Best Cheap Telephoto Lens For Astrophotography

Looking an affordable long lens for astrophotography?

Then may i present the stunning Tair 3, 300mm F4.5, i bought my lens for the very low sum of £50.00 from ebay last year and its a cracking lens for widefield astrophotography. All metal body, with 4 elements in 3 groups, The total weight is around 1.6 Kg with a length of 24.6cm. This lens will knock spots of other lenses nearly 10x the price, i know i’ve tried the nikkor 180mm f2.8, (bad vingnetting) and the 300mm f4.5 ED IF, this is ok but CA is much worse than the Tair 3 and the Nikkor still has bad vignetting as well.

To work with my Nikon D7000 a few mods had to be done first.

I removed the m42 adapter on the end and replaced with a t2 nikon F mount. Also the front cell had to be moved forward this is simple method of undoing the grub screws and unscrewing the front element, this way you will achieve focus at infinity.


Tips for using the Tair 3 300mm lens for Astrophotography

With various settings tried and tested the best f stop is f8, this gives superb results corner to corner as you can see from the single 5min image i took of the orion nebula, its sharp, no vignetting and real joy to use. Editing these images requires no darks, flats  bias etc.

Astrophotography 300mm

I have tested this lens against the Nikkor 180mm and 300mm ed IF and i much prefer the Tair 3, so what you waiting for go find one today you won’t regret it!

Photographing The Heart Nebula IC 1805 With a £50 Lens

Testing a Tair 3s Russian Lens For Astrophotography

Making the best of a terrible month here in the UK for stargazing,  we finally had a good night of seeing! I’ve made a few changes to my setup in the last few months including modding my Nikon D7000 for astrophotography and also trying some new lenses.

This Image of the Heart Nebula IC 1805 is a 40 3mins subs, + 10 darks stacked and edited in Photoshop. Not the best seeing conditions but wanted to try out the Russian beast.

The following image was shot with a Nikon D7000 astro modded camera and a Russian Tair 3 lens 300mm F4.5 @ 5.6 iso 800

Tair 3s Astrophotography

I’m quite impressed with this lens, for a £50 lens this is a bargain buy.

There are a few variants on this lens but most have same optics, Its an M42 thread as standard, which i removed and fitted an m42 to Nikon adapter on the back, also for nikon camera’s i had to adjust front element to achieve infinity focus, will cover this later on…

Tair 3 Lens Specs

Optics: 4 elements in 3 groups.
Weight: 1.6 Kg (excluding trigger mechanism and stock)
Length: 24.6 cm
Width (diameter plus focus wheel): 12 cm
Preset Lens: 4.5 to 22 in full stops, but mechanism permits infinite variability between minimum aperture set, and fully open.
Diaphragm: 16 straight blades.



Flocking Your Skywatcher 200p 8 Inch Telescope

What is flocking?

If you have a Dobsonian or Newtonian reflector, flocking is a way to reduce stray light and improve the contrast.

Most astronomers either use a lining or paint the inside of  a telescope with something that absorbs light—ideally something that absorbs close to 100% of visible light.

Most telescope insides are painted flat black, but that usually doesn’t do a particularly good job of absorbing incident light.

If you look down the inside of your telescope tube in the daylight: is it truly pitch black or just dark gray?

The most important parts of the tube to flock are those that you can see by removing the eyepiece and looking into the focuser – anything you can see either directly or as part of a reflection is likely source of unwanted reflections and should be treated.

I also flocked the secondary mirror edge, and also the focuser tube, now when i look down the tube it is pitch black.

I also painted screws and everything else i could see in the focuser matt black.

Images Of How I Flocked My 8″ Newtonian Telescope.

So How Does The Flocked Telescope Perform?

The results from my flocked 8″ newtonian was night and day difference,  Definitely helps with contrast on bright planets and helps see more details.

The more light pollution you have the more flocking will help.

What Material Did You Use?

I used a sticky back felt bought from Wilko Online Stores, Don’t buy the stuff from other astro website’s as they use the same stuff, and charge more!


Thanks for checking out this article, good luck with flocking your telescope!




Take Great Images Of The Night Sky Without a Tracker

Long Exposure Without a Tracking Mount

To Capture long exposures of the night sky normally we would use a star tracker or telescope mount which is a piece of equipment that compensates for the Earth’s rotation so you can take sharp long exposure photographs of the night sky.

Unfortunately, these can be quite expensive but you can still achieve great images without a telescope tracking mount.

Basically the wider the lens i.e (18mm) the longer you can expose without getting star trails.

Most astrophotographers often use what is called the “500 Rule”.

“The 500 Rule”

500 Divided By the Focal Length of Your Lens = The Longest Exposure (in Seconds) Before Stars Start to “Trail”

For example; let’s say you’re taking a shot with a 18mm wide angle lens. 500 / 18 = 27.77 seconds, which you can round to 27 seconds. So you can roughly expose for 18-27 secs depending on if your camera is full frame or crop sensor before the stars with begin to trail.

