Welcome to the !astrophotography Wiki!
Content by /u/iklysp, /u/Orangelantern, /u/Bersonic, /u/loldi, /u/arandomkerbonaut, /u/yawg6669, /u/azzkicker7283 and numerous members of the community who have provided suggestions and feedback.
Hello and welcome to the Wiki! The purpose of this wiki is to provide understandable and concise information mostly aimed at new people, but we hope it may provide useful information for intermediate and advanced astrophotographers also. We'll attempt to cover important topics and frequently asked questions with telescope recommendations, glossaries, how-tos and much more. If you have any ideas of something you'd like to see added to the wiki or find any dead links/mistakes, feel free to contact us via "message the moderators" and let us know! This is the main resource which should have the majority of the wiki links in it.
Please don't forget to follow the community rules before you post here, or your post may be removed. They're available in the sidebar on or here in the wiki.
Here is an expanded version with explanations of why the rules are in place:
Frequently Asked Questions
This section deals with frequently asked questions and important beginner reading. Have a read of the sections linked below and you should have the answers in no time. If there's something not covered here or you need specific advice on something, please go ahead and ask on our weekly ask-anything threads - they're stickied on the frontpage at all times.
The introduction page includes a basic overview of the typical setups people use, covering a very basic widefield setup and a basic telescope setup.
What does 'X' mean?
Astrophotography comes with a lot of niche and unique terms and abbreviations which may not make much sense at first. We have tried to cover a few common definitions in our glossary page. This is by no means a complete list but should get you far enough to where you understand what people are talking about.
Here you can find our current Astrophotographer's Glossary.
If you find a term you're unfamiliar with the definition should be here, and if not send us a message and we'll add it.
What gear should I buy?
The gear you should buy depends on what you want to image. There are a huge number of different mounts, different OTAs, cameras, each has their drawbacks and benefits. While we can't design your imaging rig completely we *do* have a handy page with a breakdown of potential and usable rigs at certain price points. Note that these are subject to variation and may not be 100% accurate as the article can't be updated regularly enough to follow price trends. We usually recommend buying used gear to save money as most of us are on a budget, but if you want to buy brand new stuff the rigs contained within will apply to you too - just bear in mind you can get a lot more for your money 2nd hand if you're willing to take the risk.
Here you can find the main telescope recommendation page.
Astrophotography and indeed astronomy in general is quite an involved and technical hobby, and there often isn't much overlap between the two. Astrophotography scopes are much smaller than visual scopes - you will need to do some research of your own as well to determine exactly what you need to buy. Before you read this you may want to look at an album by /u/Bersonic of a 'typical' imaging rig, explaining what each of the parts are and what they do.
Common imaging issues
There are a lot of things that can go wrong in imaging or make your image look funny. Some are caused by optics, some by your tracking, and some are caused by processing. We have a short guide on what the cause of those weird dark spots around the edges or those streaky stars might be. Again, this isn't a complete list but it covers some common issues that we see fairly often. Information about other problems not covered may be in our glossary.
For examples and descriptions of some of these common issues, refer to our common imaging issues article.
Astrophotography Core Topics
Here are some core topics that we think are important to understand. These pages go into more detail than the FAQ and glossary pages and will hopefully give you a more in-depth explanation of how certain things work.
Astrophotography might be thought of as a completely safe hobby, but as with anything you can't be complacent about it. There are a couple of things which can put you in danger, including imaging from remote areas with potentially dangerous conditions, or observing the Sun. This may seem obvious but it's important to make sure you're properly prepared for dealing with present dangers.
Here you can find some helpful safety tips (and cautionary tales).
Stacking is slightly different between deep sky and planetary. We'll attempt to give a brief summary here and explain in more depth on a separate page.
In planetary stacking we capture a short video using a webcam at a high framerate. This allows us to overcome seeing issues and atmospheric turbulence (to an extent), and also increases our signal to noise ratio. We can stack the best parts of the best frames from the videos and apply wavelet sharpening to them to bring out fine details which otherwise would be invisible.
