10 key events for astrophotographers in 2023

The moon totally covers the sun in a rare "ring of fire" solar eclipse as seen from the south Indian city of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu state on December 26, 2019
A ring of fire eclipse will be one of the astrophotography highlights in 2023 in North America (Image credit: Arun Sankar/Getty Images)

Astrophotography is getting so popular and yet its practitioners are so often badly informed about the unique and beautiful events happening in the night skies above. So get your calendar out, grab one of the best cameras for astrophotography and/or one of the best astrophotography telescopes and start taking long exposures and technical close-up shots of deep-sky objects at night. 

Here’s what to point your camera at in the next 12 months: 

1. Northern Lights on the increase

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Since the Sun is waxing towards its once-in-11-years ‘solar maximum’ in 2024 or 2025 it’s theoretically true that the Northern Lights will in 2023 be more frequent and stronger than they have been since the mid-2010s. That doesn’t mean there’s a 100% chance of seeing them – clouds can thwart you at any time – but a trip to the Arctic Circle between 64º and 70º North latitudes in places like Iceland, northern Norway, Sweden and Finland will maximize your chances. 

Read: Where, when and how to shoot the Northern lights

2. Venus and Jupiter in conjunction: 1 March 2023

Venus and Jupiter in conjunction over Rocca Calascio in Italy, 2022. Shot with Nikon D850 with 500mm lens, 1.3 secs at f/4, ISO 4000 (Image credit: Lorenzo Di Cola/Getty Images)

When two objects in the night sky appear very close together it’s called a conjunction by astronomers. When it’s Venus and Jupiter – the brightest planets of all as seen from Earth – it’s an astrophotographer’s dream. This conjunction will be particularly impressive because the two worlds will appear just 0.3º apart. That’s close enough to see them in the same field of view of a small telescope. It’s a convenient event, too, appearing at its best in the southwestern sky just after sunset. The nights on either side will also see the two planets nicely positioned very close to each other. 

Read: The best camera for astrophotography in 2022: tools and lenses to shoot night skies

3. Milky Way Season: April-September

Stitched panoramic view shot with a Nikon D750 and Rokinon 12mm. Four 30-second exposures at f/28, ISO6400. (Image credit: VW Pics/Getty Images)

As camera sensors have improved in recent years the internet has become saturated by Milky Way images. They’re beginning to lose their uniqueness, but if you do fancy capturing the arc of our galaxy then get yourself somewhere dark between April (for early morning views) and September (for post-sunset views) and line it up with an interesting foreground subject. 

Read: How to shoot nightscapes: camera gear and exposure settings

4. A rare hybrid solar eclipse: 20 April 2023

A composite of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse showing third contact – the end of totality. This is a composite of two images taken seconds apart: a 1/15th second exposure for the corona and a 1/1000 sec exposure for the prominences and chromosphere. Taken with the 106mm Astro-Physics APO refractor telescope at f/5 and Canon EOS 6D II camera at ISO 100, on a Mach One equatorial mount. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Everyone knows that it’s a total solar eclipse that’s one of nature’s great experiences, so why travel to Western Australia, Timor Leste or remote West Papua to see a hybrid solar eclipse? Especially one that lasts only a minute! Occurring only seven times this century, a hybrid eclipse occurs because the Moon is just the right distance from Earth in its elliptical orbit to cause a total solar eclipse only from the middle section of a path across Earth’s surface. From all viewing zones aside from remote areas of the ocean, a brief totality will result, with the shortness made up for by an extra-special display of beads of light around the Moon both before and after. Exmouth Peninsula in Western Australia is where to head for the best chance of clear skies – and a dramatic 62-second eclipse. 

5. Venus, Mars and the Moon: 23 May and 21 June 2023

Crescent moon in alignment with the planets Jupiter and Venus over Beirut's Mohammed al-Amin mosque on December 1, 2008. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Triangles appeal to the human brain. When the Moon passes close to two planets and appears to form a triangle, in reality, nothing is happening of any significance. But it looks great! There are two chances in 2023 to catch the sight of the Moon passing Mars and Venus, with the events on 23 Ma and 21 June occurring in the west just after sunset. 

