Astrophotography is a field of its own, and you may feel overwhelmed on where to start and what it is that you need.
To help make the start-up process simpler, we’ve listed the most recommended astrophotography accessories that could make up your shortlist.
Assuming you already have a telescope on a robust, heavy-duty EQ mount, or a DLSR camera, here is where you go from there.
Best Accessories for Astrophotography
There are several types of astrophotography techniques and methods between piggybacking, guided, unguided, and forgoing a telescope altogether with just a camera and a tripod.
With research into the type of astrophotography you want to pursue, some accessories may be more pertinent than others. You will need to decide what route you want to take before you start buying up a multitude of knick-knack accessories.
You may need to start from scratch with an astrophotography telescope and a computerized GEM mount. Once you have that down, you can check back here for the additional accessories that help you capture worthwhile images.
As a reminder, you must accept from the get-go that astro-imaging is a continuous learning endeavor. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to get started into imaging, but you will find that over time as you expand your techniques and telescope accessories that you may very well end up with an expensive setup. So, pay attention to what you need right now versus what you “want” right now to help ease the upfront-cost of getting into imaging.
To get an idea of all the types of tools that can help you reach your goals, these are the must-haves that you may need today, or they will soon become a must-have in the future.
12 Top Must-Have Astrophotography Accessories
1. T-Mount Adapter
- The Celestron Universal T-Adapter connects a DSLR or SLR camera to a refractor for prime focus photography
If you’re wanting to progress past afocal imaging into prime focus imaging, you’ll need a T-mount adapter for your DSLR camera. The T-mount replaces the lens on your DLSR and is placed into the focuser via a bayonet mount. The T-mount must be chosen carefully as it is specific to your brand of camera.
What you end up with is a camera attached to the telescope. This setup allows the telescope to act as the lens for the camera, so you’ll capture images as the telescope sees it.
Some examples of T-mount adapters are:
- SVBONY 1.25” T-Mount & T-Ring for Canon EOS
- Gosky 1.25” T-Mount & T-Ring for Nikon SLR & DSLR
- Celestron Universal 1.25” T-Mount
2. Camera Lenses
- Ultra wide-angle 14mm lens with an approximately 90° angle of view using an APS-C camera, for dramatic effects
If you’re shooting directly from your camera, you could likely use the lens that came with it to take astrophotos. They’re inexpensive and not typically optically fast, but they will perform adequately for the beginner astrophotographer.
You can experiment with zoom, short telephoto, long telephoto, and wide-angle lenses for maximum aperture, more light, and fast exposures. Long telephoto lenses are more expensive, but they’re high performers that provide excellent results especially with large nebulae.
Again, lenses will be specific to your type of camera.
For imaging with a DSLR, get specific with a lens – examples include:
3. Remote Shutter Release
- Compatible for Canon XT XTi XS XSi T1i T2 T2i T3 T3i T4 T4i T5 T5i T6i T6 SL1, EOS 1300D 1200D 1100D 1000D 760D 750D 700D 650D 600D 550D 500D 450D 400D 350D 300D 100D 60D 60Da 70D 77D 80D M5,...
A remote shutter release plugs into the camera and allows you to control the shutter remotely and removes human error by way of movement and vibrations from the equation. Typically, you hold down the button for as long as you want the shutter open. Release and the shutter closes. There are also wireless versions as well.
The best types of shutter release accessories for astro-imaging have built-in timers to allow a programmed exposure session built around the parameters you set. It caters to exposure length, time between exposures, number of exposures, and delay time before starting.
Look for a remote that is compatible with your camera:
- 1.25 Inch this filter it can be used not only for celestial observations but also for astrophotography
Different filters can be used for accentuating or minimizing certain things when imaging. LPR (Light Pollution Reduction) filters can help to improve the SNR (Signal-to-Noise) ratio needed to produce a better image when shooting in light-polluted areas. However, they don’t work with all cameras lenses such as the Canon ES-F lens because the focal length is too long and protrudes too far into the camera.
You can also experiment with star, fog, ultra-violet, minus-violet, narrowband, and hydrogen-alpha filters to improve the image, achieve a specific effect, or accentuate certain types of objects.
Accentuate your images with a filter:
5. Anti-Dew System
- Made in the USA, the Dew-Not Dew Remover is a thick film dew heater manufactured for operation at 12 volts. It helps keep dew condensation from forming on the glass surface of your optical device.
A dew shield may not be enough to guarantee a full duration free of dew. The must-have accessory you need to keep your glass and optics clear of condensation is an anti-dew system.
Strip and band types have heating elements within an enclosed system, and they come with a remote that regulates temperature to ward off dew. The bands are adjustable in size via its Velcro design and can fit around the telescope. There are also smaller versions to fit around finder scopes and eyepieces.
Shoot longer without dew with an anti-dew heater:
- Complete autoguiding solution includes 60mm Multi-Use Guide Scope and StarShoot AutoGuider
If you’ve found yourself binning more than 50% of frames from your unguided efforts, you may very well benefit from getting into the guiding game. However, while it’s cheaper to keep throwing away those trailed frames, time is precious, and you want longer exposures. An autoguider is a must-have.
