Have you ever gazed up at the night sky, marvelling at the vastness and the countless stars twinkling above? Astrophotography offers a unique opportunity to capture the beauty and wonder of the universe through the lens of your camera. Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a seasoned pro, venturing into the realm of astrophotography can be a rewarding experience. Join us as we embark on a journey to unlock the mysteries of the night sky and delve into the captivating world of astrophotography.

Unlock the magic of the night sky through your lens with our comprehensive guide to the latest in astrophotography for 2024.
Unlock the magic of the night sky through your lens with our comprehensive guide to the latest in astrophotography for 2024.

Don’t miss this year’s up-and-coming celestial events:

April Celestial Events:

  • Lyrids Meteor Shower (23 April):
    The Lyrids is an annual meteor shower that occurs mid-to-late April, typically peaking around April 22nd. It’s caused by the Earth passing through the debris left by Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. For this event, wide-angle lenses are recommended to capture the spectacular display of shooting stars. To photograph stars, a wide-open aperture is needed along with longer shutter speeds (10 – 20 second exposures), and settings like f/2.8 and ISO as high as needed. Necessary equipment includes a wider focal length lens ideally closer to 15mm (full frame equivalent), a tripod and cable release. The Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8 ZE Super Wide Angle Lens for Canon is ideal.
  • Full Moon (23 April):
    A breathtaking sight to behold. The Full Moon is the lunar phase when the Moon appears fully illuminated from Earth’s perspective, making it appear round and bright in the night sky. It’s faster and emits more light than expected, thus requiring typical settings of 1/640, f/8, and an ISO of around 200 or more. Equipment needed includes a longer focal length lens ideally closer to 600mm, tripod, and cable release. An example of such a lens is the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Canon.

May Celestial Events:

  • Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower (5-6 May):
    Best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere or close to the equator. The Eta Aquarids is another annual meteor shower that typically occurs from late April to mid-May. It is produced by the debris left by Halley’s Comet. Similar to the Lyrids, wider-angle lenses are recommended along with longer shutter speeds and wide-open apertures. The equipment needed is similar to that of the Lyrids.
  • Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation (9 May):
    Don’t miss this planetary spectacle. This refers to the point in Mercury’s orbit when it is farthest from the Sun as seen from Earth, making it appear at its greatest angular distance west of the Sun in the sky after sunset. Necessary equipment includes a telescope with various options and adaptors to take Canon or Nikon cameras.
  • Full Moon (23 May).

June Celestial Events:

  • New Moon Week (6 June):
    The perfect time to capture the Galactic Center of the Milky Way. It could refer to the period surrounding a New Moon, typically when the Moon is not visible in the night sky. The moon moves faster than people realise. Typical settings would be 1/250, f/8 – f/10, and an ISO of around 200 or more. Equipment needed includes a longer focal length lens ideally closer to 600mm, tripod and cable release. Be sure to check out the Nikon Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR Lens.
  • Full Moon (22 June).

July Celestial Events:

  • New Moon Week (5 July).
  • Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower (30-31 July):
    Enjoy the peak with minimal moonlight. The Delta Aquarids is an annual meteor shower that usually occurs from mid-July to mid-August. It’s caused by the Earth passing through the debris left by the comet 96P/Machholz. Similar to previous meteor showers, wide-angle lenses are recommended along with longer shutter speeds and wide-open apertures.

August Celestial Events:

  • New Moon Week (4 August).
  • Full Moon (19 August).

September Celestial Events:

  • New Moon Week (3 September).
  • Partial Lunar Eclipse/Supermoon (18 September):
    Later in the month, on September 18th, a Partial Lunar Eclipse/Supermoon event occurs. This phenomenon takes place when only a portion of the Moon enters Earth’s umbra, creating a striking visual known as a “Super Blood Moon.”

October Celestial Events:

  • New Moon Week (2 October).
  • Supermoon (17 October):
    Then, on October 17th, the second Supermoon of the year graces the sky. Supermoons occur when the Moon is at its closest point to Earth, appearing larger and brighter. To capture the full moon, settings typically include 1/640 shutter speed, f/8 aperture, and an ISO of around 200 or more. Equipment includes a longer focal length lens ideally closer to 600mm, tripod, and cable release.

November Celestial Events:

  • New Moon Week (1 November).
  • Full Moon (15 November).

December Celestial Events:

  • New Moon Week (1 December).
  • Jupiter at Opposition (7 December):
    On December 7th, Jupiter at Opposition occurs, providing a rare opportunity to witness this planetary phenomenon. Jupiter at Opposition refers to the moment when Jupiter is exactly opposite the Sun in the sky, visible all night long. Telescopes are recommended for viewing.
  • Full Moon (15 December).
  • Black Moon (30 December):
    Finally, on December 30th, a Black Moon occurs. There are two definitions for a Black Moon, either the second New Moon in a calendar month or the third New Moon in a season of four New Moons. Typical settings for capturing this event include 1/250 shutter speed, f/8 – f/10 aperture and an ISO of around 200 or more. Equipment includes a longer focal length lens ideally closer to 600mm, tripod, and cable release.
Unlock the magic of the night sky through your lens with our comprehensive guide to the latest in astrophotography for 2024.
Unlock the magic of the night sky through your lens with our comprehensive guide to the latest in astrophotography for 2024.

Essential gear for astrophotography

For beginners, recommended gear includes telescopes like the Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ, Celestron NexYZ Universal Smartphone Adapter, Celestron SkyMaster 15×70 Binoculars, Celestron SkyMaster 20×80 Binoculars, and Celestron SkyMaster 25×100 Binoculars.
For more advanced users, the Celestron Nexstar 8SE Telescope, Celestron Nexstar 6SE Telescope, and Celestron Nexstar 4SE Telescope are recommended.
Take a look here at available Celestron Telescopes for Astronomers & Astro Photography.

Tips to help you master the Art of Astrophotography

To master the Art of Astrophotography, tips to follow include choosing dark-sky locations away from the city, mastering manual exposure settings, and experimenting with long exposures. Embracing the magic of the night sky is what astrophotography is all about. So, grab your camera, pack your gear, and let the night sky be your muse.

Helpful resources:

  • PhotoPills App.
    Available on Android and IOS.
  • To find areas with less light pollution visit the following website.
Unlock the magic of the night sky through your lens with our comprehensive guide to the latest in astrophotography for 2024.
Unlock the magic of the night sky through your lens with our comprehensive guide to the latest in astrophotography for 2024.

With these celestial events and essential tips in mind, you’re ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the cosmos. Whether you’re capturing the brilliance of a meteor shower or the serene beauty of a full moon, astrophotography offers endless opportunities to explore the wonders of the night sky. So, grab your camera, head outside, and let the stars guide you on your photographic adventure.
Tag us in your photos #odpshutters

Lastly, be sure to not miss out on our up-and-coming Walking through the Stars photography workshop:

  • Date: 8 June 2024
  • Time: 09:00 – 12:00
  • Location: Outdoorphoto Lecture Room
  • Presenter: Professor David L Block
  • Cost: R350.00

Find out more.