|1. Celestron NexStar 130SLT||2. Celestron 31045 AstroMaster||3. Orion 09007 SpaceProbe|
Whether you are looking for a telescope to present them to your kids or your niece or nephew, or if you are looking for one for yourself, if you are new to astronomy, this will turn out to be a really hard task. There is a huge difference between gazing at a sky full of stars and thinking it is beautiful and you will like to know more about the star clusters, and actually starting to learn about them more. Not only are you going to need to learn more about objects in the night sky, but you also need some knowledge on how astrophotography works, which can be quite different from normal photography.
If you are looking for one for your children or your nephew or niece, you are going to need to explain at least the basics to them. If you are going to buy one for yourself, if you are a beginner, you might be at a complete loss at what kind of telescope to buy to fulfill your needs. Maybe, even if you are an expert in this field, you are still at a loss on what kind of telescope is good these days in the market.
Well, fear not, for we have a made a compilation of the 10 best telescopes for astrophotography, that you can refer to and find the one best suited for your purpose. Going along with the assumption that you are a beginner, we have also provided some tips on what you should look for while choosing your telescope. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Features to Consider While Buying the Best Telescope For Astrophotography?
Aperture has a firmer place when you are considering for visual astronomy, but with DSO photography, It’s better to take optical speed into consideration. The preference towards speed comes from the method of measuring the signal to noise ratio. DSOs are quite dim if you compare them to the scenery we see in daylight. Under the stars, the more photons we can capture, the better is the guarantee of a good picture. The number of photons captured is measured in SNR or signal to noise ratio. More photons automatically means more SNR.
Presence of more SNR means a smoother, soothing picture. Optical speed means the speed at which the photons fly into our cameras pixel’s for the whole picture to be possible. The faster it can get in, the better it is.
Faster optical speed might mean an increase in SNR but for reducing noise, other features needs to be considered. There are mainly two best ways to do it. You can either photograph under a dark sky, as in an area where light simply is not present in your surrounding or you can employ the use of a special kind of narrowband filters.
How do you understand what the speed is? Well, you can tell it by checking the focal ratio. We get the focal ratio when we divide the focal length by aperture. Speed is changed on the square of focal length. Which means, an f/4 is faster than f/8.
You are also going to need an equatorial mount for DSO photography. It aligns with the earth’s pole while Alt-Az mounts succeed in field rotation after long exposure.
The size of your telescope depends a lot on the size of the equatorial mount. In essence, the mount is the foundation of your photography system. Everything hinges on it. If your mount is good, better performance is guaranteed. Remember, the earth is essentially rotating on its axis and around the sun. You are always moving. For taking pictures of the night sky, the DSOs are fixed. An equatorial mount stabilizes the camera and focuses on the same part in space, even while the earth continues to move under it.
Whatever else you decide to downsize on, it’s better to not save on the mount. An entry level minimum size mount can cost about $700 while a really good one can be $3000.
What Kind Of Telescope Is Best Suited For Astrophotography?
The choices for telescope in astrophotography is wide and varied. You might want to take your time learning about the different types before choosing the one for you.
DSO photographers usually recommend starting with a small refractor for beginners when choosing a telescope. A refractor is made out of a convex glass lens that helps focus the light at a position that is plane for an image. Achromatic and apochromatic, these are the two known refractors.
A convex lens is somewhat similar to a prism. It manipulates light so it can be bend to a certain focal point. Usually, when light is bent, the light typically break into different parts on the wavelength. When these different wavelengths focuses on certain points, it result in what is typically known as chromatic aberration. Telescopes usually have a special type of glass, so that the dispersion is low in them and chromatic aberration is reduced.
For achromatic telescope, there are usually two pieces of glass which helps bring the scattered light to one focal point. However, achromatic lenses only focuses on blue and red light, and leaves green light out of the equation blurry.
Due to this complication, apochromatic system is considered better. As it can hold three pieces of glasses, it can bring red, blue, and green, all three of the lights to the same point. It is better to go with apochromatic telescope for astrophotography. Of course, if your focus is narrowband imaging, since the wavelength of light is narrow here, achromatic telescope would do the job just right too.
Astrophotographers usually tend to purchase apochromatic telescope. This is because the quality of the focuser is better and is considered better quality in general.
