Photograph the Stars with Basic Equipment

Shoot star trail images.

If you have been interested enough in astronomy to read up on the subject, you’ve no doubt run into a number of stunning photographs of celestial objects. Many have been taken by professionals—no one with the astronomy bug can fail to fall in love with Hubble photographs. But, a large number of them are credited to amateurs, like you, with amateur telescopes, like yours, perhaps. It is then inevitable for the new (or not so new) amateur astronomer to decide that she, too, should take beautiful photographs to hang above her fireplace or to publish in one of the many fine astronomy magazines.

There is only one problem. Taking decent astrophotos is a tedious, difficult, time-consuming endeavor. It’s also very expensive—superb astrophotos increase the demands in all categories by an order of magnitude and require a pinch of luck.

I don’t write this to discourage you. You will want to take astrophotos. Many experienced amateur astronomers scoff at the newbies’ urge to take stunning photographs. But what they won’t tell you is that they, too, long to take such photos and only through a superhuman effort of will (or the budget balancing efforts of an astrospouse) do they avoid temptation.

Astrophotography, like observing or equipment building, is a simple concept plagued with confusing details. The beautiful photo you admire in Sky & Telescope or Astronomy represents hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars invested by ...

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