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What equipment do I need for astrophotography?

Thanks for taking the time to help. I am interested in developing a hobby in an amateur backyard observatory. I have very little knowledge in telescopes and I am interested in astrophotography. My location in NJ is ideal in that we live in the middle of the woods and ambient light is non-existent. As a beginner, which type of telescope would yield the better results?

Just a bit of background.... I always wanted to be a ham radio operator. I was put off for years with "cb radio". In 1984 I obtained by advanced class operators license. In 1970, I had an interest in photography. A few years later I was processing my own color prints in the basement. I REALLY wanna look into the sky !

It's great to hear from someone just starting out in amateur astronomy! To do good astrophotography, you'll need a good manual camera with a bulb setting; I recommend a Canon. You can experiment with film of different speeds, etc. 800 ASA color or 3200 ASA black and white are the most popular. You'll also need a telescope with a motor-drive and photographic attachments. Generally, you remove the factory lens from your camera, and attach the body of the camera directly to the telescope, which becomes your new lens. The motor drive on the telescope accounts for the Earth's rotation, thus keeping the object stationary on the film while you are exposing.

Generally, the larger the telescope the fainter the objects you can see, and the more expensive it becomes. Depending on which objects you're most interested in photographing, you may want to consider the telescope's f/ratio as well. Large nebulae and galaxies require a wider field of view than planets, for instance.

You can go shopping for telescopes at the web sites for Meade and Celestron, the two most popular makers of amateur telescopes. Meade even has a gallery of astrophotography taken using Meade instruments.

You might consider a few accessories for your astrophotography as well. I always recommend getting a device called a "telrad" for amateur telescopes. It projects a cross-hair on the sky, allowing you to see exactly where the scope is pointed. If you're planning on very long exposure photography (more than 5-10 minute exposures), you will also need an "off-axis guider," which allows you to manually guide the telescope as the film is exposing. (The motor-drive is generally not going to be accurate enough to guide precisely for more than 5-10 minutes). If you have a darkroom, you might also consider getting a filter set, so that you can use the faster black and white film with red, green, and blue filters for the same image. You can then, in the darkroom, combine all three images with the opposite filters into a single color image.

March 1999, Dave Kornreich (more by Dave Kornreich) (Like this Answer)

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