Small refractors are recommended for beginners because it can bypass a mount’s tracking limitation, takes care of polar alignment errors, and is easier to use in general than any other kind of telescope. Small refractors also have an amazing list of targets that can captivate beginners and advanced photographers.
Objects in the sky can be way larger than any of us realize. Nebulas can cover multiple moons. Small refractors field of view is quite large and those vast expanses of stars are captured easily. The field of of view is depended upon the focal length and the sensor size.
For small refractors, you can move forward with a small or medium sized mount. Most people will usually tell you to get the best mount you can afford. However, the truth is, if you have a refractor which is light, the mount’s tolerance is far greater. Compared to a heavyweight telescopes with longer focal length, mount works just fine on lightweight ones. Magnification increases with the focal length. Your telescopes limitation are usually more exposed with better magnification. Which is why, a small refractor is a better option.
A newtonian telescope consists on two mirrors. One parabolic mirror directs light onto another mirror, and this light is then turned reflected on to a focuser on the telescope.
Newtonians has one more step to its set up which is known as Collimation. It is made possible by adjusting the three screws of the mirror at the back of a telescope. This step is taken so that the light falls upon smack dab at the center of the focuser and it comes in at a right angle in coordination with the sensor. Collimating a telescope is not hard but you do need to get certain amount of practice and learn the mechanism properly. You can also buy a collimation cap to make it easier. There’s also autocollimator, which helps even more with the angle.
Laser collimator, one the other hand, have some drawbacks to it. You certainly don’t need laser collimator either. Not when you can reach the adjusting screws and look down the focuser at the same time.
You are also going to need a coma collector is you decide to buy a newtonian. The further you move from a mirror’s centre, the greater is the distortion in the images. At this stage, the starts starts looking like comets, which is why it is called Coma. With the help of a coma corrector, you can fix this distortion.
The best part about Newtonian telescope is that most of them a optically fast and typically start with f/4. The not so good part about Newtonian is its size and weight. The size makes them a typical target for the wind. The mount will also have a hard time working because of the load that is added by the size and weight of a Newtonian, especially when you compare it to a refractor. In this case, you need to add more counterweights along the lines of the mount head and have to face the camera downward at the home position. These two preventive measures helps reduce the impact a Newtonian has on a mount.
A basic Newtonian can be great for beginners. Compared to refractors, they are way less expensive. Considering Refractors tends to have a change of price depending on the size and quality. A lot of people end up upgrading the focuser on a Newtonian. So, you might end up a little more than you signed up for later on but its still a good option.
Schmidt Cassegrain Telescopes
Schmidt Cassegrain Telescopes are a smash up between refractor and reflector. An SCT consists of several things. A spherical mirror that relies on a piece of glass that is curved slightly and a Schmidt corrector plate which is on the very front and it corrects the light rays so that the image can be usable. If you are planning on doing length planetary imaging, SCT’s dual role might be what you need. Usually, SCTs are a f/10 and have a .63x or 7x focal reducer accommodating them.
SCTs are of two basic types. One is the regular SCT and another is aplanatic flat-field SCT, the likes of Celestron Edge. Similar to a refractor, the image that comes out is curved. With an aplanatic SCT, the image plane is flattened out. This is even more relevant due to the increase in full frame size camera sensors. Again, much like coma, the further you move from the mirror’s centre, the worse the curving gets. If you have a small sized sensor, that is, those that are restricted to planetary image sensing, a regular SCT is enough.
For DSO photography, if you are using SCT, the recommendation is to go with an off axis guider. This way, you can destroy the difference between the guiding system and the camera. Similar to the Collimation for Newtonian, OAG will take some practice too.
Top 10 Best Telescopes For Astrophotography 2019
1 . Celestron NexStar 130SLT Computerized Telescope
This 130 SLT Newtonian has an aperture of 130 mm, focal length of 650 mm, and is compatible with 2-inch eyepieces. The focal ratio is 5 for this one. Before you can get down to the business of observing the beautiful night sky, you are going to need to adjust several things. This includes setting up the hand control and aligning the finderscope with the telescope. The eyepiece can magnify up to 26x for one piece. The finder scope type is star pointer and the mount type is motorized altazimuth.
