It’s thrilling to see the stars and other celestial bodies through a lone telescope, but it’s even more exciting to view them up close and a lot clearer.
Fortunately, you can take stunning photos of these objects with available and affordable technology.
Astrophotography is a specialized kind of photography comprising techniques and concepts that not only let you see and capture deep sky objects, but also share their beauty with others.
It involves photography of astronomical objects like the stars, moon, nebulae, planets, and the Milky Way.
There are different types of astrophotography that you can pursue, including:
Solar System: This includes the sun, moon, and planets around them. You can use a telescope for this, but there are many telephoto lenses you can use to get amazing results.
Time-Lapse: This is great for star trail images and requires you to take several exposures over a period of time and combine the results into a video.
Deep Space/Sky: This includes the nebulae and distant galaxies. This kind of astrophotography takes objects far away in the night sky and includes the most complicated and technical aspects.
Wide Angle: This type uses wide and super wide lenses with images such as night landscapes and star trails captured. It is the least technical and very accessible astrophotography.
If you want to get into astrophotography, you need the right equipment. For aspiring astrophotographers, a camera or even your smartphone with a tripod is about enough to get started.
However, as you go along and your skills get better, you’ll want to take clearer and deeper pictures.
A telescope for astrophotography will help you create star trails and take photos of the Milky Way with some amazing results.
Astrophotography Equipment – What You Need For A Successful Shoot
In order to create a successful sky shoot, you need a lot of equipment including your telescope, camera, computerized mount, tracking scope, and miscellaneous accessories.
We’ll get into each of these individual items below so you can have an idea of what a full astrophotography rig may look like.
There’s not much you can do without a camera, and this can be a DSLR or CCD camera. The two types have their unique benefits and flaws, but the choice is up to you.
However, most astrophotographers tend towards the DSLR camera as it’s versatile and cost-effective.
Once you decide on the right camera lens for your rig, you need a T-ring to fasten it directly to the telescope you’ll pick for your astrophotography.
For astrophotography, you need a specialized tracking mount or tripod just as the camera or telescope you’ll place on it will be.
Your tripod needs to be strong, sturdy, motorized, and GEM (German Equatorial) so it can follow the stars as they travel, and to take pin-sharp pictures.
Motorized mounts come in two types: open and closed loop.
Closed loop links to an autoguider, which locks to a specific celestial body and uses it to lock the main telescope to the image you’re capturing.
It’s more sophisticated, gives better results, and captures fainter objects like nebulae and galaxies, but it’s also more expensive.
On the other hand, open loop mounts use a computerized database to swing the scope where the object should be.
Once your star and polar align properly, it’ll be accurate enough to capture brighter objects like planets or the moon with short exposure times.
You can use computer software with your telescope and camera so that you don’t have to go outside to capture photos once you set up your imaging rig.
You can just sit at your table and control location and capture of the objects from your computer, including camera settings and exposure time.
There’s a slew of astrophotography software brands available but you can find the most popular ones in a comprehensive guide compiled by Reddit.
These include telescope filters that negate light pollution and improve image contrast, counterweights for mount stability, power converters and adapter cables, power tanks, and batteries.
However, the accessories you use depends largely on your exact setup, but there are several optional additions you can find that’ll be a great asset to the standard of your photos.
Astrophotography Telescope Features
Telescopes have come a long way with a long sequence of minute improvements made on them to fine-tune each aspect of the craft.
Let’s look at some of the features you need to look out for when considering the best telescope to pick for your astrophotography rig.
Telescopes come in different varieties in their lenses. These include achromatic, apochromatic, reflectors, catadioptrics, and refractors.
We’ll consider the apochromatic refractors for this guide to the best telescopes for astrophotography as they’re generally the best in delivering high quality images.
They also cut down distortions that may be caused by chromatic aberration.
There are primary lenses in high-end refractor telescopes called doublet and triplets. Doublets are comprised of two glass pieces, while triplets have three pieces.
Essentially, it takes more time and effort to make a perfect triplet lens than a doublet, plus they’re heavier and take longer to align and cool down.
However, triplets give better sharpness as they correct chromatic aberration better than doublets and also have better color-correction.
If you’re just starting out, the cost is more material, but the difference between the two is marginal.
When picking out a telescope for astrophotography, look out for the letters “ED” (extra-low dispersion) in the name, as it refers to the type of glass used in the lens.
High quality glass delivers a lower spread of colored light, thus reduces aberrations more than regular glass.
These reduce the focal length of the telescope, so you can reduce exposure times for your shots, while increasing the size of the field of view.
These are used for field flattening in focal reducers and make images sharper than they would otherwise be, while improving the quality of your finished photos.
Fast & Slow Rations
A telescope’s focal ratio is its focal length divided by aperture. This is critical in astrophotography depending on the object you want to image.
For faint objects like nebulae and galaxies, a fast ratio of less than f/5 will do the trick.
Brighter objects like the planets, sun, and moon require slower ratios higher than f/8, while f/5-f/7 are versatile for most other needs.
