Astrophotography

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Introduction[edit]

Astrophotography is just as it sounds; Photography of Astronomy.

The first time I had heard this term is when I was about to purchase my first "real" telescope and was researching different mounts.

Amazing shots can be had with even the simplest of setups, but progressing in the hobby can be very difficult at times. There are numerous blog and forum websites covering the subject, but the shear number of posts and differing comments / egos can be overwhelming to filter through and consume.

I am still very much new to the hobby having purchased my Celestron 9.25 SCT in September 2017, but have spent many a rainy day and cloudy night practicing setup of my scope indoors, optimizing my wiring configuration and taking a good amount of notes.

Whatever your experience level in Astronomy and Astrophotography or even thinking about getting your first scope, I'm hoping this brain dump of my experiences is of use to you.

Getting Started[edit]

Like any new hobby there has to be some starting point. Getting your feet wet can be both expensive and/or overwhelming. Don't worry, we've all been there, but there are a few approaches.

Youtube, blogs and forums
Check the Useful links page for an updated list.
Find a local Astronomy club
Astronomy clubs are a good place to network with others and usually have subject presentations.
Although I'm currently not affiliated with a club, there are at least 3 within a 20 mile radius (Philly burbs) and 1 with an official observatory (Lehigh University)
Star Parties
Usually hosted by above mentioned clubs.
Great for visual observation through a myriad of scope types.
May not be the best place for learning Astrophotography since light from laptops and phones are typically frowned upon.
Bring a red light flashlight or headlamp.
Buy a scope
If you're like me, you'll research the subject to death and make a decision. Check out the equipment section on difference scope and mount types.

Equipment[edit]

Telescope (optics)
Schmidt-Cassagrain (SCT)
Long Focal Length
Great for Planetary and small objects
Can be Equatorially (EQ) mounted
Typically a slower scope F6-F10
Can be fitted for Hyperstar / Faststar use
Refractor
The all-around telescope. What you normally think of
Shorter Focal Length
Used a lot for deep sky astrophotography
Can be EQ mounted
Dobsonian
Ideal for visual deep sky work
Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrography (RASA)
New kid on the block. Fast optics F2

Telescope Setup

Imaging[edit]

Frame Types
There are a number a different frame types that serve to calibrate the light path. When acquiring the calibration frames, it is important to not change the image path. This includes rotating the camera, removing a filter.
What are we trying to fix?
Hot pixels (lit)
Dead pixels (dark)
Dust (optics, camera)
Vignetting (optical shadowing)
When a camera can look wider than the optic chain, or the optic path has obstructions
Light Frames
Dark Frames
Flat Frames
Bias Frames

Ideal Exposure

Target Ideas

Useful Links[edit]

YouTube Channels[edit]

  • AstroBackyard
If you're into Astrophotography, you'll immediately run into Trevor's channel. Great equipment reviews and image optimization tutorials.
  • The Astro Imaging Channel (TAIC)
Live webcast with many senior Astrophotographers. Great how-to presentations and discussions.
  • Chuck's Astrophotography
Chuck is an example of getting many great images with a "fairly" simple setup. He seems to always be pushing his boundaries and getting his work published too!
  • Doug Bock
Doug regularly live streams image acquisition. You can learn a lot from watching his use of Sequence Generator Pro (SGP) and PHD2 as he captures unconventional targets (comets and asteroids).
  • Dylan O'Donnell
Just recently subscribed to Dylan's channel, but his RASA and camera coverage is really good and is the catalyst for me to investigate going the RASA route.
  • Eyes on the Sky
Very good channel for understanding the basics and interesting objects to look for.

Blogs[edit]

The more in-depth written form of the Youtube channel.
  • Cloudy Nights
Astronomy and Astrophotography forum.
Solar and Lunar eclipse

Software[edit]

  • PHD2 (Push Here Dummy, yes that's really the name)
  • Sequence Generator Pro (SGP)
  • SharpCap
  • Stellarium