliable and quiet if a star tracker comes with appropriate accessories and also make suggestions if a particular star tracker would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best astrophotography experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on telescopes, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.