Flaming Star Nebula – IC 405

Above is the Flaming Star Nebula (and some friends!) at two different focal lengths. The more wide shot was taken at 180mm and the more close up shot was taken at 380mm.

The 380mm was taken with the Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet APO while the 180mm was taken with the TPO Ultrawide 180 f/4.5 Astrophotography Lens & Guide Scope. The plan for the TPO is to mainly use it as a guide scope, but since it is a triplet (like the Meade) I wanted to get some imaging done with it as well. The setup for this, at least for me, was, to say the least, uncomfortable, but I was able to make it work and get some data!

180mm – TPO Ultrawide 180 f/4.5 Astrophotography Lens with Canon EOS Ra
30 x 300s
15 darks, 50 flats, 50 dark flats, 50 biases
800 ISO
Instagram Link
Astrobin Link

380mm – Meade Series 6000mm Triplet APO with Canon EOS Ra
50 x 240s
20 darks, 50 biases, 50 flats, 50 dark flats
800 ISO
Instagram Link
Astrobin Link

Flaming Star Nebula & The Tadpoles
Flaming Star Nebula – Annotated by Astrobin.com

Same Equipment – New Setup

So, if you follow my blog here or follow me on Instagram you know that on my last night of gathering data for my Rosette Nebula project I ran into a snag with alignment – do to my own misdeeds – and it frustrated me to the point that I gave in and began asking around about connecting my mount to a PC and using software instead of the SynScan hand controller included with my mount for alignment and GoTo movement. Thanks to a lot of people of Twitter and Astrobin.com, I was able to get over my anxiety of trying new things and I set up my current rig to run strictly off the PC.

The idea, as shown above is to have the mount connect directly to the PC with no hand controller and with no ST-4 connection from the guide camera. The guide camera also connects directly to the PC. My mount, the Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro, has a USB connection builtin, a lot of mounts do not. For those you will need a special cable that connects from the ST-4 connection to the USB on your computer. I use a powered USB hub that I have mounted on the tripod legs to run all of my USB cables – the one from the mount, the one from the guide camera and the one from my imaging camera – to that then feeds into one USB port on my laptop. My hub has 7 total ports so if I want to add in an electronic autofocuser in the future I can. I am still working on my cable management but with this setup I lose one cable all together and another cable gets simplified, so it is getting there!

Now, with this setup, everything, and I mean everything can be ran off of the computer. This includes polar alignment, star alignment, and goto actions – and because there is software that can do what is called Platesolving, the accuracy of you being on your target is essentially 100%. The other huge benefit is that the guiding is done by pulse through the PC connection versus having to go directly through the camera with the ST-4 connection. Couple this with PHD2’s multi-star guiding and barring issues, you will guiding will be golden.

Once I am setup, I can begin my evening by using SharpCap Pro (you must have the paid Pro version) to polar align. I use my mount’s polar scope to ensure Polaris is visible then I turn on SharpCap. I begin in home position (mount should be off) and use the SharpCap Polar Align Feature. It will tell me what to do step by step and once I am done, I can return the mount to Home and begin my alignment process.

To align – I use my image capturing software – I use Astro Photography Tool (APT). I turn my mount on, then turn APT on, connect to my mount and camera and then select a bright star to go to. It does its initial movements, then I platesolve, it adds corrections and moves again. This process repeats until the star I chose is centered – automatically! I then ensure my focus is good and select my target for imaging. I repeat the above process of platesolving and aligning then when it is complete I open up PHD2, connect my guide camera and mount and begin calibration. Note: If my target is not close to the meridian, I try to use a star for my initial alignment that is close to the meridian (right now Capella works well) to do both my initial alignment and focus as well as my PHD2 calibration. Unlike with ST-4 – once calibrated you can move from target to target without having to calibrate again.

Once I am on target and and goto is finished and I am guiding, I simply begin my imaging plan. That is it! One note I will make is, if you are not planning on doing a meridian flip – you just want the mount to keep going, make sure you check your driver software – in my case, and in most cases, EQMOD and ASCOM – and uncheck the box that will stop the mount when it hits the meridian. It will not continue to track the target if that box is checked.

The main issue I had was that it was really cold! Around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees C) for most of the time I was out. Regardless, I was able to get some new data on NGC 417 and the Tadpole Nebula as well as get additional data on NGC 2264 – The Cone Nebula / Christmas Tree Cluster.

