Best Telescopes for Astrophotography

Canon's EOS R mirrorless camera mounted on top of Skwatchers Star adventurer astrophotography mount.

Astrophotography is a fascinating hobby that combines the wonders of the night sky with the art of photography. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or a budding stargazer, finding the right telescope is crucial for capturing breathtaking images of celestial objects.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the best telescopes for astrophotography, ensuring you make an informed decision for your astronomical journey.

Understanding Astrophotography Telescopes

Before diving into the list, it’s important to understand what sets astrophotography telescopes apart from regular ones.

Astrophotography telescopes are designed to capture detailed and clear images of celestial bodies.

They typically have robust mounts for stability, high-quality optics for sharp images, and are often compatible with various camera attachments. You will also notice they are considerably more expensive than a regular telescope. It’s considered more of an investment for an aspiring astrophotographer.

The key is to find a telescope that balances aperture size, focal length, and portability to suit your specific astrophotography needs.

Celestron NexStar 8SE: The Versatile Choice

Starting our list is the Celestron NexStar 8SE, a telescope that offers a great combination of aperture size and user-friendly features.

Its 8-inch aperture provides excellent light-gathering capabilities, making it ideal for capturing detailed images of deep-sky objects. Plus, its computerised mount with a database of over 40,000 celestial objects makes finding and tracking targets a breeze.

Features:
  • Aperture: 8 inches (203.2 mm)
  • Focal Length: 2032 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/10
  • Mount Type: Single-arm computerizsed altazimuth mount
  • GoTo Technology: NexStar computerized hand control with a database of over 40,000 celestial objects
  • StarBright XLT Coatings: Enhanced optical coatings for improved light transmission and contrast
  • Eyepiece: 25mm Plossl (1.25″) included
  • Maximum Useful Magnification: About 480x
  • Weight: Approximately 33 lbs (15 kg) for the optical tube assembly
Image of a Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope on a white background
Image: Celestron NexStar 8SE

Orion SkyQuest XT10g: For Deep-Sky Viewing

Next is the Orion SkyQuest XT10g, a Dobsonian telescope that excels in deep-sky astrophotography. With a 10-inch aperture, it captures more light, allowing for stunning images of galaxies and nebulae. Its GoTo mount automatically locates and tracks celestial objects, simplifying the photography process.

Features:
  • Aperture: 10 inches (254 mm)
  • Focal Length: 1200 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/4.7
  • Mount Type: Dobsonian-style base with computerized GoTo system
  • GoTo Technology: SynScan hand controller with a large database of celestial objects
  • Finder Scope: 9x50mm right-angle correct-image finder scope
  • Included Eyepieces: 28mm 2-inch DeepView eyepiece and 10mm 1.25-inch Sirius Plossl eyepiece
  • Maximum Useful Magnification: Around 500x
  • Weight: Approximately 80 lbs (36.3 kg) for the optical tube and mount
Image of a Orion SkyQuest XT10g telescope on a white background
Image: Orion SkyQuest XT10g

Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED APO: The Professional’s Choice

The Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED APO is a top-tier refractor telescope designed for serious astrophotographers. It features a triplet apochromatic lens that significantly reduces chromatic aberration, ensuring sharp, high-contrast images. Its sturdy build and excellent tracking accuracy make it a favourite among professionals.

Features:
  • Aperture: 100mm (3.94 inches)
  • Focal Length: 550mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5.5
  • Optical Design: Apochromatic (ED) refractor
  • Glass Type: Extra-low dispersion (ED) glass for reduced chromatic aberration
  • Dual-speed Focuser: 2″ Crayford-style focuser with 10:1 fine-focus adjustment
  • Mounting System: Comes with a Vixen-style dovetail plate for mounting
  • Weight: Approximately 15.9 lbs (7.2 kg)
  • Included Accessories: 2″ Star diagonal, 2″ to 1.25″ adapter, tube rings, and a hard carrying case
Image of a Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED APO telescope on a white background
Image: Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED APO

Meade LX90-ACF: Advanced Coma-Free Optics

Meade’s LX90-ACF brings advanced coma-free optics to the table, providing images comparable to those from larger, more expensive telescopes. Its 8-inch aperture and computerised mount make it a solid choice for capturing detailed planetary and deep-sky images.

Features:
  • Aperture: Available in various apertures, such as 8 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches.
  • Optical Design: Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) Schmidt-Cassegrain
  • Focal Length: Varies depending on the model and aperture, typically ranging from 2000mm to 3048mm.
  • Focal Ratio: Around f/10.
  • Mount Type: Fork-mounted altazimuth with computerised GoTo tracking.
  • GoTo Technology: Meade AudioStar hand controller with a vast database of celestial objects.
  • Autostar Suite Software: Included for telescope control and sky mapping on a computer.
  • Included Eyepieces: 1.25-inch Super Plossl eyepieces.
  • Maximum Useful Magnification: Varies with aperture but can exceed 500x for larger models.
Image of a Meade LX90-ACF telescope on a white background
Image: Meade LX90-ACF

Celestron Advanced VX 8” EdgeHD

For those looking for a telescope optimised for astrophotography, the Celestron Advanced VX 8” EdgeHD is an excellent choice. Its EdgeHD optics provide superb image flatness across the field of view, crucial for astrophotography. The Advanced VX mount offers remarkable tracking capabilities, essential for long exposure photography.

