How to try deep-space astrophotography

The universe is back in fashion. Everywhere you look there are astonishing images of the night sky. Visit Instagram and you’ll see the Milky Way and the northern lights arching across the sky above beautiful landscapes, while NASA and the James Webb Space Telescope (opens in new tab) fill the internet with close-ups of exoplanets and galaxies far, far, away.

You might think that creating images of the night sky is limited to what you can see with your own eye, but not so. Want to go deeper into the cosmos? There are two ways to photograph star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, and other deep-sky objects; using a tripod-mounted star tracker underneath your camera, or attaching a camera to a telescope.

The best star tracker camera mounts (opens in new tab) are simple, portable devices that go between a tripod and your camera. Some of the most popular models are the Skywatcher Star Adventurer (opens in new tab) and iOptron SkyTracker, costing around $ 320 / £ 250.

Skywatcher Star Adventurer (Image credit: Skywatcher)

They’re called ‘equatorial’ mounts because they have a motor that moves them in sync with our planet. As our planet rotates, the stars appear to move – as captured by a star trail – and these mounts counteract that. Aligned to Polaris (also commonly known as the North Star), they correct for your exact position on the planet, allowing you to take long exposures of faint objects without blur, therefore collecting a lot more light. You can take 90-second exposures with lenses as large as 600mm, though wide-angle lenses allow even longer exposures (up to ten minutes on the Milky Way).