The last thing I did was attempt a 10min (600s) exposure. The results are shown above! The first image is a single 10 minute long exposure on M81 & M82, the second image is that exposure combined with five 5 4minute long exposures. All in all I was happy with how everything ran and the ease of setup. Looking forward to getting back out there the next time the sky is clear!

If anyone wants any information on how to setup the mount, etc, or any questions on general, please feel free to leave a comment.

Clear Skies!

Update: It was pointed out to me that I hadn’t mentioned any of the equipment that I use, so here is as full a list as I can think of:

  • Mount: Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro
  • Imaging: Meade Series 6000 Triplet APO / Canon EOS Ra
  • Flattener / Reducer: Astro-Tech 0.8 Reducer or Hotech Flattener
  • Filter: Optolong L-eNhanced or L-Pro
  • Guiding: ZWO 30mm f4 Mini Scope / ZWO ASI224mc
  • Computer: Old Alienware laptop
  • USB Hub: TP-Link USB 3.0 7-Port Hub with 2 Charging Ports
  • Cables: (all cables go from the listed equipment to the USB Hub)
    • Canon EOS Ra: USB Type C Cable, Anker Powerline III USB-A to USB-C Fast Charging Cord (10 ft)
    • ZWO ASI224mc: C2G USB 3.0 SuperSpeed A to B Cable M/M – USB cable – USB Type A (M) to USB Type B (M) – USB 3.0 – 10 ft – black
    • Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro: Amazon Basics USB 2.0 Printer Cable – A-Male to B-Male Cord – 10 Feet (3 Meters)
  • Power Supply:
    • House Power
      • Generic extension cord and generic power strip
      • Sky-Watcher AC/DC Adapter – S30105
    • Field Power
      • Orion Dynamo Pro 155Wh AC/DC/USB Lithium Power Supply – 02309

Software I use: SharpCap Pro (polar alignment), Astro Photography Tool (imaging / GoTo / alignment, etc), Lightroom (exporting images to main PC), DeepSkyStacker (stacking), Photoshop with Topaz Suite, Astronomy Tools Actions and GradientXtreme plugin. I also have Astro Pixel Processor that i mainly use for extracting channels for simulated palettes.

Rosette Nebula | Caldwell 49

I began this project on January 7, 2021 and was able to reach my goal of 10+ hours on target on January, 22, 2021. I was able to take images on the 7th, 10th, 18th, 20th, 21st and the 22nd with the first two nights being clear, transparent and all my gear working properly. The next three nights were supposed to be clear but I battled intermittent clouds and was not able to gather the amount of data that I thought I was going to be able to. The last night that I collected data I had clear and transparent skies, all of this despite having a 1st Quarter Moon up, however, it took a couple of hours to troubleshoot my mounts alignment process, which I still haven’t gotten back to where it was before the 22nd. Note: I still use the hand controller and do a 3-Star alignment mainly because I have not had any issues at all. This issue I believe was my fault – I chose Capella as my first star and went to it with no problem. I chose Sirius as my second star, however clouds came in before I the mount pointed to it and I decided to wait – on the star – for the clouds to clear. This took around 15 minutes and I think the wait messed up my mounts internal correction. I decided to realign one it clear up but the mount was not going to correct locations for the stars. I eventually got it close enough to get to the Rosette Nebula to finish up my data collection.

Over the course of the six sessions, I used the L-eNhanced filter by Optolong for five of those nights. I used the Optolong L-Pro for one night. I wasn’t planning to use the L-Pro data but I liked the final stack a lot better with it. It helped give the background a little more balance and helped give the stars some color versus just ending up the same color as they can do when using the L-eNhanced only.

Statistics –

Jan. 7, 2021 – 40 x 240s (800 ISO)
Jan. 10, 2021 – 40 x 240s (800 ISO)
Jan. 20, 2021 – 19 x 240s (800 ISO)
Jan. 21, 2021 – 37 x 240s (800 ISO)
Jan. 22, 2021 – 23 x 240s (800 ISO)

Jan. 18, 2021 – 55 x 60s (800 ISO)

Taken from Providence, RI under Bortle 8 skies. Average temperature was 33°F (0.5°C). Darks, flats, dark flats and biases used for calibration on all sessions. Tracking and dithering done with PHD2. Image capture done with Astro Photography Tool (APT). Stacking done in DeepSkyStacker and processing done in Photoshop 2021 CC. Plugins and tools used in PS include GradientXtreme, Topaz Denoise and Astronomy Tools Actions.

