BEST TELESCOPES & GEAR FOR
Astrophotography is one of the most popular aspects of modern astronomy. It is also one of the most time-consuming. Each photograph requires hours of data capture, and even more hours of data processing. However, with our expert help, you can hit the ground running with the right gear for the kind of astrophotography YOU want to do.
Whether it’s planetary imaging or deepsky, DSLR or CCD, we can help you find exactly what you are looking for to get the images you want to capture. The staff here at Cloud Break Optics are avid astrophotographers with years of experience in this field, and having an expert available to help will prevent you from spending unnecessary money and losing valuable time.
There are three main items necessary for good astrophotography: 1) A good, solid motor-driven tracking mount (preferably German Equatorial, but not necessary), 2) a telescope, and 3) a camera. There are also a handful of astrophotography accessories that will make imaging easier, but are not necessarily “required.”
Arguably, this is the most important part of the entire setup. Astroimaging is near impossible without a good mount. Always error on the side of over-mounting your telescope, rather than under-mounting. You can always grow into your mount, but trying to take long exposures of faint objects on a mount that doesn’t adequately hold your telescope is an exercise in futility. A German Equatorial mount is preferred, as it will eliminate field rotation as it tracks your object through the night sky.
Mounts we recommend for astrophotography:
SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Astro Package
(designed for beginner DSLR and camera lens astrophotography)
- Celestron AVX Mount (best all-around beginner/intermediate mount)
- SkyWatcher EQ6-R Pro Mount (Intermediate use/medium loads)
- Celestron CGX Mount (Intermediate use/medium to heavy loads)
- Celestron CGE Pro (Advanced/Heavy loads)
- Astro-Physics Mach1GTO (Intermediate use/medium loads)
- Astro-Physics 1100 (-AE, -AEL)GTO (Intermediate to advanced/medium to heavy loads)
- Astro-Physics 1600GTO (Advanced/Heavy loads)
The best type of telescope for astrophotography will vary greatly depending on the type of imaging you want to do. If you want to do faint galaxies and planetary nebulae, a big aperture, longfocal length telescope would be your choice. If you prefer widefield images, a fast telescope would be more preferable. Finally, planetary imaging has its own focal length requirements that are even longer than is needed for galaxies. Refractors and reflectors both work well for astroimaging applications, but each design has its pros and cons. For example, one major consideration is backfocus distance. Does the telescope have enough backfocus to accommodate your entire imaging train? What type of optical aberrations do you need to correct for? Refractors tend to need their field curvature corrected when using today’s larger sensors.
Fast reflectors will most likely need correction for coma. These accessories take up backfocus or change it completely, which may alter what accessories you can use. We recommend thinking about what kind of imaging you want to do. All telescopes can image all things, but some will image certain types of objects better than others. You’ll also want to make sure that your telescope has a robust focuser. Trying to focus with a focuser that doesn’t support your imaging train or has poor resolution just makes your night frustrating. We highly recommend our line of motorized focusers for achieving critical focus.
Telescopes we recommend:
- SkyWatcher Esprit 80mm ED Triplet APO (wide field, short focal length, beginner/intermediate)
- SkyWatcher Esprit 100mm ED Triplet APO (Wide Field, intermediate)
- Celestron EdgeHD 8 (intermediate/advanced)
- TEC 160FL (intermediate/advanced)
- Celestron EdgeHD 11 (long focal length, narrow field, advanced)
The type of astrophotography camera you choose will also depend on the type of imaging you want to do. Planetary imagers will want to look at our line of webcams, which can take a high number of frames per second, allowing you to get around the scintillation in the atmosphere. Deepsky imagers are going to want to look at our line of cooled CCD cameras, which can cool the sensor to reduce the noise and are incredibly sensitive to help pull the faintest details out of each shot. Additional camera considerations include what kind of fieldofview you want, as well as the image scale your telescopecamera setup will produce. Additionally, if you plan to do deepsky imaging, we highly recommend an autoguiding solution. Some cameras, such as our QSI line of cooled CCDs, offer an integrated offaxis guider prism to which you can attach your guiding camera. Other setups may require the use of a separate offaxis guider or a separate guiding telescope with its own guiding camera attached. While autoguiding isn’t necessary, it dramatically increases the exposure length you can take without seeing drift from the mount and is highly recommended for longexposure deepsky photography.
Cameras we recommend:
- Your own DSLR! (DSLR is a great way to get started with astrophotography)
- ZWO ASI120MM-S (Beginner, Planetary. Also useful as an auto guider and an all-sky camera!)
- QSI 683 (cooled CCD, deepsky, intermediate/advanced)
Whatever your imaging goals, we want to help you achieve them. There is nothing like having your telescope out for a long night of imaging, and then working through your newly acquired data to create a beautiful image. The staff here at Cloud Break Optics have experienced the trials and tribulations of getting our own imaging setups going, and can help you sidestep the pitfalls and get you on the road to success (inquire about our astrophotography classes!). Astrophotography doesn’t have to be daunting. Let our expert staff help you navigate the decision-making process. We’re here to help you and can’t wait to see what you create!
Focal Press The Astrophotography Manual: A Practical and Scientific Approach to Deep Space Imaging - 2nd Edition