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Beginning Astrophotography


It is my hope that this series of writings will provide just enough insight toward overcoming the challenges of astrophotography so that those with limited experience and or resources can obtain good to excellent results from their equipment. This is not intended to be a highly technical discussion where electronics, mechanics, optics, and theory are debated. Rather, practical experience will be stressed with "how-to-do-it"  steps. Arguably equally important, I will attempt to identify the least complex methods to guide those with limited experience and modest equipment.

I will say at once that I believe there are many ways to similar results. Others may find slightly or very different methods work quite well. In fact, I recognize some of the tactics I will propose do not necessarily produce the best possible results. However, I trust those that are familiar with my earlier writings and the title of these works know I am trying to keep things reasonably simple for those wishing to avoid complex, (but arguably effective) methods. I am submitting these works to Doc G for his valuable insight into some of the tactics that will be presented. I believe his added perspective will help round out the material quite nicely.

It is recognized that many interested in astrophotography simply cannot afford high-end amateur equipment and must make the best of what they already own or what is affordably available.

In addition, even if one is fortunate enough to own some of the very best equipment, this doesn't guarantee the outcome. I have seen many examples of rather average images, including my own, taken on very fine instruments. Many of us are quite likely to experience equipment, light pollution, transparency, and seeing problems not known by those using professional or high-end equipment at locations with excellent imaging conditions. Those that obtain good results under such conditions can pride themselves for doing more with less. In addition, many may be using new and unfamiliar equipment. However, those that are patient, develop their imaging skills, and utilize the full potential of their equipment can obtain satisfactory results, though it may require a bit more effort.

I have posted an abbreviated gallery of images selected from those taken using low to mid-priced equipment typically owned and used by many amateurs. Images produced with professional and high-end equipment at ideal locations were not selected because they are not representative of what is available or affordable to most amateurs. The purpose of these images is to provide a resource for illustrations and references for various concepts that will be proposed in the forthcoming articles.

It is not intended nor desired that the illustrations or written material promote any particular vendor or even a particular style of telescope and imaging system. Some of the images are good illustrations of average imaging results we can expect from typical systems and techniques. Others were taken under rather rare (for most of us) excellent imaging conditions using a bit more advanced methodology.

I have been fortunate to have access to professional and high-end equipment, however, I recognize many others are not so fortunate. Many are likely have minimal interest in scientific works, rather, they would like the skills to produce a few nice film or CCD images to show to friends or hang in their home. They are quite likely overwhelmed by all the seemingly conflicting details and methodology presented on various forums, perhaps even a bit intimidated. It is to these folks that I dedicate this series of writings.....

Michael Hart
Husen Observatory

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