Astrophotography Challenges

The Astrophotography Section of ASSA regularly challenges its members to capture specific images. Some of these challenges are meant to push your skills, others are to establish a record of interesting events, and others are just meant to be fun! The challenges are listed below:

Conjunction of Mars, Venus and the crescent Moon (11-13 July 2021)

Shortly after sunset on the evenings of July 11 to 13, weather permitting, we should be able to see a fine conjunction (close approach) between Mars, Venus and the crescent Moon in the western sky. The trio will be closest on the 12th, as the Moon zips by. Such events are pretty to watch and present opportunities to capture a relatively rare sight photographically.

On the 12th, the sun sets at about 17h00 SAST (there will be some variance according to your location), with the planets reaching the horizon about two hours later. The Moon will set at approximately 18h25 on the 11th (and of course later on the following days, as it moves from west to east through the sky). During the intervening time between sunset and the planets setting, the sky will naturally darken progressively. Given the proximity of the celestial bodies to the horizon during that time, it should be possible to include interesting foreground detail illuminated by twilight.

ASSA invites all who are interested, to submit their photos of this event. The best three, as judged by Chris Stewart (ASSA President) and Martin Heigan (ASSA Imaging Section Director) will be featured in the 2022 Sky Guide (with the photographer of course being credited), and the photographers will each receive five copies of that Sky Guide.

The rules:
1. The competition is restricted to residents of South Africa.
2. Submit your images electronically to astrophotography@assa.saao.ac.za
3. Acceptable file formats are .JPG and .TIFF, with a maximum file size of 5MB.
4. Image processing including stacking is acceptable. However, if you have processed the image, an original .JPG containing the usual EXIF information produced by the camera must accompany the final result.
5. Each image must be submitted separately.
6. Each submission must be accompanied by the following information:
a. Your name and contact details
b. The date, time and approximate location
c. A brief description of the equipment used and any processing techniques employed.
7. Needless to say, all submitted images must be your own work.
8. Ownership of the intellectual property remains with the photographer without restrictions.
9. By submitting an image, you affirm that it is your own work and agree to ASSA publishing the image plus any associated details with suitable accreditation (i.e. specifically including your name) in our various communications channels. ASSA may crop or reduce the resolution of an image to suit the needs of publication.
10. A maximum of one image will be selected from any contestant.
11. Cut-off date for submissions is 1 August 2021
12. The winners will be announced on 1 September 2021.
13. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into regarding the judging.

Prizes:
In addition to being featured in the Sky Guide, each of the three winners will receive a prize sponsored by telescopium.co.za.
1st Prize: Svbony 1.25″ 18mm SWA eyepiece (1st prize, R1070 value).
2nd Prize: Svbony 2x Barlow and Svbony 1.25″ to T-thread adapter (2nd prize, R530 value).
3rd Prize: Svbony 1.25″ UV/IR cut filter and Svbony 1.25″ 0.6ND filter (3rd prize, R410 value).

Courier costs of the prizes will also be covered by Telescopium.

ScopeX 2019 Astrophotography Competition:

View the ScopeX 2019 Astrophotography Competition Video.

The Competition Winners:
Advanced Category: Image entry number: AD-17 – Stefanus Potgieter’s Keyhole Nebula. (Prize: Celestron NexImage 5 Solar System Imager donated by G&L Agencies).
Beginner Category: Image entry number: BE-03 – Tiaan Niemand’s Leo Triplets. (Prize: Celestron Power Tank donated by ScopeX).
Cellphone Category: Image entry number: CE-08 – Grant Peterson’s Parade of the Planets. (Prize: Celestron NexYZ Smartphone adapter donate by G&L Agencies).

Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all who put in substantial effort to make the competition so tough. The judges would like to acknowledge the runners-up who were so narrowly edged out, and who deserve special mention for their accomplishments:
Cellphone: Ani Vermulen (Milky Way & Windmill nightscapes).
Beginner: Peter Dunsby (Running Man & Orion core nebulae).
Advanced: Lafras Smit (SALT alignment tower startrails).

