Giveaway: Win a Copy of “Astrophotography” by Thierry Legault

A newly published English version of the book, “Astrophotography” by Thierry Legault provides detailed, step-by-step instructions of how to start or improve your photography of astronomical objects. But this is not just a dry manual: Legault tells stories and explains details in a manner that seems like he is talking directly to you, and he shares the expertise he has garnered from over 20 years of amateur astrophotography.

You can read our full review of the book here.

Universe Today is proud to announce we have several copies of this engaging book to give away, and two ways to win.

NOTE: This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for everyone’s participation!

The first way to win a copy is our usual “giveaway” process where we have two copies available to winners. In order to be entered into the giveaway drawing, just put your email address into the box at the bottom of this post (where it says “Enter the Giveaway”) before Monday, September 22, 2014. We’ll send you a confirmation email, so you’ll need to click that to be entered into the drawing. If you’ve entered our giveaways before you should also receive an email with a link on how to enter.

The second way to win is through Facebook. Again, two copies are available through this avenue. Please see our Facebook post for this giveaway, then we ask you to “like” the Rocky Nook Publishing Facebook page. Your “like” to Rocky Nook will be considered an entry to the contest. From there, a winner will be chosen and the winners will be notified through Facebook.

The publisher has specified that for this contest, winners chosen from the US will be sent a copy of the book, while winners chosen from other countries will receive an ebook.

Continue reading “Giveaway: Win a Copy of “Astrophotography” by Thierry Legault”

Book Review: Learn from the Master with “Astrophotography” by Thierry Legault

If you’re looking for detailed, step-by-step instructions of how to start or improve your photography of astronomical objects, look no further. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault shares the expertise he has garnered from over 20 years of “amateur” photography in his newly translated book titled simply — and appropriately — “Astrophotography.”

“It took me more than two years to write the first edition of the book (published in French in 2006),” Legault told Universe Today, “and I worked several months on the second edition (2013), and worked several months again for this new English edition.”

This softcover book is filled with dramatic images, helpful graphs, charts, and more – plus over 100,000 words of text to provide detailed, guided instructions on everything from choosing the right camera for your needs to how to process imagery for the best and most accurate results.

Despite the full moon that turned the sky blue, the Milky Way, crossed by a bright meteor, is visible on this 1-minute exposure taken with a 14mm f/2.8 lens on a 24x36mm DSLR over Wallaman Falls, Australia. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
Despite the full moon that turned the sky blue, the Milky Way, crossed by a bright meteor, is visible on this 1-minute exposure taken with a 14mm f/2.8 lens on a 24x36mm DSLR over Wallaman Falls, Australia. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

100% of the astronomical images in the book are Legault’s own photos, just a few of which are featured here in this review. “I really wanted to use my own images,” Legault said.

While each page is a treasure trove of Legault’s beautiful images, he’s not just showing off: he tells you how you can try to get the same results.

Of course, we’ve featured Legault’s stunning and sometimes ground-breaking astrophotography here on Universe Today, and his work has been published and broadcast worldwide. You’ll likely recall images of the space shuttle or International Space Station crossing the Sun or Moon, views of spy satellites in orbit, beautiful deep sky views, or shots like the striking image above of a ‘moonbow’ and meteor over Australia’s Wallaman Falls.

His continued dedication to his craft, along with his attention to detail and quality has earned Legault the reputation as one of the top amateur astrophotographers in the world. And he now shares his tips and know-how in this well-organized and detailed — but highly accessible — manual. Legault’s descriptions and instructions will not lose even those just beginning with astronomical imaging.

Lunar close-ups such as these, taken with a video camera and a 14" telescope, need good atmospheric conditions and telescope collimation. From the book 'Astrophotography'. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
Lunar close-ups such as these, taken with a video camera and a 14″ telescope, need good atmospheric conditions and telescope collimation. From the book ‘Astrophotography’. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

So, with experts like Legault and so many other accomplished astrophotographers taking incredible photos (which we love to feature on Universe Today) why would someone want to bother with trying to just start out and learn the craft?

Legault addresses that question immediately in the forward of his book.

