My on again, off again interest in astronomy is on the rise again, and this time I plan to focus on an area that’s always held my interest, astrophotography. I’ve dabbled before, but never really engaged, but I think this time will be different. Rather than focusing on some telescope I wanted to buy, and then trying to figure out if I could use it for astrophotography, I began with trying to understand what equipment I would need to take quality images. A high quality motorized German equatorial mount seems to be the place to start.
While that does imply some shopping in the future, I decided to give it a shot using my existing photography equipment. And so I took my camera and tripod outside last night, and started taking photos of Jupiter and the Milky Way. At first I was going to try and shoot “star trails” but decided instead to just take a few slightly lengthy exposures and see how things worked out.
Overall, I’m ok with my first results. There is a bit of star trailing, but the focus seems good and my first attempt at astro image processing using Lightroom’s rich controls gives me hope for even better results as I gain experience. Actually, I’m happy enough that I’m likely going to get an appropriate motorized mount (which will move the camera at the same rate the earth turns, thus removing the star trails) and just use my camera for a while (though as George correctly noted, I really do want something like an 80mm refractor).
Below are the two best images of the night, viewing the Milky Way, looking east. Both photos were taken using my Canon 350D with the 17-55/F2.8 lens. I opened up all the way to 2.8 and used the camera’s remote control to minimize vibrations. Using the bulb setting, I exposed the first image for 17 seconds, and the second for 40.
I didn’t make a Flickr set with only two photos, but you may click either of the images below to see a larger version at Flickr.