The night sky has always captivated human imagination with its shimmering stars and the enigmatic beauty of distant galaxies and other celestial objects. If you are passionate about delving deeper into the universe and experiencing its wonders, one of the best ways to do this is through astrophotography.
It offers us a unique opportunity to capture the splendor of the many celestial objects from Earth.
Now, there are different types of astrophotography, including high magnification planetary imaging, wide-angle Milkway photography, and Deep Sky Object (DSO) astrophotography. Today, will be looking at DSO astrography.
I will take you through what it entails and what Telescope would be Best for DSO Astrophotography.
So whether you are an amateur astronomer who just enjoys gazing at the night sky or you are an experienced stargazer looking to get yourself a new telescope for deep sky photography, this article has something for you.
But before we dive deeper into the topic, we need to understand a few basics. So, let’s get right into it.
What is DSO Astrophotography?
As the name suggests, Deep Sky Object astrophotography means photographing objects that are deep in the sky, such as star clusters, galaxies, and nebulas, among others. Some of these objects are so deep in the sky that you need special equipment and telescopes to stand any chance of getting the best shots.
To master DSO astrophotography, you need to understand various aspects such as camera or telescope settings required to get long exposure images, the best way to achieve and maintain a sharp focus, and image processing, among others. We will look at some of these aspects later on in this guide.
Best Telescope for DSO Astrophotography: What You Need to Get Started
Now that you are here, you may have noticed that you need specific and potentially very overwhelming equipment to succeed in astrophotography. One of these is a telescope.
There are many options out there, but you will need a good quality telescope designed for deep sky observation if you are to succeed in DSO astrophotography.
That said, if you are a beginner, I would not recommend getting a telescope at first because there are a lot of other things that go into DSO astrophotography that you need to understand. I would, instead, suggest the following progression for you:
Learn the Night Sky
Before anything else, you first need to know your way around the night sky. A good way to do this is by using a star map. A star will help you to identify and locate various celestial objects like galaxies and stars.
A good star map will also help you to identify constellations – a group of stars that appear in a particular shape or pattern. There are 88 constellations in the sky, and knowing even a few of them and how to identify them will come in handy when trying to find other celestial objects.
You can get high-quality monthly star maps in magazines like Star and Telescope and Astronomy. There are also online platforms, such as Stellarium, that offer good star maps.
Start with Binoculars
You may want to start small by getting a pair of good binoculars. A 7×50 pair of binocs would suffice. Getting binoculars before buying a DSO telescope is a great way to get used to stargazing, especially if you are just starting your astronomy journey.
While binoculars will not give you the same image quality as a dedicated camera or telescope will, it is a good way to get started and get used to viewing celestial objects. With a good pair, you can see star clusters, comets, and a few galaxies. You can also see the moons of Jupiter.
Consult Experienced Stargazers
When you are finally sure you want to take your stargazing hobby a notch higher, you may want to consult more experienced stargazers. A good way to do this is to enroll in a local astronomical society or club.
The members will teach stargazing basics, such as how to get the right imaging settings and how to achieve and maintain a sharp focus. You will also get the opportunity to use different types of telescopes.
Decide the Type of Telescope You Want
When you have finally learned the ropes, you can then decide which telescope you want to buy. There are three main telescope categories: refractors, reflectors, and catadioptric telescopes. Let’s look at what each of them has to offer.
Refractor telescopes are among the most popular. They are simple, with light entering the front and you viewing through the back. They use specially designed lenses to focus light from an object into an image.
They come with two lenses. The larger one is called the objective lens and focuses light from an object inside the tube. The smaller lens is called the eyepiece lens, and it focuses light so you can view an image of the object.
With a 2-inch refractor, you can capture bright, deep sky objects, planets, and the moon, among others.
Reflector telescopes use a single or multiple mirrors to reflect light from an object and form an image. A mirror collects light from a distant object in space and reflects it into another mirror.
The second mirror then reflects light to an eyepiece lens, which magnifies the image of the object you are viewing.
While a reflector won’t show you as much fine detail as a refractor will, it gathers a lot of light, making it easier for you to capture dimmer, deep-sky objects.