“Part of the answer to that question lies in the desire to get our own pictures of the stars: after all most of the tourists who visit the Egyptian pyramids, Niagara Falls, or The Great Wall of China also take photographs, even though these sites have already been photographed millions of times with beautiful tomes devoted to them,” Legault writes. “The pleasure of photographing the sky is a natural progression from the visual observations of the night sky…”

Plus, Legault continues, with current equipment that is now available, the expanding avenues of citizen science offers the chance for anyone to add to the body of astronomical knowledge.

“It is entirely possible to go beyond the purely aesthetic aspect of astrophography and use images of celestial bodies to study their behavior and deduce the physical mechanisms that govern them, or even reveal new insights,” Legault writes. “In some cases, advanced amateurs can do useful work assisting professionals who, while certainly having more sophisticated means and deeper skills are s0 few that it is impossible for them to perform a complete survey of a a celestial object to to continuously monitor it.”

So not only can you create beautiful imagery but you can contribute to science as well.

These images of the ISS are taken from a video obtained on February 28, 2011, with a 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a monochrome video camera mounted on a Takahashi mount. The mount’s electronics were considerably modified by Emmanuel Rietsch for satellite tracking and were used in conjunction with his software, Video Sky (a modification he also performs on EQ-G mounts). At the center left of the ISS, viewed from the rear and docked to the ISS, is the space shuttle Atlantis. Just to its right, astronaut Steve Bowen is on a spacewalk at the end of the ISS articulated arm (triangular structure). When the images are merged in pairs using the cross-eyed viewing technique described earlier in this chapter, the ISS appears in 3D. The solar panels of the ISS are at top and bottom. The large rectangular white checkerboard structures are radiators.  Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
These images of the ISS are taken from a video obtained on February 28, 2011, with a 10″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a monochrome video camera mounted on a Takahashi mount. The mount’s electronics were considerably modified by Emmanuel Rietsch for satellite tracking and were used in conjunction with his software, Video Sky (a modification he also performs on EQ-G mounts). At the center left of the ISS, viewed from the rear and docked to the ISS, is the space shuttle Atlantis. Just to its right, astronaut Steve Bowen is on a spacewalk at the end of the ISS articulated arm (triangular structure). When the images are merged in pairs using the cross-eyed viewing technique described earlier in this chapter, the ISS appears in 3D. The solar panels of the ISS are at top and bottom. The large rectangular white checkerboard structures are radiators. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

The book begins with the simplest ways for amateurs to begin photographing the night sky, and you don’t even need to own a telescope. For example, Legault’s video, below, of fireworks and a big Moon over Paris is something anyone can record. But using the right settings — and planning ahead — are key to capturing beautiful images and video.

But then Legault delves into the details of telescopic photography, and provides information on using telescopes and tracking mounts. He shares how to precisely capture everything from incredible solar imagery, to deep sky photos, to his ‘trademark’ transits of satellites, like those seen below:

For the total eclipse of March 29, 2006, five images of exposure increasing by a factor of four per step (1/250, 1/60, 1/15, 1/4, and 1 second) were combined with HDR processing to produce this wide dynamic range view of the solar corona. The earthshine on the moon also can be seen. The HDR program Photomatix was used to register the images before they were combined. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
For the total eclipse of March 29, 2006, five images of exposure increasing by a factor of four per step (1/250, 1/60, 1/15, 1/4, and 1 second) were combined with HDR processing to produce this wide dynamic range view of the solar corona. The earthshine on the moon also can be seen. The HDR program Photomatix was used to register the images before they were combined. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
a.) On May 16, 2010 near Madrid, Spain, the weather allowed me to get this simultaneous transit of the ISS and the space shuttle Atlantis just tens of minutes before docking, during the STS-132 mission. This is an exposure of 1/8000 s with a Canon 5D Mark II on a 150mm apochromatic refractor with a Herschel prism and neutral filter. Transit time was 0.5 seconds. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
a.) On May 16, 2010 near Madrid, Spain, the weather allowed me to get this simultaneous transit of the ISS and the space shuttle Atlantis just tens of minutes before docking, during the STS-132 mission. This is an exposure of 1/8000 s with a Canon 5D Mark II on a 150mm apochromatic refractor with a Herschel prism and neutral filter. Transit time was 0.5 seconds. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
b.) Six days later, in Switzerland (Berne), atmospheric conditions were especially favorable to imaging Atlantis docked to the ISS (on the left, between the solar panels). Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
b.) Six days later, in Switzerland (Berne), atmospheric conditions were especially favorable to imaging Atlantis docked to the ISS (on the left, between the solar panels). Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

Also key is image processing. While Legault has provided details for Universe Today before on how not to over-process and be fooled by image artifacts, his book offers much more thorough information on how to start — as well as knowing when to quit — processing images for the best results.

