Kiwi takes stunning snaps of the solar system from his backyard

An amateur astronomer from New Zealand has been wowing the internet with his stunning snaps of the solar system.

Max McGregor - who goes by the online handle Backyardastrokiwi - has been doing photography for nearly a decade, but earlier this year decided to start snapping the heavens through a telescope from his Lower Hutt backyard.

"I have a special mount that tracks the night sky," McGregor told Newshub. "I flick a telescope on that mount, I put a specific planetary camera into where the eyepiece would normally be, then I photograph."

His latest photo is of Saturn, which at present is 1,441,979,529km away - nearly 10 times the distance between the sun and the Earth. 

The trick to getting such a good snap from this far away, without millions of dollars in equipment, is called 'lucky imaging'

Ironically, it's actually a technique which takes some of the luck out of getting a quality image - photographers snap loads of images, then software sorts through them and combines them into a single picture.

"This technique fixes the distortion/warping in the image caused by our atmospheric distortion," McGregor said.

"For this photo I took 15,000 frames over five minutes and used the best 15 percent to combine them into the final image."

It's relatively affordable - his rig, including a 200mm telescope and specialist space camera, would set you back about $2000. 

"The telescope's not built for planetary imaging, but I've made it work," he said. "This one hasn't got a lot of zoom for a planetary telescope... I've made do with what I've got." 

For larger objects - such as the Milky Way galaxy itself - no telescope is needed. Here's one McGregor shot in from Auckland's Waiheke. 

With Saturn getting further and further away, he's now got his sights on Neptune. But one day McGregor hopes to find something no one has ever seen before.

"Some hidden galaxy they haven't come across for some reason. That would be pretty cool."


Check out McGregor's site here and his Instagram here.