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.

Meteor Video Flagged as ‘Intimate Content’ Locks Photographer Out of Twitter


Astronomer and astrophotographer Mary McIntyre was locked out of her Twitter account for three months after a video of a meteor she published to the platform was flagged as “intimate content.”

As reported by the BBC, McIntyre’s video was flagged by Twitter’s automated moderation system and she was given only one option: delete the tweet. If she did so, however, it would have meant she agreed with the assertion that the content violated the social media company’s rules.

“It’s just crazy… I don’t really want it on my record that I’ve been sharing pornographic material when I haven’t,” she tells the BBC.

Twitter’s rules only mention the word “intimate” one time, specifically in reference to nudity:

Non-consensual nudity: You may not post or share intimate photos or videos of someone that were produced or distributed without their consent.

McIntyre’s initial 12-hour ban continued for three months as she says she exhausted the appeals process. Her tweet and her account remained visible, but she was unable to access it. After the BBC’s report, Twitter unblocked her account and fixed the issue.

The offending tweet is below, which she tells PetaPixel was unblocked today:

A few minutes before she published that video, McIntyre also shared a pair of photos of the meteor:

To make matters more confusing, McIntyre says the video was shared by other astonomers on her behalf, and none of them experienced a ban.

The BBC spoke to tech commentator Kate Bevan who said that the best explanation for the issue is that it is just a limitation of whatever artificial intelligence (AI) system Twitter has in place.

“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 says.

She adds that the issue becomes even worse when there are no humans available to review these poor decisions made by AI systems.

It’s not clear what about the above video triggered Twitter’s auto-moderation system, and it’s possible that will never be revealed. In the time between McIntyre’s ban and her access being restored today, Twitter has gone through a massive internal upheaval. Its shareholders approved an acquisition by Elon Musk who subsequently took the company private and fired a large number of its staff. Of those who were let go was the entire communications team, meaning no one is available to comment on the situation.


Image credits: Header photo by Mary McIntyre.



Best star trackers for astrophotography 2022 this Black Friday







© Future
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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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight (Nov. 17)


On the evening of Thursday, Nov.17, leading to the morning of Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, the Leonid meteor shower will peak offering skywatchers willing to brave the biting cold an increased opportunity to spot streaks of light or the odd fireball over Earth

Lasting from Nov. 6 to Nov. 30 this year the Leonids is recognized as one of the most prolific meteor showers experienced by Earth. Through the Leonids peak meteor-production rate period on Friday, the best way to see the Leonids is to look for the shower’s radiant point located in the constellation of Leo. Be sure to move your gaze to nearby constellations as meteors further from the radiant tend to have longer trains (glowing trails of debris) and are easier to spot. 

From a position in New York City, the Leonid meteor shower becomes visible after around 22:49 EST (0349 GMT) each night when its radiant point in Leo rises above the eastern horizon, according to In the Sky. (opens in new tab)

Related: Meteor showers 2022: Where, when and how to see them 

The opportune time to spot Leonid meteors is when the meteor shower’s radiant point is at its highest in the sky at about 06:00 EST (1100 GMT) but this is short-lived as the shower disappears as dawn breaks around 14 minutes later.

In good viewing conditions such as a dark sky with no light from the moon, skywatchers could expect to see between 10 to 15 meteors per hour, but obviously, real-world conditions mean the actual number spotted is less than this. 

From Nov.16 and leading up to the Nov. 18 morning peak the fact that the moon is only about 36% full provides a great opportunity to observe the Leonids even prior to their peak. 

LEO CONSTELLATION POSITION:

Right ascension: 11 hours

Declination: 15 degrees 

Visible between: Latitudes 90 and minus 65 degrees

Meteor showers are created when the Earth conducting its yearly orbit of the sun passes through a cloud of debris left as a comet on a much more elongated orbit came close to the star heating up and shedding material.

This material enters Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds vaporizing and causing streaks of light that we call meteors. Larger pieces of debris, often the size of pebbles, explode as fireballs over Earth as they enter our planet’s atmosphere. 

The Leonid meteor shower is caused by a debris cloud left in Earth’s path by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a 2.2-mile-wide (35-kilometer-wide) comet that orbits the sun roughly once every 33 years. 

When Earth passes through this debris cloud once a year in November, debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle enters Earth’s atmosphere at around 160,000 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour) creating streaks of light and the occasional fireball.

Around every 33 years or so, the debris from this comet creates what is known as a ‘meteor storm’ which is defined as having at least 1,000 meteors per hour. This year’s Leonids will not be a meteor storm meaning that even at its peak, it will fall far short of the spectacular meteor storm that lucky skywatchers saw on the morning of November 17, 1966.

On this day in November 56 years ago the Leonids produced one of the most infamous meteor showers in living memory with thousands of meteors seen every minute during a 15-minute period that morning.

Further back in time, the Leonid meteor storm in 1833 was even more spectacular with debris raining from space and through Earth’s atmosphere at a rate of an estimated 100,000 meteors per hour.

