Types of astrophotography to consider
First and foremost, there are various forms of astrophotography and will differ depending on what type of celestial objects you want to capture:
Deep Space: This type of photography will focus on distant galaxies and nebulae. It requires a bit more experience and is a little more complicated. You’ll have to factor in star trails, light pollution, editing software, and more accessories than just your basic telescope.
Solar System: This type of photography is just as it says it is—based on our entire solar system. With this type, you can simply use a variety of telephoto lenses.
Wide Angle: Just like that panorama feature on your phone, the wide angle astrophotography will increase the wide field of view, for landscape photos that can fit the entire Milky Way, for example.
Time-Lapse: Just as the name suggests, this type means you’re taking various exposure photos over a course of time. You can use this to track star trails or other celestial movements.
Types of telescopes
Now that we know what types of astrophotography there is, let’s get into the types of telescopes there are:
Refractor telescopes: As the most common—Sky-Watcher ProED as one of the best—this type of telescope uses a long tube and a large lens, with an eyepiece at the other end.
Reflector telescopes: Instead of a lens, this type uses two mirrors—like the SkyWatcher S11600. Its build is the same as a refractor except the eyepiece is located on the side.
Catadioptric Telescopes: Using mirrors and lenses, this type is much more modern in designed. Used with battery-operated computerized mounts, you can maneuver this type of telescope to easily spot what you’re looking for.
Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes: Using light’s trailing path through a correcting plate, this telescope uses two mirrors to form an image at the eyepiece.
Maksutov-Cassegrain telescopes: Using both mirrors and lenses as well, this telescope differs from the Schmidt-Cassegrain because it uses different spots and types of mirrors.
Learn to use a camera with a telescope
Since astrophotography is the combination of using a camera and a telescope, it’s important that you learn how to use both. Fortunately—it’s quite easy. It’s so easy that you can even use digital cameras and your own cell phone cameras to capture those pictures of the galaxy and outer space.
Most of these telescopes come with attachment kits or at least are compatible with them, which include T-mount adapters, eyepieces, and camera-specific adapters.
Choosing a telescope with the kit already included saves you the trouble of looking for a specific T-ring and T-thread. Once you have the kit, you can take off the eyepiece and attach the T-ring. Remove the eyepiece from the camera and attach the T-ring by screwing it onto the threads, if it’s an easy enough set-up then it will be relatively quick.
Astrophotography tips and tricks
Especially for a beginner, you might need to be on the lookout for a few things. Here are some tips and tricks if it’s your first time taking on this hobby:
1. Details while operating is important. Especially if you want to get the most accurate image, you’ll want to make sure that the flash is off when it’s supposed to be and that the exposures and settings are fit to the picture you want to have at the end.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of the sun. You already know how damaging the sun can be to your naked eye, so be wary of it while doing astrophotography. This can quickly and even permanently hurt your eyes.
3. Do your research beforehand. Getting to know the solar system, certain constellations and a general scope of information about where things are is extremely helpful in astrophotography.
Features to consider while buying the best telescope for astrophotography
To help you decide which telescope is best for you, here are certain features to look out for:
Aperture is the key
Aperture is the measurement of how big or small the telescope opening is that lets in all the light. This is easily THE most important attribute of any telescope. Especially since the main component of how a telescope functions is the light, the aperture is key to a quality telescope.
Just like something is only good if it has a solid foundation, the best telescope needs a stable, smooth mount. If you’re going to be transporting the telescope to other places for star-gazing, you’ll need to have a mount that is also lightweight.
There are two different types of mounts: altitude-azimuth (or “alt-az”) and equatorial.
- Alt-Az: The better choice if you’re looking for something that is extremely portable and easy to set up.
- Equatorial: Normally what you’ll be wanting if astrophotography is your sole purpose since it will need to have its polar axis aligned with the rotational axis of the Earth.
What difference does it make if you have a big aperture and don’t have the focal length to back it up?
The focal length is responsible for taking the distance from the objective lens or mirror at which the light comes to focus. If you have a longer focal length, your image will be larger and your magnification will be higher.
However, be aware that the higher the magnification, the more distorted your image might show up!
This focal ratio is the speed of which the light is gathered. If you have a faster focal ratio, you’ll need less exposure and you’ll gather light much quicker.
Finding the sweet spot with magnification is important since it will dictate how much an image is magnified for detail and not being too magnified so that it isn’t blurry.
If you’re planning on just looking at galaxies and nebulae, you won’t need a very high power magnification. You’ll need a medium-high power for a variety of planets, and a higher power for anything further.
Especially if you are kind of inexperienced with the night sky, doing your research can only get you so far. Having a finder, when used with medium or high power, can help you locate the celestial objects you’re looking for.
If you have any of these telescopes, you’ll need one, and a reasonably high-quality one, at that. The aperture should be larger than 25 mm to make much of a difference.
Some of these telescopes come with three eyepieces that are highly adjustable to meet whatever you may be needing.
If you want to get a little unique, you can get a telescope with a wide-angle eyepiece. However, you’ll always be needing a cross-hair eyepiece for guiding or centering a guide star.
Size and weight
Especially if you are planning on transporting your telescope here and there, one that has an adequately light weight is preferable. Especially if it’s cold outside, the last thing you would want to do is carry an extremely heavy telescope up a trek.
Most of the telescopes we outlined here for you are going to be backed by a 1 to 2-year warranty, which seems to be about the average time span for a telescope of this caliber.