Thinking Beyond the Optical Path

By Angie Parkinson
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Astrophotography is known to be both challenging and fun. As you make the move from astronomy to astrophotography, you will likely more than double the amount of equipment you use on a typical starry night.

We looked at the best astrophotography beginner telescopes but experts agree that there are many things to consider beyond the optical path. The puzzle pieces we did not examine can greatly impact your final image. As you progress in the hobby, we encourage you to consider these other factors as you buy equipment:

Consider the design and quality of the mount you are using for your telescope, camera and other equipment. The best astrophotography experiences will happen when you are using an equatorial mount, or a mount that can track objects in the sky. Otherwise, objects will appear to have little smudgy tails due to the motion of the earth and targeted objects. 

Consider the stability of the tripod you are using. Between the atmospheric conditions, equipment variations and other factors there are so many things that can upset the conditions needed to create a beautiful photograph. You do not need another variable to complicate the process. You do not need a wobble in the tripod to get in the way of your best photo ever.

Consider the design and engineering of the camera you are using. The most basic cameras can capture some beautiful images of celestial objects, even without a telescope. Purists will tell you to stick with a film camera if you really want to capture the most accurate details, but there are plenty of lovely images to be had on a basic digital camera, especially CCD and DSLR cameras. Most of them will amaze you by what they can do. Pair them with the right telescope and you will be even more amazed.

Consider the software used to process an image. When creating a detailed image of a planet, for example, it takes the stacking of hundreds and even thousands of images you have collected from space to get all of the detail you envision into one photograph. You could go through them one by one but why would you when there are programs that can do it for you. Consider investing in some quality software to ensure that you get the final image you want after all the hard work of snapping photos.

Consider taking your time. Capturing great photos of space will take plenty of time, plenty of patience and plenty of new knowledge but it can be extremely rewarding. Imagine expanding on the thrill of the first time you even looked through your first telescope to see something close up and in full detail that was more beautiful than you never imagined.

Great astrophotography beginner telescopes should help you get the photos you have been dreaming of but it is just one piece of equipment among many that you will need to make those images a reality. Take time to shop for the best mount, tripod, camera and software in addition to the best astrophotography beginner telescopes and you will get a great return on your investment of time.

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