Other areas Legault covers are how to:

  • Select the most useful equipment: cameras, adapters, filters, focal reducers/extenders, field correctors, and guide telescopes
  • Set up your camera (digital, video, or CCD) and your lens or telescope for optimal results
  • Plan your observing sessions
  • Polar-align your equatorial mount and improve tracking for pin-point star images
  • Make celestial time-lapse videos
  • Calculate the shooting parameters: focal length and ratio, field of view, exposure time, etc.
  • Combine multiples exposures to reveal faint galaxies, nebulae details, elusive planetary structures, and tiny lunar craters
  • Postprocess your images to fix defects such as vignetting, dust shadows, hot pixels, uneven background, and noise
  • Identify problems with your images and improve your results

“Astrophotography” is not just a dry manual: Legault tells stories and explains details in a manner that seems like he is talking directly to you. For a translated book, the text flows extremely well, making for a very readable book. Legault credits Alan Holmes from the Santa Barbara Instruments Group (SBIG) – one of the main manufacturers of CCD cameras for astronomy — for his assitance with the translation from French. “He did a tremendous job of correcting my bad translation!” Legault told UT.

“Astrophotography” is available on Amazon in a large format book or as a Kindle edition for those who might like to have a lit version while out in the field. It is also available at book retailers like Barnes and Noble and Shop Indie bookstores. This English version of “Astrophotography” was published by Rocky Nook Publishing, a leader in books on photography. You can also purchase the book directly from Rocky Nook.

For additional imagery and information, visit Legualt’s website.

This false color image of the North America and Pelican nebulae covers 3° and shows the SII, Hydrogen Alpha, and OIII lines isolated with a set of 3 nm wide narrowband filters using a CCD camera from a very light-polluted area, with cumulative exposure times of 12, 2.5, and 4.5 hours respectively. Each 5-minute raw frame was calibrated and all of them were registered. Then, each stacked group was assigned to a layer in the MaxIm DL Combine Color function in LRGB mode: H? to luminance and green, SII to red, and OIII to blue. To compensate for the weakness of OIII, and especially SII with regard to H a, their respective amplification factors were 3.5 and 10. Final adjustment of levels, curves, and color saturation was done using Photoshop after export from MaxIm DL in 16-bit TIFF format. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
This false color image of the North America and Pelican nebulae covers 3° and shows the SII, Hydrogen Alpha, and OIII lines isolated with a set of 3 nm wide narrowband filters using a CCD camera from a very light-polluted area, with cumulative exposure times of 12, 2.5, and 4.5 hours respectively. Each 5-minute raw frame was calibrated and all of them were registered. Then, each stacked group was assigned to a layer in the MaxIm DL Combine Color function in LRGB mode: H? to luminance and green, SII to red, and OIII to blue. To compensate for the weakness of OIII, and especially SII with regard to H a, their respective amplification factors were 3.5 and 10. Final adjustment of levels, curves, and color saturation was done using Photoshop after export from MaxIm DL in 16-bit TIFF format. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

Timelapse: Indonesian Volcanoes at Day and Night by Thierry Legault

Here’s a beautiful new timelapse from the extremely talented astrophotographer Thierry Legault. He recently traveled to Java Island in Indonesia to the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and shot imagery and footage of two active volcanoes, both during the day and at night. The views are absolutely stunning.

“At night, the activity of the sky, nature (volcanoes, clouds and fog) and humans (cars and hikers) is very intense!” Legault said via email.