Equipment –

Meade Series 6000 80mm Triple APO Refractor
Canon EOS Ra
Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro Mount
ZWO 30mm f4 MiniScope (guide)
ZWO ASI224mc (guide)

Horsehead & Flame Nebula

My first attempt at doing 5 minute exposures, for the most part, did not go too well. I think mainly because of transparency issues. I had ran 4 minute long exposures the night before and they came out great. Those posts will be up as soon as I get the data totals on target that I want. However, my data on the Horsehead Nebula, in my mind, came out alright!

Equipment & Statistics

Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet APO
Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro
Canon EOS Ra
Astro-Tech 0.8 Reducer/Flattener
Optolong L-eNhanced
ZWO 30mm f4 MiniScope (Guide)
ZWO ASI224mc (Guide)
PHD2 for guiding, APT for capturing, APP for stacking/processing, Photoshop/Topaz for final processing

31 x 300s
20 Dark Frames
50 Flat Frames
50 Dark Flat Frames
50 Bias Frames

The two images at the top are my final edit / process. The ones here above are my first. I am including them because in someways they may be better plus I really like how the negative image looks.

California Nebula | NGC 1499

New Year, old target that I felt like I could never get right. Enter the L-eNhanced filter by OptoLong and I feel a lot better about my efforts on this target. I originally processed the data like I normally would – stack in DeepSkyStacker then go straight into processing with Photoshop. However, a friend on Instagram began experimenting with Astro Pixel Processor and separating out the Ha and Oiii channels (possible with a filter like the L-eNhanced) and so I decided to follow suit and I like the results A LOT on this California Nebula data.

The orange / yellow version uses more of a SHO type palette while the red / pink version uses a more typical RGB palette. I love them both, however the yellow image is probably my favorite. I did the same type of processing with Heart Nebula data as well. I plan on doing a post that goes over the idea of separating these channels when using a dual band filter as well as share some of videos that covered how to do it. I will of course include photos!

Equipment & Stats

Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet APO
Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro
Canon EOS Ra
Astro-Tech 0.8 Reducer/Flattener
Optolong L-eNhanced
ZWO 30mm f4 MiniScope (Guide)
ZWO ASI224mc (Guide)
PHD2 for guiding, APT for capturing, APP for stacking/processing, Photoshop/Topaz for final processing

60 x 180s subs
20 dark frames
50 flat frames
50 dark flat frames
50 bias frames

Heart Nebula | IC 1805 – All Data

Final version of the Heart Nebula project with my broadband data and three days worth of narrow band data all put together. Note, that for most of these the Moon was either full or close to it, so there was a lot of ambient light beyond the typical light pollution I suffer from. I will be creating a portfolio on Pixieset specifically for Heart Nebula images for purchase. For other images, please visit SNC Astro on Pixieset.

Statistics and Gear:

Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet APO
Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro Mount
Canon EOS Ra
Astro-Tech 0.8 Reducer / Field Flattener
OptoLong L-eNhanced Filter (2″)
ZWO 30mm f4 MiniScope (guide)
ZWO ASI224MC (guide)

58x180s (12/29) – L-eNhanced
41x180s (12/28) – L-eNhanced
28 x 180s (12/26) – L-eNhanced
59 x 150s (11/26) – Orion Skyglow Broadband LP
(231.5 min integration / 3.85 hours)
Darks (20 / 20 /20 / 15)
Flats (50 / 50 / 50 / 50)
Dark Flats (50 / 50 / 50 / 50)
Biases (50/ 50 / 50 / 50)

Full Moon – 12/29/2020

Last full moon of the year and it was a beauty! While attempting to get some additional data on some targets through the telescope (an adventure in itself with a bright full moon) I was able to take quite a few exposures of the Moon. This full moon is also known as “The Cold Moon.”

Nikon CoolPix P950
2000mm | 1/1250s | f/8.0 | 400 ISO
30 light frames and 20 dark frames stacked in AutoStakkert and processed in Photoshop

Nikon CoolPix P950
2000mm | 1/1600s | f/8.0 | 400 ISO
30 light frames and 20 dark frames stacked in AutoStakkert and processed in Photoshop

Heart Nebula | IC 1805

This month has been… a challenge. Between not having clear skies, Covid-19 running through the family (myself, my wife, my seven children and other family members) and then personally getting worse and ending up in the hospital right before Christmas with Covid/Pneumonia, it has simply been a month that in a lot of ways I’d like to forget. However, I was blessed to be able to recover enough to be home for Christmas and while I was in the hospital, several items that I had been waiting for came in (Optolong L-eNhanced filter for one) and then I saw I would have clear skies on 12/26. I did everything I could to help boost my strength – still weak, tired, etc, and I was able to set up and get a little time in on the Heart Nebula which is located in the constellation Cassiopeia. I had gathered data twice before on this target with mixed results – once with no filter and then once again with my reducer and Orion SkyGlow Broadband light pollution filter. This time though I was armed with the Optolong L-eNhanced and I love the results, even if I wasn’t able to get as much time on target as I wanted.

