This is the equipment I use to image from the mountain cabin under extremely dark skies. I use a small Borg 71FL refractor with a piggyback 50 mm miniBorg guidescope on an old Astro-Physics 400 GTO mount with a portable pier. The pier is shrouded with an TeleGizmo 365 cover and weighed down with hundreds of pounds of rock. Imaging is done with a QHY-12 one-shot color (Bayer matrix) cooled CCD, and guiding is done using a Starlight XPress Lodestar autoguider. Everything is controlled and data are collected using software on a MacBook Pro running Windows 7 in BootCamp.
Almost everyone observing the night sky in developed countries has to deal with light pollution. Light pollution pretty much scales with electric lighting, which scales as population times wealth. Skies in Colorado are on average much brighter than those in Wyoming, and parts of India have dark skies even though lots of people live there. In the US, there are hardly any dark skies left east of the Mississippi, and of course the west coast is also pretty well lit.
It’s certainly possible to just go outside with a camera and take photographs of the night sky. A DSLR on a steady tripod with a wide-angle lens can produce amazing results with a 30-second exposure under dark skies! Everybody should just try this first before buying more expensive equipment and software.
For a deeper look into the cosmos though, we need to use software. There’s a wonderful selection available that makes it surprisingly easy to climb the learning curve toward producing stunning images of the deep sky and solar system. Continue reading
Construction of the Exploradome Observatory