A catadioptric telescope is an optical scope that uses a combination of mirrors and lenses to form an image of an object. These telescopes have a higher degree of error correction than reflectors and refractors. They also come with a wider aberration-free field of view.
Get the Right Mount
After choosing your DSO astrophotography telescope, the next thing you need to do is choose a mount.
There are two types of telescope mounts: Equatorial and Alt-z mounts. An Alt-Az mount is easier to use. It comes with only two motions: side to side and up and down. An equatorial mount is designed to counteract the rotation of the Earth.
7 Best Telescope for DSO Astrophotography
Now that you know how to get started with DSO astrophotography, let’s get to the most important part of it – getting you the best Telescope for DSO Astrophotography. As I mentioned earlier, there are many of them out there, so choosing the right one may be overwhelming, especially if you are a beginner.
But do not worry, as I have got you covered. I put together a list of the best 7 telescopes for deep space photography to give the best shots of the cosmos.
I will list the key features and tell you the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision before buying.
Celestron NexStar 8SE
The Celestron NexStar 8SE is actually Celestron’s best seller. It has a Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design and comes with an 8-inch aperture, a focal length of 2032mm, and a top practical magnification of 180X. The focal ratio of this piece is f/10, and the eyepiece is 25mm wide.
Despite its long focal length, the Celestron NexStar 8SE still manages to maintain a user-friendly and compact design. Weighing in at 14.5kg or 32 lbs., you can easily carry this telescope around.
When it comes to performance, the Celestron NexStar 8SE is outstanding, especially for astrophotographers who like taking long exposures to create deep-sky photos. The telescope comes with an in-built hand controller.
The controller has easy-to-use and tactile buttons that will make it easier to control the scope rather than depending on a smartphone application.
I must also mention that this telescope is motorized. Again, this is a great feature for astronomers who like long exposures when doing DSO imaging. It makes tracking accurate and smooth.
The telescope features a database of over 40,000 celestial objects, making it easier for you to track celestial objects.
The telescope also comes with a single fork arm design that makes it easy to assemble and take down. The SkyAlign technology incorporated helps you to align the telescope in a matter of minutes.
- Schmidt-Cassegrain optical design
- Computerized Altitude-Azimuth Single fork mount type
- 8-inch aperture
- 2032 mm focal length
- Weighs 32 lbs.
- Maximum magnification: 180x
- Focal ratio: f/10
Verdict: The Celestron NexStar 8SE is a good-quality telescope for deep sky object astrophotography. It suits both beginner and experienced stargazers, and while it may come at a higher price, you are definitely going to get value for the money you pay for it.
- Offers good value for money
- Highly portable
- Easy to use
- Offers very sharp images
- Quite expensive
- May have some lag when slewing
- Requires mains power to use
Sky-Watcher Skyliner-200P Classic
This is another high-quality telescope for deep space photography. It is a Newtonian reflector with a Dobsonian mount. It comes with an 8-inch or 203-mm aperture and a 1200-mm focal length.
The focal ratio is f/5.9 and has a top magnification of up to 406X. There are two eyepieces included: a 10mm one offering 120X magnification and a 25mm one offering 48X magnification.
The Sky-Watcher Skyliner-200P Classic prioritizes performance over anything else, and while it is on the heavier side, weighing in at 52 lbs., it comes with a small footprint of about 54cm, making it easier to store in smaller spaces.
This telescope also comes with a dual-size focuser that can accept 2-inch eyepieces. This is a big plus for any stargazer looking for immersive deep sky views because a 2-inch eyepiece easily achieves wider fields of view at smaller magnifications.
While the basic Dobsonian mount will not locate and follow objects automatically, it comes with smooth movements that make manual control a breeze. You can also use a 50-mm finder with this telescope, making the entire viewing experience even easier.
The telescope also has proprietary tension control handles that allow for accurate movements without the need for perfect balance. There are also Teflon bearings that ensure smooth azimuth movements.