DSO stacking is a method of increasing the signal to noise ratio through the combination of images. To stack DSOs we must take very long exposures (anywhere from 60 seconds to 60 minutes) as they are very dim. A single frame has the same level of signal as a stacked frame, however the noise is *drastically* different. If you compare a single frame to a combined frame the background will be far less noisy and the image will look 'smoother' and allow you to stretch the histogram further and pull out more detail. To reduce the noise further we can use dark frames and bias frames. Capturing DSOs also introduces vignetting so flat frames are useful too.
Light pollution is an important consideration while imaging. It may not be avoidable but less light pollution can improve your images greatly. If you live near a dark site it's 100% worth driving there to image instead of from your backyard in town. It makes a huge amount of difference on the quality of the images you can capture. That said, many of our members image from cities or towns and are able to produce great results so if you don't have the ability to be portable don't let that discourage you.
Polar alignment can be confusing to astrophotographers new and old. Why should we polar align? How do we polar align? Our polar alignment guide will take you through the basics along with several methods of doing so.
CCDs vs Mono cams vs DSLRs
Thanks to /u/evwark and /u/orangelantern for writing this useful guide to the benefits and drawbacks of CCDs vs DSLRs and Mono imaging cams.
Filters for Astrophotography
Thanks to /u/yawg6669 for writing this guide on filters and their usage in the context of both DSLR and Mono imaging.
We encourage you to review equipment, especially obscure items. If the reviews are good they'll go into the reviews page.
As well as the telescope hardware software for processing and capturing images can make or break your results. Processing is indeed one of the most important parts of the hobby - you can get the best data in the world but if you don't know how to process it you'll never see its full potential.
Deep Sky Object (DSO) Imaging
- N.I.N.A. - Nighttime Imaging 'N' Astronomy: Open source session management software created and maintained by /u/isbeorn86 and the N.I.N.A. contributors.
- APT Astrophotography Tool - Camera/session management software, offers numerous features. Free version available.
- SGP Sequence Generator Pro - Session management software.
- Backyard EOS Premium - Camera control for Canon and Nikon cameras.
- PHD 2 - Autoguiding software.
- Astrotortilla - Allows functions such as plate solving and polar alignment.
- SharpCap - Image capturing software for planetary work. (Free & Paid pro version)
- FireCapture- Free software for planetary work. (Both FireCapture and SharpCap have similar functionality)
- DeepSkyStacker - DSO sub-exposures stacking software
- StarTools - Post-processing software written by /u/verylongtimelurker
- PixInsight - Extremely powerful, astrophotography-specific post-processing software
- Registax - Planetary video processing/stacking software
- Autostakkert! 2 - Planetary video stacking software
- Planetary Image Pre-Processor (PIPP) - Preprocessing of planetary images i.e. conversion of video and image formats, cropping, best frame selection, etc
- Microsoft ICE - Mosaic/composite image stitching software, useful for lunar mosaics
- Winjupos - Advanced planetary software for de-rotation/mapping/planetary moon alignment.
- Virtual Dub - Video converting software, requires plugin for .MOV -> .AVI
- iMerge- Allows dragging and dropping of videos to easily keep track of lunar mosaic coverage
- Stellarium - Free software that lets you input your location and will show you when objects will be up and at what time.
- FITS Liberator - FIT -> TIFF file converter
- Tenmon - FITS and XISF image viewer, converter and indexer
- Google Sky Map - Free planetarium app
- SkEye - Free planetarium app. Slightly better accuracy than Google Sky Map
Weather Information & Forecasts
- windyty - Live wind/rain/pressure map and data visualization for worldwide weather conditions
- Clearoutside - Astronomy weather forecasting site, shows other cool information such as ISS passes, Moon phase, sunrise, etc.
- Meteoblue Forecast - Shows astro-related weather information such as seeing, jet stream, wind speed, etc.
Guides & How-Tos
Below are some excellent guides created by users of our community. They cover a range of materials including both beginner and more advanced topics. If there are topics here that are not covered or topics you would like to add, please reach out and we will include them.
- Harry's AstroShed tutorials
- Deconvolution Guide by /u/yawg6669
- CCD Image Processing Guide by yawg6669
- DSLR Processing Guide by yawg6669
- Calibrating and PreProccessing by Light Vortex Astronomy
- DSLR Workflow by Light Vortex Astronomy
- PixInsight SHO Workflow by Lefty
- PixInsight LRGB Cluster Workflow by Lefty
- Basic Photoshop Tutorial by /u/bersonic