Astrophotography Equipment


Pictured above is the equipment I use, as of October 2015, to take all of the photos displayed on the site, as well as the field where I currently take the pictures. The telescope is a Takahashi FS102, a 4 inch, F8 apochromatic refractor which has excellent optics but is no longer available. I generally use a focal reducer / field flattener which reduces the focal length to F6 so that I can take shorter exposures.

The mount is a Losmandy G11 which I purchased back in 1999. In the summer of 2015, I entered the modern age of telescope technology and added an Avalon StarGo and it's associated stepper motors to the G11. I have to say, after many years of star hopping to my photographic targets, the StarGo along with other modern software tools, makes the astrophotogrpahy process quite a bit more efficient. I am very impressed with the build quality and overall ease of use of the Avalon StarGo.

I am now guiding the exposures with an Orion StarShoot autoguider mounted on an Orion Short Tube 80 refractor. For two reasons, I removed the focusser from the Soort Tube 80 and replaced it with one from an old Celestron 80mm refractor. The first was that the Orion focusser had some play in it, and the second was that the focusser did not have enough range for the autoguider to come to focus without the use of a diagonal. When guiding and taking pictures, the less components you have, the less chance of flexure making its way into the system. Autoguiding is essential in my opinion. I would much rather spend time star hopping with my reflector than sit cramped at the guide scope eyepiece during a night of exposures.

Most of the film based pictures on the site were taken with an old Pentax/Honeywell SP1000, the pre-cursor to the K1000. Even though this camera is old and falling to pieces, it is perfect for astrophotography at prime focus because it is fully manual and can operate without batteries. In 2015 I decided it was time to try imaging with a digital camera, so I began to use a Canon 7D Mk II. Digital camera imaging has distinct advantages over film imaging, and leads one to think differently about the act of taking astrophotos. I used to set up a shot, and lock the plunger on my camera's remote shutter cable and come back 45 minutes. Now I can't even consider a night of imaging without charging the various batteries I use. My current list of batteries contains:


The other way digital cameras have changed my astrophotography workflow is that much of the equipment is now controlled by my laptop. As well, film astrophotos consisted of a few really long exposures scanned and stacked together, where as with digital cameras many short exposures are stacked together to reduce the noise that creeps into long digital exposures. With that in mind, the following is a list of my favorite astronomy related software.