Shooting the Moon -- with a Digital Camera Connected to a Telescope

(Posted 4/15/2003) - Now that the weather is warm I decided to try out my telescope coupled to my digital camera. Yesterday after dinner I packed up my scope, tripod, and camera and drove over to Lambert Lake (just a few blocks from where we live). Here are some pictures I took which I think bode well for future outings.

(Posted 4/15/2003) - Now that the weather is warm I decided to try out my telescope coupled to my digital camera. Yesterday after dinner I packed up my scope, tripod, and camera and drove over to Lambert Lake (just a few blocks from where we live). Here are some pictures I took which I think bode well for future outings. NOTE: Click on any picture for the full size view.

The trick to getting decent pictures is to set the digital camera exposure setting as low as possible in manual mode, since the Maksutov-Cassegrain (MCT) style scope I use gathers a lot of light; A lot more light than the camera's CCD imager needs. It is also a good idea to turn off the flash unit on the camera.

The set of pictures are north and east facing. The sun was beginning to set in the west, around 7PM CST. It was the first time I'd seriously tried out my digital camera with the telescope, and I was curious about the quality of pictures I'd get.

After a few terrestial warm up shots to make sure I could get the camera on target, I was anxious to take a sky shot. I swung the scope around and quickly centered on the full moon due east. The following four pictures were taken just before sundown, with the moon half-height in the north-eastern sky. It was hazy and cloudy, but the pictures show the view as I saw it through the telescope.

For the lunar shots, I stopped the camera down -2 EV to avoid over exposing the images. In general, using a consumer digital camera will require stopping down for lunar and planetary shots -- they are fairly bright.

Since the moon is in motion in the field of view, I took shots of the upper, lower, and full facing moon as it moved across the telescope view field.

If I'd gone to the trouble of doing a Polar Alignment, and turned on the telescope motor it could have kept the moon centered -- but it was daytime (no polar star visible) - so I did it the quick and dirty way. Just manually center the image, take a few shots and then recenter. it was easy and fun. I recommend this to anyone who has a telescope and a digital camera.

For those who might be interested, I used an ETX90 with a 48x super plossl eyepiece, and a Kodak DC220 flush mounted to the eyepiece.

To get pictures reliably positioned, you must use a digital cameral with either a video out to a monitor, or use the view-screen on the camera. A 1/16th inch movement off of center can spoil the picture, so seeing what the camera is seeing is essential to getting a well framed picture through the telescope eyepiece.

I look forward to taking more pictures this summer and fall. If I get some interesting shots of the planets or star-fields I will post them on this site. Eventually, I'm sure I'll shell out some serious bucks for a CCD-imager that will let me get time-exposed shots (more than the eye can naturally see) of nebulae and deep space objects.