A Newbie’s Adventure in Astrophotography by Adam Jaffe

This is the first of a series on my experiences in astrophotography and astronomy in general over the last two years.  I came into the hobby with little to no knowledge of astronomy or photography, so I was really dependent on the information available online.  I’m not saying I took the best route, but I’m at the point where I’m happy with my equipment and happy with my results.  Some of the first posts may just be a diary of my trials and tribulations, but later I hope to share some of what I’ve learned in a more instructional format.  But for now, just enjoy…

Part 1

I’ve always been interested in astronomy.  Looking up at the sky has always stimulated so many profound questions in my mind.  How big is the universe?  Where did it all come from?  Is life on Earth an anomaly?  Whenever an astronomy article came up on one of my regular websites, I’d read it.  I had made a habit of checking the Astronomy Picture of the Day.  I wouldn’t miss any Discovery Channel specials on space.  But, I realized,  there is only so much you can experience from second hand sources and I decided to take the next step.

I decided to buy a telescope.  I did some research and noticed that many of the Astronomy pictures I’ve been drooling over were taken by amateurs.  I had always assumed that without a NASA budget, photographs of galaxies would be out of reach.  Once I realized I had been wrong, my excitement grew.  I joined the Cloudy Nights forum, and asked for some advice.  I wasn’t prepared for how helpful the forum could be and I quickly had a telescope picked out and I ordered a Celestron CPC-800.

The telescope showed up the next day, and having read and re-read the manual off of Celestron’s website I began setting it up immediately.  I had absolutely no problems getting it set up and began my alignment.  As per the instructions, I picked three bright objects, centered them, and hit the align button.  My last alignment object was Saturn(for future reference, don’t align on planets).  As it came into the field of view, I was flabbergasted.  I could see the rings clear as day, and even some color detail.  I immediately sprinted towards my house to get my wife, but stopped and realized I forgot to hit the final align button.  I went back, completed the align and then proceeded to run into the house screaming for my wife.

Both my wife and I spent the next few nights out observing.  Saturn was the only planet in view,  but we also got a chance to look at M51 and a few other deep sky objects.  The other Cloudy Nights members did a good job of tempering my expectations, and I was very pleased when I saw the little wisps of The Whirlpool Galaxy and it’s companion galaxy.

We did get lucky, the rain that typically accompanies a new telescope purchase, held out for three days.  So we got three nights of observing before we were relegated back inside.  With only clouds and rain to look forward to, I decided to listen to the voice in the back of my head and begin searching for a camera.

Continued in Part 2…

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