Saturday, November 27, 2010

Astrophotography With The Nikon D3000

This is a Celestron CPC 1100 (11") Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope with GPS controller. It's sitting on a Scope Buggy. This sucker's heavy, so the buggy is great for taking the scope out to the front yard. My Nikon D3000 (Nikon's cheapest DSLR) is mounted on the back of the scope.

Moonshot! For sheer drama I like the thin crescent, but a half-moon is not too bad. The full moon is too bright and feature-less for my taste. This shot was taken at 100 ISO with a 1/30 second shutter speed. The f-stop is determined by the scope, and I don't know what it is.

This is the Horse Head Nebula in the constellation Orion. ISO is 1600 and shutter speed is 30 seconds. At these settings, camera "noise" is not too bad.

Here's the Horse Head at 96 seconds. Camera noise is very noticeable in this shot.

These were the best of 40-something photos I took this morning. I got outside about 3 a.m. and came back in about 5 a.m. Temps were in the mid-30's, so you know I was freezing my ass off and was glad to come in for a pot of hot coffee. I also got a shot of Saturn, but it was poorly focused and blurry. Also, Saturn isn't at its best angle right now to see its rings.

I'm just starting out on this astrophotography thing, so I'll post more pics as I learn about what's in the sky and how to take better pictures.



  1. Awesome! I took photos of the moon a couple years ago by holding up a small ordinary 3.2 pixels digital camera to the eyepiece of our 8 inch telescope.

  2. Beautiful pics! The closer shot of the nebula you said had "camera noise". I didn't see anything (but then again, I don't know what I'm looking for). Anyway, I think it's an awesome shot... BTW, I'm assuming the tripod moves via GPS to keep everything lined up? Looks like some kind of actuator rod attached to one leg.

  3. Hi Anon 7:39,

    I've taken pictures that way too. When Mrs. UC and I started looking for a scope, we decided it had to have the capability to attach a camera. Digital cameras are great because you can click, click, click without worrying about the cost of developing the old style pictures.


  4. Hi Mayberry,

    Camera noise is graininess. It's caused by pushing the ISO too far. ISO is a number that rates sensitivity to light. The two pictures of the Horse Head Nebula were taken at the same magnification and they differ only in the exposure time--one is 30 seconds and the other is a minute-and-a-half. The difference you see is the result of the length of exposure capturing more photons of light, which is the beauty of astrophotography.

    Yes, GPS guides the scope's motors which allow it to follow at the same rate as the earth turns. No star trails on the long exposures.

    The calibration is cool. Just point it at any three bright stars(you don't even have to know their names), planets, or the moon, and the handheld computer uses the GPS to determine time, location, and orientation. From there the handheld controller will automatically point the scope at any of 45,000 objects in the night sky. And it's so simple, even a carpenter can work it!


  5. Hey there. I'm looking into getting either a Nikon D3000 or a Canon Rebel 1000D to try out some astrophotography. How has the Nikon been working out for you? The pictures look pretty good so far.

  6. Hi Keven,

    I've heard that Canon is good, but I haven't used anything but Nikon.

    I like the D3000. The settings are easy to get to and rememberable. Battery life is very good--something to think about for long exposures.

    Let me know what you get and send me some pics. My e-mail is



All comments are welcome.