Astronomy Equipment


**Updated 19th August with some new gear

Just like my screenwriting, I am getting to grips with, and learning the ropes of, Astronomy and Astrophotography.

Visual Astronomy is pretty easy to get up and running with. Buy a telescope, point it upwards! Actually there is a wide variety of different types of scopes for different purposes, but once you have one, it’s just a case of buying a decent book and perusing the skies. I can heartily recommend the book “Turn Left at Orion” to get you started on your journey. Add a few more eyepieces for different magnification and away you go.

For more details on the type of scope to buy, check out the forums at the Stargazer’s Lounge (SGL). There is far too much to go into here (although I may add more at a later date) but the Lounge will help you immensely.

For visual use, I started out with an 8″ Skywatcher Reflector on a Dobsonian Mount. Its quite a big beast, but catches a lot of light and gives some great views of both planets and deep space objects (DSOs).

Unlike normal, “everyday” photography, the DSO astrophotographer needs a few more bits of equipment than just a camera and a tripod. The sky really is the limit really for what you can buy (and spend) but I have started with what is probably a bare minimum to get up and running. You can get started with just a camera and a tripod for widefield imaging of the stars, but this is not something I have played around with… yet. I’ll post some more photos and details of this approach when I try some for myself.

This is what I currently use:

  • Skywatcher EQ3-2 Mount, with a motorised RA Axis and Polar Scope
  • NEQ6 Synscan motorised heavy-duty mount
  • Skywatcher 80ED Pro with Flattener/Redcuer.
  • Skywatcher ST80 short FL refractor as a guidescope
  • ZWO ASI120MM camera for guiding
  • Canon EOS 100D DSLR – modified for Astro use
  • Laptop, running Astrophotography Tool (APT) for controlling imaging runs
  • Software for stacking, editing and adjusting images (currently mainly Deep Sky Stacker and PhotoShop)
  • All the necessary cables to fit this all together!

This really is the very basic set-up you can probably get away with for imaging DSOs and, if you are serious about getting into it, you may want to start with a much heavier mount to save you having to upgrade sooner rather than later.

The final piece of the Jigsaw is Making Every Photon Count, Steve Richards’ accessible and extremely helpful guide to astrophotography. Well worth buying if you are starting out. Steve is a well respected member of the SGL community and contributor to Sky at Night Magazine.

And there you go, apart from various USB cables and shutter release cables that you might want to use with your camera, the only other thing you need is a clear night!

Most of my work so far is on Deep Space Objects like galaxies and nebulae. Different equipment and techniques are required for planetary photography, but I am yet to properly embark on anything along those lines yet, but I will add more information as I do!

I will also update this page as and when I change my equipment, so you can see how I upgrade and the choices I make as I gain more experience and knowledge.

But, until then, Clear Skies and Happy Observing!

Oh, and if you have any questions about the equipment I use, please feel free to get in touch via the CONTACT page.

MK McFadden

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