Features:
  • Aperture: 8 inches (203.2 mm)
  • Focal Length: 2032 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/10
  • Optical Design: Schmidt-Cassegrain with EdgeHD optics
  • Mount Type: Equatorial mount with the Celestron Advanced VX computerized GoTo system
  • GoTo Technology: NexStar+ hand controller with a vast database of celestial objects
  • StarBright XLT Coatings: Enhanced optical coatings for improved light transmission and contrast
  • Included Accessories: 1.25-inch star diagonal, 40mm eyepiece, 9×50 finderscope, and accessory tray
  • Weight: Approximately 75 lbs (34 kg) for the optical tube and mount
Image of a Celestron Advanced VX 8” EdgeHD telescope on a white background
Image: Celestron Advanced VX 8” EdgeHD

Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO Refractor

If sharp and crisp images are your priority, consider the Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO Refractor. This telescope features extra-low dispersion (ED) glass which minimises chromatic aberration. Its 120mm aperture offers a good balance between light-gathering capability and portability.

Features:
  • Aperture: 120mm (4.72 inches)
  • Focal Length: 900mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/7.5
  • Optical Design: Doublet apochromatic (APO) refractor with extra-low dispersion (ED) glass
  • Focuser: 2-inch dual-speed Crayford-style focuser with 10:1 fine-focus adjustment
  • Mounting System: Equatorial or Alt-Azimuth mount compatible (mount not included)
  • Weight: Approximately 16.1 lbs (7.3 kg)
  • Included Accessories: 2-inch Star diagonal, 2-inch to 1.25-inch adapter, tube rings, and a hard carrying case
Image of a Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO Refractor telescope on a white background
Image: Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO Refractor
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Orion Atlas 10 EQ-G GoTo Reflector: High-Precision Tracking

The Orion Atlas 10 EQ-G GoTo Reflector is another excellent option, especially for those interested in photographing fainter deep-sky objects. It combines a large 10-inch aperture with a high-precision equatorial mount, ensuring accurate tracking over extended exposure times.

Features:
  • Aperture: 10 inches (254 mm)
  • Focal Length: 1200 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/4.7
  • Optical Design: Newtonian reflector
  • Mount Type: Equatorial mount with computerised GoTo system (Orion Atlas EQ-G)
  • GoTo Technology: GoTo hand controller with a substantial database of celestial objects
  • Autoguider Port: Included autoguider port for precise tracking during astrophotography
  • Dual-speed Focuser: 2-inch Crayford-style focuser with 10:1 fine-focus adjustment
  • Weight: Approximately 85 lbs (38.6 kg) for the optical tube and mount
Image of a Orion Atlas 10 EQ-G GoTo Reflector telescope on a white background
Image: Orion Atlas 10 EQ-G GoTo Reflector

Takahashi FSQ-85EDX: The Wide-Field Wonder

For wide-field astrophotography, the Takahashi FSQ-85EDX is unparalleled. This refractor telescope offers a flat field without the need for additional correctors, making it ideal for capturing large areas of the night sky in stunning detail.

Features:
  • Aperture: 85mm (3.35 inches)
  • Focal Length: 450mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5.3
  • Optical Design: Quadruplet apochromatic (APO) refractor with extra-low dispersion (ED) glass
  • Tube Design: Short tube with a retractable dew shield
  • Focuser: 2.7-inch rack-and-pinion focuser with micro-edge fine focusing
  • Weight: Approximately 6.8 lbs (3.1 kg)
Image of Takahashi FSQ-85EDX telescope on a white background
Image: Takahashi FSQ-85EDX

Celestron CGX-L 1400 EdgeHD: The Light-Gathering Giant

The Celestron CGX-L 1400 EdgeHD stands out with its massive 14-inch aperture, making it one of the best telescopes for capturing faint, distant objects. Its advanced EdgeHD optics provide edge-to-edge sharpness, and the CGX-L mount offers superior load capacity and tracking accuracy.

Features:
  • Aperture: 14 inches (355.6 mm)
  • Focal Length: 3910 mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • Optical Design: Schmidt-Cassegrain with EdgeHD optics
  • Mount Type: Equatorial mount with Celestron CGX-L GoTo system
  • GoTo Technology: NexStar+ hand controller with a comprehensive database of celestial objects
  • Tracking Accuracy: CGX-L mount with improved tracking performance
  • Included Accessories: 2-inch Star diagonal, 23mm eyepiece, 9×50 finderscope, and more
  • Weight: Approximately 267 lbs (121.1 kg) for the optical tube and mount
Image of a Celestron CGX-L 1400 EdgeHD telescope on a white background
Image: Celestron CGX-L 1400 EdgeHD

Choosing the Right Telescope for You

Selecting the best telescope for astrophotography depends on several factors, including the types of celestial objects you want to photograph, your experience level, and your budget. Reflectors generally offer larger apertures at lower costs, while refractors provide sharper images with less maintenance.

Consider the weight and portability if you plan to travel with your telescope. And don’t forget to account for additional accessories like cameras and tracking mounts.

Astrophotography is a rewarding pursuit that allows you to capture the beauty of the cosmos. The right telescope can make a significant difference in your astrophotography journey, enabling you to take breathtaking images of the night sky.

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced stargazer, this guide to the best telescopes for astrophotography will help you find the perfect fit for your celestial adventures. Clear skies and happy shooting!

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