This telescope is capable of zooming up to 307x while the lowest is 19x. The light gathering power is wonderful, about 345x, which is needed for astrophotography. The obvious field of view goes up to 1.7 degrees while the linear field view is 91ft. The hand control is computerized and contains database on over 4000 objects, which includes 600 galaxies, 300 clusters and dozens of binary stars. The SkyAlign makes it easy to align with any 3 celestial. For a beginner, this might be one of the best telescopes for astrophotography.
2. Celestron 31045 AstroMaster 130 EQ Reflector Telescope
The best part about this telescope is the lack of requirement of any kind of complicated setup. You can get it up and go without using any tool. The star pointer finderscope is mounted from the start, so a big part of the work is already taken care of and you can save time. The focal length of the eyepiece 2 is 10 mm and can magnify up to 65x. The eyepiece one has half of the magnification power, that is, 33x. The focal length of the eyepiece is 0.79 inches. This kind of telescope is best for both terrestrial and astronomical use.
The dovetail attachment can be released quickly, again, without the use of any tool. The equatorial mount if from German and has a setting circle that accurately locates and keeps tracks of objects in the sky. The tripod is quite rugged and sturdy and doesn’t require setup either. The steel tube legs are 1.25 inches in length and keeps the telescope from falling with its rigid and stable hold. The glass optics are coated so the image can be clear.
3. Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST Equatorial Reflector Telescope (Black)
The aperture reflector is 5.1 inch in this case and can gather a serious amount of light so objects far into the galaxy can be seen. The planets, stars, moons, the different galaxies and nebulas, and clusters of stars, everything is closer with this one. The optical tube is short, about 24 inch, which makes it easy to carry everywhere and the focal ratio is quite fast, about f/5. This means that the view is wide, of the whole field, and the SpaceProbe 130ST EQ can be enjoyed with the family members.
The mount is a sturdy EQ-2 equatorial, and with a tripod that’s quite adjustable, it is possible to manually track the objects of the night sky and do it in slow motion, while taking your time. The counterweight bar length is 8 inch. Even after you have assembled the entire telescope, it barely eights 27 lbs. This makes transport possible for any place you want to get a look of the night sky at. The package also comes with 1.25 inch Sirius Plossl eyepieces, with one being 25 mm and the other 10 mm. The package also has other objects like 6×30 finder scope, 1.25inch rack, and pinion focuser, tripod accessory tray, collimation cap, Starry Night astronomy software. Certainly, this is one of the best telescopes for astrophotography.
4. Orion 9005 AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope
This is a wide field refractor telescope that lets you view objects deep into the night sky with absolute clarity. The 120 aperture and 600mm focal length refractor ensures that the nebular clouds, star clusters, and galaxies are visible clearly, sharp and easy to look at. The moon and the planets also look brighter with this one. The bearing of this telescope is of friction.
The tripod is adjustable as well as sturdy, so the telescope can rest on it proudly. As it has an equatorial mount, manual slow motion tracking is possible with this one. You can keep count of the star cluster that has your attention and never lose sight of it. There is even an internal polar alignment scope so that the performance is even more precise. Other objects in the package include two Sirius Plossl 1.25″ eyepieces which are of 25 mm and 10 mm each. A finder scope that can zoom up to 6×30, along with a smooth 2 inches rack and pinion focuser, 90-degree mirror star diagonal, and Starry Night astronomy software.
5. Celestron NexStar 8 SE Telescope
This might be costly but there is a reason the company can claim it as the world’s most beloved telescope. This is one of the classics, made way back in the 1970s and known for its 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain revolutionized amateur astronomy. Now, what was once known as the iconic orange tube design has been updated to fit the need of the modern times. All the latest features can be found in this telescope and stargazing is fun for both beginners and experienced with a telescope like this.
The aperture, as previously mentioned, is large; 8 inches to be precise. The light gathering ability of this one allows you to have an amazing view of the entire universe, the moon, the planets, and even objects far far away, like Whirlpool Galaxy and Hercules Globular Cluster are clearly visible. The mount has a database of over 40000 objects and it would automatically track and locate them for you.
The alignment procedures are SkyAlign, Auto 2-Star Align, 1-Star Align, 2-Star Align, Solar System Align. The plus point of the Sky align technology is that as it gets your telescope up and running and ready to locate objects in minutes. Even if the person operating it is a beginner, the Sky Align will help them find at least three bright objects of the night sky. The design of the tripod is quite unique too, with a single fork and the tripod can be separated into parts so that it can be taken along to other places. No doubt, this falls under one of the best telescopes for astrophotography.
