I brought my telescope to a friends last night and a bunch of us checked out Saturn for the short time it was in the sky. It wasn’t ideal conditions, but I managed to get this picture of Saturn. Once it starts appearing again later in the year I should be able to snap a better picture.
So this week I drove 5 hours north to the outskirts of Yosemite to buy an 18” Dobsonian telescope.
Decided to try and see if my current Astrophotography equipment would work on it, and holy shit. Will hopefully have some Jupiter pics so share by tomorrow. Saturn is unfortunately blocked for me at the moment.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about my space photography, so I thought I would explain in as much detail how I take them, as well as other information for getting into amateur astronomy.
Before I get started though I want to just say to anyone out there who isn’t even remotely interested in space, give it a chance. For some reason the majority of my life I looked at space as something artificial, boring and in a way two dimensional. Then one night I was looking at the moon and realized that it was a tangible object, and there was nothing separating me, from it. From that moment on it had my attention, and now I realize that it is by far the most fascinating and mysterious thing that is available to me. I think we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to get excited about it, and to start a new dialogue pushing for more funding/research/exploration. If you want to learn more, I recommend following r/space and r/spaceporn on reddit, two of my favorite subreddits by far.
This book is a must. A lot of the info I’m about to share is ripped right from this book. I wish I would have picked it up before buying my current telescope because it has an entire section devoted to what to buy. It also has tons of info for learning the night sky, which I am still in the process of doing. It’s a strange thing when the night sky begins to look familiar and you can pick out planets and constellations instantly.
It’s recommended that you start with binoculars, but I don’t think it’s a huge deal. However, if you are on a limited budget and want to see things like Jupiter and its moons, craters on the moon, (a faint) Andromeda Galaxy, then pick these up. They are a good way to learn the night sky and will help you in your transition to a telescope. I have this particular pair and I still use them to help spot harder to find objects. They will also increase the amount of stars you see by quite a lot.
This is my telescope. It is also my first telescope. I love it, but it has some major drawbacks. For objects higher in the sky, the telescope tends to slide, taking the objects out of view, making for some real frustration. It’s huge, but it looks pretty awesome. All in all I’ve seen some really great stuff with this telescope, but I’m not sure I would recommend it.
The book I posted above recommends a moderately priced Dobsonian telescope for beginners, and I wish I would have held out for something like this. I don’t have any experience with one, but I have a hard time recommending my own telescope to people because of the frustration it has caused me, so I figured I would share this as well.
A lot of purists will tell you to avoid Barlow lenses, or at least not to become dependent on them. I really like mine. It makes finding objects in the sky much more difficult but will allow for greater detail of smaller objects.
This is also required to be able to attach your camera to your telescope. This is universal, as long as you have a t-mount that fits it. I also have the Celestron T Adapter/Barlow which was used to take this picture, as well as this one.
This is what my camera looks like when it’s attached to the telescope. As you can probably imagine, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass when you have to adjust everything to take a picture.
There are also other methods for taking pictures of celestial objects, including using a webcam. I would recommend watching BBC Stargazing Live which is basically a show for beginners like myself. In the future (probably somewhat distant future) when I pick up a far superior telescope, with computerized tracking I will make another post, explaining what will surely be some amazing photos. Until then, these are the basics.
You guys also asked some questions from an earlier post, so I am going to try and answer some of those now.
davidmerrique asked: Do you just hold your iPhone up to your telescope or do you have some kind of adapter?
I did use my iphone for some earlier pics. It will work somewhat through the viewfinder, but it’s super difficult and not always a great result.
yesigamenfashion asked: Do you live in an area with a clear veiw.? If not have you taken your telescope out to a rural area to see the sky more clearly?
I live in a horribly light polluted part of Los Angeles. I’ve used the telescope in rural areas and it is noticeably better, but for looking at things like Saturn, or the moon, it makes relatively no difference. It’s things like galaxies, nebulae and star-clusters that become difficult to see in light polluted areas.
abi-31 asked: Which is the best telescope to buy? I know that’s a bit broad, sorry.
Ha, it’s a bit broad. I think for beginners, that Dobsonian I posted above is probably the best. It really just depends on your budget though. There are super duper expensive telescopes you can buy today, that astronomers 100 years ago would have died for. Down the road I plan on laying down the cash for something like this.
j5k asked: I’d like to know the cost of your set up. I’d also like to know how it feels to see a planet for the first time with your own eyes. Thanks.
My telescope was $250 ($200 now) and the camera attachments were about $50 together. I also bought some lenses and such which can add up, but to get started, its about $250-300 and up assuming you already have a camera for pics. I’ll be honest, looking at something like Venus really isn’t that stunning. It’s beautiful and shiny but it’s essentially indistinguishable from a star in a lot of ways. However, looking at something like Saturn with your own eyes is entirely unforgettable. My mom was visiting recently and she doesn’t give a lick about space, but when I showed her Saturn she very loudly exclaimed, and made me readjust my telescope several times (the earth moves fast, so it quickly goes out of view) so she could keep looking at it. I think a lot of people don’t really feel like space is real, and when you see something with your own eyes, it is very much life changing.
If you have any more questions, please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.
There is a full lunar eclipse starting right now, but only visible for those of us on the west coast (outside of North America, Asia and Australia are said to have the best view). The best part (total eclipse) will start at around 6:06 and last til about 6:57 AM PST.
There won’t be another full eclipse until 2014, so sneak a peak if you’re up and able.