Statistics and Gear:

Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet APO
Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro Mount
Canon EOS Ra
Astro-Tech 0.8 Reducer / Field Flattener
OptoLong L-eNhanced Filter (2″)
ZWO 30mm f4 MiniScope (guide)
ZWO ASI224MC (guide

28 x 180s light frames at 800 ISO
20 dark frames (180s at 800 ISO)
50 flat frames (10s at 800 ISO)
50 dark flat frames (10s at 800 ISO)
50 bias frames (1/8000 at 800 ISO)

Guiding with PHD2 and captured in APT. Stacked in DSS with processing in Photoshop, Topaz and StarNet++

Yes, you read that right, 10 second flats…. used AV mod on the Ra, filter was in and I had my light panel real low with a doubled up handkerchief for light diffusion and it seemed to work out okay. I also took some at 1.3″ just in case, but I did not end up using them. I might run the whole process through Siril for the heck of it just to see and if I do I will probably use the lower exposed flats.

Now, these two are a combination of my data from 12/26 and data I also took on 11/26. The difference is on 11/26 I took 59 exposures at 150s with the Orion SkyGlow Broadband Light Pollution filter. Combining all the data gave me just under 4 hours worth of data

28 x 180s (12/26) – L-eNhanced
59 x 150s (11/26) – Orion Skyglow Broadband LP
(231.5 min integration / 3.85 hours)
Darks (20 / 15)
Flats (50 / 50)
Dark Flats (50 / 50)
Biases (50 / 50)

Site Update

Hello all – if you visit regularly you will notice somethings look different… as in, a lot of posts have been removed! Nothing to worry about, we are just going through a little rebranding season with a lot of cool stuff being added.

Please check back soon!

Astrophotography & Me – Getting Started – Part 3

So far I have gone over both my personal history with astrophotography as well as the equipment I currently us. As I have mentioned before, I am no where near an expert in the fields of Astronomy or astrophotography, I just have a love for both and have, what I believe, some practical advice in getting started. Note: This is not an “end all of end all” type of guide. This provides my personal philosophy on the best way to get started in astrophotography as well as a starting place to being experimenting what is best for you.

Series Posts:
Part 1 – A Personal Overview
Part 2 – My Equipment

In the Beginning…

What I recommend is to begin simple and basic. Have a digital camera, preferably a – DSLR – and a tripod. Next, have some sort of star chart – This one by Celestron is really good, or you can go with a simple one like this one from Orion, or simply download an app on your smart phone, plenty of free ones! I would also recommend getting a book, or even doing research online on basic astronomy. Knowing terms like Right Ascension and Declnation will make your journey a lot easier.

Take your camera out on a dark and clear night, use your star chart and find a constellation. Point your camera up to the sky in the direction of the constellation you want a picture of and… well, let’s setup the shot:

1: Manual Focus – on Infinity
2: ISO 200
3: Aperture: f4.0 (or so)
4: Exposure: 10 seconds
5: Timer: 10 seconds (unless you have remote)

… Press the button to take a picture. Most likely you will need to make a few adjustments. check your focus by zooming in, you may need to slightly adjust it around infinity. You may need to set the ISO anywhere from 200 – 1600 (any higher will create a lot of noise), you can mess with your aperture, especially depending on what type of lens you are using. Depending on your lens, you may be able to raise your exposure – wide angle lenses can go for longer with no type of tracking. The one thing we know will stay constant is your timer or lack thereof. One thing is for sure, your picture will appear dark, but never fear, if your focus and exposure are good, processing the image after you take it off the memory card will help with the appearance.

Now, you may be wondering, where is the telescope? Good question, and the answer is simple, at this point in the journey, for it is a journey, there isn’t one. First things are first, you need to learn your camera and how it operates at night and you need to learn the night sky, at least to some degree, or at the very least, how to use a star chart to find what you are looking for. You can also take this opportunity to learn how to process, and maybe even stack, images that you take with programs like PixInsight, DeepSkyStacker, etc. and then maybe using other software such as Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro by Corel. Note: The latter two programs are not designed specifically for astrophotography, while the first two, and several others, are. Some, like PixInsight are full fledged processing software, others like DeepSkyStacker are more for staking images to make one, higher quality picture. Starting out, Paint Shop Pro is adequate for post-processing, but as you progress, you are going to want to take your processing as far as you can.

