Astrophotography for beginners

This guide is designed to help people interested in astrophotography to hit the ground running without making mistakes or reading thousands of hours of forums.

When I started I could not find a single guide or website with all the information I needed. Most of the site are of too many details and there are too many options for equipment, software. Here is a simpler list for you to get started with!

Needless to say there is a great advantage on doing some research of your own, allowing you to:

  • spend more time as hobby and not rush to conclusions

I will divide this into phases which you may want to follow to enjoy your journey and have more fun and collect more knowledge on the way. If you have absolute desire to just get some image and be done, then find and read phase 3 or 4 below only. But do not skip phase 1 unless you already have that knowledge!

Note: I am still a beginner and am learning myself, so please check this blog for updates again in the future

Phase 1 -learning the basics and having fun:

This is the basic setup that will cost you not more than 25–30$ but allow you to hit the ground running.

a great book
  • buy a nice book: like NightWatch by Terence Dickinson, for the cloudy nights and the long days. This will allow you to learn all the basics and be ready to enjoy the night skies!

Why: because you will be able to enjoy the night sky and recognize objects without a telescope or camera, and share your knowledge with others as you walk outside at night!

initial telescope setup

Phase 2 — get a simple telescope and tripod

This setup will cost you ~150–500$.

  • beginner telescope and tripod like the: Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ which is enough to start learning how to point a telescope and how the sky rotate around you and you have to manually track it! It will be hard to see planets in detail with this, but you can get really good observing the moon, and bright targets like Andromeda, and the Orion Nebula.
simple setup

Phase 3 — simple astrophotography

This setup will cost you ~1,000–1,500$.

  • A photography camera like the Canon EOR Rp, or Rebel t7, i90D, depending on budget. An APS-C camera is enough but if you like to be full-frame and ready for the next steps I recommend a full-frame camera like the EOR R/Rp or similar. The best cameras are the one with large pixels and that do not suffer from self-heating. The Canon EOS Rp is a good compromise of large pixels, decent pixel count and low self-heating.
an advanced setup

Phase 4 — more advanced astrophotography

This setup will cost you ~4,000–5,000$.

  • a better astrophotography telescope capable of full-frame photos is the William Optics Zenithstar series

I also recommend the following extras to make observing easy and even more accurate:

  • ZWO ASIAir Plus Wireless Camera Controller for Astrophotography. This is a full computer controller, but makes you life so much easier if you want to take long session of hours! It allows you to control your mount, camera and more with a call-phone or tablet app, and even helps you in polar alignment, finding targets, etc. I highly recommend this computer because it can amplify your abilities and really remove a lot of frustrations.

Phase 5 — the ultimate setup

This setup is for professional astrophotographers with a large budget of ~10,000$ or more.

  • Celestron EdgeHD 11" OTA — a very capable telescope that can be used with f10 for deep sky targets and f2 for larger targets!

Processing photos

Do not waste money on software, the best is luckily free. I used some paid alignment software and it was highly inferior or not working at all! GIMP is a free photo editor like PhotoShop.

  • align photots with ASTAP. Use AstroM white star to avoid saturation in de-mosaic methods.

References

Books

Websites:

  • https://www.cloudynights.com/ — best site overall for posts, classified ads, and massive number of reviews and posts (be aware, needs long hours to read and search!)

Equipment:

Computers

Apps / Software:

about the author

I have more than 20 years of experience in neural networks in both hardware and software (a rare combination). About me: Medium, webpage, Scholar, LinkedIn.

I spend some of my free time, especially in the late Fall, Winter, early Spring months to look at the sky.

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