6. SkyWatcher S20530 Star Adventurer Latitude (EQ) Base, Telescope Accessory, Black
This has to be one of the smallest telescopes, easy to carry around and easy to operate. Certainly, perfect for you if you are new to the astrophotography business. It comes along with a star adventure accessory and a v style dovetail plate. The knobs can be micro adjusted and even latitude adjustment is possible for the locks. Not to mention the telescope is quite pleasing to look at. If you are just getting hang of stargazing, you might want to start with this one. The cost is absolutely cheap and you can first test if it’s something you will want to make a permanent hobby of.
7. Gskyer Telescope, AZ70400 German Technology Astronomy Telescope, Travel Refractor
The 400 mm focal length and 70 mm aperture guarantees you will be able to capture clear pictures with this telescope. The optical glass is coated so the brightness is enhanced and your eyes are also protected in the process. There are two replaceable eyepieces, with one having a magnification of 16x and another of 40x. This telescope is made doubly powerful with the help of the 5 x 24 finderscope which comes with a mounting bracket and a cross line.
This is another telescope that doesn’t require any prior setup. Not to mention finding and locating objects is quite easy with this one and for beginners to operate. So, completely inexperienced star gazer and even little kids just starting on this path can get a long way with this one. The manufacturers of this telescope also provides a backpack with the package, so while you are going hiking or on a trip far away, you can take the telescope along with you. Overall, the item weight only 5 pounds, so it is easy to carry around everywhere. For beginners, this is one of the best telescopes for astrophotography to start with.
8. Gskyer Telescope, 600x90mm AZ Astronomical Refractor Telescope, German Technology Scope
This telescope has a focal length of 600 mm and an aperture of 90 mm which makes a gathering of a large amount of light possible. The glass lens is fully coated which makes it possible for clear, bright images to come through and protects your eyes. This one has a total of 3 replaceable eyepieces, with a magnification of 24 X, 60 X, 120 X, and even a 3x Barlow lens. The plus point of the Barlow lens is that it increases the magnifying power of eyepieces.
The telescope allows you to relax and adjust the tripod in a way where you can gaze at the night sky at a position best for you. The tripod’s height can also be adjusted and can go from 31.5 inches to 49 inches. You also don’t need a tool with this one. It is easy to operate for beginners and kids.
9. Orion 6″ f/4 Newtonian Astrograph Reflector Telescope
The aperture reflector is 6 for this one, which means the exposure is short and fast but the result is bright and clear picture quality. There is a precise 2 inch dual speed, with a ratio of 10 : 1 with linear bearing. The Crayford focuser is about 7 inches deep in the optical tube and it blocks light that doesn’t help with stargazing and boost the contrast of the night sky to the light so a better picture is possible. There is an exclusive steel reinforcement plate under the focuser, which is only provided by Orion, and it eliminates flexure with the help of heavy imagine gear.
The length of the telescope is 22.5 inches and the weight is 12.7 lbs, which doesn’t need an enormous mount. Other objects in the package includes two heavy-duty hinged tube rings, a finder scope with 8 x 50 feature and a dovetail mounting bar. For a clear view of faraway objects in the night sky, this is one of the best telescope for astrophotography for beginners.
10. Meade Instruments 216004 Polaris 114 EQ Reflector Telescope (Blue)
The aperture of this one is 114mm with a focal length of 1000 mm. The focal ratio is f/8 which means you can be certain of bright pictures. The telescope comes with other features like Rack-and-Pinion Focuser and latitude control with a scale for measure. The German equatorial mount means tracking of celestial objects with slow motion control is possible with this one.
There is a total of 3 eyepieces available, with a low 26 mm, 9 mm and 6.3 mm for each respectively. This makes it possible to get a variety of view and angles. There is also a 2x Barlow lens which doubles the magnifying power of the eyepieces. The red dot viewfinder helps you find the objects you want to observe so you can point your scope at it while the accessory tray makes a list of new accessories while you are observing.
After getting a look at the various telescope and observing the different features, especially after you have a better knowledge of one what kind of telescope to buy with our guide, we are sure you have found the telescope you want with the help of this list of 10 best telescopes for astrophotography. If you stick with this hobby, you might soon become an expert on the subject, and we are looking forward to it!