*Sidebar: With long exposure astrophotography there are a lot of nuances and steps to help make the process easier as well as more fulfilling. As mentioned in the previous post, I recommend getting “Digital SLR Astrophotography” by Michael Covington. Dr. Covington is far more knowledgeable then myself and has decades of experience in astrophotography. Also, find a local astronomy club and join, they may be able to help as well, and probably a lot more hands on!

I feel like an astronomer…

You can find Orion’s Belt, Lyra and the Pleiades now without assistance from your star chart. You have impressed your friends with being able to name some of the craters on the moon and you are ready for the next step. In my opinion, you are ready for a telescope! You may already have one, but I am going to assume you do not.

There are three main types of telescopes: Reflectors, Refractors and Catadioptric, which is a combination, or compound of the first two. There are also essentially two types of mounts for telescopes: Equatorial and Altazimuth. All three types of telescopes and the two types of mounts have advantages and disadvantages. For example, telescopes mounted on an equatorial mount have the ability to track stars very fluidly right out of the box. The down side, which isn’t huge, is that they can be both complicated to initially set up and they need to be aligned to true North. Altazimuth mounts are really easy to set up and use, but tracking isn’t possible without making extra pieces separately to enable you to do so. Sky & Telescope has a good article covering all three types of scopes while High Point Scientific has a good article focusing solely on Catadioptric scopes.

What I recommend getting is a small scope with an equatorial mount that has some sort of GoTo tracking. You will want the scope/mount to be able to piggy-back your DSLR camera (for long exposure shots outside of the telescope). Obviously, your budget will come in to play here. Even a simple tracking telescope on an equatorial mount can cost $1,000.00-2,000.00. There are several cheaper options – an example is one by Celestron, the AstroMaster 130 EQ – which is not a bad scope for beginners on a budget (I personally own the 114mm version of this). It does have a motor for tracking, however it is not computerized which makes things a lot easier. Regardless, I do recommend getting a scope with a mount that can track. A) to learn how to align and track with a telescope is going to be key for really good images of deep sky objects, and even planets. B) having the ability to track from the get go is a huge advantage moving forward in your astrophotography journey. If you do not care about tracking (for the moment, because you will!) you can go the far less advantageous route that I did and purchase a Dobsonian mounted reflector, such as the Orion 6″ Classic. Though you will not be able to track, its ease of use and its ability to facilitate lunar, solar (with the proper filter) and even some planetary photography is very nice for a beginner. Its large aperture and decent focal length will continue to serve you even after you upgrade to a scope that tracks.

*Sidebar: Personally, I am still working on the tracking thing! I do know how to setup, align and use a telescope on an equatorial mount but for budget reasons I have yet to buy one that does what I want, how i want for what I can afford. So, if you do decide to go the Dobsonian route, do not despair!

So, now you have a telescope… lets start taking… Learn how to use your scope! Your scope should have a finder scope, a focuser, and include a couple of eyepieces. Learn how to find object with the finders scope, focus with your eyepieces and follow along in the night sky. While doing this, research a couple of things that you will need for photography with your scope. If you ended up buying a scope with a motorized/computerized equatorial mount, make sure to pop your camera on the piggy-back moutn and try some longer exposures then you were able to do while on your nortmal tripod. This is also the time to take several 10-30 second exposures while tracking back to back (to back to back.. as in like 50) and try your hand at image stacking. While you are learning how to explore the night sky with your telescope, as well as it’s functions and capabilities, look for and order the following:

1. Adapter ring for your DSLR – attaches where your lens does

This will enable your camera to fit to many types of adapters:

2. Telescope / Eyepiece Adapters

  • Prime Focus Adapter (this also includes an extension tube for eyepiece projection)
    Note: Your telescope and camera combination may not be able to focus at prime focus because the focuser will not seat far enough in based on the focal length of the tube. There is some math here, but worse case you include in your purchase a 2x Barlow which you can then screw in the lens on the barlow to lengthen your focus
  • Eyepiece Projection (one above is a very simple version)
  • “Digi-T” Rings
    These attach to your eyepiece allowing them to be screwed into the adapter ring for your camera, or if you get the lens filter adapter (which is the next one), directly to your lens for afocal photography
  • Lens Filter Adapter – aka “Digi-Kits”
    These enable you to attach an eyepiece directly to your lens or point and shoot camera at the filter ring

3. Eyepieces (for telescope)

  • Plossl eyepieces that will fit in your telescope:
    • 40mm
    • 32mm* (second if choosing two)
    • 25mm* (first if choosing one)
    • 15mm
    • 10mm
  • These will enable you to get a wide range of views and magnification to play around with both while observing and while doing photography
    • Note: Depending on what type of scope you have as well as the adapters you end up getting, some eyepieces simply will not work due to focal length or because the field of view is too small to do something like afocal photography.