Below are a couple of still photos from the video:

Fog surrounds the volcanoes of Tengger-Bromo-Semeru Park in Java, Indonesia. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
Fog surrounds the volcanoes of Tengger-Bromo-Semeru Park in Java, Indonesia. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

Thanks to Thierry Legault for sharing his videos and images with Universe Today!

SpaceX Dragon Captured on Film in Orbit Over Paris 25 Minutes After Launch

UPDATE: Thanks to several people on Twitter who pointed out that what is seen in the footage here is the the upper stage of the Falcon 9, the Dragon capsule, and the ejected solar panel covers moving along together in orbit around the Earth. And as Phil Plait pointed out, since this was taken a few minutes after the capsule separated from the rocket upper stage, all the individual things you see here were still near each other in space.

We need to say it: astrophotographer Thierry Legault has done it again! Here’s an absolutely fantastic capture of the SpaceX Dragon capsule just 25 minutes after it launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, as it passed over Europe. Here, Legault captured footage of Dragon crossing the Big Dipper as seen from Paris at 19:50 UTC, April 18, 2014.

“It was an incredible vision: 4 bright dots moving together!” Legault told Universe Today via email.

Check out more of his amazing astrophotography and even some of his tips and tricks at Thierry’s website.

Incredible Astrophoto: The Youngest Possible New Moon by Thierry Legault

It’s always striking to see a tiny sliver of the New Moon. But you’ve probably never seen a sliver this tiny or a Moon this “new” before. This brand new image by astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault was taken this morning and is the youngest possible lunar crescent, with the “age” of the Moon at this instant being exactly zero — at the precise moment of the New Moon. The image was taken in full daylight at 07:14 UTC on July 8, 2013.

Normally it is just about impossible (and dangerous) to see this, as when the Moon is this “new,” the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun and it is so close to the Sun in our sky that it can’t be seen because of the Sun’s glare. Plus, the New Moon appears as an extremely thin crescent which is barely brighter than the blue sky. But Thierry has designed a special sunshade to prevent sunlight from entering the telescope (see it below).

Thierry says the irregularities and discontinuities seen in the edge of the crescent are caused by the relief at the edge of the lunar disk; i.e. mountains and craters on the Moon. Very cool!

The “New Moon” is defined as the instant when the Moon is at the same ecliptic longitude as the Sun. When we refer to the “age” of the Moon, it is the number of hours (or days) since New Moon.

From Thierry’s shooting site in Elancourt, France (a suburb of Paris), the angular separation between the Moon and the Sun was only 4.4° (nine solar diameters).

“At this very small separation, the crescent is extremely thin (a few arc seconds at maximum) and, above all, it is drowned in the solar glare, the blue sky being about 400 times brighter than the crescent itself in infrared (and probably more than 1000 times in visible light),” Thierry writes on his website. “In order to reduce the glare, the images have been taken in close infrared and a pierced screen, placed just in front of the telescope, prevents the sunlight from entering directly in the telescope.”

Thierry Legault with his special telescope filter for blocking the Sun's rays. Image courtesy Thierry Legault.
Thierry Legault with his special telescope filter for blocking the Sun’s rays. Image courtesy Thierry Legault.

Thierry cautions anyone trying to see this with the naked eye. Basically, don’t try it.

“The very thin crescent of the New Moon cannot be observed visually whatever the instrument (naked eye, binoculars, telescope, etc),” he said. “Moreover, pointing a celestial object that close to the Sun is dangerous for the observer and his equipment if it is not performed under the control of an experienced astronomer and with the proper equipment.”

See more information at Thierry’s website. He also took another image of the New Moon at the exact moment back in 2010.

If you want to keep track of what the Moon will look like each night (or day!), Universe Today has a great app for that, our Phases of the Moon app, available for iOS or Android.

Amazing Shots! Shenzhou-10 Docked to Tiangong-1, Transiting the Sun

As soon as you see these images, you’ll probably guess who the photographer is … yes, Thierry Legault. He had less than half a second to capture these incredible shots of the Shenzhou-10 module docked to Tiangong-1 Chinese station transiting across the Sun, and it he did it not only once, but twice, on two consecutive days. Can you see the tiny spacecraft among the sunspots? And keep in mind, there are three taikonauts in these images as well, as the Shenzou has been docked to the Chinese space station module since June 11!