This image below of the Andromeda galaxy was a short 20 sec image, to achieve a better image with less noise and more details, we would normally take many images of the same shot and then ‘Stack’ the images which will produce a better image with more details and less noise. You can see the difference below with the 2 images, the top one was 1 image 20secs and the other was 45x 20 secs images stacked and then edited in Photoshop.

Night sky without a tracker

Andromeda Galaxy With a DSLR and Lens

Best Camera Settings For Night Sky Astrophotography

Here are the Best Camera Settings for Milky Way & Star Photography:

Camera Mode: Manual Mode – This mode allows you to independently and manually adjust the ISO, Aperture, and Exposure time by hand.

Image Format: RAW Image Format

Metering Mode: I find Matrix Metering on my Nikon  to work the best for night photography. Canon calls this same function Evaluative Metering.

I tried all the different metering modes my camera has to offer and Matrix seems to be the best. But maybe what works for me might not work for you , but try and experiment!

White / Color Balance: For all night photography adjusting your colour balance certainly helps.  I find myself shooting at 4200-4500K.

ISO: I would recommend trying iso 1600-2500 max and use widest aperture as your lens will allow F3.5 if you are using a kit lens on a Canon.

  • Long Exposure Noise Reduction Setting – Set to Off
  • High ISO Noise Reduction Setting – Set to Normal

Finally, set your lens to focus to infinity by turning the focus ring until you see the ∞ symbol.

You may need to adjust focus, to get pin point stars

I’ll try and cover image stacking in my next article on Taking Images Of The Night Sky Without A Tracking Mount.



HEQ5 Upgrade Kit Step By Step Installation Guide

Installing an HEQ5 upgrade kit

Having owned my HEQ5 non goto mount for just over 2 years i decided to buy the upgrade kit to turn this mount into a goto mount with synscan controller. After this install you will have an HEQ5 pro mount. Here is a guide to installing the HEQ5 upgrade kit.

HEQ5 upgrade kit installation

Image of the contents of the HEQ5 upgrade kit, with new motors, board, synscan controller etc.


Ok Lets start… First off you need to remove the side and top panels using a phillips screwdriver


HEQ5 mount after removal of side casing, here you can see the motors and gears which we will remove later.


Remove the HEQ5 top cover using a phillips screw driver as shown in the photo.

Installing an HEQ5 upgrade kit

Next remove the 4 phillips screws that hold the motors in, Tip – find a good quality perfect fit screwdriver as mine were very tight and easily rounded off
Once removed pull wires through and remove the motor. Do the same for the other motor.

Installing an HEQ5 upgrade kit

Next remove the 2 grub screws holding on the gear cog using the allen key provided in the kit. You will find the brass gear will not slide off after you have undone these as the grub screw makes a mark on the shaft…so after scratching my head for a few minutes I came up with a great idea that needs no extra tools just the allen keys provided.

Installing an HEQ5 upgrade kit

As shown above place the allen keys behind the motor, and use even force on each allen key, this will give you the leverage to remove the cog off the shaft. After removal I used some sand paper to smooth off the mark on the shaft so the new motors will slide on easily.


sand down the marks left by the grub screws on the shafts.


Now remove the HEQ5 board. There are two screws holding this in place.

Installing an HEQ5 upgrade kit

Once you have removed the board you can remove the old power supply panel. there are 2 screws one each side. Pull all wires through and store somewhere safe.

Installing an HEQ5 upgrade kit

You are now ready to install the polar scope light this just pushes in be careful not to break the wires or push on the LED.


Image showing new panel in place. After this it is time to start installing the new brass gears and new motors in your HEQ5 mount.


Install the large brass cogs and tighten the grub screws until they nip tight, do not over tighten! The new motors come with much better allen bolts and they will only fit one way. The motors have two different size brass wheels so you cannot get them the wrong way round. But as you look at the picture the DEC motor has the larger wheel and goes on the left. The RA motor has the smaller wheel and goes on the right.

Once you have these in place adjust the motor so the gears turn nice and free and feel smooth to rotate. Add the grease provided in the kit to each of the cogs with a thin layer of grease.

Great we are nearly finished, all you need to do now is install the wires on the board as shown in the diagram in the manual. these just clip in place.

HEQ5 Imaging Rig

Put your covers back on and you are finally finished.

Congratulations you just upgraded your HEQ5 mount!

HEQ5 Black Non Goto Mount For Astrophotography

HEQ5-black mountThe HEQ5 mount has been around for many years and comes in a variety of options, The basic black version which i am using features built-in motors, a polarscope and manual handset. people say this is best suited for visual astronomy but I beg to differ. 

The main reason for purchase was costs. My HEQ5 mount only cost me just over a hundred pounds from ebay and has proved very good at taking images on a budget.

Excellent polar alignment and a permanent pier has helped me achieve up to 4 minute exposures unguided with my Nikon D7000 and a 300mm lens. Most of my images in my gallery of the deep sky were taken with this setup.

So if people tell you, you need the latest goto mount with tracking this is simply not true, If costs are a factor then i will highly recommend the HEQ5 mount. If costs are not a problem and you don’t mind spending around £600 on a mount then the HEQ5 pro would be an excellent choice.

