Milky Way Season. The perfect time for Star Tracker Mounts

Did you know that you can use your current DSLR for taking spectacular astrophotos without the need to buy a telescope? And what’s more, we’re coming into the perfect time of the year to do just that!

Image by Cory Keating – Nikon D5100 and Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer mount

Even basic DSLR cameras and lenses are perfectly capable of long-exposure images that reveal the dramatic colours, details of the night sky that we can see hints of when we view it with our eyes alone. Their wide-field of view compared to a telescope makes them an ideal tool for capturing large swathes of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

During the colder months and longer nights in Australia and New Zealand we face towards the middle of the centre of the Milky Way. This is dense with starfields and complex stellar nurseries where the star formation process is underway and are easy to image with your DSLR. Even as little as a 60 second long-exposure will bring out colours and star clouds.

There’s just one catch – the Earth spins and you need a mount to follow the night sky during long exposures. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a muddy blur of stars and colours.  Mounts designed to take astro photos with a DSLR and lens are often called “Star Tracker Mounts”. 

BINTEL carries the leading brands of Star Tracker Mounts and can give you unbiased advice about what’s the best way to get started on your astronomy journey.  These range in price from $499 through to $1099

Here’s two suggestions – 

Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i Kit – $749.00

The famous Star Adventurer 2i mount has been described as a “Gateway into Astrophotography” and has been used to produce countless sweeping astro photos seen on social media such as the one on the page from Cory. 

At BINTEL we suggest you purchase the entire 2i Pro Kit. This includes the Star Adventurer mount itself, adjustable wedge needed to position the mount and point it at the south celestial pole, as well as a counterweight bar and bracket to balance the mount. 

The Star Adventurer 2i offers limited Wifi control as well as autoguiding support. It runs off AA batteries and can also take an external USB power supply. 

Carrying capacity – your DSLR and lens – is approx 5kg.  

iOptron SkyGuider Pro Camera Equatorial Mount with iPolar

Stepping up from the Star Adventurer 2i is the SkyGuider Pro from mount specialist, iOptron.

This is a more compact, Star Tracker mount which is ideal for packing away for remote locations. It features a built-in rechargeable battery, offering some 20 hours of tracking. No need to remember extra batteries or a power supply.  Autoguiding and an optional handbox controller are supported.

The mount includes a Vixen style dovetail rail for mounting small telescopes. 

One feature for much easier setup out in the field in the dark is the iOpton iPolar system. This is an electronic gizmo that makes accurately aligning the mount with the South Celestial Pole for best image results a fast and easy process.  

The South Celestial Pole is the point in the southern hemisphere sky which all objects including the Sun appear to rotate around.  By pointing your Star Tracking directly at the South Celestial Pole you will capture sharper images and be able to take longer, clearer exposures.  

(You can add electronic polar alignment to the Star Adventurer using a QHY PoleMaster for $450.00)

What else you’ll need – a tripod 

Both Sky-Watcher and iOptron Star Tracker mounts need to be mounted on a solid tripod to hold them still while they take photos of the night sky. If you don’t have a sturdy photographic tripod you’ll need to factor in the cost. We have several models at BINTEL that would suit.

Image credit – Luke Vadekar

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