From the simple to the extraordinarly complex here is a list of things to take when you venture out to do astrophotography:
Starter Kit – Camera & Tripod
- Wide field, fast lens (40 degrees or more, f/1.8)
- Sturdy Tripod
- Intervalometer – though a simple remote push button will work, too.
- Memory cards
- Batteries (plenty)
- Green Laser (optional), see Target that Fuzzy
- Planisphere / star chart / smart app like Star Walk.
- Red head lamp / flashlight with red cellophane over them.
That’s about it. This approach allow visual observation, and photographs of large areas of e.g. the Milky Way.
Starter kit plus:
- Equatorial Drive + Polar scope + batteries (Polarie for example)
- Head/mount to put the camera on the Equatorial drive.
- Stadium cushion or garden kneeler
- Telephoto lens (zoom or prime)
- Bahtinov Mask (focus aid)
Serious Intermediate Kit
All of the above plus:
- Deep cycle marine battery (or astro power kit)
- Laptop with imaging aid program (e.g. BackyardEOS, MaximDL, …)
- BIG battery for your camera (or converter to use astro power kit)
- Voltage inverter to power the laptop
- Red cellophane to cover the laptop screen
- Small folding table
- Folding chair
- Power strip, extension cords
- Power inverter (convert 12 VDC to AC)
- Modest sized apochromatic refactor, mounting rings, extensions, eyepieces, star diagonal, dual speed focuser, dovetail plate, heads up finder.
- Optional: GoTo solution for the mount
Sold Out Astroimager
- Large APOchromatic refractor or Reflector
- Massive mount with GoTo control
- Astro CCD image camera with thermo electric cooling
- Filters for Hydrogen Alpha, Oxygen, etc.
- Finder scope
- Guide scope and autoguider
- Lots of $$$$.
- Large car to drive it around.
- (optional) Sherpa to lift it all.
Collecting and Processing Images
I have a Canon, and an windows machine. These two things together mean that I can use BackyardEOS ($25) to aid in the focusing and capture of night sky images; and I can use Deep Sky Stacker (Free!) to process my images. Deep Sky Stacker takes some patience to learn, but it is mostly automated.
I understand “Keith’s Image Stacker” ($15) is available for Mac people – though apparently it’s not quite as powerful or as widely used as DeepSkyStacker.
Pricier and more complete options include ImagePlus, MaximDL, and much more. For a full list of options, prices and features, please see Jerry Lodriguss’s site.