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Photograph the Total Lunar Eclipse

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Are you hoping to capture a photo of the upcoming total lunar eclipse on November 8th? If so, you are not alone. Amateur photographers and astrophotography enthusiasts around the world will do their best to take pictures of the upcoming lunar eclipse using a wide variety of camera equipment.

A total eclipse of the moon is a truly breathtaking astronomical event that anyone can appreciate. The best part about it is that you do not need expensive astrophotography equipment or special filters to take a great picture of the total lunar eclipse. It’s all about using the best settings on the camera you are using (even if it’s a phone).

I recommend practicing your moon photography skills before the night of the upcoming lunar eclipse, so you don’t waste precious time fiddling with camera settings during the celestial event. With that out of the way, let’s get to the key information you need to take a great picture of the total lunar eclipse. 

camera settings for a lunar eclipse

Fast Tips:

  • Practice your camera settings on the moon before the night of the lunar eclipse 
  • If you are using a smartphone through a telescope, use a smartphone adapter to hold it in place
  • Use your cameras manual or ‘pro’ mode for full control over settings like ISO, Aperture, and Exposure
  • Capturing the moon during totality is often easier to accomplish due to less extreme lighting variations
  • Use a tracking equatorial mount when shooting at high magnification (star trackers work great)

How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse

Over the years, I have photographed a number of total lunar eclipses using a variety of cameras – from my smartphone to a dedicated astronomy camera. The key to a great image isn’t the specific camera you use, it’s all about magnification and the correct settings

Without enough ‘reach’, the moon will appear small and lack the details you are hoping for. I recommend capturing the lunar eclipse with at least 300mm of focal length or more, which means an astronomical telescope or telephoto camera lens is best.

Then, it’s all about choosing the best camera settings to capture such a challenging subject in terms of light conditions. The moon will change in brightness as it goes through the different stages of the eclipse, and you must adjust your camera settings accordingly. 

What about those of you that don’t own a telescope or a long lens? The good news is you can still capture a great nightscape-style shot at a wider field of view. However, these types of photos look best if the moon is closer to the horizon while eclipsed. 

lunar eclipse photography

A total lunar eclipse captured in the early morning hours using a DSLR and standard kit lens. 

Wide-angle nightscape images that include a large portion of the night sky including an eclipsed moon can be done using a DSLR and tripod. For a 30-second exposure, a tracking mount is not necessary. At a focal length of 18mm or wider, star trailing will begin to show after about 20-25 seconds, so just keep that in mind. 

To capture the stars and constellations in the night sky, an ISO of 800 or above is recommended. However, this exposure will likely record the eclipsed moon as a featureless ball of light.

To properly capture both the starry sky and a detailed moon, you will need to capture exposures of varying lengths and blend them together into a composite image. This is because the moon is much brighter (even while eclipsed) than the surrounding starry sky.

A composite image can be made by masking the area of your night sky exposure and blending in a shorter exposure of the moon with surface details. This technique will take some time and experience to master, but the results can be amazing.

When and Where is the Lunar Eclipse Happening?

For a celestial event like this, a little planning goes a long way. You’ll definitely want to know exactly when the lunar eclipse is taking place, and where it will be in the sky from your location. 

For example, you may have to travel to a location with a low western horizon for a total lunar eclipse occurring in the morning if your backyard is full of tall trees.

Lunar eclipses are visible from different parts of the world at different times. There are many times when a lunar eclipse is taking place on the other side of the earth that you are unable to observe.

Here are some helpful resources to help you plan for the lunar eclipse:

lunar eclipse photography methods

Upcoming Lunar Eclipses (NASA)

Date Eclipse Type Visible From
November 8, 2022 Total Asia, Australia, Pacific, Americas,
May 5, 2023 Penumbral Africa, Asia, Australia
October 28, 2023 Partial Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia
March 25, 2024 Penumbral Americas
September 18, 2024 Partial Americas, Europe, Africa
March 14, 2025 Total Pacific, Americas, Europe, Africa
September 7, 2025 Total Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia

The 7 Stages of a Total Lunar Eclipse

There are 7 stages of a total lunar eclipse, and many amateur photographers like to capture the event in each stage. This can later be made into a composite photo showing the transition of the moon as Earth’s shadow covers it. A time-lapse video is another excellent way to capture each stage of the eclipse.

The maximum eclipse stage is when most photographers want a great shot. This is when the moon turns “blood” red and the surrounding night sky becomes much darker from our point of view on Earth. It is an unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to witness this moment.

Stages of the total lunar eclipse:

  1. Penumbral Eclipse begins
  2. Partial Eclipse begins
  3. Full Eclipse begins
  4. Maximum Eclipse
  5. Full Eclipse ends
  6. Partial Eclipse ends
  7. Penumbral Eclipse ends

An interesting thing happens when the moon is completely eclipsed by the shadow of Earth. Not only does the moon turn to an eerie reddish hue, but the stars and constellations surrounding the moon begin to appear as they would on a moonless night. Capturing a scene like this requires careful planning and execution.

Ways to Photograph the Total Lunar Eclipse

Here are 6 different ways to photograph the lunar eclipse, depending on the equipment you own:

  • Point-and-shoot digital camera through a telescope eyepiece (eyepiece projection)
  • Smartphone camera through a telescope eyepiece 
  • DSLR camera and wide-angle lens on a stationary tripod
  • DSLR camera and telephoto lens on a tracking mount
  • DSLR camera attached to a telescope (prime focus) on a tracking mount
  • Dedicated astronomy camera attached to the telescope and tracking mount

    total lunar eclispes

    A photo of the “Super Blood Moon” eclipse I captured from my backyard in 2015

Examples and Best Practices

There are many ways to photograph the total lunar eclipse, but for the best results, I recommend using a DSLR camera and a small refractor telescope on a tracking mount. 

This will allow you to get an up-close shot of the moon in each of its phases in detail. Some of the most incredible images of the lunar eclipse I have ever seen were captured this way. 

If you do not own a telescope, you can use your longest focal length camera lens to pull the moon in close. For the photo of a nearly total lunar eclipse below, I used a Canon EF 400mm F/5.6 telephoto lens. 

lunar eclipse

The 2021 Partial Lunar Eclipse on November 19, 2021. DSLR and 400mm lens. 

An equatorial tracking mount, such as a star tracker is the best way to take a clear photo of the moon during an eclipse when using high-magnification optics. This essentially freezes the moon in place for an extended period of time.

When you have compensated for the rotation of the earth, your subject is no longer moving, and you have many more options to choose from in terms of camera settings. Now, you can dial back ISO settings and f-stop if necessary and let a longer exposure time collect the light. 

This makes everything easier because the Moon will stay ‘still’ in the image frame while you adjust your camera settings based on the current stage of the eclipse. During the first stage of the eclipse, the moon will be very bright, whereas, during totality, it will be much dimmer. 

Below, you will see the camera and telescope I used to take a crisp photo of the total lunar eclipse that occurred in September 2015. This telescope has a focal length of nearly 500mm, which was enough to reveal some amazing details on the lunar surface.

Basic astrophotography setup

Moon photography

The camera and telescope used to capture a total lunar eclipse. Canon EOS 70D and Explore Scientific ED80. 

Using a DSLR and Telescope

A DSLR camera (or mirrorless camera) and telescope can provide an up-close view of the eclipsed moon in detail. The prime focus method of astrophotography is best, as the camera sensor’s focal plane is aligned with the telescope. You can directly attach a DSLR camera using a T-Ring adapter (see below) to utilize the telescope’s native focal length.

The prime focus method requires that the telescope tracks the apparent rotation of the night sky to avoid any movement in your shots. To learn more about the process and equipment involved in deep-sky astrophotography, have a look at a typical DSLR and telescope setup.

t-ring adapter

A DSLR camera and T-Ring Adapter attached to a telescope

If your goal is to capture an up-close view of the moon during the eclipse, there are many benefits to this technique. A small refractor telescope will have an adequate amount of focal length (magnification), offer precision focus, and have a stable base to attach to an equatorial telescope mount. 

With the camera connected to the telescope, experiment with different exposures and ISO settings in manual mode, using live-view to make sure you have not under/overexposed the image.

The shortest exposures will only be useful during the partial stages of the lunar eclipse, as the lunar eclipse is beginning and ending. This is a challenging phase of the event to capture in a single shot, as the shadows and highlights of the image are from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Remote shutter release cable

A remote shutter release cable will help to avoid camera shake in your image. 

When the moon enters totality, you will need to bump up your ISO, and/or your exposure length to reveal the disk of the moon as it becomes dimmer. Use a timer or external shutter release cable to avoid camera shake if possible.

Ideally, you’ll keep the ISO as low as possible for the least amount of noise. With an accurately polar-aligned tracking mount, exposures of 2-5 seconds will work great.

To record the lunar eclipse with a DSLR camera, no filters are necessary. A stock DSLR camera is best as the additional wavelengths available with a modified camera are unused in moon photography.

total lunar eclipse photo

Canon EOS 7D, Explore Scientific ED80 Refractor, Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Tracking Mount.

Without a tracking equatorial mount like the Sky-Watcher HEQ5, a 2.5-second exposure like the one above is impossible. Even 1-second of movement at this focal length will record a blurry image if the telescope or lens is not moving at the same speed as the moon.

The benefit of shooting a long exposure during the maximum eclipse (totality) is that you also record the starry sky behind the moon. To do this in a single exposure on a normal full moon is not possible as the dynamic range is too wide.

A dedicated one-shot-color astronomy camera is more than capable of taking a brilliant photo of the eclipse as well. The computer software used to control these devices (such as FireCapture) have the camera controls needed to properly expose the moon through each stage of the eclipse. 

For projects like this, I personally enjoy the freedom and simplicity of a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Camera settings such as ISO, exposure, and white balance can easily be changed on-the-fly as the eclipse is taking place.

To capture the entire event, many people like to create a lunar eclipse sequence showing each stage of the eclipse. To accomplish this you will need to make the necessary adjustments to your camera settings through each stage.

When the eclipse is over, you can make a lunar eclipse sequence image that shows the progression of the event as it unfolded. Here is a great YouTube tutorial for creating a lunar eclipse sequence

lunar eclipse sequence

A lunar eclipse sequence. Rod Pommier, Portland, OR (2014). Celestron Compustar C14.

Without A Tracking Mount

Since the moon is very bright, it is possible to take a fast exposure (1/500″ or faster) of the moon without tracking. You will still want to use an optical instrument such as a telescope or long lens, and without tracking, it will be tricky. 

Even at 10X magnification, the moon will slowly move across the eyepiece as you look at it through the telescope. This a subtle reminder that the earth is always spinning, and why astrophotography is so challenging overall. 

Thankfully, unlike dim deep-sky objects like nebulae and galaxies in the night sky, solar system subjects like the moon are incredibly bright. You can take an ultra-fast exposure of the moon through a telescope that is still sharp, without tracking. 

Many visual observers enjoy the affordability and performance of a Dobsonian Telescope like the one shown below. They are a fantastic choice for anyone interested in astronomy, and why I consider them to be the best telescope for beginners

Apertura AD8 Dobsonian Telescope


It is possible to produce a comparable close-up image using a digital camera or smartphone through the eyepiece of a non-tracking telescope such as a Dobsonian, using the eyepiece projection method. For the best results, use a smartphone adapter that allows you to secure your phone to the telescope.

Photographing a Lunar Eclipse with Your Phone

This type of astrophotography is often referred to as the eyepiece projection method. To do this, you’ll simply position your digital camera or smartphone into the eyepiece of the telescope. This method usually requires a fair amount of trial and error, but you may be quite surprised with your results.

An eyepiece smartphone adapter may help to steady your shot of the lunar eclipse. Although you’ll have much less control over exposure and record less detail, this technique can be used with a non-tracking telescope as a traditional Dobsonian telescope like the one pictured above, or a smaller tabletop model. 

The moon is one of the few subjects that are relatively easy to photograph with a non-tracking mount compared to deep-sky astrophotography. However, the transition phases of the eclipse can be difficult due to the changing lighting conditions and exposure levels.

I recommend capturing the lunar eclipse during its maximum phase if you’re using this method. You likely won’t be able to capture a well-exposed image using the camera’s auto-exposure mode. Experiment with your camera’s manual settings that allow for variations in shutter speed. 

I have had great results using the Celestron NexYZ smartphone adapter when photographing the moon. This model features a 3-axis design that allows me to line up the camera on my bulky Samsung S21 Ultra phone with the eyepiece. It clamps onto the eyepiece itself and is much more secure than models I have used in the past. 


smartphone adapter

Use a smartphone adapter to line up your camera lens and secure your phone. 

Camera Settings

Once you have secured your phone in the adapter, and the camera lens is lined up with the eyepiece, you can start experimenting with settings. To fully control the exposure, it is best to use manual mode (often called ‘pro’ mode) rather than the standard auto setting. 

Chances are, when you are pointing at the moon with your smartphone and telescope, it will appear very bright, and your camera will have trouble finding the correct exposure to show the lunar surface details. To fix this, adjust the basic camera settings like exposure length, ISO, and f-stop to properly expose the bright moon through the eyepiece. 

A shorter exposure time 1/500′ and a moderate ISO setting of 400 is a good place to start (see below). If the moon looks too bright or too dim using these settings, make small adjustments to the exposure time until it is well exposed to reveal the moon’s surface. 

Use manual focus mode to ensure that the moon is in critical focus, rather than relying on the autofocus capabilities of your phone camera. This can be tricky to get right, but keeping the camera steady via the smartphone adapter will make this a lot easier.

how to photograph the lunar eclipse with your phone

Capturing the lunar eclipse using the ‘pro’ mode on my smartphone. 

Using a Telephoto Camera Lens

If you don’t own a telescope, a telephoto camera lens with at least 300mm of focal length will work well. At longer focal lengths like the ones necessary for a close-up of the moon, you must use fast exposure to capture a sharp photo of the moon. This is because the Earth is spinning, so you’re essentially trying to photograph a moving target. 

The image below was captured using a Canon EOS 70D and a Canon EF 400mm F/5.6 Lens. 

partial eclipse phase

The final stages of the partial eclipse phase can be challenging to photograph because there is a bright highlight on a small portion of the moon. This makes it nearly impossible to capture an image with enough dynamic range to properly expose the darkest and lightest areas of the image. 

For the photo above, the camera settings included an ISO setting of 6400 and a shutter speed of 1/8. To display the dim shadows and bright highlights of the moon in a single photo, you may need to take exposure of varying lengths and blend them together into an HDR composite. 

This is a very common practice in moon photography and can create very dynamic-looking images of the moon with a lot of depth. 

As mentioned earlier, a tracking telescope or camera mount such as the iOptron SkyGuider Pro (pictured below) is recommended. An equatorial mount that is polar aligned with the rotational axis of the Earth will allow you to take longer exposures, and get more creative with your camera settings.

Owners of astronomical telescopes for astrophotography usually own an equatorial telescope mount, and this is an ideal configuration for moon photography. This allows the user to enter any celestial object into the hand controller, and the mount will automatically slew to that object once it has been properly star-aligned.

An iOptron SkyGuider Pro camera mount with a DSLR and 300mm Lens attached

The key to capturing details of the moon’s surface in your lunar eclipse photo is reach and exposure. By this, I mean that you need enough magnification to show the detailed craters of the moon’s surface, and a fast enough shutter speed to not blow out any of the highlights in your image. 

To do this, a precise exposure length must be used. One that preserves the data in your image while also bringing enough of the shadowed areas forward is ideal. For my photos, I found an ISO of 200 and an exposure of 1/200 to work quite well. This was enough to showcase a starry sky behind the eclipsed moon.

I use Adobe Photoshop to process all of my astrophotography images, including photos of the moon and our solar system. Adobe Camera Raw is a fantastic way to edit your images of the lunar eclipse because it gives you complete control over the highlights and color balance of your image. 

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Camera Raw offers powerful tools to edit your photos of the Total Lunar Eclipse

Capturing a Lunar Eclipse Without a Telescope 

If you are simply using a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR and lens on a stationary tripod, you can still take an amazing photo of the lunar eclipse. This is often a great way to capture the landscape and mood of the moment. The photo below was captured back in October 2014 using a Canon EOS 7D and an 18-200mm lens on a tripod.

This is a wide-angle shot captured at 18mm, while the inset image was captured at the lens’s maximum focal length of 200mm. A zoom lens is handy for photographing the moon at varying magnifications. 

Total Lunar Eclipse - Moon Photography

When capturing the lunar eclipse without a telescope, you’ll want as much manual control over the camera settings as possible. “Auto” mode, flash, and autofocus won’t work on a photo of the total lunar eclipse. Adjusting individual parameters such as exposure length and ISO is essential to properly expose the moon. 

Practice taking shots at night beforehand, so that you are ready when the eclipse happens. Ideally, find a location that includes some interesting foreground and background details to capture a dramatic scene on the night of the event. In the case of the lunar eclipse shown above, it took place in the early morning hours as the moon was setting. 

What is Happening During a Lunar Eclipse?

Do you understand why a lunar eclipse happens? There are two types of lunar eclipses: partial and total. As you know, the Earth orbits the sun, and the moon orbits the Earth. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth is sitting directly between the sun and the moon.

There are 3 primary types of lunar eclipses, a Penumbral lunar eclipse, a Partial lunar eclipse, and a Total lunar eclipse. 

Although the moon is covered in Earth’s shadow, some sunlight still reaches the moon. When the moon enters the central umbra shadow of the Earth, it turns red and dim. This distinctive “blood” color is due to the fact that the sunlight is passing through Earth’s atmosphere to light up the disk of the moon. 

What is a lunar eclipse?

A diagram of what happens during a total lunar eclipse – NASA

Unlike a solar eclipse, observing a total lunar eclipse is completely safe to do with the naked eye. This natural phenomenon can be enjoyed without the aid of any optical instruments, although binoculars can really help to get an up-close view of the action.


camera settings for lunar eclipse

Camera settings used for my lunar eclipse photo

This article was originally posted in January 2019, and updated on November 4th, 2022. 

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Results Using a $200 DSLR for Astrophotography

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In a recent video, I shared my results using a $200 DSLR for astrophotography. In a hobby known for being very expensive, I think it is very interesting that such results can be obtained using an old, inexpensive camera.

In this post, I’ll prove to you that incredible astrophotography results are possible with an old, used, entry-level DSLR camera. And no, it doesn’t need to be modified to achieve impressive results. (I’ve got plenty of unmodified DSLR astrophotos to prove it).

You can pick up a used Canon EOS Rebel T3i (600D) DSLR for under $200 on eBay, and it will likely include a kit lens (18-55) with it. This will, of course, be a stock model of the camera, but you can modify it by removing the internal IR cut filter (more on this a little later).

Canon EOS Rebel T3i

I’ve been using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i for astrophotography since 2016.

This particular camera helped me capture stunning images of the night sky for the past 4 years, whether it was through a telescope, or with a camera lens attached.

Since picking up the 600D in 2016, I’ve used some powerful cameras for astrophotography (including a monochrome CCD), but I still find uses for this old DSLR today.

In 2020, the T3i is still one of the most popular DSLRs being used for astrophotography in the amateur community. Not bad for a camera that launched in 2011.

I was surprised to see how many members of the AstroBackyard Facebook Page are still using the Canon 600D for astrophotography. It validates my personal success with this camera and its relevance in 2020.

Results Using a $200 DSLR for Astrophotography


The photo shared at the end of the video (see below) is certainly not an APOD worthy image. But, to newcomers to the challenging hobby, this image is a real eye-opener to what’s possible using beginner-level gear. 

The entire astrophotography rig used for the photo is relatively affordable and portable when compared to a traditional deep-sky imaging rig. The star tracker is the key to long exposure imaging of deep-sky objects in the night sky, and the one used in the video (Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer) is currently listed at $399 USD on Amazon.

Nebula in Orion

Deep-sky objects in Orion. Canon EOS Rebel T3i and Rokinon 135mm F/2 lens (67 x 60-seconds).

The Canon 600D can certainly hold it’s own when attached to a high-quality imaging refractor riding on a robust equatorial tracking mount (Here are my results using it with a 132mm Triplet APO). But the imaging session shared in my video was much more modest. 

Here is a complete breakdown of the entire imaging rig used for my image of the Horsehead Nebula and Orion Nebula in the constellation Orion:

astrophotography equipment

What Makes this Camera Special

The 600D is still an excellent DSLR for astrophotography. Although it lacks important features like cooling and precision gain control (found in modern dedicated astronomy cameras), it excels in the category of versatility.

You can use it in countless imaging configurations from wide-angle nightscapes to deep-sky astrophotography through a telescope. You are free to explore and capture the night sky with only a tripod and lens, if desired. 

In my experience, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, in particular, sits in the “sweet spot” between functionality and value. I expect the cameras that surround the 600D in the Rebel line-up (such as the T4i etc.) to offer a similar experience, but I can’t share any personal experience using them.

As you can see from the list below, I am no stranger to Canon DSLR cameras and lenses.Canon camera collectionMy Canon Cameras:

  • Canon EOS Rebel XSi (modified)
  • Canon EOS Rebel T3i (modified)
  • Canon EOS 60Da
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 5D
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 6D Mark II

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i may seem like an odd choice for astrophotography in 2020. After all, there are many newer, more capable DSLR (and mirrorless) cameras available now.

For example, Canon’s latest Rebel series DSLR (Canon EOS Rebel T7i) has an improved 24.2 MP sensor with advanced features like WiFi, an extended ISO range, and Live View AF – but will these traits take monumentally better astrophotos? 

The truth is, many of the added features found in modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras make only subtle differences in image quality when it comes to deep-sky astrophotography. Your daytime photos and videos may look a lot better, but we’re more interested in leaving the shutter open for 5-minutes at a time at night. 

Yes, dedicated astrophotography cameras like the Canon EOS Ra are a big leap forward, but the price tag reflects it. This is a different animal altogether because this camera body was designed with the unique and punishing routines of astrophotography in mind.

My point is, if you can make do without advanced features such as 30X live view and a touch screen LCD display screen, you may be quite surprised at what an old DSLR can do.  

In fact, even older Canon DSLRs are still useful choices for astrophotography, such as the Canon EOS XS or XSi. If you’re new to astrophotography, it’s worth looking on eBay or your local classifieds for one of these gems.

Astrophotography Examples Using the Canon EOS Rebel T3i

Here are some of my favorite astrophotography images I’ve captured over the years using my Canon EOS T3i.

California Nebula

The California Nebula. Canon EOS Rebel T3i and a 70mm refractor telescope.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way. Canon EOS Rebel T3i and Rokinon 14mm F/2.8 Lens. 

Triangulum Galaxy

The Triangulum Galaxy. Canon EOS Rebel T3i and 102mm refractor telescope.

The Canon Rebel series DSLR cameras have reliable workhorses for many astronomy applications. For example, Marie Lott has captured many photos of asteroids using a Canon T3i for the Astronomical League’s Asteroid Program.

Fred Espenak (Mr. Eclipse) captured the entire Messier catalog using a modified Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Talk about the ultimate imaging challenge!

Many members of the AstroBackyard Facebook community use the Canon EOS Rebel T3i for astrophotography and had several images to share using this camera. Here is an excellent example of the T3i being used for deep-sky astrophotography by Luke Arens.

stock Canon DSLR

The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae in Orion using a stock Canon 600D (Luke Arens).

Useful Features for Astrophotography

An articulating LCD screen is now quite common in DSLR and mirrorless cameras, which is fantastic news for amateur astrophotographers. If you’ve ever shot long-exposure deep-sky astrophotography with a camera that did not include this design feature, you’ll understand why it is so convenient. 

Deep-sky imaging involves the camera body to be positioned in plenty of upward orientations that have the back of the camera pointed at the ground. With a flip-out screen, you’re able to perform key actions such as 10X live-view focus and framing your target without breaking your neck. 

This was the biggest shift in user experience when upgrading from my XSi to the EOS Rebel T3i.

You’ll also be able to find extremely affordable accessories on Amazon to improve your astrophotography experience with this camera. I recommend looking into a simple remote shutter release cable, and an AC adapter unit to power the camera without batteries. 

As for the aging 18 MP sensor in the T3i, I think you’ll find the 5184×3456 pixel resolution to be more than adequate for your final application for the image. I tend to scale my images down for online sharing (along with a heavy crop in many cases) but have also made large 18″ x 20″ prints for my home office.

Remote shutter release cable

A stock version of the Canon EOS Rebel T3i is capable of capturing beautiful photos of the night sky, including many deep-sky nebulae and galaxies. A stock camera really excels at broadband RGB imaging of galaxies like Andromeda or the Triangulum. 

Certain nebulae targets are worth a shot (such as the Eagle Nebula), but if this is your primary interest, a modification is recommended.

Which Camera Lens to Use?

DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras are the smart choice if you plan on using camera lenses at varying focal lengths for astrophotography (in my opinion). Dedicated astronomy cameras can be used for this purpose too, but they lack a user interface and require external computer control.

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i includes the EF-S lens mount, which means you have access to Canon’s full line-up of impressive EF and EF-S lenses. It’s a crop sensor (APS-C) DSLR, so remember to include that 1.6X crop factor when planning projects with specific focal lengths.

For capturing wide-field targets or multiple deep-sky objects at once, the Rokinon 135mm F/2 is an excellent choice. The crop sensor of the T3i naturally creates a closer frame around large targets like IC 1396 and the North America Nebula.

North America Nebula at 135mm

The North Ameria Nebula. Canon EOS Rebel T3i and Rokinon 135mm F/2 Lens.

For Milky Way photography, the Rokinon 14mm F/2.8 is a great match. Some may find 18mm (a standard kit lens focal length) to be a little too close for a shot of the Milky Way using a crop-sensor camera. However, 14mm widens the image up substantially. 

I’ve used many of Canon’s EF and EF-S lenses with the EOS Rebel T3i as well, including the Canon EF 300mm F/4L and 400mm F/5.6.

Light Pollution Filters

Because I do the majority of my astrophotography in the backyard at home, light pollution filters have become a big part of my image acquisition process. DSLRs like the Canon EOS Rebel T3i are great because there are plenty of filters available that will clip inside of the camera body.

clip-in astrophotography filter for DSLR cameras

That means that you can easily use them with a telescope or a camera lens depending on your project. Some of my favorite broad-spectrum, clip-in light pollution filters for the 600D include:

  • SkyTech CLS-CCD
  • Astronomik CLS-CDD (for modified cameras)
  • Optolong L-Pro (for stock and modified cameras)
  • IDAS LPS D2 (for modified cameras)

You can, of course, use 48mm round mounted filters with the T3i and your telescope as well, but you’ll need to thread those to your field flattener or adapter in front of the camera.

The Optolong L-eNhance is an exceptionally useful dual bandpass filter for light-polluted skies when used with a color camera. This filter isolates the important bandpasses in the h-alpha and O III wavelengths where precious details of many nebulae lie. 

You can use the Canon T3i for narrowband imaging in the h-alpha wavelength as well. Although many will argue that narrowband imaging with a color DSLR camera is a “waste of time”, I found it to be a practical way to add impactful details to my color images. 

Ha filter for Canon

The Astronomik 12nm DSLR Ha filter is a great choice for those looking to capture narrowband images of hydrogen-rich nebula using their DSLR.

Modifying your DSLR for Astrophotography

Unless you’re new to the blog (welcome), you’ve likely heard me talk about the process of modifying your DSLR camera for astrophotography many times. It involves removing the stock internal IR cut filter that sits over the sensor, and either replacing it with an astrophotography-friendly version or leaving it off altogether. 

The modification allows the red hues emitted by emission nebula in the bandpass of 656nm (h-alpha) to be collected by the sensor. It’s an important upgrade to consider if you’re serious about imaging deep-sky nebulae targets in the night sky. 

Modified DSLR camera

I “modified” my previous Canon Rebel DSLR for astrophotography (450D).

I performed this astrophotography modification myself on my old Canon ESO Rebel XSi (450D), and it wasn’t even that hard (as long as you take your time and follow the instructions). Seriously, if I can do it, you can do it. I followed the detailed instructions presented by Gary Honis on his website.

For the 600D, I opted to purchase a pre-modified version of the camera from a company called Astro Mod Canada. The modification is referred to as the “full spectrum mod” or the “naked sensor mod”. For the camera to record images properly with this mod, you must use a UV/IR cut filter when imaging, which is often included in many of the light pollution filters I use.

The Bottom Line

Who This Camera is For:

  • Interested in deep-sky astrophotography of galaxies and nebulae through a telescope
  • Interested in wide-angle Milky Way photography
  • Interested in wide-field astrophotography with a camera lens
  • Interested in travel astrophotography on a portable star tracker

Who This Camera is NOT For:

  • Interested in long exposure narrowband imaging
  • Interested in high-magnification imaging through an SCT
  • Those that image in extremely hot locations (A cooled camera is recommended)

If you’re on a tight budget and looking for your first DSLR for astrophotography, keep your eyes peeled for a great deal on a Canon EOS Rebel T3i or similar DSLR body. 

This was the road I personally took towards imaging the night sky, and I continue to enjoy the simplicity and fun of DSLR astrophotography to this day.

In the future, a mirrorless camera such as the Canon EOS R (or Ra) will likely be my next choice. 

Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula. Canon EOS Rebel T3i and a 132mm refractor telescope.

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LRGB Processing Technique for Orion

Astrophotography LRGB Processing Technique

A useful guide to processing the Orion Constellation using a DSLR Camera and Tripod

From the very moment this video started, I knew I was in for a real treat. The motion control time-lapse of the Milky Way moving across the sky was the perfect primer for this high production, quality tutorial. is an informative and beautiful website created by Ian Norman –  A full-time traveller and photographer. In the following video he will explain how to process a photo of the Orion Constellation using the LRGB processing technique. He stacks multiple exposures to reduce noise, corrects vignetting, and greatly enhances the contrast and colour of the photo.  The exact camera settings he used, including ISO, exposure length and aperture details are shared.


He uses nothing more than a regular tripod and a DSLR camera equipped with a standard prime lens. The location he chose for this tutorial was Red Rock State Park in California.  The initial processing steps take place in Adobe Lightroom, a different approach than I currently use. Based on this tutorial, I may need to incorporate Adobe Lightroom into my astrophotography processing workflow.

Another major difference in this photographer’s technique is the fact that he stacked the photos directly in Adobe Photoshop as opposed to a third-party software like Deep Sky Stacker. I have heard of a lot of astrophotographers who swear by this method. One thing to note is that stacking via “photomerge” in photoshop will consume a large amount of RAM on your system, and could result in a system crash. Be sure to have your work saved, and have some time set-aside for this process to take place.

One of the biggest factors in the amazing results Ian was able to achieve, was the pristine dark skies he was able to shoot in. It is not possible to bring out the faint details seen here from the city. I can’t wait to try this tutorial myself. I am amazed at how much detail he was able to pull out from such short exposures. I hope that you find this tutorial as invaluable as I did.


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Astrophotography Telescope Buying Guide – Under $2000

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Astrophotography Telescope Buying Guide

Note: This post was created back in July 2015, I have since purchased a new astrophotography telescope, the Explore Scientific ED102 (The number 1 telescope on this list)!

So you’re in the market for an astrophotography telescope, are you? There have never been so many affordable options for the amateur astrophotographer on a tight budget. I am often asked which telescope I use, and which one I would recommend for beginners. The quick answer is a high-quality, doublet or triplet refractor.  

Larger models can be very expensive (and heavy!) due to the high-quality ED glass used. I think you will be quite surprised at the performance of a small 65-80mm refractor such as the Explore Scientific ED80 I currently use for astrophotography. To view the types of wide-field images I have taken using this small telescope, please visit my photo gallery.

An astrophotography telescope buying guide? I thought you were an amateur? Yes, it’s true, but I decided that since I was doing all this intense research into which telescope I will be buying next, I would share it for others in my position to help streamline your search.

I have researched refractors made by Orion, Meade, Sky-Watcher, Tele Vue, Takahashi, Vixen, Astro-Tech, Explore Scientific, Stellarvue and William Optics. Please remember that this is my personal list, and I am by no means an expert! I tried to keep a high standard when browsing for telescopes.

All of the telescopes on this list are apochromatic refractors. I hope this top 10 list is useful for anyone looking to buy a refractor telescope for imaging under $2000 US. 

Keep in mind that with my limited budget, I am interested in getting the best balance of aperture, performance, and quality I can afford. A high-end instrument like the 76mm Takahashi might be the number one choice on your list, but it doesn’t make sense for my situation. So without further adieu, here is MY top 10 list of refractors for astrophotography:

10. Tele Vue TV76

Astrophotography Telescope - Tele Vue TV76 Doublet Refractor

Thanks to Marc Fitkin, there is an extremely useful and insightful review of this telescope on his blog. He notes the ability to use this scope as a prime lens for daytime photography as well as astrophotography. Tele Vue telescopes have a reputation for being top-quality instruments that will last a lifetime.

Because I will be using this scope for astrophotography exclusively, a model that excels in visual use has less of an impact on me. The reason this high-quality scope lands at 10 on my list is because it is at the extreme end of my budget, yet has an objective of only 76mm. Maybe one day I will be in a position to purchase premium-priced optics, but not yet.

Price: $2,000 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Ring Mount, 20mm Eyepiece, 2″ Diagonal, 1.25″ Adapter, Custom Soft Case


9. Sky-Watcher 80mm Esprit ED

Sky-Watcher 80mm Espirit

This is another model that comes with an aluminum case, diagonal, and a finder scope – a huge bonus for me. The heavy-duty Sky-Watcher exclusive “Helinear Track” focuser is a nice touch. This scope actually includes a thread-on field flattener and adaptor for Canon cameras! A major selling point for someone like me. 

I do, however, wonder how much of an upgrade this would be to my current ES ED80. The built-in dovetail is a turn-off for some, but I think it is a great feature. It is nice to see companies like Sky-Watcher catering to astrophotographers, a trend I am sure that will continue.

Update: I had the amazing opportunity to try out the Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED APO in 2018

Price: $1,649 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Thread-on Field Flattener, 2.7″ to 2″ Adapter, 2″ to 1.25″ adapter, 2″ Diagonal, Canon Camera Adapter, Tube Rings with “V” Dovetail, Carry Case

8. Takahashi FC-76DC

Takahashi FC-76DC fluorite doublet

I can’t believe there is actually a Takahashi under $2000! Takahashi has a reputation for building a superior quality astrophotography telescope. This fluorite doublet is tied with the Tele Vue for smallest objective on this list. This instrument has the highest quality glass of all the telescopes on this list, and is very lightweight (4 lbs).

This telescope operates at a f/7.5 focal ratio, and includes a fixed dew shield. The downsides for someone in this budget are the small objective and 1.25″ focuser (though it can be adapted to 2″ with an additional accessory). The views through this “Tak” have been described as absolutely stunning.

Price: $1,949 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: None

7. Vixen ED103S Refractor

Vixen ED103S Apo Telescope

The official product description from Vixen states “ED103S lenses are almost free of chromatic aberration in all colors and are critically sharp edge to edge. The astro-photographer will be especially pleased with the high contrast images through this telescope.” 

The dual speed focuser, 4.1″ objective, and overall weight of just 8 lbs is what has me interested in this white beauty. Not to mention that it’s short tube length of 31.5″ makes it extra portable. A handy in-depth look at this instrument written by Pernel Johnson can be found here.

Price: $1,799 US (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Tube Rings, Carry Handle

6. Meade 115mm ED APO

Meade 115ED Apo Triplet

Meade has catered to the next generation of imagers with this astrophotography telescope. The older version of this scope was almost identical to the Orion EON 115mm. The newer Series 6000 model uses an upgraded FK61 extra-low dispersion glass. Some notable features are the 3″ Crayford focuser, sliding dew shield, and overall build quality.

Update: In 2017, I had the opportunity to test the Meade 70mm Quadruplet APO

Price: $1,999 US (Ontario Telescope and Accessories)
Accessories Included: 3″ Diagonal, Cradle Rings, Mounting Dovetail, 8 x 50 Viewfinder, Hard Case


5. Stellarvue SV80ST

Stellarvue SV80ST-25FT

Forum users on reported that this Stellarvue Apo has an easy-to-use, well-built focuser. It allows the entire imaging train to screw together, giving you accuracy and stability when imaging. A flattener is a must-have to accompany this scope to eliminate coma, a trait many of these refractors have indeed. User reviews are very high for this precision instrument with the focuser being the biggest draw.

Price: $1,295 USD (OPT Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Tube Rings, Hard Case

4. Astro-Tech AT106

Astro Tech AT106 Telescope

Sky and Telescope reviewed this scope back in 2009, saying: “the Astro-Tech AT106 provides all the benefits of a first-class 4-inch apo but without the premium price. I highly recommend it.” I have found a number of positive reviews about this modestly sized refractor. 

There is a great in-depth look including sample astrophotos at the scope on This astrophotography telescope uses high-quality Ohara glass, and comes with a dual speed 2.7″ Crayford focuser. At just under the $2000 range, (including an aluminum case) This telescope is definitely a top contender for my hard-earned cash.

Update: It appears as though this telescope is no longer available.

Price: ?
Accessories Included: Hard Case

3. Orion EON 115mm ED

Orion EON ED Triplet Apo

An astrophotography telescope from one of the oldest most trusted brands in the hobby. Time after time, Orion products deliver and continue to impress their reviewers. My first telescope was an Orion, so this brand holds a special place in my heart. This APO has been around for a LONG time. (I found a review from 2006!)

This quality instrument offers excellent color correction by way of the FK-61 extra-low dispersion (“ED”) optical glass in its air-spaced triplet objective lens. With a focal length of 805mm at F/7, this is a fast, medium wide-field scope. The extendable dew-shield and multiple knife-edge baffles protect your eyes from off-axis reflections and glare to ensure a view with excellent contrast. 

The extra aperture for the price is what puts this scope near the top of my list. The massive 3″, rotatable , dual-speed focuser is an attractive feature for astrophotographers.

Price: $1,499 USD (Orion Telescopes)
Accessories Included: Tube Rings, Dovetail Bar, Foam-lined Carry Case, Starry Night Software

2. William Optics GT102

William Optics GT102

There are many fans of William Optics, and for good reason, they make quality instruments for a fair price. The focal ratio, 102mm diameter objective, and reputation of this scope make this one of my top choices for “next scope”. The optional DDG digital readout on the focuser is a neat feature, and would help me achieve accurate focus with my camera.

 I own the WO 72mm Megrez Doublet, and have had many great experiences with it for both astrophotography, and daytime nature photography.

Update: It appears as though the older version of this telescope is no longer available, and only the 20th anniversary edition is now for sale. Unfortunately, it now has a price tag that exceeds $2,000 USD! However, if you are looking for a more affordable option, have a look at the William Optics Z61

Price: $2, US (High Point Scientific)
Accessories Included: 2″ to 1.25″ Adapter, Mounting Rings, Dovetail

1. Explore Scientific CF 102mm

Astrophotography Telescope - Explore Scientific Carbon Fibre 102mm Apo Refractor

With over 4″ of aperture, and weighing just 7 lbs – Explore Scientific calls this the “perfect balance between portability and light gathering power”.

The HOYA ED glass is virtually free of chromatic aberration, and produces bright high-contrast images. The carbon fiber tube is highly temperature stable, eliminating the need for focus changes with temperature fluctuations. I am not going to lie, I am a little biased towards this telescope because of my unbelievably positive experience with the ED80.

Update: June 2016 – I bought this telescope!

I was contacted by Explore Scientific to upgrade my ED80 to the 102mm CF! Since then I have photographed many deep-sky objects including this version of the Lagoon Nebula:

M8 - The Lagoon Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula

Price: $1,099 USD (High Point Scientific)
Accessories Included: 2″ Diagonal, Deluxe Case, Finder Scope Base, Vixen Dovetail

Well, there you have it, my top 10 list for anyone in the market for an astrophotography telescope. As you can see, I plan on sticking with Explore Scientific. At the end of the day, it comes down to value for me. If you have any hands-on experience with any of these telescopes and would like to comment, please do so below – I would love to hear them!

Astronomy Photo Gallery

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California Nebula Imaged with Modified 450D

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California Nebula

NGC 1499 – The California Nebula by Trevor Jones


Canon Rebel Xsi – Recently Modified 450D

I am proud  to say that I am now the owner of a Modified 450D.  My recentself-modification has really helped bring out the colour of this Emission Nebula.  If you are interested in modding your own Canon Xs or XSi, you can find the tutorial from Gary Honis below. The photo above was taken on the night of October 25th under clear skies in Wellandport, Ontario. I feel like I want to shoot every deep-sky object over again now that my camera records so much more red nebulosity!  I am excited to image some of the Winter objects that will be spending some time in our night sky over the next 2 months!

Related: Learn more about Cameras for Astrophotography


Image Processing NGC 1499

Compare the single frame to the stacked image of over 2 hours and processing


NGC 1499, or “The California Nebula” is a large emission nebula located in the constellation of Perseus.  It’s shape resembles the outline of the State of California.  The California Nebula is very difficult to observe visually because of it’s low surface brightness, but shows up well in long exposure photography.  It was discovered by E.E. Barnard in 1884.

California Nebula – Image Details

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Modified)
ISO: 1600 Exposure: 2 hours, 40 Minutes (32 x 300s)
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 darks

Canon 450D / 1000D - Gary Honis Full Spectrum Mod

Gary Honis will take you step by step of how to remove the IR cut filter in your Canon XS or XSi in the video below. Removing this filter from the camera allows H-Alpha wavelengths to pass through for deep-sky imaging. I was able to modify my DSLR myself by watching this video. I performed the “full-spectrum” mod, and did not install any additional new filters to the camera. I only removed the IR-Cut filter. My clip-in Hutech IDAS LPS filter protects the sensor.



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Making the Most of it!

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Setting up my Astrophotography gear in the dark
Setting up my astrophotography gear at the CCCA Observatory using only red lights to preserve my night vision.
I had a long, eventful night at the CCCA Observatory this past Saturday. I wasn’t even planning on going, as a heart-breaking defeat of my Toronto Raptors at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets was fresh on my mind. I started packing up my astro-gear at 7:45pm. With the sun setting at 8:05pm, and a 45 minute drive ahead of me, I knew I would be breaking one of my own astronomy rules: Setting up in the dark.

By the time I arrived, it was pitch black, with only the stars and my red headlamp to light my way. I witnessed some amazing views of Mars and Saturn through my ED80 before setting my DSLR up for a night of astrophotography. I forgot a key element of any astrophotography imaging session, my guide scope. Forgetting something at home that is essential for imaging is always a frustrating experience. I knew my plans of taking 5 minute exposures of the Seagull Nebula were ruined.

Messier 3

Messier 3 – Globular Cluster

Messier 3 – Globular Cluster

I decided to take some 30-second unguided exposures of the globular star cluster known as M3. I have seen this cluster through a 20″ Dobsonian telescope, and to this day, it is still my favorite sight through a large telescope.

The Sunflower Galaxy

Messier 64 – The Sunflower Galaxy

Next, I chose to image a galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici known as M63, or, the Sunflower Galaxy. In hindsight, it was not such a great choice, considering it’s size and my limited exposure time.

The good news is that this was really a “bonus night” anyway, as the moon rose early at about 1:00am. By then, some friends had come to join me and were dazzled by views of Saturn.  The next 2 weekends are when I really plan to get some good imaging done!

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Winter Stargazing in Orion

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Winter Stargazing
M42 & M43, The Orion Nebula (& Running Man)

Imaged Friday, Nov 29, 2013 from Ontario, Canada.

Camera Equipment and Settings:

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Stock)
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 2 hours (30 x 240s)

Processing Software: Calibration and Stacking in DeepSkyStacker, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop CC

Support Files: 15 darks

Winter Stargazing in Orion

The Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula, south of Orion’s belt. It is one of the brightest and well-known nebulae in the night sky. It is clearly visible in binoculars, even from light-polluted city skies like the one in my backyard! This nebula is well-photographed by amateurs and pros alike.

It was one of the first objects I ever photographed through a telescope, and I still remember my reaction when I saw what appeared on my camera screen.

As a matter of fact, I kept one of the very first images I took of Orion back in 2010 with my Canon Powershot Point-and-shoot camera…

My first image of a nebula with a point and shoot camera

One of my first astrophotography images – M42 – The Orion Nebula

The Orion constellation is probably the most gratifying constellations in the sky to photograph. The powerful figure of Orion the hunter is so prominent, it makes you think of all of the other people who stared up at him in wonder for thousands of years.

Here is an image of the constellation I took from my parent’s backyard as Orion rose over the neighbor’s fence. As luck would have it, there was even a meteorite that came streaking by during the shot!

The Orion Constellation

I haven’t posted in a while. My excuse is a combination of cloudy skies, switching hosting services and of course, the holidays. The image above was the last time I have been able to gather enough photons to create a decent photo. The weather has been pretty miserable, constant clouds with lots of precipitation and very, very cold! (Last night was -38°C with the windchill!)

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Pacman Nebula – Stock Canon DSLR

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Below, you will see an image of the Pacman Nebula using a stock (non-modified) DSLR camera. A Canon EOS Rebel Xsi (450D) to be exact. I have often said that an entry-level DSLR camera is probably the best astrophotography camera to start out with.

DSLR cameras are affordable, versatile, and can be used for more than just astrophotography at night. They are also more user-friendly and don’t require additional software tools to use. The deep sky image below is an example of what you can expect to capture through a telescope without an astro-modification. Further down the page, I’ll show you what this nebula looks like using a dedicated astronomy camera and narrowband filters.

The Pacman Nebula using a stock DSLR

 Pacman Nebula

NGC 281, The Pacman Nebula – Imaged Monday., Nov 3, 2013
20 subs 5 Minutes Each totaling 1 Hour, 40 Minutes


  • Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
  • Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
  • Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
  • Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
  • Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Stock)
  • ISO: 1600
  • Exposure: 1 hours 40 minutes (20 x 300s)
  • Processing Software: Calibration and Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop CC
  • Support Files: 15 darks

This is a great time of year for astrophotography, with the nights beginning so early and lasting so long. The downside, of course, is the frigid temperatures. Luckily I have a reasonable winter setup for imaging that includes a small space heater and a lot of warm clothing. I am able to enter a small shed and hang out while my camera fires away. The temperature dropped to -3 on Sunday night, great for imaging.

I have never shot the Pacman Nebula before. To be honest, I had no idea a stock DLSR could pick up so much red in this object. Cassiopeia rises nice and high in the evening this time of year, so imaging NGC 281 is a popular target right now. I am very happy with the way this DSO has turned out so far, even with the limited time I have put on it. I was also surprised at its size, comparable to the Eagle Nebula in my 80mm scope.

Frozen astrophotography equipment cases

My frozen Cases at my Dark Sky Site

The Pacman Nebula in Narrowband

My latest photograph of this nebula was taken using an Altair Hypercam 183C color CMOS camera. I captured broadband RGB light frames on this target using a 2″ Baader Moon and Skyglow (Neodymium) filter. To add a boost in signal, I also captured images with a 12nm Ha filter and combined the two using the HaRGB method.

astrophotography camera

NGC 281 – The Pacman Nebula

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