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Telescopes Part 5: Astrophotography

The next step for any telescope owner is to try your hand at taking photos through it. For many users, simply holding a camera lens up to your telescope's eyepiece is a great way to get started - there is something truly satisfying about taking your own photos of space!

Australian Geographic provides two great ways to get into astrophotography: if you own a DSLR camera, you can purchase attachments to connect it to your telescope. Alternatively, if you do not own a camera, you can instead use one of our CCD cameras to connect your telescope directly to a laptop computer.

DSLR Cameras

If you own a DSLR camera, you may be able to connect it to any of our telescopes as a telephoto lens. For this, you'll need both a T-Ring and a T-Adapter.

The T-Ring connects to your camera and replaces the lens. The T-Ring you need will be dependent on the brand of camera you are using. We currently carry T-Rings for the following brands of DSLR cameras:

  • Minolta
  • Sony
  • Canon
  • Nikon
  • Pentax

The Universal 1.25" T-Adapter connects the T-Ring to any of our telescopes, allowing you to use the telescope as if it were a telephoto lens using the telescope's focal length!

As an exception to this, the Celestron NexStar 4SE can alternatively use a special T-Adapter specifically designed for it - see the Telescopes for Astrophotography section below.

 

CCD Cameras

An alternative to using a DSLR camera is to attach a CCD camera, which connects directly to a USB port on your computer. The Celestron NexImage system allows you to preview the image on your computer screen, before capturing a video of the celestial object. The NexImage software then collects the best frames of this video and collates them, to produce a single, solid image.

The NexImage is available in two resolutions: 640x480 pixels (ideal for websites or Word documents) and also 5MP.

 

Telescopes for Astrophotography

Both of the photography methods above are capable of working with any of our telescopes, but some telescopes are simply better suited to astrophotography than others - we wouldn't recommend using a heavy DSLR camera with an extremely lightweight StarView 60AZ!

In general, computerised telescopes are normally recommended for astrophotography - their ability to track objects as they move across the sky makes them ideal for keeping the object in view while you capture the photos. Non-computerised telescopes can still work with CCD systems, however their mounts generally won't be able to hold the additional weight of a large DSLR camera steadily.

Ideally, an astrophotography telescope would also be mounted on an equatorial mount. A computerised equatorial mount will allow the telescope to track an object in a single, smooth motion, allowing you to take images with longer exposure times.

Telescope/Range

Short Description

Advantages

The 4SE is a great beginner's astrophotography telescope, suitable for lunar and planetary imaging.

  • Computerised wedge mount acts like an equatorial telescope, allowing for longer exposures with automatic tracking of objects
  • Camera can be attached using special T-Adapter (the MAK 4SE) to easily switch between optical and photographical modes

The dual-fork computerised alt-azimuth mount of the CPC gives it that extra edge in stability and strength. This allows the CPC range of telescopes a greater capacity than the NexStar range for accessories and reduces vibrations caused by wind. Suitable for lunar, planetary and even deep-sky imaging.

  • Dual-fork arm for added stability and strength
  • Larger apertures (available in 8", 9.25" and 11" apertures) for viewing deep sky objects
  • Built-in GPS for faster set-up

The ultimate telescope ranges for serious astrophotographers. Special optical tube assemblies are available, including the HD variant for coma- and aberration-free images, as well as the Fastar variant for shorter exposure times.

Just for a sense of scale, the tiny hand controller on the right tripod leg is the same size as the ones in the 4SE and CPC pictures above.

  • Extremely solid and steady computerised equatorial mounts for clearer photos and longer exposures
  • Extreme precision of movement for increased photo quality
  • CGEM DX - improved weight capacity and precision over CGEM
  • CGE Pro - improved weight capacity and precision over CGEM DX
  • Huge apertures available (9.25", 11" and 14" in some ranges) to see fainter objects
  • HD variants available for coma- and aberration-free imaging
  • Fastar variant available for a super-fast f/2 focal ratio, allowing for a wider field of view and shorter exposure times needed

Other telescopes are still capable of working with astrophotography, so the table below will work as a general guide for how much extra weight your telescope can carry in accessories. It is important not to exceed this limit, as the added strain on your telescope mount may reduce the smoothness and accuracy of its movement.

Telescope

Accessory Weight Capacity (kg)

Celestron SkyProdigy 130 / 6SCT

0.5 / 0

Celestron NexStar 130SLT

0.5

Celestron NexStar 4SE / 6SE / 8SE

2.5 / 1.8 / 0

Celestron CPC 800 / 925 / 1100

5 / 5 / 5

Celestron CGEM 800 / 925 / 1100

12.5 / 9 / 5.7

Celestron CGEM DX 1100 / 1400

13.6 / 2.3

Celestron CGE Pro 925 / 1100 / 1400

31.8 / 28.4 / 20.5

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