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Astrophotography - Amateur Photography

As I mentioned in the introduction, I have only stared astrophotography. While I have taken some astrophotos (available in the gallery) I may not be the best source to offer advice. As I take more images, I am sure to get the confidence to share the good ones with you!

Below you will find:

Luckily there exists a few excellent resources for those interested in the subject. There is my own Advanced Topics area of the website, and there are the following books - a must have in any aspiring astrophotographers library:

  • Terrence Dickinson and Alan Dyer's The Backyard Astronomer's Guide introduces astrophotography and the equipment required with a very realistic and no-nonsense method
  • Michael Covington's Astrophotography for the Amateur - Second Edition introduces a more in-depth look at film-based astrophotography and briefly touches on CCD technology - while the print date of 1999 seems outdated, the information in this book is valid even with the use of CCD's
  • Steve Howell's Handbook of CCD Astronomy is not a user manual on how to use a CCD camera, it goes into an in-depth look at the CCD itself and introduces the scientific capabilities of a CCD - read this and you will never see a CCD camera the same way again
  • Ron Wodaski's The New CCD Astronomy is the current reigning champion of an astrophotography how-to - very smartly written by a down-to-Earth fellow (I had the pleasure of opening a dialog with him) with easy to follow instructions

In addition to his book, Ron Wodaski also has a website and a Yahoo Groups Forum.

And if you have a particular image you are proud of, why not share on our gallery? Send me the image and I'll be sure the world (or at least those who visit the site) will see it.

Some Tips:

For film photography of the night sky, a general rule of thumb is:

Kodak films are generally more "red"
Fuji films are generally more "blue"

So for objects like the Moon, Kodak film is quite good and Fuji film is just as good for nebula.

Tips for SLR photography on a tripod:

  • No more than a 30 second exposure (longer than that results in star trails)
  • To eliminate vibration, use the "hat trick" - place a dark hat over the lens, open the shutter, remove hat to expose, cover lens with hat, close shutter

Filter Tips:

Filter: Object: Result:
Blue: Moon Enhance Surface Details
  Venus Enhance Darker Upper Clouds
  Mars Enhance Surface and Polar Caps
  Jupiter Enhance GRS and Light Clouds
  Saturn Enhance Faint Clouds
  Comets Enhance Dust Tail
Red and Orange: Moon Enhance Surface Details
  Mercury Enhance Daytime Viewing
  Venus Reduces Brightness in Daylight
  Mars Enhance Yellow Dust and Surface
  Saturn Enhance Polar Region and Blue Clouds
  Comets Enhance Dust Tail
Green: Moon Enhance Surface Details
  Venus Reduces Daytime Brightness and Enhance Clouds
  Mars Enhance Polar Cap, Dust Clouds and Clouds
  Jupiter Enhance GRS and Blue-Red Contrast
  Saturn Increase White Cloud Detail
Yellow: Moon Enhance Surface Details
  Mars Enhance Surface Dust Clouds
  Jupiter Enhance Orange-Red Clouds and Polar Region
  Saturn Enhance Orange-Red Belts
Violet: Mercury Helps with Faint Detail
  Venus Enhance Upper Clouds
  Mars Enhance Haze and Clouds over Polar Cap
  Saturn Enhance Rings
Deep Sky Filter Deep Sky Objects Reduces Sky Haze
O-III Diffuse Nebula Narrow Band - 496nm to 501 nm
UHC Diffuse Nebula Diffuse Nebula - i.e. Veil Nebula
H-Beta Horsehead Nebula Very Dim Nebula Enhancement
  California Nebula Very Dim Nebula Enhancement

A Quick Word about Filters:

Filters are not a substitute for aperture, and keep in mind that a filter - any filter - reduces the light entering your eye. For best results with a filter, use them for photographs. For visual use, be sure you have very dark skies.

Good luck with your pursuit of the wonderful hobby of Astrophotography.

Mapped Color Images:

A new trend in CCD imagery is something called a mapped color image. All this is is replacing the standard RGB filters with specialized scientific filters

  • Replace the Red filter with a 5nm S-II (Sulfur) filter
  • Replace the Green filter with an H-alpha (Hydrogen) filter
  • Replace the Blue filter with a O-III (Oxygen) filter

Custom Scientific is one place to get these filters.

Here is an example of what can be accomplished with mapped color - images are © 2005 Russell Croman, www.rc-astro.com:

The Rosette Nebula in RGB The Rosette Nebula in Mapped


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