For quite some time now I have had my heart set on taking the life-long journey into the world of astrophotography. I began studying and researching a few years ago. My initial goal was not to learn all there is to know out there but to simply understand what it would take to successfully photograph DSOs (Deep Space Objects). My whole life I have always read and consumed any media I could find on the subject of astronomy, astrophysics and the science of celestial bodies. Growing up in Cameroon, West Africa, a telescope was definitely a very far fetched fantasy so this is an especially significant experience for me. I had previously never looked through a telescope until about a week ago.
I learned enough over the past year to know that for astrophotography, I would need a really good refractor telescope with an aperture of at least 80mm and more importanly I would need a very good german equatorial mount, ideally with GoTo and tracking capabilities. Then I began researching refractors and found out that I would prefer a triplet or at least an apochromatic refractor or doublet. I also concluded that the focal length of most 80mm refractors (under 500mm) did not justify the expense considering I already had a really good 200mm f/2.8 lens and a 2x extender which when combined with my 7D crop factor gave me an effective focal length which was comparable.
So that left me with only refractor telescopes with an aperture of 120mm or larger. Needless to say I quickly saw the expense climbing beyond the stratosphere. So I started shopping the used market. I recently stumbled upon a gentleman who was selling his complete 120mm Orion refractor setup, complete with Celestron Advanced GT mount and auto guide CCD camera scope as well as an assortment of eyepieces, essential accessories and Canon EOS DSLR adapter.
There is so very much to learn. This is an opportunity for me to gain a firm grasp of the fundamentals of astrophotography and astronomy in general without getting too heavily invested. I was able to see Saturn and it’s rings within minutes of setting it up and a few more minutes later I was able to attach my 7D and snag a few really blurry shots. The weight of the DSLR on the focuser made it impossible to acquire and maintain focus. So the first order of business was to modify the telescope mount to accommodate the added weight and relieve the focuser of the stresses.
You can see photos below of a sliding rail I rigged together with some extra aluminum tubing I had left over from my DIY time lapse track and dolly . This vastly improved stability and focusing in my quick test moon shot. I just ordered an electric focusing motor which should eliminate the residual shake when trying to focus. I’m excited!