Related: The greatest meteor storms of all time

The last Leonid meteor storms took place from 1999 to 2001 and though they were more subdued than in 1833 and 1966 they still managed to produce around 3,000 meteors per hour. 

Meteor storms are most prominent around the times of the comet’s close approach to the sun, the perihelion. Comet Tempel-Tuttle’s last close approach to the sun occurred in 1998 and the comet will be back close to our star to replenish the debris field that feeds the Leonid meteor shower in 2031.

The Earth isn’t predicted to pass through any dense patches of the comet’s debris until 2099 meaning skywatchers may not see another spectacular Leonid meteor storm until the end of this century. 

If you want more advice on how to photograph the Leonid meteor shower check out our how to photograph meteors and meteor showers guide and if you need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.

Editor’s Note: If you snap the Leonid meteor shower 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.

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).



Astro Fest is go for launch at Orlando Science Center


ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Science Center is set to captivate young astronomy lovers with a weekend of space-themed events.

Astro Fest kicks off at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 19, and lasts through Nov. 20. Daily hours will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Attendees will get immersive experiences such as simulation games, live shows and lab experiments.

Guests can also see an astrophotography exhibit by Derek Demeter, director of Seminole State College’s Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium. The exhibition, called “Capturing the Cosmos,” portrays Florida’s night sky and our celestial neighbors in the Solar System.

Admission to Astro Fest is included with your Orlando Science Center admission, meaning ticketholders can add the space-themed fun to everything else offered throughout four floors of exhibits, 3D educational films and live programming.

For more information, and to purchase tickets, click here.


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2022 Holiday Gift Guide for night photographers


As night photographers, we have different needs than other photographers. While we already have plenty of gift suggestions on Photofocus, we night photographers should also have a gift guide!

Thanks to Capture One (Promo Code PHOTOFOCUS20), MPB, Fundy, Tamron, Mylio, Excire and Skylum, the sponsors of this year’s Holiday Gift Guide.

VELCRO Brand Tape

$13.88; available via Amazon

Velcro. Making life easier for night photographers everywhere.

This Velcro tape is a hook and loop fastener that adheres to most smooth surfaces and lasts for a long time. Why would a night photographer need this?

Well, because you already have this handy stand called a tripod. Why not attach things to it? I attach my intervalometers to a tripod leg. For those of you who use lens warmers to stop the dew, you can hook the USB power bank to tripod legs as well. Handy stuff. Velcro tape is so important, I’ve written about it in one of five tips all night photographers should know.

Allstar ALL14147 Fluorescent Orange 2″ x 45′ Gaffer’s Tape

$22.78; available via Amazon

Gaffer’s tape has come in handy more times than I can count.

Here’s one that every night photographer could use — gaffer’s tape. Yeah. Gaffer’s tape. This all-purpose tape is used by gaffers in film and TV production. The gaffer is the chief lighting technician and is typically the head electrician. They need to use tape that is strong but doesn’t leave a residue. This is where we come in.

We can use this for all sorts of purposes, so it’s always great to have gaffer’s tape in your bag. Break something? Tape it together. If you break part of your tripod, such as the ball head, you can tape your camera to the tripod. Need to keep something in place, such as a prop or piece of equipment? Hang up some dark garbage bags to keep the sun streaming in the window while you sleep until noon? Gaffer’s tape to the rescue. This wonder tape is one of five tips all night photographers should know.

Aream Digital Timer Remote Shutter Release Trigger Intervalometer

$19.99; available via Amazon

Aream intervalometer and remote shutter control for all sorts of cameras, including Pentax, Canon, Sony, and Nikon.

This is a wired intervalometer. However, unlike most wired intervalometers, this has detachable cables. As anyone who has used wired intervalometers knows, the connectors on the cables are typically what fails, not the device itself. When they fail, this allows you to simply swap out a cable for another and keep moving. Even better, these Aream intervalometers can be used with Nikon, Canon (and Pentax since they use the Canon sub-mini connector), and Sony simply by switching the cable!

BMK 200W Car Power DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4 USB Ports

$25.96; available via Amazon

Photographers have batteries. Certainly, night photographers often use more batteries than many. Here, we have a small charging unit that plugs into a cigarette lighter and powers battery chargers, phones, and even laptops. Furthermore, you can use anything with AC outlets (as long as it doesn’t exceed 200W usage (sorry, no toaster ovens or hairdryers) as well as USB devices. For the price, you can’t beat it. I have mine tucked away in the middle console.

Topaz Denoise AI

$79; available via Topaz

Night photographers are always looking for good noise reduction software. After all, noise is the enemy of night photography. Extremely low light coupled with long exposures and high ISOs in hot weather can make for rather noisy photos. Enter Topaz Denoise AI. You can see for yourself how it works as I have written about this numerous times. For some Milky Way and astrophotography photos, you do need to be gentle with the application. A little goes a long way. Topaz DeNoise AI is the best noise reduction software I have used. And coming from a night photographer, that is really saying something.

