Detailed pictures of the planets and stars are breathtaking. Taking pictures like these requires skills and proper equipment. Being an astrophotographer isn’t cheap or easy, but it’s a hobby that’s worth exploring. It lets you enjoy the realms of photography and astronomy. Today, we’re going to be taking you through the ins and outs of astrophotography. Our guide is going to tell you everything that you need to know and assist you in finding the best telescope for astrophotography.
Astrophotography can get slightly technical since it involves two different practices. You need to know how to take good pictures, and you also need to know how to operate a telescope. Fortunately, if you manage to buy the right equipment, then you’re going to have a much easier time. People who jump into astrophotography blindly end up throwing away a lot of money. They buy the wrong things that make life harder for them. You need to have a clear understanding of the various equipment involved in astrophotography. This will let you make the right choices when picking your equipment.
So let’s start our guide by talking about the equipment. We’ll take a look at what sort of telescopes you will need. We’ll also discuss how to hook them up with photography equipment and take photos with them. Lastly, we’ll take a look at some awesome telescopes that are perfect for astrophotography.
What is Astrophotography?
Astrophotography is a complex yet incredibly rewarding hobby. It’s the process of taking pictures of celestial objects to capture them in all their glory. To do so, one needs to pair their camera with an astronomy telescope. The telescope acts as an extension of your camera’s lens. It captures light from far away objects and projects a detailed image of them. Your camera then captures this projected image. A decent astrophotography rig can be expensive. However, it can capture some stunningly beautiful pictures.
Keep in mind that taking pictures of the night sky isn’t astrophotography. That’s a completely different ball game that requires specialized cameras, patience, and an insane amount of skill. The beauty of astrophotography is that even an amateur can enjoy it. All you need is the right equipment on hand.
Elements of a Decent Astrophotography Telescope
It goes without saying that you’re going to need a capable telescope for astrophotography. One that is capable of projecting crystal clear images of what it’s pointed at. The better your telescope will be, the more detail you’ll be able to capture in your pictures. Now, there are a handful of factors that determine the telescopic ability of a telescope.
The size of your telescope’s objective lens is called its aperture. A telescope functions by allowing light to enter through its lens and then project an image. The more light a telescope can capture through its lens, the more powerful it becomes. A larger aperture means that a telescope will be able to project images that are brighter and clearer. Aperture is important. However, it isn’t as big of a thing as some people like to think. The size of your telescope’s optics can only increase its light gathering capability. The quality of its optics determines how well it can turn that captured light into a clear image. A quality astrophotography telescope should have well-made optics.
Focal Length And Focal Ratio
A telescope’s focal length and ratio are quite important when you’re getting into astrophotography. The focal length of a telescope is the distance between its objective lens and the point at which light rays converge to form an image. Telescopes with longer focal lengths have higher magnification power at the cost of a smaller field of view. Shorter focal lengths have wider field of views but lesser magnification power. Focal length should be kept in mind when shopping for an astrophotography telescope. It will determine how much scenery you can bring in one picture and how closely you can view objects.
The focal ratio of a telescope has a very big impact on your astrophotography experience. This determines the speed of a telescope’s image recording. Faster focal ratios mean that your telescope will capture an image faster and vice versa. A faster focal ratio isn’t necessarily good. The faster an image is captured, the less exposure time it gets. If you plan on taking pictures of deep space objects (which project fainter light) a slower focal ratio will be better. Your telescope will be able to produce a clearer image that you can then capture.
When it comes to telescopes, bigger is better. A bigger telescope is capable of capturing clearer images. However, bigger telescopes are bulky and impractical. Especially if you’re into astrophotography. You want a telescope that you can move around with you. Astrophotography often requires you to move around to get the best shot. Sometimes you need to shift your telescope to remoter areas to avoid light pollution as well. Basically, what you’re looking for is a telescope that offers power and is light enough to be carried around easily.
To do their job effectively, telescopes need a stable and solid mount. An astronomy telescope is next to useless if you don’t have a mount that offers stable support. There are two popular mount types in the astronomy community; altazimuth mounts and equatorial mounts. While both are great, equatorial mounts are preferable in astrophotography. These mounts have two different axes on which they move. This makes operating them a bit complicated. However, their dual axes allow these mounts to be moved according to the Earth’s rotation.
With a motorized equatorial mount, one can track an object in the sky over a period of time. Astrophotography often requires you to leave your setup pointed at the same object for several hours. In situations like these, an equatorial mount is essential. Otherwise, you won’t be able to keep your lens pointed at what you want to capture.
A telescope won’t take pictures on its own. You’re going to need adapters to attach your camera to your telescope. The kind of adapter that you’ll need depends on whether you plan on using a DSLR to take pictures or your smartphone. You can capture decent photos with a smartphone. However, to truly capture what you can see through a telescope, you’re going to need a DSLR camera.
Phone adapter mounts are quite simple to use. They can be attached to a telescope’s eyepiece and then act like a mounting bracket for your phone. They’re often a good option for people who are trying their hand at astrophotography. You can start with a phone mount (which is much cheaper) and then move over to something better if you enjoy astrophotography.
T-ring adapters are designed for attaching DSLR cameras to telescopes. They allow you to connect your camera’s lens to your telescope’s eyepiece. T-rings aren’t that expensive either. However, you need to pick one that fits your camera’s lens perfectly. An adapter that’s too big won’t be able to hold your camera securely. An adapter that’s too small may end up getting stuck to your camera.
Different Kinds of Telescopes
There are two major design types in telescopes; the Newtonian Reflector and the Refractor. Both of these designs take a different approach towards making objects in the sky more viewable. Here’s a rundown on each design’s advantages and disadvantages.