Also visit the ScopeX page for more information.

Solar Eclipse of 26 February 2017

On 26 February, an annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible across much of Africa.  The challenge comes in two parts: First, for the experienced astophotographer, produce the most stunning image or video of the Moon’s disk encroaching on the Sun. The second challenge is intended for the ordinary citizen who wants to join in the fun and has built a pinhole projection camera: Take a photograph of the projected image and send it in to us! If you are in public, send us a picture of people watching the eclipse through your pinhole camera (try to get the camera in the shot!).  We’ll be sharing these images on our Facebook page throughout the course of the eclipse!

As usual, you can send your images to us by emailing them to astrophotography@assa.saao.ac.za

Solar Eclipse of 1 September 2016

On 1 September, an annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible across much of Africa.  The challenge comes in two parts: First, for the experienced astophotographer, produce the most stunning image or video of the Moon’s disk encroaching on the Sun. The second challenge is intended for the ordinary citizen who wants to join in the fun and has built a pinhole projection camera: Take a photograph of the projected image and send it in to us! If you are in public, send us a picture of people watching the eclipse through your pinhole camera (try to get the camera in the shot!).  We’ll be sharing these images on our Facebook page throughout the course of the eclipse!

As usual, you can send your images to us by emailing them to astrophotography@assa.saao.ac.za

Astrophotography Challenge for February 2015

Moon, Venus and Mars - simulationThis month’s challenge: there will be a nice tight grouping of the Moon, Venus and Mars on 20 February shortly after sunset. The three objects will just about fit within a six degree field of view, and are all quite bright, so this challenge is suitable for just about any level of equipment and skill.
However, timing will be critical. Too early and your image will drown in the bright twilight. Too late, and the moon will slip below the horizon. And speaking of the Moon, it will be a very, VERY thin crescent at roughly 4% illumination – so thin that most people would struggle to find it, if it wasn’t for bright Venus just a few degrees above it.
Mars and Venus will be about one degree apart, but will get even close than that – they’ll be less than half a degree apart on the 21st and 22nd of February. So if you miss your chance to capture the Mare/Venus/Moon grouping, you can still go for the Mars Venus conjunction.
Images may be submitted in the usual way – email them to astrophotographyassa.saao.ac.za along with a few words describing your equipment, settings, and any interesting notes you’d like to add.

Mars and Spica

On 8 April 2014, Mars will be at opposition.  It should appear redder than usual, since it will be less than 7° from the bright blue star Spica.  Your challenge:  Capture both Mars and Spica in the same field of view, showing off the contrast in their colours.  For extra credit, try and include Vesta, which will be coming in to opposition on 13 April, and Ceres which will be at opposition two days later.  The longest line between any of these objects is between Spica and Ceres, at a little over 16°.  Submit your images to astrophotographyassa.saao.ac.za with the subject “Mars and Spica Challenge”

Pallas (March 2014)

How to find Pallas

Chart showing Pallas’s location in the weeks following conjunction

Pallas, the 2nd largest (and 3rd most massive) asteroid in the Solar System, reached opposition on 22 February 2014, and will be passing within 3° of the 1.95 magnitude star Alphard (α Hya) in Hydra on 3 March. Over the next month, it will move about a half of a degree per day, and should stay at around magnitude 7. The attached chart will help you find it as it moves through the sky.

Your challenge: Capture as long a series of images as possible, and combine them to make an animation of Pallas as it moves through Hydra. If that’s too advanced, or if the weather doesn’t co-operate, a single image of Pallas will do. Submit your results to astrophotographyassa.saao.ac.za with the subject line “Pallas Challenge”, and tell us what it took to complete the animation. As usual, a technical brief is essential, describing your camera and telescope (if you used one) in enough detail to help other photographers compose similar shots.