Read: When to photograph the moon

6. Mars in the Beehive Cluster: 2 June 2023

(Image credit: Stuart Heggie/Getty Images)

Nestled in the simple Y-shaped constellation of a Cancer is M44, also called Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster. An area busy with blue stars, it’s a zodiacal constellation so one that both the Sun and planets pass through. This year it’s the once-every-two-years apparent visit of Mars, which will be waning from its super-bright opposition in December 2022. You’ll need a long lens for this, but taking the shot is mostly about timing. It will be above the western horizon after sunset on 2 June 2023. Venus will appear to be close by. 

Read: Best smart telescope in 2023

7. Perseid meteor shower: 12-13 August 2023

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Everyone’s favorite annual meteor shower has been a victim of lunar light pollution in recent years. Thankfully that’s not the case in 2023. With a waning crescent Moon just 8%-lit and not rising until an hour before dawn, the night sky will be dark as Earth busts through the debris stream left in the inner solar system. Get yourself under dark, rural skies and set your camera to take aseries of 30-second shots, being sure to also take some time to gaze at the night sky. The next morning you can flick through your captures and see if you caught one – and then use your data to also create a wonderful multi-hour star trail.

Read: How to photograph a shooting star

8. Giant planets at opposition: 27 August and 3 November 2023 

(Image credit: Christophe Lehenaff, Getty Images)

Ever captured the ringed planet up close? Although it’s not a particularly bright planet, the fifth planet from the Sun has such a magnificent ring pattern that it demands a close-up attempt when it’s at its biggest, brightest and best in 2023 on 27 August. Try the stacking method, which entails taking lots of images and stacking them together to maximize both contrast and clear atmospheric condition – ditto for fellow giant planet Jupiter, which reaches its annual opposition on 3 November. 

Read: How to try deep-space astrophotography

9. A big, bright ‘Blue Supermoon’ rising: 31 August 2022

(Image credit: Dag Sundberg, Getty Images)

Technically speaking there are four so-called supermoons in 2023. On 3 July, 1 August, 31 August and 29 September. However, it’s on 31 August that our natural satellite in space will be at its absolute biggest, brightest and best during its full Moon phase. It will appear to look its biggest as it rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west. As with all rising full Moons, it will look a deep orange as it appears, changing to a bright yellow and then white as it climbs higher in the sky. It will be called a ‘Blue Moon’ simply because it will be August 2023’s second full Moon. Since the Moon takes 29 days to orbit Earth, that’s bound to happen now and again. 

Read: How to photograph the full moon

Ring of fire eclipse, photographed in Indonesia in 2019. (Image credit: Getty Images)

10. A ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse in the Americas: 14 October 2023

An annular solar eclipse – a ring of light around the Moon – occurs when the Moon is relatively far from Earth in its elliptical orbit, so can’t cover the whole of the Sun as seen from Earth’s surface. It’s only an interesting shot in close-up and your timing has to be perfect, but this October there’s a great opportunity to capture this relatively rare event when a vast swathe of the American West (and many U.S. National Parks) experiences up to five minutes of annularity. 

Key sites to experience the light drop in light and a ‘ring of fire’ include iconic locations including Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park and Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park – both Dark Sky Parks ideal for wide-angle nightscape photography in the nights surrounding the eclipse. The rest of North America will experience a big partial solar eclipse. 

Read: 10 nightscape photography hacks: boost your set-up with these simple tips

Read more:

Astrophotography: How-to guides, tips and videos
Astrophotography tools: the best camera, lenses and gear
The best lenses for astrophotography
The best star tracker camera mounts
Best equatorial mounts
Best deep-space telescopes
The best light pollution filters
The best CCD cameras for astrophotography
The best spotting scopes
The best binoculars
The best microscopes

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Jamie Carter

Jamie has been writing about all aspects of technology for over 14 years, producing content for sites like TechRadar, T3, Forbes, Mashable, MSN, South China Morning Post, and BBC Wildlife, BBC Focus and BBC Sky At Night magazines. 

As the editor for www.WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com, he has a wealth of enthusiasm and expertise for all things astrophotography, from capturing the Perseid Meteor Shower, lunar eclipses and ring of fire eclipses, photographing the moon and blood moon and more.

He also brings a great deal of knowledge on action cameras, 360 cameras, AI cameras, camera backpacks, telescopes, gimbals, tripods and all manner of photography equipment.