Our autumnal and winter skies are full of amazing deep sky objects that you can capture with a camera and a lens – from wide field to telephoto. For example you can capture our stunning Milky Way running through the constellation of Cygnus and Orion with a wide angle or standard lens, or the North American nebula, Andromeda galaxy or Orion Nebula with a telephoto lens.
If you want to get started in photographing the night sky, a simple way of doing this is to mount your camera and lens on the back of your telescope (called piggybacking) and let your telescope mount do the work of tracking the stars whilst your camera takes the image.
Celestron offer a sturdy but lightweight universal piggyback bracket that will allow you to easily mount (and remove) your DSLR camera and lens (or a popular CMOS camera and lens with tripod bracket) onto your Celestron telescope. The bracket can be used on their 5″ to 14″ SCT/EdgeHD telescopes. The mount comes with all the necessary hardware for attaching the bracket to your telescope and also includes an adaptor plate for attaching the unit to the larger diameter Celestron 11″ and 14″ tubes. Installation is quick and simple; you can read more about installation here.
When your camera+lens are attached, set up your telescope as normal, point your telescope to the area of sky of interest and make any fine tuning adjustment of the mount’s position so the framing of your chosen target(s) is how you want it. Then simply let the telescope track. For controlling a DSLR camera you may find that a wired/wireless intervalometer comes in handy. The individual exposure times will depend on, for example, your sky (light pollution) and whether or not you are using a filter. Long(er) exposure astrophotography is mostly undertaken using a telescope on a German equatorial mount (e.g. Advanced VX), or with a fork mounted alt-az telescope such as a Celestron Evolution, mounted on an equatorial wedge, otherwise (with an alt-az mounted telescope) field rotation will occur. See here for a discussion on exposure times for alt-az mounted telescopes.
Below are two photographs to show the sort of results that can potentially be obtained using a DSLR and a lens and a series of short (1-2 min) exposures which are then stacked to produce a final image. The top image is of the Heart nebula taken using a H-Alpha filter. The bottom image is of our Milky Way galaxy, taken with a 35mm wide-angle lens.