When choosing the best telescope for astrophotography, you’re spoilt for choices today.
There are telescopes in almost every size or shape to choose from, and they range from budget for newbies to advanced ones for experienced astronomers.
Before you pick out a telescope, find out what you need first.
Each specialized telescope in this guide should be able to cater to specific needs, but they’re not all suited for the same thing.
For example, the best telescope for planetary imaging may not be the best for deep sky photography.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to start shooting some rewarding photos of the solar system, planets, and galaxies.
There are telescopes on this list for every level of astrophotography, whether you’re an aspiring or professional astrophotographer, with their pros and cons highlighted.
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This is a great starter scope primarily aimed at keen novice astronomers looking for their first telescope to explore the marvels and beauty of the night sky.
It’s built of high quality, being part of the award-winning Celestron brand products, with over 50 years’ experience in the field.
You can use it with a smartphone mount and t-ring or mounted to a DSLR to enjoy the power of this telescope.
A mobile app is available that makes it easier to find planets.
Plus, if you want stunning photos, you can add the Motor Drive for consistent motion and amazing imagery of distant things like nebulae and galaxies.
Once adjusted, the motor keeps the subjects in view for up to one hour.
This Newtonian reflector telescope uses mirrors to capture light and reflect images for viewing.
It features a 127mm aperture (5 inches), which is a good size for amateur to intermediate astronomy, plus you can view celestial bodies in high detail.
Its optical components are made of glass coated with reflective aluminum for more definition and refinement, which signifies excellent design and true quality.
It also has an equatorial mount, two manual slow-motion controls for smooth object tracking as they pass across the sky, an aluminum tripod with accessory tray to keep extra eyepieces, and T-rings close.
Also included is a 3x Barlow lens that is used with the eyepieces to triple their magnification, plus “The Sky” software that has a 10,000 object database, enhanced images, and printable sky maps.
- Quality optics
- Aperture size offers a wide range of targets to explore
- Easy to mount and assemble fully
- Balances size, portability, and power
- 2-year warranty
- Mobile app makes it easier to use
- May take time to be familiar with aligning the telescope
- Subpar tripod and eyepiece
- Needs upgrading for best results
For new astronomers stepping into the art for the first time, the experience can be overwhelming.
Some telescopes are overly complicated with confusing accessories and hidden features that make it hard to start out.
The Gskyer refractor telescope for astronomy balances performance and price in a high quality telescope. For beginners, its visual resolution and optical capabilities are top tier.
It’s also not complicated to assemble, and the aperture delivers precise and high-resolution images.
This compact and portable telescope has a 400mm focal length and 70mm aperture for clearer picture and it’s optical glass is coated to enhanced image brightness so it protects your eyes.
It also comes with two replaceable eyepieces for enhanced power, and a 5×24 finderscope with a cross line and mounting bracket.
You don’t need any tools to set it up and find your objects in the sky. It’s also portable and you can carry it in a backpack, which comes with the package.
- Easy and straightforward installation
- Body, tripod, and accessories are lightweight and portable
- Simple and convenient
- Decent quality
- Optical capabilities provide enough power and clear images
- Limited viewing without additional lenses
- Doesn’t show finer details of celestial bodies
- No outline of viewing capabilities and optimal operation time
- Eyepieces susceptible to light pollution
- Lacks zoom feature
- Limited focal length
- Difficult to replace eyepieces if damaged
This telescope comes with Starry Night software that beginner astronomers will find very useful.
It also alerts you of any upcoming celestial events, something you’d rarely find even with the best telescopes for astrophotography.
The Orion 09007 SpaceProbe is ideal for hobbyists and novice astronomers who want the best quality of equipment regardless of the cost.
Orion’s more than four decades’ experience in the field is synonymous with high quality components, crystal clear images, and impeccable customer service.
This Newtonian refractor telescope is designed for deep space gazing, with amazing technical features that match its price.
It features a 100 to 150mm aperture so you can see planets, the moon and galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae too.
Its short 24-inch optical tube design enhances its portability, while its optical 130mm diameter and 650mm focal length balance perfectly with the f/5 focal ratio.
This is good if you want to experience the full pleasure of the discoveries in the universe.
Other features include the equatorial mount and a sturdy, but adjustable, tripod so anyone can adjust it manually and track celestial bodies in slow-motion, even on the go.
The mount allows for long exposure, and there’s a manual included so you can understand how to assemble the whole rig.
You also get a 6×30 finderscope, 1.25-inch rack, tripod accessory tray and pinion focuser, plus a collimation cap among other specs.
- High quality tech specs with its optical components
- Enough light for its aperture size
- Versatile tripod with equatorial mount
- The lens and eyepiece show celestial objects in full detail
- Fully equipped for astrophotography
- Easy to assemble
- Portable with compact design
- Crisp and clear viewings
- Alerts you of future celestial events
- Affordable for its quality
- Takes time to assemble for beginners
- Some components are plastic
This is a refractor telescope with several great features that make it a good choice for astrophotographers.