The Tiangong-1 space station is just 10.4 meters (34.1 ft) in length, while the Shenzou 10 is 9.25 meters (30.35 ft) long. This top image is a crop of a full-face view of the Sun, (see the full-face view on Thierry’s website) taken with white light filters by Thierry from southern France on June 16, just after noon UTC. The transit duration was just 0.46 seconds, and Thierry calculated the distance of the spacecraft to observer was 365 km away, and the spacecraft was traveling at 7.4km/s (26,500 km/h or 16,500 mph).
He used a Takahashi TOA-150 refractor, Baader Herschel prism and Canon 6D (1/4000s, 100 ISO).

Below is another solar transit of the two Chinese spacecraft, also taken from Southern France, but the next day, June 17, 2013 at 12:34:24 UTC. This one, in Hydrogen-alpha shows the Shenzhou-10/Tiangong-1 complex in multiple shots over the 0.46 second transit.

Hydrogen-alpha solar transit of Shenzhou-10 module docked to Tiangong-1, taken from Southern France on June 17, 2013 at 12:34:24 UT. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.
Hydrogen-alpha solar transit of Shenzhou-10 module docked to Tiangong-1, taken from Southern France on June 17, 2013 at 12:34:24 UT. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

For this image, Thierry used his Takahashi FSQ-106, Coronado SM90 double stack, camera IDS CMOSIS 4Mp sensor at 38 fps.

This isn’t the first time Thierry has trained his cameras on the Tiangong-1 – in May of 2012 he captured the tiny space station alone transiting the Sun, and it was dwarfed by a huge sunspot sported by the Sun at the time.

In a previous interview with Universe Today, Thierry explained how he prepares to take images like these:

For transits I have to calculate the place, and considering the width of the visibility path is usually between 5-10 kilometers, but I have to be close to the center of this path,” Legault explained, “because if I am at the edge, it is just like a solar eclipse where the transit is shorter and shorter. And the edge of visibility line of the transit lasts very short. So the precision of where I have to be is within one kilometer.”

Legault studies maps, and has a radio synchronized watch to know very accurately when the transit event will happen.

“My camera has a continuous shuttering for 4 seconds, so I begin the sequence 2 seconds before the calculated time,” he said. “I don’t look through the camera – I never see the space station when it appears, I am just looking at my watch!”

He uses CalSky to make his calculations and figure out the timing.

Congrats to Thierry and our thanks to him for sharing his amazing images and skills with Universe Today!

Diagram of Shenzhou-10 (right) docked with Tiangong-1 (left). Via Wikimedia Commons.
Diagram of Shenzhou-10 (right) docked with Tiangong-1 (left). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Dancing Polar Auroras Captured by Thierry Legault

Aurora over Komagfjord, Norway (northern end of Scandinavia, 70°N). Credit and Copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission

One of our favorite astrophotographers, Thierry Legault from France, took a trip to Finland and Norway so he could see and photograph the Northern Lights for the first time. Socked in with clouds in Finland, Thierry traveled to the Alta region in Norway to find clear skies. “We were rewarded with incredible auroras,” he said via Skype. “At moments, the auroras moved like curtains in the wind, too fast to be photographed!”

See below for a stunning video compilation of two nights of observing the Northern Lights over the Kamagfjord in Norway, as well as more gorgeous images of aurora and a view of the fjord in the “twilight” of midday, since there was no sunrise that far north for several days in December.

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Aurora and clouds over Komagfjord in Norway, December 2012. Credit and Copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

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Stunning aurora Komagfjord in Norway, December 2012. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

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Fisheye view of the aurora in Norway, December 2012. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission

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Komagfjord at midday (no sunrise in December). Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by perission

While this was Thierry’s first-ever view of the Aurora Borealis, we can expect this won’t be his last. “I am becoming addicted,” he said, “just like with eclipses!”

See the full set of Thierry’s images of his aurora expedition to Norway and Finland on his website, and we extend our thanks to Theirry for continuing to share his wonderful images with us.

