A STARSTRUCK Inverclyde teacher is capturing incredible images of galaxies millions of light years away - after starting his journey with an Aldi astroscope. 

Stephen McAllister, who teaches physics at St Stephen's High in Port Glasgow, has captured awe-inspiring photographs of solar systems which lie around 12.5 million light years from our planet.

Stephen has received acclaim from friends and family, on social media, and from amateur astronomers across the UK, for the stunning pictures. 

The Port teacher says he wants to show people that shooting the stars doesn't need to cost the earth.

Stephen added: "You can do an awful lot without spending a lot of money and using quite modest gear.

"But there's a lot of learning involved and you do have to be prepared to spend time out in the cold."

Just before the first coronavirus lockdown hit in 2020, Stephen bought an astroscope from the middle aisle of Aldi for just £80. 

Greenock Telegraph:
He says even though he had always been interested in stargazing, the supermarket telescope was the catalyst for him to really rekindle his love of astronomy. 

Stephen, who has a physics degree, said: "I still use the original Aldi mount and have adapted the scope by adding tracking motors.

"I've probably spent around £200 modifying it and have invested in more gear, including lenses.

"Stargazing has become really accessible for people as astroscopes can be bought fairly cheaply and loads of star map apps are free."

The Port teacher says the three images he's captured so far that he's most proud of are of Bode's galaxy, Andromeda galaxy and the Tycho crater on the moon. 

Greenock Telegraph:
Stephen is now desperate to photograph the Pacman nebula, Pinwheel galaxy, Triangulum galaxy, and Horsehead nebula. 

The stargazer started out looking at the night sky with binoculars when he was a teenager and his interest ramped up when he spotted Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997.

Greenock Telegraph:
After snapping up the Aldi scope, he even ran a live moon feed for people on Facebook during coronavirus lockdown. 

Stephen now heads for the hills when conditions are right to get the best views. 

He has looked at the night sky in places that are almost inaccessible, and has viewed the stars from right in the middle of the French alps. 

Greenock Telegraph:
Stephen sets his scope up to the correct aperture and orientation, pointing towards the North Star.

He then links it up to a camera app, and the files produced are processed in another.

The scope takes snapshots of images in 10-second intervals, and the app stacks the pictures on top of each other to create the full image. 

Stephen explained: "You need about 30 minutes of total exposure. 

"As the pictures come in, you can see the image of the galaxy growing in front of your eyes."

Stephen has now set up a group on Facebook where he will post images and provide help and advice to fellow amateur astronomers. 

He wants to pass his enthusiasm onto other people. 

Stephen added: "It's quite a grounding experience when it's just you and the whirring of the kit. 

"You watch the news and see all the horrible things that are happening in the world, and then see the vastness of what's out there. 

"It makes you realise what an inconsequential part of it we are.

"We are just one tiny speck really, orbiting around space."

Stephen's Facebook group can be found at www.facebook.com/stephen.and.the.night.sky