One easy way to get into astrophotography is to begin with the moon. It's
big and bright, and a wonderful subject for photographs.
What you'll need is a telescope. A clock driven one is best, but for the
moon, not necessarily critical.
You'll need a digital camera, but not a particularly expensive one. For
the examples on this page, I used my Fuji Finepics A303.
You don't need a giant telescope to have fun with astrophotography. My
2 inch page is ample
proof of that.
Finally, you need a way to fasten your digital camera to your telescope.
This page shows how to make a simple and inexpensive mount for that purpose.
If you want to skip the hassle and just get started, you can just purchase a
handy and adjustable digital camera mount like the Celestron 93626 Universal Digital Camera Adapter.
Note that the camera shown in the following illustrations isn't my digital, I
needed it to take the pictures. The stand-in is my mini-35 Olympus, which is
similar in size to my digital.
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The Basic Digital Camera to Telescope Mount
At left you see my simple digital camera to telescope mount. It is basically
a clamp made of 3/4 inch plywood and an old flash attachment holder from my
35mm camera collection.
If you don't have such a flash attachment, you can make such a piece out of
1/4 inch thick tempered hardboard. It's just a piece about 1 inch wide and
6 inches long, with a slot cut in for the camera mounting screw to slide in.
A 3 inch square was cut from a piece of 3/4 inch thick plywood. That square
was cut into two pieces, and a V section cut from each piece. I'll get to
how to measure out the cuts in a bit.
Two long screws, which turn freely in the first piece they enter, allow
me to clamp the mount around my telescope focuser tube.
The slide slot lets me attach the camera, and then slide it into position
just over the eyepiece.
Don't Cut Till You Measure
What you desire is for the clamped focuser to sit centered under the camera
lens as illustrated by the red line.
The distance from the camera bottom to the center of the camera lens
must be the same as from the mounting edge of the wood clamp to the center
of the focuser when clamped.
I traced around my telescope focuser on the wood square to see where it
would be when clamped, then drew the V lines so they'd just touch the
From there I could measure where to cut one edge of the plywood so my
mounted camera lens would be centered over the focuser circle.
Then I cut the square in two and cut out the V pieces and drilled the
screw holes for the clamp.
Another View of the Digital Camera Mount
Looking at the camera mount from another angle, you can see that the
holding bracket must be mounted onto the wood clamp so that the camera
lens is centered over the clamp hole.
The Digital Camera Mount Fastened to Telescope
This image shows the digital camera mount fastened to my Newtonian
telescope, ready to take lunar or planetary photos. Note that the wood clamp is
simply tightened around the focuser.
Be Careful if you try viewing through the telescope with the bracket
attached. Don't bump your eye on the camera slide!!!
I first focus the telescope for my relaxed eye, then mount the camera to
the slide, and watch the camera LCD as I slide the camera toward the eyepiece.
For low power eyepieces, you'll likely find that the camera field of view
is most filled when the camera lens is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the eyepiece.
For short focal length eyepieces, the camera lens will need to nearly touch
When the camera position on the slide is correct, I take a look at the
eyepiece and camera lens to be sure the camera is square to the eyepiece.
Can It Really Work? You Bet
At left you see a picture of the lunar Appenines taken on November 17, 2007.
I was using the afocal technique, simply mounting the camera over the
focused eyepiece. In this case, I was using a 9mm eyepiece on my 6 inch
The actual image included more of the moon, but I clipped this section out as
the most interesting.
Compare this to the image of the same lunar region on the ETX photo page.
I found that the best technique with this particular camera, which isn't designed to use a cable release, is to set the camera on highest resolution and use the timer for the photograph.
In this way, the picture isn't taken when I push the shutter, which is good
because pushing the shutter causes a bit of vibration. The picture is taken 10
seconds later when the vibrations have stopped.
I think the picture came out well for a first try.
Here's Another Digital Camera Moon Shot
At left you see another moon image taken with the digital camera mounted
on my 6 inch f/5 telescope. It's the rough southern region of the moon.
You can see a pretty good image of the Straight Wall in the picture.
If I can do it, you can too. Get out there and start taking pictures.
Just always be aware if you have the camera mount attached before you view
so you don't bump into it.