Solar System Imaging: What Equipment?

Solar system imaging can be less expensive, complicated and time consuming than DSO astrophotography depending on how you want to start out. However, I guarantee you will find yourself spending as much time trying to capture elusive details on the surface of Jupiter as any DSO imager would.

Here is a list of the basic equipment you will need:

Mount 

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Unlike DSO work an Equatorial Goto mount is not essential. Good results can be obtained from Alt-Az mounts or even unguided mounts. Like DSO imaging a sturdier mount will stand you in good stead, making it easier to focus without excessive jiggling of your target in the field of view.

 

 

Telescope

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Unlike DSO imaging you'll want a high focal length telescope like a Schmidt-Cassegrain (SCT) or Maksutov-Cassegrain (Mak) to provide a tight field of view and larger image scale. Short focal length telescopes can be used, but you will need to add a barlow lens or powermate to increase the focal length.

 

 

Webcam or CCD camera 

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A webcam or dedicated CCD camera attaches to yourscope and can take rapid successive exposures, in video format, for planetary imaging.

 

 

Netbook or Laptop

laptop

Solar system imaging requires a laptop or PC/Mac (if you have an observatory). But this allows you to slew to your target using planetarium software and EQMOD, focus with precision, store collected data straight to the computer's memory and process older images while you're taking new ones.

 

 

Filters and (optionally) a Filter Wheel

filter wheel and filtersA filter wheel permits monochrome CCDs to record colour images by inserting red, green and blue filters and taking exposures in each colour - which are combined during image stacking and post processing.

Other types of filter can be useful when imaging planets. For example, IR Pass filters allow you to beat turbulent seeing by imaging using IR light and Solar Continuum filters increase the sharpness of solar views.