It was the first day of September 2008. After the sunset the the hot day was cooling down at the bank of Orange River. The night was falling in Sendelingsdrif Rest Camp at |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park in South Africa.
I had very little experience about photographing the night sky, but luckily I had a friend and fellow photographer Paul with me. He gave me the first hints, and guided me to this thrilling field of photography.
I processed some of the shots soon after returning back to home from Africa. I did not do much with those then because I was somewhat dissatisfied not being able to name even some of the brightest objects of the sky. Yesterday I got some extra help for that. I installed Redshift astronomy software into my iPad, and I could return in time back to the moment I took the pictures and identify the planets and stars.
For an experienced star shooter my pictures are quite noisy, but I am happy with these. All pictures taken with Canon 40D and EF 10-22@10mm, EXIF in the captions. (Click the picture to see them larger.)
Our chalet below looks like having a fire inside.
Paul is taking his long-exposure shots. I used flashlight to make him visible in the picture (and ruining one of his pictures ;)).
The sky above us was filled with stars and the bright belt of Milky Way.
Jupiter is in the middle of the picture. It is the fifth from the sun and the largest of all the planets.
Slighty above that is the star cluster Messier 7 (or M7), known already by antique astronomers.
(Click the Redshift screen capture on the right to see the identification.)
When I took the pictures, I did not realize we could really see three planets and the Moon in so close group. It was only a day or two after new Moon (see the bright but thin “belt” below the Moon), so it was not preventing us to see the planets close to it.
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, and the second brightest object in the sky, after the Moon.
Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, and the smallest also.
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, covered by iron oxide dust making it look red in the continuous duststorms.
(Click the Redshift screen capture on the right to see the indentification.)
I have to finnish this post with a star trail picture. This is showing the movement of the stars due to the Earths rotation during about one hour time.