Shooting the Moon and Planets


    Shooting the Moon and planets can be very rewarding, and although it enters a more specialized realm, the

gear needed is not very expensive. You will need a telescope, and the image size will depend on its focal length.

The resolution of your image will depend on your scopes aperture, and the camera and techniques used for capture.

For images of the moon, showing the entire lunar disk, Scopes in the 500-1500mm range will work well. For detail 

shots of the Moon and Planets, scopes over 1500mm are needed. The larger the aperture the better, and will show 

more resolve.  Using accessories like Barlow lenses, and CCD cameras, can yield images of high quality, that rival

shots taken by pros just a few years ago. Like always ' use what you have' and have fun. 

    There are many ways to take Lunar and Planetary images, we will discuss a few, to get you up and running.


Easy : A-focal imaging

IntermediateEyepiece Projection Photography

More Advanced : Planetary CCD Imaging 


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A-focal Imaging


    The ' A-focal ' method, is the place to start, it requires the least amount of extra gear, and can yield some very

nice images, even your first night out. This technique uses you Telescope and Eyepiece, for the basis, and you 

can use and SLR or Digital camera, to capture the image. With your scope set up, and tracking the moon or planet

in question, put in an eyepiece that gives you decent magnification (ie, powerful but don't over do it) now hold your

camera up to the eyepiece (don't remove your standard lens, as with a-focal photography, you will be shooting 

through your lens) at about 1/2 to one inch from the eyepiece you will see the subject start to come into focus.

When the image looks sharp, snap the shot, its just that easy!  Now theres alot more to this technique, because

like with all aspects of Astrophotography, quality comes with work, and overcoming problems that arise. Lets

review a few things that will make for better a-focal images...

1. Blurry or poor images come from many factors...

    a. Exposure : If the shutter speeds to long to hand hold, the photo will look soft (camera shake)

    b. Focus : The scope must be in foucs at the eyepiece, as well as at the a-focal distance, and this area of sharp

            focus is VERY shallow! Hand holding the camera will work for your first image, but you will want to

            use a tripod to hold the camera, or better yet an adaptor, to hook your camera directly to the Eyepiece.

            An adaptor is your best bet, as it will allow for repeatable images, so you can test exposure, Focus and 

            the like. Also the tripod set-up is not following the scope, so after a few moments, you will have to adjust

            were its at, and this can be a pain! But if you don't have an adaptor, use a tripod at least, it will be required

            if you plan on getting the best shots your scope/camera can produce. Remember this is a hobby that people

            build upon, and you can get into your system as much or as little as you like. 

    c. Atmospheric disturbance : To get the best results, the sky must be VERY steady, or your shots will look soft

            or out of Focus (even if you are sure you got a good sharp focus at the camera.) If the stars are twinkling, 

            its windy, you will want to wait for a better night. Click Here to goto the Clear Sky Clock page, to check

            conditions for tonight and tomorrow. 

    d. You will never get the best images with a single shot, See Shooting the planets with a CCD camera, Note:

            CCD imaging is more advanced, so start with the a-focal method and the eyepiece projection first.


Be sure and shoot a lot of shots, changing the Exposure times, and bracketing for Focus, and moments of good

'Seeing' for best results. 


Once you have the a-focal method mastered, you can go on to Eyepiece projection


Click Here for Eyepiece projection

Click Here for Planetary CCD Imaging


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Eyepiece Projection Method


Even with telescopes, as many have a focal length from 100 mm to about 2000 mm, there isn't a great enough zoom-in ratio for the moon or planets of the direct focal point. Therefore you need to use an adaptor that will 'zoom' and allow you to 'project' the image onto your cameras

focal plane. Eyepiece projection is simular to the a-focal method, but with Eyepiece Projection, you will not use the lens on your camera.

Note : You can not use a Digital Point and shoot for Eyepiece Projection, because the lens is fixed. Only SLRs can be used.

Here is what a typical set up would look like :

Your scope would connect to the top piece in this photo, and your camera would hook up, via the t-ring at the bottom.

The farther your camera is from the eyepiece the larger the 'projected' image will be.

Some things to note with Eyepiece projection;

    1. Because you are making the effective Focal length of your scope longer, you will be getting less light to the camera, and exposure times will

        be a bit longer than a-focal photography. Therefore a sturdy mount and steady conditions are a must for this 'higher' power imaging 


    2. If you go beyond the resolving limit of your scope, the image will not show anymore detail, it will just be ' Bigger'. Scopes with 8" of 

        aperture will yield the best results, as smaller scopes will reach this ' Resolving limit' quickly.

    3. Focus is VERY shallow, besure and test your scope for focus, before bracketing for the Atmosphere.

    4. Some Reflecting scopes will not come into a focus at all with a long projection adaptor, so check with a Club member, or WHT before

        you buy something that will not work with your scope. Refractors, may also have focus limit problems, Schmidt-Cass scopes have a 

        very long area of focus travel, and will work with most Eyepiece projection adaptors. 


Using the techniques in a-focal photography, you should be able to get great results using the eyepiece projection method. 


Click Here for planetary CCD Imaging


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Planetary CCD Imaging


CCD Imaging of the planets is one of the most exciting venues in the hobby today. Using a special Camera, and 

then later processing of the image, the best amateur shots are being produced with CCD cameras.  Meade and 

Celestron both make special cameras just for shooting the Planets. They are easy to use, and come ready to hook

up to your Telescope. The advantages to CCD Imaging, is the fact that many (some times 100's) of images are 

combined, or 'Stacked' in processing, to make an image that can not be achieved with a single shot from a 

regular SLR film or Digital camera. Because the computer is used to analyze the images, and edit the poor frames

caused by bad moments of 'Seeing' the final image will show more detail, have better contrast, and sharpness.

The cameras come with Software and adaptors, so they are ready to go right out of the box, (You will need a 

Computer to use 'out' with the scope, and of course the scope its self. A Barlow lens can be used between the 

camera and scope to increase the image size.  All of the cameras from Meade and Celestron, come with instruction

on the Software CD, and you can also get more help in imaging, by joining a user group (yahoo has a great User

group for both Meade and Celestron cameras)


Some things to note in regards to Planetary CCD Imaging;

    1. Be sure and get comfortable shooting using the other methods first, CCD imaging has a steeper learning

        curve, and if you have a good base knowledge of some of the basics you will have more fun, with your

        CCD imaging. 

    2. Laptop computers need a lot of power, get an inverter, or use it at home pluged into AC source.

    3. You don't have to be in a dark sky for this kind of imaging, and skys that are not super steady, don't 

        mean you can't shoot. Thats the beauty of CCD imaging, the computer will not use blurry images, 

        when it processes the frames. 

    4. Barlows of 2x 3x, 4x and even 5x can be used, but just like with Eyepiece projection, don't over do it


Like always have fun, and get some great shots, 




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