Astrophotography with Alt-azimuth Mounts

A simple guide on how to take astrophotos with an alt-azimuth mount (like the TTS-160 Panther Telescope Mount)

When taking astrophotos with any kind of mount, there are two main ways of doing it. Both principles benefits from the simplicity of the alt-azimuth simple design without the need for polar alignment or leveling.

Taking short-exposure and unguided images.

  • This uses the basic alt-az mount’s configuration
  • It’s great for solar system imaging and deep sky astrophotography
  • And it is a useful start for any beginner astronomer, for easy and great first night results

Taking long-exposure and guided images.

  • This uses the basic alt-az mount’s configuration and a field derotator [ rOTAtor ]
  • It’s perfect for more advanced deep sky astrophotography
  • And it is a simple technique which is easy to learn

Taking short and unguided astrophotos – Astrophotography made easy

It is extremely easy to get into astrophotography this way. Modern CMOS cameras have a very low readout noise. Therefore using many short sub-exposures works wonders and an increasing number of PC programs easily combines the many sub-exposures into a final great image.

When using the TTS-160 Panther Mount all you have to do is:

  • Setup the mount and telescope
  • Make a quick two-star alignment
  • Go to the wished object by using the goto function in the mount
  • Focus the camera and shoot

Just as easy as visual observations, no polar alignment, no guiding, just point and shoot. This article on telescopemount.org dives into much deeper detail about short-exposure astrophotography with an alt-az mount.

Example of a short unguided image: Galaxy NGC891 in Andromeda. Imaged with many short 10 sec sub exposure.

NGC 891 Galaxy, 840 x 10 sec ASI 224MC , TEC 140 f7 refractor. No guide, No de-rotator

Taking long and guided astrophotos – For the best astrophotos

The most amazing deep sky images require long sub-exposures to catch the faintest details. To do this with the TTS-160 Panther Mount you must have the Telescope rOTAtor. This device works as a field de-rotator allowing true equatorial tracking. you achieve the necessary tracking accuracy auto-guiding is used.

When using the TTS-160 Panther Mount all you have to do is:

  • Set up the mount, telescope, and rOTAtor
  • Make a quick two-star alignment
  • Go to the wished object by using the goto function in the mount
  • Start the autoguider
  • Focus the camera and shoot

Easy to transport, fast to set up, no polar alignment, just guide and shoot. For a more detailed article on telescope rotators, go check out this one on telescopemount.org.

Example of a long guided image: Iris Nebula

Iris Nebula, CelestronC9.25 Hyperstar F/2.2, Camera ZWO ASI071MC, 63 x 120 sec. Panther Mount with telescope rOTAtor

Iris Nebula, CelestronC9.25 Hyperstar F/2.2, Camera ZWO ASI071MC, 63 x 120 sec. Panther Mount with telescope rOTAtor

Clear skies – Niels Haagh

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