Telescopes: Getting Started
Many are prevented from picking up the hobby of astronomy for fear of difficulty finding planets and other celestial bodies. Thankfully, modern technology canmediate this issue—there are plenty of free apps that provide interactive maps —highlighting planets, stars, and galaxies. It is easier than ever to navigate the night sky. Always ready to assist in an astrological mission, Schillers carries Celestron telescopes—made even better when used in conjunction with theStarSense app. By placing your smart phone into a special bracket on your telescope, the app will guide you to whichever celestial body you’d like to view. If you’re not sure what exactly you’re looking for, you can utilize a feature of StarSense that gives users a tour of the sky to guide you to various stellar objects.
Buying a telescope is easier than ever at Schillers. There are several styles to choose from—the two most popular are the refractor and the reflector telescopes. Either will work great, but it’s important to note the distinctions between the two.
Differences between Refractor and Reflector Telescopes:
Refractor telescopes have multiple internal lenses that gather and focus light.
· Better contrast and sharpness.
· Closed tube = protects against dust and humidity = less maintenance.
· Smaller = lighter and more portable.
· Smaller diameter = less light.
· Potential for chromatic aberrations (image distortions).
· Needs time to adjust to outside temperature.
· Higher price.
Reflector telescopes have mirrors that focus light to the eye piece.
· Better performing, gathering more light.
· Provides a wider field of view for deep sky objects.
· No chromatic aberrations.
· Big and heavy, more difficult to store and transport.
· Requires collimation (adjustment of mirror to ensure quality images).
· More complicated = harder for beginners.
In conclusion, Refractor telescopes are easier to use, but can be awkward for astronomy, while Reflector telescopes provide higher quality images, but are larger and may be more difficult to use. Broadly speaking, Refractors in the same price bracket as Reflectors will be less powerful, with a lower aperture, but will be easier to use, lighter, and more practical. Celestron DX 102AZ, LT114AZ and DX130AX come with the StarSense app, while the NexStar SE telescopes utilize a motorized mount that will find and track stellar objects, allowing these images to remain centered in eye piece. With a NexStar SE telescope, you can also attach your smartphone or camera with an adaptor and be able to capture photos. Both can be used for astrophotography with a tracking mount (included in the NexStar SE line), but regular Refractors are less suitable for astrophotography when compared to reflectors telescopes, mainly due to the light gathering properties of Reflector telescopes.
Astrophotography is becoming more popular as cameras improve their low-light performance, allowing more people to get into the hobby without investing in a bunch of specialized equipment. Investing in specialized equipment will likely come later, once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of astrophotography. Until then, let’s discuss how to get started with the craft.
There are three common styles of astrophotography. Wide-field—also known as nightscape—planetary, and deep-field.
1.Wide-field astrophotography uses wide angle lenses and includes some foreground, often unique rock formations. We at Schillers offer a class covering night-scape photography, with the next class session on February 25th, 2023.
2.Planetary astrophotography entails photographing objects within the solar system, like moons, planets, and the sun.
3.Deep-field astrophotography captures objects outside our solar system like stars, galaxies, and nebula.
Telescopes are often used in astrophotography, but plenty of common photographic lenses can be utilized as well. For wide-field, a fast wide-angle lens like a f/2.8 15-30mm works great. A 200mm fast lens works well for capturing a lot of nebula and larger galaxies. As for the sun and our moon, a long lens will work great. The above moon shot was taken with a RF 800mm f/11 on a Canon R5. It was processed to pull out colors of the moon that are difficult to see with the naked eye. To properly capture the sun, make sure to use a high-quality solar filter to protect your eyes, as well as your camera. To photograph the other planets and moons in our solar system, it’s best to utilize a telescope with a motorized tracking mount.
When I first started astrophotography, I used a used Canon 7D with a $400 Sigma10-20 and that was enough to get me hooked. All the current mirrorless cameras on the market will undoubtedly surpass that setup, and there are easy-to-use tracking mounts that make finding and tracking your target much easier than even 5 years ago. Astrophotography is becoming more accessible as time progresses and technology advances.
Both astronomy and astrophotography have great communities, full of opportunities to get out and enjoy the night skies. There are local astronomy clubs like the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri that have regular monthly meetings, and there’s always Astronomy Park just west of St. Charles, offering dark skies and various places to set up and enjoy the cosmos with others.