Links to the Best Astrophotography WEB Sites
William J. Busler
In general, what I am looking for here are astronomical images which capture the true beauty of the heavens. It’s nice when a site isn’t limited to a few objects which everybody and his dog have already photographed better. Resolution is important to me. I have eliminated sites in which all of the pictures contain about 3K of information, causing them to resemble a tile floor when they’re blown up or projected. I have also tried to stay away from sites in which the authors have fiddled with the color balance so much that the correct colors can’t be restored. When you’re surfing around for good sites, don’t be misled by a spiffy-looking home page. The web-page skills of the author may not extend to astrophotography!
Anglo-Australian Observatory (David Malin) www.aao.gov.au/images.html About 150 observatory-quality photos by David Malin. Retrieving them, unfortunately, is a three-step process. First, print out the list of photographs, which includes the AAT (Anglo-Australian Telescope) reference number, as well as a description. If you would like to see a low-resolution view of an object, click on its thumbnail picture. (Some of these are actually pretty good. Star clusters look best, galaxies look worst, nebulae in between.)
Then if you want to see the uncensored version, go to their FTP web site. The site address is ftp://ftp.aao.gov.au/pub/dfm_images/ However, the easiest way to get there is to click on their link, referred to as "our FTP location".
Many of the newer pictures are unsurpassed. Check out AAT 025, the Jewel Box Cluster, NGC 4755. However, some shots (particularly older ones) look like they’ve been artificially sharpened, giving them a garish "paint-by-number" quality. Maybe there’s a way to undo this. Plan to spend quite a while at this site!
The Hubble Space Telescope Site www.stsci.edu The one and only! For beautiful pictures, I recommend the archival section, since the "latest" shots are sometimes spliced-together frames that still need more work. Click on "Pictures", then "Pictures Organized by Subject". (Or, you can go to the photos directly by clicking on http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html ) Particularly mind-boggling are the deep-field pictures showing squillions of super-remote galaxies. Select the Hubble deep-field WFPC and the "Details of the Hubble WFPC" shots. If you have a fast connection and/or some other stuff to do, download the 1.48M and 314K versions of these two pictures. They are so huge you’ll have to scroll back and forth to see the entire pictures (quite different from the postage-stamp images at some of the other sites). While you’re here, check out everything thoroughly. Plan on spending at least an hour.
Keck Observatory www2.keck.hawaii.edu:3636/realpublic/gen_info/gallery/gstart.html (Aren’t you glad this is a hot link?) A few really good images, especially the Crab Nebula, NGC 1232, and NGC 5850. Most of the rest are low-resolution.
NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatories) www.noao.edu/image_gallery This is a consortium of several observatories, including Kitt Peak. Some excellent photos!
Palomar Observatory www.astro.caltech.edu/palomarpublic/index.html You might think that this site would be spectacular. Not so; most images are only a few K and the colors are frequently off. However, a few good images can be found. None of the "oldies but goodies" are here any more; most of the present images are in the infrared or other invisible wavelengths.
Richard Berry, Ed Grafton, Al Kelly, and Chuck Shaw http://wvi.com/rberry/cookbook.htm www.ghg.net/egrafton www.ghg.net/akelly and www.ghg.net/cshaw (respectively). These people were written up in S&T (December 1998) for their work in precise color balance in astrophotography. They are probably the world’s experts in that area, but for my money, they need to start with higher-resolution photographs. Most images at this site look to me like they were painted on washcloths (with exactly the right colors, of course!).
Tsukasa Enomoto, Hiroshi Kubota, et al. www.butaman.ne.jp:8000/~aoshika The Las Vegas of astrophoto web sites. Music plays, animated things dance about, and if you click the wrong button, everything switches more or less permanently to Japanese. Enomoto’s Pleiades is excellent; the others somewhat less so. Kubota’s M31 is worth a look.
Bob and Janice Fera www.feraphotography.com This is a nice site, but rather small. Fairly good images of the "Pacman" nebula, and NGC 6946 in Cepheus. The Veil Nebula in Cygnus (NGC 6992 region) is one of the best I’ve seen. This site pushes cookies!
