Have you ever fancied Astrophotography?
Chapter 1. Setting up
Author; Tom Oswald
A couple of years ago i had some spare time, and a bit of spare cash and thought i would like to try photographing some galaxies, a bit like Orion and Andromeda both of these photos where taken by me, and here i am going to give you a brief idea as to how you can take similar photos and make money from them using ClickASnap.
When taking photos of objects in space the single most important thing (and where you should spend the bulk of your money) is the mount. The reason being is this; The earth is rotating as it moves through space, and space is fairly dark. So, to take pictures of galaxies like Andromeda, M51, the spiral galaxy or gas clouds such as the Orion nebula or Crab nebula you need to have long exposures. Typically in the order of several hours usually. Now whilst those hours of exposures are broken down into segments of between 5 and 30 minutes you need to ensure the camera moves relative to the earths rotation extremely accurately. Any poor tracking of the sky and your photos will just be streaked and that doesn’t make for pretty pictures. There are many mounts out there such as Celestron and Meade which tend to be fairly cheap (in the order of £1,000+ or so) However, neither are particularly good, aligning the mount to the north star is a nightmare and the gear slap (periodic error) is not great. If you can find one second hand or have the money to buy one the best mount you can buy is a Takahashi EM-200 Temma II system one of these can be picked up second hand for around £3,000 or new upto £10,000. But you won’t regret it, these mounts are second to none, and aligning to the north star is easy and literally takes a few minutes. Trust me, buy one of these and you will be taking perfect pictures within the first few times you try.
During these articles I am going to assume you have already purchased a camera of choice, most beginners start with a standard Nikon or Canon DSLR, try and get one with low noise and high ISO capabillities though. If you get really serious you will move into thermally stabilized ATIK or similar cameras anyway.
Your next investment needs to be a star tracker, Orion do a really good kit including scope and camera as well as leads for £300. Use this camera and couple it with this telescope and couples with any of the control software on this site. This then all fits onto your telescope, usually the top to maintain balance like this picture here shows. Once coupled to your mount, telescope and computer this will ensure that your telescope is always pointing at the area you are trying to photograph.
So, now we have the mount, and tracking software (and buy a telescope of your choice i would recommend for a beginner a nice 6″ refractor preferably with APO optics)
In our next Chapter we will start looking at setting up the telescope and taking your first pictures!
Nice article Tom. I most definitely have the astronomy bug and astrophotography bug as well. I have the camera, the telescope and just need the guide camera now. Very expensive but very rewarding hobby.
Thanks Paul, it’s something I would love to do again but as you correctly state, it’s extremely expensive