How to Use a Free-Roaming CCD for Astronomy

If you are interested in taking photos of the sky, it is now possible with simple digital cameras that feature CCD astronomy sensors. Until recently, it has been almost impossible for most people to afford the equipment required to capture quality photographs of the planets and stars in the sky. With the advancements of digital photography and telescopes alike, the technology now exists for anyone who is interested. Here are the basic steps to start taking your own astronomy pictures:

Materials Needed

  • Digital Camera (with CCD Sensor)
  • Telescope
  • Computer
  • View of the Sky

Step 1: Assemble the Camera and Telescope

In order to obtain any quality photo of the sky, you will need a magnifier. It is actually just as simple as aiming your digital camera lens through the telescope view to magnify your shot. Set the telescope up on a tripod to eliminate most vibrations and interference that can disrupt your shot. Then, you will need to aim the camera into the telescope lens.

For best results, you may want to use a second tripod for the camera as well. This will eliminate vibrations on the camera.

Step 2: Set Up Your Shot

Once you have the telescope and camera set up, you will want to adjust the focus so the pictures turn out best. The best method is to set the camera focus at infinity. To focus the telescope, you should look through another optical device (binoculars) into the telescope while you focus it. This will adjust the natural instinct your eye has to auto focus. Once you have the focus and clarity set on both parts, you are ready to begin taking shots.

Step 3: Compute the Focal Length

This involves some math. You will need to take the magnification of the telescope and multiply it by the camera's focal length. You can then use this number to determine the 35mm (maximum quality and clarity) equivalent. The easiest way to get the 35mm number for your camera is to refer to the owner's manual. Then, you simply divide the second number by the first and then by your focal point to get the best result for your camera.

Step 4: Take Your Shot

If you are going for planets or stars in your shot, you will be surprised at how bright they are naturally at night. Most astrophotography is associated with extended long exposures. This is not always the case depending on your subject. The moon, for instance, in certain phases is very bright and can directly reflect light back towards you. The best method to get the shot you want is to practice at different times and under different conditions to experiment. The good thing about digital photography is there is no cost for bad shots, so you do not have to worry about taking plenty to get the end result that you want.

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: