What type of mount is best for deep-sky astrophotography?

BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Scope Doctor Steve Richards solves your astronomy ailments.

Massive galaxy UGC 2885 Hubble Space Telescope, 5 January 2020 Credit: NASA, ESA, and B. Holwerda (University of Louisville)

I want to upgrade my Celestron AstroMaster EQ130 to a scope with a motor drive to improve my deep-sky photography. My budget is £1,000. Is a self-tracker or manual the best option?

Steve says: “The Celestron AstroMaster EQ130 is a good telescope for observing but the relatively lightweight, manually operated mount is not suitable for deep-sky imaging.

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For deep-sky imaging, the mount is the most critical element because the long exposures required to capture detail in these dim objects require a sturdy mount that tracks very accurately.

I would urge you to invest in a suitably heavyweight mount like the Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Go-To or Celestron Advanced VX mount.

Astrophotography has a steep learning curve but you can ease the pain by treading the well-worn path of using a Sky-Watcher Evostar 80ED DS-Pro refractor and focal reducer, but this will take you over budget.

I’d be reluctant to recommend anything below this specification if you want to be sure of achieving good results with the minimum of hassle.

On the other hand, if you wanted to really push the budget and go for a true apochromatic refractor then both the William Optics GT-81 and William Optics Star 71 II (which also incorporates a field fattener) should definitely be on your shortlist.

Unfortunately, your EQ130 Newtonian reflector will not achieve focus with a DSLR camera unless you use a Barlow lens, which increases the magnification, and that’s something you don’t want for many deep-sky objects.

As an alternative, you could physically modify the telescope by moving the primary mirror towards the front of the optical tube to move the focal plane further outside the focuser.

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Email Steve your astronomy queries to contactus@skyatnightmagazine.com and they could be answered in a future issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.