Bigger isn’t always better

It’s true . . . Depending on what you want to image (in astro photography) bigger isn’t always better, the exception being Sensor size . . . you don’t need to spend a lot of money either . . .buying used can stretch your dollars and you may already have some of what you need !  an older manual focus camera lens can work . . .

A setup like this can do great wide field photography like the following photo . . .

partial mosaic of the Cygnus complex . . .

Imaging done using a simple telephoto lenses .


The one thing you do need if you want to get serious is a good telescope mount, I would suggest something like the Celestron AVX, you can pick one up used for about $500.00 . . . They are actually on sale right now from various places at a tremendous price.  Why would I suggest an investment like this, well there is a saying in the photographic world, spend your money up front for a good tripod now or believe it or not you’ll eventually spend it later twice over (if not more).  The AVX is pretty good for its price point, and for short scopes or camera lenses for wide field it’s pretty reliable and dependable.

We actually are way ahead of the cart at the moment . . . I would say the biggest mistake anyone can make getting into this hobby is rushing out and buying STUFF (I like to put the emphasis on it as SHTuff!)

I would say 90% of what you do in the hobby of Astro Photography will be reading everything you can get your hands on . . . from how to . . . process your images, what filters do what, how to control equipment . . . how to . . . how to . . . how to . . . the one thing I can say to this is  . . . GO slow.  All the dodads will not help you get that elusive image . . . especially if you do not know how to do it in the first place.

  • Number one thing to learn . . . How to Polar align your equipment

Start small, wide field imaging is fun, the targets are fairly easy to shoot (if you’ve learned how to polar align your mount and scope) . . . also with a modest scope you can view the moon and learn loads about imaging.

It is easy to start off using a digital camera attached to a telescope to image things, but another thing that will wind up irritating the hell out of you is Light Pollution if you live in a city or a very heavily populated area it will bother you (well your pictures).  Yep there are filters that kinda sorta help, enter a new bugger (LED STREET LIGHTS) can’t really filter em out as they are broad spectrum.  Even with a color astro camera it can be an issue, and the LED lights have started to cause issues with narrow band imaging because they cannot be totally filtered out.  So what’s the best solution? move to a dark spot in the countryside (not likely) . . .

So were are we? well we can do a lot, we just need to know the limits of our gear and software.  Speaking of software, there’s many ranging from free to thousands of dollars . . . I’m in the camp od free to minimal moo-la! You can do very well with Freeware . . .

I would suggest a dedicated astro camera . . . there too you can spend a lot or not . . but in this arena I suggest moderation until you know where you want to center your endeavors.   I chose ZWO as their product(s) are not to hard a hit on the wallet and their cameras do a pretty good job, as well as they provide a great deal of user support.

This whole idea of going out and taking photos of Galaxies, nebulae, planets adds up quickly . . . a couple of old camera lenses, some filters, adapters astro camera, cgem mount, software (computer if you don’t have one) can add up to several thousand dollars just to start up.  What is sad . . . is to see someone get the bug to do astro photography and then get frustrated and quit soon after with the gear hitting the used market and a discouraged person walk away from a great hobby.

My hope is to help you the reader who is interested in astro photography to not be that discouraged person walking away.  No I cannot answer every question, but, I hope I can keep you from making all the mistakes I’ve made, or maybe save a few bucks . . .

here is a recent photo from a few nights ago with a new telescope / camera combo.  I won the telescope . . . just lucky is all.

The image is done with a Mono camera

Here is a 2 hour integration (60 x 120sec images) of the Bode’s and Cigar Galaxies . . . M81 and M82 are a pair of galaxies in the constellation Ursa Major, located approximately 10 degrees northwest of the “Big Dipper” pointer star Dubhe. M81 lies at an estimated distance of 12 million light years from Earth. the Cigar Galaxy M82 lies at an estimated distance of 12 million light years from earth. The light we see today started its trip from these two Galaxies during the earths Miocene era . . . Man as we know him had yet to appear, but the plants and animals of the Miocene were recognizably modern.

pretty cool I think . . . So for two hours my Astro camera, Lumenance filter, telescope, mount, which  tracked the objects and snapped 60 light frames @ 120 sec per photo over the course of an hour, then another 20 dark frames @ 120 seconds each, then 10 more bias frames as well as 5 Flat frames . . . (those terms you learn as you get more into this) . . . then I down loaded from the imaging computer to the processing computer where I use (DSS) Deep sky Stacker! to combine those images with the Dark, Bias & flats to get a clean fits file to stretch and output in a format I could post process in Corel PSP2019 where I apply various layers to get to the output image you see above.  Add 3 more hours worth of imaging divided between Red, Green, Blue filters if you want a color image . . . I didn’t have the time on this particular evening . . . so we have what is called a Luminance image (B&W) . . .

Cool telescope, the AT92 APO . . . more then I could afford, but, now I own

We’ll call it an evening . . . It is raining, with more clouds, and rain in the forecast for the next week.

Well talk again about wide field imaging and some different equipment setups from cameras to lenses and telescopes . . . .

later taters . . .

Tim is outta here.

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