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Astrophotography in your backyard #2: shooting Venus and other planets

Astrophotography in your backyard #2: shooting Venus and other planets
(Image credit: Jamie Carter)

The lockdown is helping to create the best night skies for years. The lack of  pollution from aircraft and cars, and a cut in light pollution from the vehicle headlights, has contributed to sparkling night skies in recent weeks. Either way, there hasn’t been a better week for decades to get out into your back garden (or poke a camera out a window) to capture some sparkling celestial events. 

In the second of our five-part series on backyard astrophotography we are going to look at the planets.

Venus has been a sparkling sight for all of 2020 thus far, and this week it is almost at its very brightest, right after sunset, high in the west. 

Venus and crescent moon at dawn (Image credit: Jon Hicks/Getty Images)

For early risers there’s a tempting parade of planets in the southeastern pre-dawn sky; Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Jupiter, on the far right, is the brightest, with Saturn slightly closer to it, and ruddy Mars to the left, closer to the horizon. Although it’s a stunning sight to see with the naked eye, a line of planets can look a little flat in a photograph. 

However, dial-in something close to the ‘usual’ settings for a night sky photograph. ISO 800 is a good starting point because it will reveal stars without artificial light (pollution) creating too much image noise. You need to manually focus on infinity (use Live View if you have it, and set a manual exposure time of about 20-25 seconds.

Try framing them around a chimney pot or a TV aerial for a home-baked look. 

See other backyard astrophotography projects in this series

Read more

• The best lenses for astrophotography
The best camera and gear for shooting the night sky
Best light pollution filters
The best telescopes for astrophotography