What is a good Deep Space Astrophotography setup for a beginner?

Started 2 months ago | Questions thread
Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,907
Re: What is a good Deep Space Astrophotography setup for a beginner?

starman1969 wrote:

Andy Lucy wrote:

It looks like your friend has thought this through and has some good ideas. Getting a GoTo mount and a dedicated astronomy camera would be a very good place to start learning the ropes.

However, deep space astrophotography, even with a fairly short focal length scope like the SpaceCat can quickly become an exercise in frustration unless guiding is used to improve the tracking performance of the mount. A small basic guide camera and scope costs a minimum of £200. A laptop computer will be needed to handle the guiding but you’ll have one anyway (to control the ZWO astronomy camera).

I wouldn’t recommend a mono camera for learning astrophotography from scratch, since it adds an extra level of complexity in the production of colour images, as well as extra costs for filters, filter changers etc. You could just start by making monochrome images, but then you wouldn’t be learning all the issues around handling colour.

Astrophotography is a money pit, not least because of the extras that need to be bought. In the UK you’ll definitely want a dew heater. Power supplies are essential. Add in various adapters, cables, software costs etc., and a tight budget is very easily exceeded.

On budget, the spacecat (or redcat) scope + EQ3-Pro mount alone has basically consumed the maximum budget allowed. To stay within budget either means buying second-hand or reducing the specification of some of the items.

Here’s an alternative suggestion, which is aimed to build an economical computer controlled system (to allow use of modern astrophotography aids, including GoTo). Since it’s based on an even shorter focal length scope than the spacecat / redcat, the guiding system won’t then be essential. The key components (mount, camera, scope) are:

EQ3-Pro mount (£489)

ZWO ASI178MC camera (£304)

Askar FMA135 scope (135mm focal length) (£289)

It’s worth investigating whether the camera and scope will give the desired field of view for deep space objects. This is easily done at this site:

http://astronomy.tools/

Here’s an example picture (the Eastern Veil Nebula) I’ve taken with the Askar scope, on a Star Adventurer camera tracker (guided, but should give similar results without guiding), with a ZWO ASI462MC camera.

Andy

Hi Andy. Thanks for your suggestions. I'll keep it in mind, however, he is keen on getting into narrowband imaging and that is why he would like to start with a mono. We are visiting an astrophotographer tomorrow, and he might have some good tips to start with.

He should get the cooled version of the camera not the uncooled. Narrowband is noisy imaging so long exposures and decent cooling are vital. Noise drops a lot with cooling. Usually something like noise halves every 6C drop in sensor temperature.

You'll also need an autoguiding setup for narrowband. As exposures need to be about 10 minutes to get a decent image with narrowband.

There are cheap autoguiding solutions these days. I got a ZWO 290 mini for autoguiding and its the best autoguiding camera I've ever had.

Some use lenses for the guide scope but you can buy cheapish guide scopes from William Optics or on Ebay.

Yes you will need to use a laptop but ZWO also has an ASI air product. Not sure if that replaces a computer for autoguiding, it may.

If you polar align your mount accurately and balance the camera on it well than you will be able to take 3-5 minute exposures with a camera and lens up to about 100mm with no trouble. Perhaps even a longer lens but you would have to trial and error and get good at polar alignment. Sharpcap has the best polar alignment feature of any offering at present so that would be handy to have. It was a free program at one stage but it may cost now.

Also go-to feature on the mount becomes increasingly vital with longer focal length lenses or small telescopes.

Greg.

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