Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Stargazing How to start Astrophotography

  1. Apr 12, 2006 #1
    Wow, all of this Astrophotography looks incredible! I really want to start getting into taking my own pictures, but have no idea where to start. I have no equipment and no idea of what equipment I would need...

    Any Help? Like maybe a beginners guide on a website somewhere?

    Thanks, Rich.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2006 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    There are tons and tons of individuals' websites that you should browse, but a lot depends on what you want to do, what your level of experience is, and what your budget is.

    If you have no astronomy experience whatsoever, you may want to start off with a $2-300 non-motorized scope (ehh - maybe a motorized one) to help you decide if you really like astronomy enough to spend a lot of time on it.

    The next step up from there is a computerized scope in the $600-$1200 range and a cheap webcam, then later a $300 astrocam (like Meade's DSI).

    The next step up from that is probably $3,000-$5,000 worth of equipment
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2006
  4. Apr 13, 2006 #3
    Thanks for the reply! I wouldn't mind spending in around the $600-$1200 region, as it is something I've wanted to do for a long time and I know I'll like it! :rolleyes:

    What I don't really understand is what sort of camera you use with a telescope? :uhh: I'd probably prefer a digital camera to use...Just need pointing in the right direction of what to buy and how to use! Complete beginner here :smile:
  5. Apr 13, 2006 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Ok, On that range, you have the Meade ETX or the low end of the LXD75 series.
    http://meade.telescopes.com/site_search/index.php?&keywords=&display=&cur=5&cat=17&sort=pd&brand=51&lp=&hp= [Broken]
    ...or the Celestron C---GT series
    http://celestron.telescopes.com/site_search/index.php?&keywords=&display=&cur=4&cat=17&sort=pd&brand=22&lp=&hp= [Broken]
    ...or the Orion Skyview Pro series (probably the best, bang-for-buck)

    Had I done it differently, I probably would not have gotten my ETX, I would have either spent a little more for an LXD series or gotten an Orion for about the same price. Part of the problem there was that I already knew I wanted to go the next level up, but didn't quite have the funds yet, so I wanted something to hold me over until I could get something better (which I am about ready to do). I actually bought a $400 Meade reflector that was junk, decided I was willing to spend $800, then didn't spend enough effort on the decision.

    Some key issues:

    Focal Ratio (ratio between focal length and aperature):
    This is probably the biggest issue. It is what determines whether or not you can do deep-sky imaging with much success. Lower is better and if you want to do deep-sky, having a high focal ratio is an absolute killer. At f14, my ETX requires eight times the exposure of the Orion Skyview Pro (f4.9 - you ratio the squares) to get the same brightness. Now mine can work with a focal reducer, which brings it down to about f7, but that still means double the exposures. Similarly....

    Very close second. My mount has a tracking bug that makes exposures over 30 seconds impossible (and even at 30 seconds, I can only keep about half). Some people have gotten better, but the ETX is hit or miss. The Skyview Pro is better, though even then people say getting 2 minutes unguided is difficult with any scope. Still, that means you can get 8x brighter images with the Skyview than I can with my ETX, without having to jump up in difficulty to autoguiding. There are a lot of deep-sky objects in range of a scope like the Skyview, not a lot in range of mine.

    Aperature/Focal Length:
    Since most scopes in the same product line/family have the same focal ratio, bigger scopes essentially just yield the same brightness but a bigger image. For planetary, though, aperature=resolution.

    Scope Type:
    Real quick, reflectors or CATs (half refractor, half reflector) are generally the most versatile and therefore best bang-for-buck. I encourage you to learn about the different types, though.
    There are three basic options:

    For planetary imaging, a decent webcam (Quickcam 3000 or 4000, or anything with a CCD, not a CMOS imaging chip) will match or exceed the results of a more expensive camera. Regardless of if you are going to move up to deep-sky imaging, I highly recommend starting out with a webcam. People make adapters, but all you really need to do is remove the lens and hot-glue a 35mm film canister to it. Then it goes in place of your eyepiece.

    By shooting videos and stacking hundreds of images with software like http://registax.astronomy.net/", you get about double the resolution from the final pic than in any individual image.

    Low-end deep-sky imagers:
    Meade makes a camera called the Deep-Sky Imager ($300) and Orion makes the Starshoot ($400).
    http://meade.telescopes.com/site_search/index.php?keywords=DSI&display=grid&cat=26&brand=51&lp=&hp= [Broken]

    They come with software that takes the pictures and they have image processing suites with them. They are a good start, but they are low resolution and low sensitivity. One big drawback of the color DSI - it is actually a monochrome camera with a grid of filters on it. That means its output resolution is really only a quarter of what the CCD is (and therefore advertised as), and it is noticeable in some of my photos. I don't think the Starshoot has that issue.

    Midrange CCD Imagers:
    The next step up from there is the monochrome DSI II ($700), or competing products in the up to $1500 range. The obvious drawback is the need to shoot 3 (or more) sets of images to then combine the colors via software. Benefit: sensitivity and resolution.

    DSLR Cameras
    On a similar pricerange is a regular digital SLR camera. Their benefit is bigger chips (for wider fields of view) and higher resolution. Drawbacks are that they are unsuitable for planetary imaging and their sensitivity is lower than the dedicated astrocams at similar prices.

    You can also piggyback (means exactly what it sounds like) a dslr with its lens to take really wide-field pictures. I coupled an slr lens with my DSI for a few of mine.

    Have a look at my website (shameless plug). You'll notice nice planetary pictures, but not a lot of deep sky. The Orion Skyview should be capable of slightly better planetary and much better deep-sky.

    I need to start copying some of this stuff to my blog on my website....
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  6. Apr 13, 2006 #5
    Wow...thanks for all the information! It is really helpful! Ok, you can tell i'm a complete beginner from this question! Where can I get a 35mm film canister? Could I just use superglue? lol!

    Also, with the telescopes that find objects themselves do you need to be connected to the Internet? Or even a computer? How does that work?

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2006
  7. Apr 16, 2006 #6
  8. Apr 30, 2006 #7


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Oops, never replied to this one...
    They have a computer in the controller, but you can also control them from a regular computer if you want to.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: How to start Astrophotography
  1. Astrophotography photos (Replies: 315)