- They have larger apertures. This makes reflectors superb for deep space viewing. Their larger aperture also allows them to capture clearer and detailed images.
- They don’t experience chromatic aberration. Chromatic aberration can significantly reduce the accuracy of what a telescope is viewing.
- Reflectors cost less than refractors. They make great beginner scopes since you can get a huge aperture at a very low price point.
- Reflectors have two mirrors in them. These mirrors can be misaligned easily if the telescope gets shaken around too much. You need to be able to collimate (realign) these mirrors to keep your telescope accurate. This can bring an added element of technicality for beginner astronomers.
- Reflectors have an open body that keeps their optics exposed. This means that their optics need to be cleaned and serviced frequently. Also, reflectors need time to let their optics reach the same temperature as their surroundings.
- The shape of a reflector telescope’s mirror creates a distorted effect at the edge of its field of view. This effect makes objects appear stretched out like a comet.
- Their closed body design means that these scopes never need to be maintained. Their optics are kept sealed inside of their body. This makes refractors easier to use.
- Unlike reflectors, refractor telescopes don’t have part of their optics blocking incoming light. This lets them capture images with better clarity.
- Refractors have their eyepiece situated at the backend of their body. This makes them more accessible for people of all heights.
- Refractor scopes cost more because of their optics. Larger aperture refractors can become quite expensive.
- Refractors tend to experience chromatic aberration which can make images look weird.
- Refractors also weigh more. Larger refractors can be a lot heavier and less portable.
Both telescope designs have their pros and cons. However, we can’t say that one design is better than the other. They both have their qualities, and it all comes down to your personal preference. Some people like refractors and other like reflectors. Trying out both designs can help you figure out which one will suit you better.
Now let’s take a look at some superb telescopes for astrophotography.
Best Telescopes For Astrophotography
Orion 09565 EON 130mm ED Triplet Apochromatic Refractor
- This telescope is as powerful as it is heavy. Its 23-pound body has a 5.1-inch aperture that allows it to capture an insane level of detail.
- The scope’s magnification comes in 19x and 260x. This makes the scope great for taking wide field shots and also for taking detailed, up close shots.
- Its long body has a focal length of 900mm and a focal ratio of f/7.0 to boot.
- It has high-quality optics that help produce a flatter image.
- The telescope’s body is compact despite its size and weight.
- It has a powerful focusing system that makes using the telescope for photography easier.
- It can be used for astrophotography and generally as a telescope as well.
- Despite everything that it has to offer, the telescope isn’t too expensive.
- The focusing system requires you to make small adjustments manually. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time getting a razor sharp focus.
- It doesn’t perform as well on objects that are nearby.
- The telescope doesn’t come with much accessories. You’ll have to purchase all of them separately.
Sky-Watcher ProED 100mm Doublet APO Refractor
- Affordable, portable, and made to get the job done. This telescope is a great option for anyone who’s new to astrophotography.
- Its high-quality optics are designed to counter false colors. The telescope’s instances of chromatic aberration are quite minor as well.
- The inner tube is painted black to minimize distortion caused by stray light.
- It has a 4-inch aperture and offers magnification ranging from 17x to 283x. Its magnification range makes the telescope’s field of view quite flexible.
- It has a focal length of 900mm and an f/7.5 focal ratio.
- This telescope is versatile and offers plenty of value for beginner astronomers.
- It comes with a decent set of accessories.
- The scope’s build quality isn’t great in terms of strength. It can be a bit fragile.
- Its focusing mechanism leaves much to be desired. Getting a nice focus with this scope can be difficult.
The Orion 9534 ED80T CF Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
- The perfect telescope for people who want powerful equipment without the bulk. This telescope is light (5.5 pounds) and has enough functionality to put a smile on a professional’s face.
- Its 3.1-inch aperture allows the telescope to capture most objects in the sky. You may have a hard time capturing deep space objects.
- Its 480mm focal length, f/6 focal ratio, and 12x-160x magnification make the scope suitable for wide field photography.
- Its high-quality optics provide great image quality. However, its images aren’t as flat as one would like.
- High-quality imagery with above average color correction.
- A great choice for wide field shots.
- Comes with a retractable dew shield that protects your objective lens. The shield can also be used to prevent excessive light from entering the lens.
- Not the best option for deep space viewing. Its magnification and aperture don’t meet the mark.
- Images aren’t as flat as one would like.
Celestron EdgeHD 1100 XLT Optical Tube Assembly 91050-XLT
- This telescope goes all out in terms of power. It has a huge 11-inch objective lens that makes it a monstrosity of a telescope. Its 2,800 mm focal length and variable focal ratio (f/10, f/7, and f/2) makes it quite versatile as well. This telescope is the perfect instrument for viewing deep space objects.
- Its optics are incredibly high quality, and it packs precise focusing ability.
- The perfect scope for deep space photography.
- Its variable focus makes the telescope quite versatile as well. You can expect to take awesome shots of nearby objects as well.
- A great option for setting up a professional astrophotography rig.
- An advanced and technical telescope. It isn’t suitable for beginners.
- It’s quite expensive as well.
These are some of the best astrophotography scopes in the market. Each of these scopes land somewhere near the high-end tier of telescopes. They’re designed to provide extreme focus, precise colors, and highly accurate projections. We’ve covered telescopes that meet the mark for astrophotography. Whether you’re an amateur looking for something to try their hand at astrophotography or you’re a professional looking for proper equipment, you’re bound to find something useful here.