Nik Collection 5 by DxO

$149; available via DxO

Nik Collection has 250 presets that use U-Point technology for non-destructive editing for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic. We all have our favorites. I personally love Detail Extractor, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast, all in the Color Efex Pro suite. Silver Efex Pro is the gold standard for black and white conversion, and probably worth the price of admission alone.

And Perspective Efex is incredible. The latter makes fixing things such as keystoning and horizon issues. But it also has an incredible tilt-shift blur that looks gorgeous. I wrote about DxO Nik Collection 4 here.

La Sportiva Men’s Makalu Mountaineering Boot

$348.95; available via Amazon

It’s not always easy to find hiking books with steel shanks, as most have moved on from that. But if you want a boot that is comfortable for exploring abandoned places at night, steel shanks can be a foot-saver. I have stepped on a nail before, not expecting there to be protruding nails in a bus graveyard. The board stuck to my shoe, but thankfully, did not puncture my foot. I quickly put on my steel-shank boots. 

The La Sportiva boot is expensive but comfortable. However, there are plenty of work boots made by Men’s G-Force or NORU Baika boots that have steel shank soles.

South Downs National Park astrophotography competition returns


Budding photographers have been invited to capture the awesome wonders of the South Downs at night for a chance to win £100 as the National Park astrophotography competition returns for its third year.

Snow in Springtime by Neil Jones WINNER SOUTH DOWNS DARK SKYSCAPES 2021 competition

This year photographers have the chance of winning up to £100 for a breathtaking image in either of the two categories:

South Downs Dark Skyscapes – Can you capture a dramatic photograph of the landscape showing the cosmos above it?

Nature At Night – Can you capture an amazing shot of living things in the National Park?

St Hubert’s Church in Hampshire and the Comet Neowise by Paul Rogers

The runner-up prize in each category will be £75 and all submitted images must be taken within the South Downs National Park. A selection of photos submitted in the contest will be shared throughout the National Park’s Dark Skies Festival next February.

Dan Oakley, a lead ranger for the National Park, said: “We’re into the season of longer nights and it’s the perfect time to go out and stargaze in the South Downs National Park.

“The National Park is actually one of the best places to stargaze in the world and it’s quite amazing when you consider how close we are to big cities such as London, Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton.

“The standard of the competition has been terrific in the past and we’re looking forward to seeing what this year brings, whether you’re a seasoned astrophotographer or embracing the darkness for the first time! Good luck to all participants in the contest.”

Stargazing by Pablo Rodriguez – showing Seven Sisters cliffs

See the half-lit last quarter moon tonight (Nov. 16)


On Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, the moon will appear half illuminated in the evening sky as it moves into its final quarter — also called the third quarter phase. The final quarter moon will rise during the middle of the night and will be prominent in the sky before the dawn hours. 

From a position in New York City, the last quarter moon will become visible at an altitude of around 7 degrees above the eastern horizon at around 23:44 EST (0544 GMT on Nov. 17), according to In the Sky.

The half-illuminated moon will reach its highest point in the sky at around 06:05 EST (1105 GMT) when it will be 67 degrees over the southern horizon. Shortly after this at 06:23 EST (1123 GMT) and while it is still in the same position, the final quarter moon will be lost in the dawn twilight. 

Related: Night sky, November 2022: What you can see tonight

The fact that the moon appears half-illuminated by the sun during the final quarter phase may initially seem confusing, but the “quarter” name actually relates to the fact this phase marks the fact the moon has completed ¾ of its 29.5-day cycle.

The final quarter falls exactly between the fully illuminated full moon phase and the fully dark new moon phase. The last full moon, November’s Beaver Moon, fell on Nov. 8 and the next new moon happens on Nov. 23, marking the start of a new lunar cycle.

In the period between the full moon and the new moon, the moon rises later and later each day and is thus visible for shorter periods each subsequent night. As this is progressing the illuminated side of the moon is also receding across its face with progressively less lit by the sun.

The phases of the moon leading up to and away from the last quarter phase. (Image credit: NASA/Robert Lea)

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The situation is reversed after the new moon. During the following period, the moon rises earlier and earlier and becomes visible or longer and longer as its illuminated face advances leading to the next full moon. 

The midpoint between the new moon and the full moon is called the first quarter and again the moon’s face is half-illuminated. Which side of the moon an observer from Earth sees illuminated during both the first quarter and third quarter phases depends on where on the globe they are positioned. 

The next full moon when the moon is fully illuminated again and visible throughout the night occurs on Wed. Dec.7. This full moon takes on the apt title the “Cold Moon.” 

If you’re looking to take the best photos of the moon that you can, our how to photograph the moon guide is full of expert tips on techniques, times and tools to help you start taking the most impressive lunar photos you can. Our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can also help you take the best moon images you can, no matter your skill level.

Fancy taking a more in-depth moonlit tour of our rocky companion? Our ultimate guide to observing the moon will help you plan your next skywatching venture whether it be exploring the lunar seas, mountainous terrain, or the many craters that blanket the landscape. You can also see where astronauts, rovers and landers have ventured with our Apollo landing sites observing guide

Editor’s Note: If you snap the third-quarter moon 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.

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