Now you have placed your order, you are learning your scope, so when the shipments come in you will at least have a decent understanding of how your telescope works as well as your camera works for long exposure.

The Full Package…

You have a camera, a telescope and the adapters needed to couple your camera to said telescope, now what? First, you can do the math to determine if your scope can do Prime Focus. I can save you the trouble if you ended up buying the 6″ Classic Dobsonian from Orion, it wont. Bummer right? Not so fast! Attach your prime focus adapter to your camera, then unscrew your lens off your barlow lens, and in turn (a pun!) screw the barlow lens into the bottom of your prime focus adapter. Boom, you can do “prime” focus, or at least a modified version of it. Now set your sights on the moon and… you know what comes next!

1. Focus – Manual, must do it by hand at the telescopes focuser
2: ISO 200 – 400
3: Aperture: Telescopes f/stop – if 6″ Classic Dob, f8.0 (irrelevant to the process)
4: Exposure: 1/500 (to start)
5: Timer: 10 seconds (unless you have remote)

Now press that button, wait ten seconds and now you have a picture of the moon. Congratulations, you have now taken a picture through your telescope! Zoom in to see how your focus was. Not “perfect” (it never will be)? Use small adjustments (Note: many newer DSLR cameras have a live view, use it and zoom in to 10x and check that way. Will be clunky at first but it can help a ton). How dark is your photo? You can adjust both your ISO and exposure. Most of my moon pictures from quarter to full moon are at either 100 or 200 ISO and 1/125 exposure. Remember, you can play with the photo when your process it to change your contrast, histogram, etc.

You can do this same process by afocal photography, the main difference is instead of the prime focus adapter (an barlow if needed) you will connect your eyepiece to your camera lens. Remember you will need to take your eyepiece, remove the rubber eye guard and attach your little t-ting to the eyepiece. Once done, screw it into the camera filter ring adapter and put it in the scope. Now follow the same procedure as above, adjusting settings as needed. Couple of notes: Set your lens to Infinity focus just like you would with long exposure. It is possible to connect the eyepiece without the lens, just like you would with the prime focus adapter (results may very). Just like with prime focus, you will focus at the eyepiece, not the camera lens.

Depending on the type of lens you are using, a 25mm or 32mm eyepiece will give you a full view of the moon or sun (with proper filter!) that almost fills the viewfinder. I do not recommend using a wide angle lens because you will most likely get a lot of vignetting. Also, if you have the right filter ring adapter for your point and shoot camera, you can do afocal astrophotography the same was as with a DSLR!

The one thing you may get, especially with doing afocal astrophotography with a DSLR, is vibration. Your camera may have ways of mitigating it – experiment and see how it goes. If it ends up being too much, you can remove the camera from the eyepiece, place it on a tripod and set the camera as close to the eyepiece as possible. You can also try the handheld method, but just don’t shake!

What’s Next?

Depending on what type of telescope you have and what kind of mount, the sky is literally the limit. Can you track? Point towards a nebula and take a lot of short 2-5 second exposures and stack. Can’t track? Keep on going with the moon, switching out eyepieces or use eyepiece projection to try and zoom in. Buy a solar filter for your telescope and get some shots of the sun (and maybe some sunspots!). Note: Never look at the sun through anything that is not properly filtered (includes your own eyes!). Keep messing around with your settings, find out how your camera interacts with your telescope and the night sky, and send me a link to your Instagram, or wherever you decide to post your pics!

This little guide is not all encompassing. It is based on my own experience, which limited, has given me a lot of pleasure in taking pictures of the night sky. There is always room to improve and progress, and remember, there is no perfect astronomy pictures, but what is important is that they are perfect to those who take them.

The TL;dr

1. Learn your camera / tripod
2. Learn the night sky and how to navigate it
3. Buy a telescope that fits you
4. Learn your telescope
5. Get the adapters you need for photography
6. Attach your camera and experiment with your settings
7. Keep taking pictures and keep growing

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