Something I’m wondering about if it’s possible: getting some of the pleasure of amateur astrophotography without a telescope. Just start with raw image data captured from someone else and posted online, then do all the processing yourself. Sure it’s not as fun as making the exposure yourself, particularly the sense that somehow you didn’t acquire the image yourself. But my impression looking at astrophotos is that the real artistry and creativity is in the image processing anyway. Also maybe it makes sense to start with the software, since that’s much less of an investment than the telescope and mount and imaging system. If I don’t find hours of processing an image until it’s just right fun, it’s unlikely I’ll find it fun first spending hours and $$$$s acquiring an image, then more hours processing it until it’s just right.
Keep thinking about buying a big fancy new telescope. I know it’s foolish to spend $2000+ on a hobby I barely do once a month, but shopping for gear is fun. Here’s what I want:
- Something very easy to set up. If it takes 30 minutes to polar align, I’m not going to use it.
- Computerized Go-To. Programmable, at that, with an open interface. The SkySafari SkyWire compatibility list is useful here as is the expanded list for SkyFi.
- A mount capable enough to do guided hour+ exposures. The advice I’ve gotten means that means I need an equatorial mount, the cheaper alt/az mounts just aren’t accurate enough to hold a long exposure. Some possibility a double-fork alt/az mount might work (Meade LX or Celestron CPC) with a wedge mount.
- Optics: ??? Honestly no idea. I want something that will make it possible to do astroimaging, hopefully with DSLR prime and/or a high quality webcam. I need to understand focal length and speed and that stuff before buying anything.
Possibilities in the ~$2000 range:
- Celestron CGEM or CGEM HD. Equitorial.
- Celestron AVX: Equitorial, lighter than the CGEM.
- Celestron CPC. Dual fork alt/az option.
- Meade LX90, LX200. Dual fork alt/az.
- Meade LX80. Funky multi-mode mount. Too much the budget option? Not in online store.
Things to learn about:
- Wedge mounting
- Astroimaging mounting options
- Telescope optics: focal length, speed, etc
- Protocols for mount control
- Alignment programs, convenience and speed
- Is it possible (sensible?) to build my own mount?
- Do I have a clear view of Polaris from the house?