George Greaney www.astroimages.com Several worthwhile images here, although most of them are … well … grainy. The best, it seems to me, are M38 (etc.), the Horsehead Nebula region, M83, and NGC 253.
Tony and Daphne Hallas www.astrophoto.com/ The Hallases were featured in the November 1998 S&T. They specialize in making digital scans of film images. Their work is truly outstanding. Almost everything is brilliantly done. My favorites were M81-82, M51, M31, the field of AE Aurigae, and the Cone Nebula/Christmas-Tree Cluster complex. Their wide shot of the Horsehead may be the best anywhere. Comet Hale-Bopp over Mono Lake is spectacular!
David Hanon www.mindspring.com/~dhanon One of the best sites, containing about 100 images of deep-sky objects, comets, and the Moon and planets. Even the low-resolution pictures look good. Probably the best is the Eagle Nebula (M16), which was also featured in the November 1998 Sky and Telescope, along with his beautiful M20 (Trifid Nebula). Some images, however, especially the Helix and Ring Nebulae, suffer from not enough resolution. They’re still beautiful, though!
Jerry Lodriguss http://astropix.com/INDEX.htm Good Perseus Double Cluster and entire Veil Nebula. Lots of useful but fairly low-resolution pictures.
Philip Perkins www.astrocruise.com The entire Veil Nebula and Horsehead are very good.
Robert Provin and Brad Wallis www.frazmtn.com/~bwallis/ M13 is particularly good.
Tim Puckett www.cometwatch.com This is an excellent site, displaying several highly worthwhile images. I especially recommend M74, NGC 891, NGC 4631, and M81 (b/w). The Helix nebula also looks very good.
Ian Turner www.mindspring.com/~skyshooter The best shot here is a CCD image of M81 (galaxy in Ursa Major); I wish it had more detail in the nucleus.
Chuck Vaughn www.aa6g.org Chuck’s home page has links to his other hobbies, including a really good one on butterflies. Click on "astrophotos", of course. Be sure to look at his Pleiades and the multiple-galaxy shot of M84-86-87. There are lots of low-resolution pictures of Messier galaxies, including many of the unusual ones. The shot of the entire Veil Nebula is great, but it’s b/w! (At least the colors aren’t souped up, as usual!)
Chris Vedeler www.isomedia.com/homes/cvedeler/space.htm Not a whole lot here seemed outstanding to me, but his Ring Nebula (M57) had good color rendition. LOTS of misspellings!
Ventura County Astronomical Society www.vcas.org This is a multiple-author site, and some are much better than others. Go to "astrophoto", then "astrophoto gallery". Check out Dave Holland’s Double Cluster in Perseus! There are also links here to Tony and Daphne Hallas, Bob and Janice Fera, Vince and Maggie Farnsworth, and Steve Masser.
Jason Ware www.galaxyphoto.com Some great photos to look at here, the best being M17 (the Omega Nebula), M20 (the Trifid Nebula), NGC 253, and M5.
Astronomical Persons www.astro.uni-bonn.de/~pbrosche/hist_astr/ha_pers.html Very complete; lots of biographies and pictures of everybody who was/is anybody.
http://members.prestige.net/rickb/others-main.html A complete list of all amateur astrophotography sites: Some of these are pretty awful, but this list supposedly has them all! Note: A cookie is provided!
Messier Catalog by SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space): Go to it directly at www.seds.org/messier/data2.html Many of these photos are not too great, but if you need a picture of an M-object in a hurry, they’re all here!
Messier Catalogue by Micronet: Some images are better than those in the SEDS listing. Again, they’re all here! www.micronet.it/english/astronomia/messier/messier.html
Sky Map / Planetarium software. www.seds.org/billa/astrosoftware.html
Views of the Solar System www.solarviews.com The best all-around source for images of the planets, asteroids, and comets. Cookies provided!