Already looking for the best telescope for astrophotography? This means that you are ready to go on your celestial journey and shoot for the stars. Astrophotography is a beautiful hobby to take interest in, whether you want to keep it at a basic level or get serious about it. Either way, there’s no escaping you getting a telescope.
The three most important items that every astronomy enthusiast who also wants to take on photography should look into are a good camera, at least a decent telescope, and a solid tracking mount. You most likely already have a good DSLR camera to work with, and the mount should be on its way. But first, let’s find you the best telescope for astrophotography.
Astrophotography is quite an expensive form of photography. It requires patience and a lot of saving up. This being said, it is best to wait a while and save for a few months before going shopping for a telescope. The quality of the product will also dictate the quality of your end image. Downloading that perfect shot onto your computer and seeing how neatly you focused on your subject will make all efforts worthwhile.
How to Pick the Best Telescope for Astrophotography
You’ve probably spend some time choosing your camera, looking at different models from countless manufacturers, and also checking how much you afford to spend on it. You will do the same when it comes to picking your telescope. There are a few factors you should consider when choosing your equipment:
- Area of interest. What astronomical objects would you most likely want to shoot? If you are fascinated by planets, you will need a telescope with a long focal length to get a glimpse at the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and so on. But if you are keen on taking pictures of galaxies, nebulae, or star clusters, then a short focal length telescope will do the trick.
- Portability. The size and weight of your scope is an important aspect. Don’t invest in a giant telescope if you don’t have a car to fit it in and no one to help you carry it. No matter what you choose to go with, remember that you will have to set up your telescope each time you use it if you don’t have a permanent observation spot to install it on.
- Budget. How much are you willing to spend on astrophotography? Don’t go too big if astrophotography is just a passing phase.
Attributes of the Best Telescope for Astrophotography
Telescopes are built to gather photons (light) and use it to help you examine your image in detail with your digital camera. This means that you will get to take a glimpse at fainter stars and star clusters that you otherwise would not be able to see with your bare eye. Smaller details can also be observed thanks to the scope’s magnifying capabilities.
Both telescopes and camera lenses have three primary attributes:
- Aperture. As a rule, in astrophotography, you should always use large aperture because it will collect more photons. This feature will determine how much you get to see of the fainter stars in the night sky.
- Focal length. As previously stated, think about what you want to take pictures of. The longer the focal length, the higher the magnification of the scope. It will be perfect to capture planets and double stars on camera.
Short focal length scopes will help you take wonderful photos of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and more. Just as the aperture, focal length is measured in inches or millimeters.
- Focal ratio. Focal ratio is the bridge between aperture and focal length. It is basically the focal length divided by aperture. Its importance is evident when you want to shoot extended astronomical objects such as galaxies. A fast focal ratio assures short exposure, and will record the image faster.
Short focal length scopes usually have faster focal ratios whereas long focal length telescopes will have slow focal ratios.
Best Telescope for Astrophotography – Choosing Your Optical System
Refracting telescopes use lenses to gather and focus the photons (light). This type of scope requires little maintenance because the optical tube is sealed, thus reducing problems with seeing effects that can affect other types of telescopes, such as the Newtonian.
Refracting telescopes allow for high contrast viewing, making them the excellent for lunar and planetary observation and all forms of deep-sky photography. This type of telescope is more expensive than some reflecting and the catadioptric telescopes.
Reflecting telescopes use mirrors to gather and focus the light. Most of these telescopes feature an open tube design, having the main mirror at the tube’s bottom end. When the light comes at the open end of the scope’s tube, it hits the main mirror and is reflected to the second mirror, a flat one fitted at the top of the tube. Light is then conducted out of the side of the scope’s tube for either viewing or photographing.
There are three types of reflecting telescopes:
- Newtonian. Good Newtonian scopes provide high quality images of both planetary objects and deep sky targets. However, they can be high maintenance, since you must collimate it every viewing session and recoat it since its coating eventually gets to deteriorate.
- Ritchey – Chretien. This type of scope is corrected for aberrations that might ruin your picture, which makes it perfect for astrophotography.
- Cassegrain. It might not be the ideal option for night sky photography since it suffers from astigmatism and coma aberrations. Cassegrains are also kind of slow, around f/12, and can cause other problems for astrophotographers, such as curvature of field.
Catadioptrics scopes use both reflective and refractive optics. They use a primary mirror for light gathering and a second mirror for magnifying the light and return it to the tube’s bottom. These telescopes have a lens element at the tube’s front end to correct aberrations.
There are two types of Catadioptric scopes you should look into:
- Schmidt – Cassegrain. These are quite popular scopes for astrophotography because they are cheap and easy to find. However, they are slow, around f/10, and do not have a flat focal plane. Nonetheless, they can still provide good pictures of the deep-sky.
- Maksutov. These scopes are good for planetary photography, but the f/ratios can be too slow for other types of astrophotography.
In terms of what they have to provide to those eager to photograph the night sky, the refracting type can offer the best telescope for astrophotography. They are low-maintenance, free of some of the issue that other types of optical systems might have, such as overheating, optical dust, or the need of collimation before every session.
Looking for the best telescope for astrophotography? Have a look at the Orion EON 104mm ED-X2 f/6.25 Triplet Apo Refractor Telescope, Orion EON 130mm ED Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope, Celestron Advanced VX 6 Refractor Telescope, or the more affordable Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope and Orion 120mm f/5.0 Refractor Telescope Optical Tube Assembly.