It features a 70mm aperture mounted on an altazimuth mount, 900mm focal length and 13 focal ratio, two 10mm and 20mm eyepieces, and built-on StarPointer finderscope.
The StarPointer is fixed permanently next to the eyepiece, and uses red dot technology to line up celestial objects.
It also has a 1.25 inch steel tube tripod and an altazimuth mount for high level precision as you aim and target the celestial bodies.
Its lenses are coated and deliver crisp and clear images of the objects you’re focusing on, so it’s a great tool to see the planets and the solar system in detail.
Other features include the two Plossl units of 45x and 90x magnification that prevent apparition of chromatic aberration.
It also has The Sky software, which is in many Celestron telescopes, with a 10,000 object database to guide you to the universe.
This telescope is regarded for its good quality pictures and reasonable price, plus it’s light and portable so you can carry it far and wide to wherever your stargazing adventures lead you.
- Easy to assemble
- Good for celestial and terrestrial viewing
- Finderscope gives better aim
- Hi-tech and reliable product
- Comes with The Sky software as a guide
- Crisp and clear images
- User friendly
- Accessory tray offers good storage and organization
- Better built mount and tripod
- Less vibrations
- Tripod isn’t as sturdy and may be short for adults
- 70mm aperture is too narrow for pro astronomers
- Refractors may suffer from ambient heat
Meade is one of the top brands in astrophotography, and this Instruments Infinity 70mm telescope doesn’t disappoint.
It’s ideal for scientists and hobbyists who want to gaze at the deep sky while enjoying quality images.
The mid-range refractor telescope comes as a complete set and you can use it to view planets, the moon, stars, and even wildlife if you like.
It features an altazimuth mount with an altitude lock and slow-motion controls that help you track objects with stable viewing.
It also has good magnification power thanks to its wide field eyepieces and a 2x Barlow lens for a wide range of observing possibilities.
Its optical tube design is 1.28 inches long, making it compact for travel, and its 1.25 inch barrel can fit standard eyepieces if you want to upgrade later.
Also included are anti-reflection, fully multi-coated optics that enhance its ruggedness while keeping its lenses at optimal functionality.
The coating doesn’t hinder the lenses from allowing light in so they still offer crisp and bright images.
Additionally, they’re secure even when you’re not using the telescope thanks to the fold-down rubber eyecups.
An adjustable height tripod offers a stable platform for you to watch the sky at night, plus the 90-degree erect and diagonal prism and dew shield.
It also comes with the AutoStar Suite Astronomy software so you can keep a record of the images you see.
- High quality images
- Easy focusing
- Strong and durable tripod
- Has all necessary accessories
- Images positioned correctly
- Easy to set up
- Has large knurled control knobs for easy control
- Relatively heavy
What To Look For In A Telescope For Astrophotography
Depending on the kind of astrophotography you want to do, you need to consider the aperture. The larger the aperture, the more light it collects thus the finer the detail it resolves.
Generally, it isn’t worth picking a telescope with less than a 75mm aperture.
This is one of the most important factors to consider as it tracks the motion of the sky. As the Earth rotates, celestial objects appear to progress slowly across the sky, every two minutes at the apparent diameter of the full moon.
A telescope without this mount makes objects appear to be drifting out of the field of view, so you’ll keep manually re-centering the target objects.
This limits you to shooting short-exposure images instead of long exposure ones.
Some telescopes require a great deal more calibration and set up, and some are better suited for certain types of photography than others.
Choose a telescope that’s designed for your level of experience and knowledge to prevent frustration.
Compact & Portable
A big powerful telescope is good if you live in an area with clear skies and have a large backyard.
If you live in the city, though, you’re better off with a lightweight and portable telescope.
Ease Of Use
Refractor telescopes don’t need collimation or aligning so they’re good for newbies. This means they’re easy to focus and use for any user level.
When you’re searching for telescopes for astrophotography, price is important and it varies depending on whether you want a refractor or reflector telescope.
Accessories & Equipment Needed
There are additional things you need to invest in including a camera, mounts, T-ring adapter, a dew shield, remote timer shutter, and software.
Some telescopes come with these accessories and much more, but it depends on your needs.
Area Of Interest
If you have a particular area of astrophotography you want to specialize in, it’ll determine the kind of telescope you should pick.
It can be for high-resolution work or wide-field astrophotography, like say you want to view the planets and solar system or the deep sky.
Telescopes for viewing the solar system and planets require long focal length, while deep sky astrophotography needs a fast, short focal length telescope with a lot of aperture and focal length.
Astrophotography is a great hobby that’s worth trying out if it’s financially viable for you, but if it isn’t, you can use astrophotography apps with your smartphone to begin with and invest later on.
Research thoroughly before picking any one of our five best telescopes for astrophotography.THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Elsie started off as a freelance business and tech journalist. Having written for publications like Lifewire, and WindowsReport, she has garnered immense exposure over the years. She is a certified social media expert with deep interest in internet marketing, ecommerce and information technology.