- Focal length: 1200mm
- Mount type: Dobsonian
- Aperture: 8 inches
- Focal ratio:f/5.9
- Included eyepieces: 25mm and 10mm
- Magnification: 406X
- Weight: 52 pounds
Verdict: If you are on a budget, this is among the best telescopes for deep-sky object astrophotography. It comes with a lot of features that make it easier to use and well worth the money. It is sturdy, comes with a wide aperture, and will give you immersive deep sky views you won’t get with most other similarly-priced telescopes.
- Sturdy mount
- Can use a 50-mm finder
- Good aperture-to-price ratio
- Dual 2-inch and 1.25-inch focuser
- It can be quite difficult to use at some angles
Celestron Advanced VX 8 Edge HD
Now, if you have the budget for a premium DSO astrophotography telescope, the Celestron Advanced VX 8 Edge HD is one of the best choices. This is a Schmidt Cassegrain compound reflector with an 8-inch aperture. It has a focal length of 2032 mm and a focal ratio of f/10.
Its highest practical magnification is 480X, and it comes with two eyepieces included – a 12-mm one and a 40-mm. The telescope weighs in at 40.6 lbs. Or 18.4kg.
While the Schmidt-Cassegrain design is a bit more expensive than a Newtonian design, it gives this telescope a compact profile. The telescope also features EdgeHD optics, making it a gem for astrophotography. You can use a focal reducer and make this scope operate at a focal ratio of f/7. It is compatible with Hyperstar, which can bring its focal ratio to f/2.
If you like using long exposures, use a Celestron wedge and convert the Altazimuth to an Equatorial mount. This telescope also comes with a StarSense camera, which aligns the telescope for you.
The camera can also pair with the SkyPortal Application from Celestron so you can easily locate and track more than 120000 celestial targets.
With this telescope, you do not need power cables since it comes with a built-in rechargeable battery. Other impressive features of the Celestron Advanced VX 8 Edge HD include permanently programmable periodic error correction, CPWI software, autoguider port, and all-star polar alignment.
- Design: Schmidt Cassegrain
- Focal Length: 2032
- Focal ratio: f/10
- Magnification: 480X
- Eyepieces: 12-mm and 40-mm
- Weight: 40.6 lbs.
Verdict: If you want to take your stargazing hobby to the next level and you are looking for a premium-quality telescope, this telescope is a good option. With its many features and specifications, it offers you the perfect opportunity to take the best shots of the deep sky objects.
- Automatic alignment with StarSense
- Rechargeable battery
- Autoguider port
- Quite expensive
Unistellar eVescope 2
Are you a tech enthusiast looking for an all-in-one and powerful telescope for DSO astrophotography? If yes, then the Unistellar eVescope 2 will be your perfect choice. This reflector comes with an Altazimuth mount. The focal length is 450mm, and the aperture is 4.5 inches.
The focal ratio is at f/3.9, and the effective magnification is 150X for digital operation and 50X for optical operation. The telescope is among the lightest on this list, weighing in at just 19.8 lbs. Or 9kg.
Like its predecessor, the Unistellar eQuinox, the eVescope 2 comes with camera-to-smartphone capabilities, allowing you to get long exposure images in your phone via the Unistellar application. The telescope achieves this with a digital Nikon eyepiece.
When it comes to performance, the telescope does not disappoint. While its 7.7 megapixel images may not be as clear as those you’d get with other telescopes, it still does good work overall. When used correctly, this telescope can outcompete many astronomy cameras that are specifically designed for astrophotography.
With this telescope, you no longer need to worry about polar alignment. You can, therefore, easily take shots with it, even if you are completely new to astrophotography. The Unistellar application recommends objects you can view best depending on your time zone and location.
There is also a smart light pollution reduction feature that helps you to reduce the unwanted influence of light pollution and achieve crisp detail DSO observation. There is also an Autonomous Field Detection function, which will instantly recognize objects in the field of view by comparing them with a database of millions of stars.
- Design: Reflector
- Aperture: 4.5 inches
- Focal length: 450mm
- Focal ratio: f/3.9
- Magnification: 150X digital and 50X optical
- Weight: 19.8 lbs.
Verdict: This telescope feels and looks like one of those premium telescopes out there. It comes with several features that set it apart from other telescopes priced similarly. While you may find it quite jarring if you are used to traditional telescopes, it comes with an impressive performance that makes it worth trying.