The Man Who Shoots Space: Interview with Thierry Legault

We’ve written many articles to share the incredible astrophotography of Thierry Legault, and have also interviewed him extensively about his work. If you’ve enjoyed his imagery and stories, you’ll appreciate this new video interview from VICE which shows Legault at work, and allows him to tell his story in his own words.

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If you aren’t familiar with the work of Legault, he has taken images such as the space shuttle and space station as they transited across the Sun, the first-ever ground-based image of astronaut in spacewalk, and images of spy satellites in orbit. He lives in the suburbs of Paris, but will easily travel 3,000 and 4,000 kilometers — and sometimes to another continent — to capture a specific image.

And usually, the events he captures last only about a half-second and he never sees them live with his own eyes.

“For transits I have to calculate the place, and considering the width of the visibility path is usually between 5-10 kilometers, but I have to be close to the center of this path,” Legault explained in a previous interview with UT, “because if I am at the edge, it is just like a solar eclipse where the transit is shorter and shorter. And the edge of visibility line of the transit lasts very short. So the precision of where I have to be is within one kilometer.”

Legault studies maps, and has a radio synchronized watch to know very accurately when the transit event will happen.

“My camera has a continuous shuttering for 4 seconds, so I begin the sequence 2 seconds before the calculated time,” he said. “I don’t look through the camera – I never see the space station when it appears, I am just looking at my watch!”

For a transit event, he gets get a total of 16 images – 4 images every second, and only after he enlarges the images will he know if he succeeded or not.

“There is a kind of feeling that is short and intense — an adrenaline rush!” Legault said.

Enjoy the new video interview, and see Legault’s imagery at his website.

Thierry Legault: Moonbow and Meteor over Australia’s Wallaman Falls

Night vision under a full Moon at Wallaman Falls in Queensland, Australia. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Astrophotographer extraordinaire Thierry Legault traveled to Australia for the Transit of Venus this past June, but he didn’t stop with just taking incredible images of the Transit and then head home to France. He’s just published an wonderful collection of night sky images he took from his time in Australia, including this beautifully stunning image of a ‘Moonbow’ over Wallaman Falls, located in between Townsville and Cairns in north Queensland. If you’ve not seen a Moonbow before, you’re probably not alone. Many times, they are only visible in long exposure photographs, as the Moonlight effect is usually too faint for human eyes to discern. But the Moonlight on the water mist from the falls creates a Moonbow.

“The gibbous Moon makes a Moonbow over the falls while a bright meteor crosses the Milky Way,” Thierry wrote to Universe Today, sharing his new images. “Other visitors were sleeping in the camping area, but not me!”

See his entire collection of his Australian Nights images from June 2012 — they’re simply wonderful, and confirms the beauty of the night sky from down under!

The Moon from Earth As You’ve Never Seen it Before

The Morteus region on the Moon, taken from the suburbs of Paris, France. Credit: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Think this is an orbital view of the Moon? Guess again. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault took this image from his backyard in the suburbs of Paris, France! He’s taken a series of images of the Moon the past few nights that will blow your mind when you consider they were taken from Earth, within the confines of the metropolis of Paris (largest city in France, 5th largest in the EU, 20th largest in the world). Thierry used a Celestron C14 EdgeHD (356mm) and Skynyx2.2 camera. You definitely want to click on these images for the larger versions on Thierry’s website, and he suggests using a full-HD screen in subdued surroundings.

Additionally, Thierry also recently took images of Mercury and Uranus that include incredible detail.

Plato, Mons Pico and Montes Teneriffe as seen on Sept 8th, 2010, from the suburbs of Paris, France. Credit: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

The clarity and detail are just tremendous. See all of Thierry’s recent lunar images at this link. He has a collection of twelve different images of various regions on the Moon and all are stunning.

Below are his images of Mercury and Uranus. In the image of Mercury, surface details are visible, and the cloud belts are even visible on the images of Uranus:

Incredibly detailed view of Mercury on August 23, 2012, as seen from Blancourt, France. Credit: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Uranus, as seen on September 9, 2012 from Blancourt, France. Credit: Thierry Legault. Used by permission.

Thanks, as always, to Thierry Legault for sharing his images and allowing us to post them. Check out his website: http://legault.perso.sfr.fr/ for more wonderful images and information about how he does his amazing astrophotography.