For a Newtonian and SCT, an off-axis guider is best to produce quality images, but it’s harder to use. For refractors, a small 50 mm refractor can do the job very well, but you can also go larger to 60mm, 70mm, and 80 mm guidescopes.
An autoguider is either a CCD camera that connects to software in a computer, a stand-alone autoguider with a built-in computer, and can even be an affordable webcam-style CCD.
The autoguider tracks a target star while compensating for drift due to periodic error and other factors. You must be able to plug the autoguider into both your computer and telescope for automated control of the driver system.
Browse these guidescopes and autoguiders to take longer exposures:
7. 2” Crayford and Crayford-style Focusers
For CCD imaging, a Crayford focuser is a must-have. It doesn’t creep under heavy loads, has zero backlash, and there is no image shift during use.
Because of its inherent design, it’s well-suited to any type of astrophotography and remains solid during long exposures.
There are also motorized focusers that are used to calculate what the best focus point is for a selected target. Others offer additional benefits such as temperature compensation. However, while motorized focusers are certainly nice to have for imaging, they’re not must-haves.
There are well-known brands that offer high-quality Crayford-style focusers such as Starlight Instruments, Moonlight, and JMI.
Focus in on astrophotography-worthy focusers:
8. Memory Cards
So, you have a large capacity memory card for one night’s worth of shooting. Time to start image processing to find that the files have been corrupted. In short, you’re screwed.
You’ll need multiple memory cards to hold your shots, unless of course, you’re directly downloading straight to your laptop/computer. It’s better to spread the night’s work between multiple cards so that you don’t lose too much work if something were to happen. A couple of 32GB cards should do the trick.
But, if you’d still rather keep everything on one disk and still except to have plenty of space, go with a well-reputed brand and spend a little bit more for quality.
Quality memory cards could preserve your workload:
9. Battery Grips
Neewer battery grip designed for EOS 70D/80D/90D
Once you start using a battery grip you’ll never go back. You can speed up the interruption process to your exposure duration when you need to change out the battery, and with a battery grip, you may only need to do it once.
It’s essentially a battery pack that gives you the ability to run your camera on another battery source. Without a battery grip, depending on how long the durations are, you could be changing it out more than once risking loss of frame and focus by the time you get a new battery in.
Don’t be left fiddling around and be better prepared with an extra battery already in place.
Double your battery capacity with a battery grip:
- PORTABLE POWER MADE FOR ASTRONOMERS: The perfect solution for most computerized telescopes, PowerTank Lithium features a 12V connection, 10 hours of battery life, an onboard red/white LED flashlight,...
I suppose if you’re imaging from home you can simply run an extension cord out to your mount. That’s a lot of plugging in when you have multiple accessories that need the boost in juice during imaging.
What to do? Get an external power supply. What if your telescope came with a car adapter? Ditch it. It’s not a good idea to get stuck at a dark site in a remote location because you drained your car battery.
Deep cycle batteries are extremely reliable workhorses, and they last a long, long time. However, you may need an additional adapter or two and some muscles to haul it since they typically do not have handles.
You also have multiple types of power banks that are rechargeable, portable, and some are affordable for under $100.
Don’t underestimate the need for an external power supply. Between the autoguider, computer, mount, and anti-dew systems, your devices need all the juice they can get to keep you out for as long as you intend.
Power through the night with an external power supply:
- Orion Dynamo Mini Lithium Powerbank
- Celestron PowerTank Lithium Telescope Battery
- Celestron PowerTank Battery
- Universal Power Group Deep Cycle Battery
You’ll need software to plan ahead your astrophotography endeavors for the night. The good news is that many are free and included with the purchase of your telescope and/or motorized mount.
There are computer software and smartphone-controlled apps that can provide valuable information on tens of thousands of objects. Some mounts can be programmed to be used remotely from software or an app.
There are many different programs available from multiple telescope manufacturers and software developers. Stellarium and SkySafari Pro lead the charts as the most popular software programs for astrophotography.
12. Astrophotography Books
Certainly, one of the best ways to learn is to get out there and start doing it yourself. You’ll learn tips and tricks of the trade as you go. However, as you become more serious about imaging and improving the quality of your shots, you’ll find that it’s no inexpensive feat to achieve.
It makes sense to get information from local astronomy club members, online forums, and even from books that provide extensive information on various types of imaging.
Have written-down instructions and tips from the experts:
- The Deep-sky Imaging Primer
- Getting Started: Long Exposure Astrophotography
- Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography
- The 100 Best Astrophotography Targets (for CCD Imaging)
Far from the End-All Be-All of Accessories
While this is a comprehensive list of beginner must-have astrophotography accessories, it’s far from complete.
There is no end-all, be-all when it comes to accessories as there is always new and improved stuff hitting the market.
There are also more details that you can get into like types of cameras, uncooled astrophotography cameras, and other advanced accessories that you may find yourself learning more about in the future which will expand your accessory kit.
For now, you at least know what some of the basic parts are that you can get started with right away. Don’t be afraid to put some on the back-shelf until you’re ready to afford it and start playing with it.
Astrophotography is only as successful as you are willing to make it. With time, practice, patience, experimentation, and a good set of accessories, you’ll be sharing your amazing photographs with the world sooner than later.