- Easy to set up and use
- Sleek design
- Unistellat App is intuitive and well-designed
- Very pricey
Sky-Watcher Flextube 16-inch 400P Synscan
If you are in the market for a huge telescope that is going to give you astonishing images of deep sky objects, you might want to consider getting the Sky-Watcher Flextube 16-inch 400p Sybscan telescope.
The Truss tube Newtonian reflector comes with a go-to Dobsonian mount. It has a wide 16-inch aperture and a massive focal length of 1800mm. The focal ratio is f/4.4, and its highest magnification is a massive 799X. There are two Plossl eyepieces, including a 25-mm and a 10-mm one. Weighing 72 lbs., the telescope is also among the heaviest.
Sky-Watcher carefully designed the truss tube so you can easily take it apart in a matter of minutes. The telescope can be powered with a direct current plug or with an external power tank.
This telescope comes with the Sky-Watcher Synscan computer handset which gives it accurate tracking and location capabilities.
There is also incorporated dual-encoder technology, which allows manual slewing without the need for realignment.
The Flextube 16-inch telescope is the perfect DSO astrophotography telescope if you are looking for a precise kit. Whether or not you are a beginner, this telescope is definitely worth trying out.
- Design: Truss Tube Newtonian reflector
- Mount: Go-to Dobsonian
- Eyepieces: 10mm and 25mm
- Focal point: 1800mm
- Magnification: 799X
- Aperture: 16 inches
- Focal ratio: f/4.4
Verdict: While this telescope is best suited for more experienced astronomers, it is still easy to use, even for newbies. It is precise and provides some of the most best deep sky images you can hope to get with a telescope.
- Provides improved image quality
- Perfect for deep-space photography
- Built-in tracking
- Easy to use
- Large and heavy
Sky-Watcher Skymax 150
Versatility is one of the factors many people consider when getting a telescope. If you are one such person, the Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 will offer you just that. The Maksutov-Cassegrain comes with a 6-inch aperture and a focal length of 180mm.
It is equipped with a 2-inch eyepiece and has a top magnification of 295X. The focal ratio of this scope is f/12, and it weighs in at 12.5 lbs. Or 5.7kg, making it among the lightest telescopes on the market today.
The versatility of the Sky-Watcher Skymax 150 makes it perfect for a variety of observations. From lunar and planetary observation to deep sky object viewing, the Symax 150 is just the right equipment for any celestial observation.
One of the most outstanding things about this telescope is the quality of its optics. You are going to get stellar performance with minimal to no color fringing and chromatic aberration.
I also liked the image sharpness of this telescope. You get high-contrast photos of the celestial objects with this scope.
It also comes with a vixen-style dovetail, which is among the most commonly used in the industry. The tube is fully baffled, preventing stray light from interfering with views. The scope comes with a 9×50 finderscope, a 2-inch 90-degree star diagonal, and other accessories you need to get started.
I must, however, mention that the field of view of the Skymax is quite small compared to that offered by other telescopes on this list. You may find it quite difficult to fit your objects in the field of view, but the quality of images makes up for that.
- Design: Makustove-Cassegrain
- Aperture: 6-inch
- Magnification: 295X
- Eyepiece: 2-inch, 28mm
- Focal length: 180mm
- Focal ratio: f/12
- Weight: 12.5 lbs
Verdict: Priced at under $1000, this is one of the cheapest and most versatile DSO astrophotography telescopes. It is light, compact, and comes with a raft of features that make it easy to use.
- Fairly priced
- High-quality optics
- Perfect for long exposures
- Comes with various accessories
- The field of view is narrow
Vaonis Vespera Observation Station
The Vaonis Vepera Observation Station is lightweight and compact and comes with a profile that would serve both non-purist experienced stargazers and beginners just right. It is an Apochromatic quadruplet refractor that comes with a 2-inch/50mm aperture and a 200-mm focal point.
It comes equipped with a motorized go-to alt-azimuth mount and a maximum effective magnification of 33X. Its focal ratio is f/4, and at just 11lbs. or 5kg, you can carry this telescope anywhere with you.
The design of the Vaonis Vespera looks futuristic, so if you are an astronomer who likes their equipment sleek, then you are going to love this kit. The scope uses a mobile application called Singularity to capture images of celestial objects and share them with up to 5 devices. This technology makes it a bit more expensive compared to other telescopes with almost similar specifications.
The sophisticated technology Vaonis Vespera uses also allows it to perform perfectly even in areas with a lot of light pollution. You can capture quality images of star clusters, galaxies, and nebulas with this kit without any issues.
Another feature that sets this telescope apart is noise cancellation, which you can view in real-time via the Singularity application. The feature results in vibrant and sharper images.
If you are a beginner with little know-how when it comes to operating a telescope, this telescope is the perfect choice for you. There is no eyepiece; the scope uses a star pattern recognition program, the Singularity app, and image live stacking to give amazing shots of the cosmos.
What’s more? The Vaonis Vespera Observation Station has the ability to identify targets in just 5 minutes and take shots every 10 seconds or so, depending on the object targeted. It also has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 4 hours on a single charge.
- Design: Apochromatic quadruplet refractor
- Aperture: 2-inch/50-mm
- Magnification: 33X
- Focal ratio: f/4
- Focal length: 200mm
- Mount: Motorized Go-To Altazimuth
- Weight: 11 lbs.
Verdict: If you want a fully automated modern telescope that’s easy to use, the Vaonis Vespera Observation Station will be the perfect choice for you. It is equipped with multiple software that makes capturing deep-sky objects a breeze. It is compact and light, making it easy to store and carry around.
- Automatic operation
- Tolerates light pollution
- Great noise cancellation
- Sleek, compact design
- Not suitable for traditional astronomers
How to Choose the Best Telescope for DSO Astrophotography
With so many telescopes for DSO astrophotography available today, it may be a little overwhelming when selecting the best one for your needs. Here are some of the key factors you need to consider when choosing a telescope for deep-space viewing:
Manual vs. Motorized
While motorized or computerized DSO telescopes are more expensive than manual ones, they can make the whole experience way simpler and more fun.
Modern computerized telescopes can come with either equatorial or altazimuth mounts. Some may need to be aligned, while others use software to detect targets. With manual telescopes, you have to do all the work yourself.
Whether you choose a computerized or manual telescope is a personal preference, but I would recommend choosing the former if you are just starting out with astronomy and don’t really know how to use the manual ones.
The size of the aperture is what determines how much light a telescope will gather from a target object. DSO astrophotography involves taking shots of some of the faintest objects in the deep sky. The aperture size is, therefore, critical. The larger the aperture, the more light the scope will gather, resulting in more detailed images.
Image scale and field of view are two important aspects of DSO astrophotography. The focal length of your telescope has a significant effect on these aspects. Longer focal lengths result in higher magnification, but they sometimes can make tracking celestial objects a little tricky.
A shorter focal length will provide a wider field of view, making it suitable when capturing deep-space objects or multiple objects in a single frame.
Another key aspect of DSO astrophotography is the stability of the telescope you are using. Many stargazers prefer using motorized equatorial mounts because they easily track DSOs as they move in the night sky.
Some DSO astrophotography telescopes come with camera compatibility. They have standard camera mounts, such as adaptors and T-threads, so you can easily attach a camera. If you would like a telescope with camera compatibility, be sure to check the specifications and features before making the purchase.
If you prefer long exposures, you may want to consider getting an auto-guiding system to help you correct any tracking issues and maintain correct alignment. Be sure to ask if the camera you choose accommodates an auto-guiding system.
Other factors to consider when selecting a DSO astrophotography telescope include light pollution in your area, portability, the quality of optics, the size of the telescope, and your budget, among others.
Deep sky object astrophotography can be a challenging yet very satisfying undertaking. It offers you the opportunity to observe the wonders of the universe and capture amazing shots to share with the world.
However, you need special equipment to be able to capture objects deep in space with accuracy. One of these special equipment is a telescope.
You need to understand the features to look for in a good DSO astrophotography telescope. This guide has covered just that.
The 7 Best telescopes for DSO Astrophotography reviewed here are among the best, sure to give you an awe-striking astrophotography experience. Choose from among them, and I am sure you will not be disappointed.