So what’s the difference between an HEQ5 black mount and an HEQ5 White Mount

The mounts are identical with regard to capacity but they have very different motor drive systems.

The HEQ5 (Black) has 3 speeds, a maximum slew speed of 16 X sidereal and no GoTo facility although it can be upgraded to GoTo at a later date whereas the HEQ5 Pro (White) has a different controller board, motors and hand controller giving multiple slew speeds up to 800X sidereal and full GoTo capabilities.

HEQ5 Black Version

HEQ5-blackThis HEQ5 is designed for the astronomers who want the same stability as the EQ6, but find the EQ6 too physically demanding, built-in polar telescope and holder, large RA and DEC clamps, built-in dual-axis motor control with multi-speed remote control and counterweights. The field tripod is very stable, height adjustable and can hold up to 18 Kg.

  • Mounting type: equatorial
  • Includes accessory tray
  • Load capacity up to 18 kg
  • 1.75″ diameter steel legs
  • Suitable for novice and experienced astronomer
  • Includes tracking motor on DEC and RA axis

HEQ5 Syntrek

HEQ5 syntrekFeatures higher quality stepper motors, a new mother-board and ST-4 autoguiding port for astrophotography.

  • Load capacity up to 18 kg
  • 1.75″ diameter steel legs
  • Suitable for novice and experienced astronomer
  • Includes tracking motor on DEC and RA axis
  • Easily expandable with the optionally available GoTo module


HEQ5 Pro

HEQ5 ProSkywatcher HEQ5 pro is a HEQ5 Syntrek but supplied with a Synscan GOTO handset, not the manual handset.

  • Motor resolution at 0.144arc sec (or 9.024,000 steps/rev.)
  • Slew speeds from 2x, 8x, 18x, 32x, 64x, 400x, 500x, 600x, and up to 3.4°/sec (800X)
  • Sidereal, Solar and Lunar tracking rates
  • One, Two and Three star alignment options
  • Auto guider interface for astrophotography
  • Guiding speed from 0.25x, 0.50x, 0.75x, or 1x
  • Minimal vibration for steady long-exposure astrophotography
  • Payload Capacity 13.7Kg


This image of The Orion Nebula I shot without any guiding, just used the HEQ5 basic RA tracking using a Nikon D7000 camera and an Nikkor 300mm ED IF lens on a black HEQ5 basic mount

40x 2 min exposures, 5 dark frames and 30 bias frames were used. Processed in Deep Sky Stacker then edited in Photoshop CC


Biggest Supermoon since 1948 and When To See It UK

Supermoon November 2016

The moon will be the closest to Earth it’s been since January 1948 in November 2016

During the event, the moon will appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than an average full moon.

This is the closest the moon will get to Earth until 25 November 2034, so you really don’t want to miss this one.

What is a Supermoon?

A supermoon usually takes place every one to two years, when the full moon coincides with its closest point to Earth during its monthly orbit.

Because the moon has an elliptical orbit, one side – called the perigee – is about 48,280 km (30,000 miles) closer to Earth than the other side (the apogee).

When is the Supermoon?

Monday, November 14. There are six supermoons in total this year. We’ve already had four, and there are two more to go before the year ends so, stargazers, note down these dates.

  • November 14 at 13:52 UTC
  • December 14 at 00:05 UTC

So, how close does the Supermoon get?

It might look close, but it’s not that close. November 14’s full moon will be the closest supermoon of the year. The moon will come 221,524 miles from Earth – almost touching distance in space terms. In fact, the November moon will be the closest the moon has got to Earth so far this century. It won’t be this close again until November 25, 2034.

What do I look for?

Head outside at sunset, which on Sunday, October 16 occurs at 18:04 in the UK, when the moon is closest to the horizon.

As well as being closer and brighter, the moon will look orange and red around this time. This is because as moonlight passes through the thicker section of the atmosphere, light particles at the red end of the spectrum don’t scatter as easily as light at the blue end of the spectrum. So when the moon looks red, you’re just looking at red light that wasn’t scattered.



My Favourite Nikon Lenses For Astrophotography

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 ED IF

I thought i’d share with you some of my favourite Nikon lenses for astrophotography i’m using at the moment for taking images of Nebula and other deep sky objects. The first one i can recommend is the Nikon 300mm f/4.5 ED IF AI-S Nikkor (1978-1999) This is Nikon’s best manual focus 300mm ever. It’s very compact, not to heavy and gives great results and can be had for a few hundred pounds.

ED means it has Nikon’s magic glass for superb sharpness. IF means internal focus, meaning it focuses very smooth and the build is superb. For focusing on stars i find using a rubber band around the focus ring improved the accuracy of my focus and helped keep the focus nailed all night long.

Highly recommended!

Nikon 300mm F4.5 ED IF Lens Information


7 seven elements in 6 groups.

1 ED element.

Internal focus.


9 straight blades.

Sometimes the blades in different samples get a little out of round, leading to uneven star patterns from very bright points of light.


Metal 72mm filter thread.


Built-in telescoping lens hood.

Tripod Collar

It has a removable tripod collar.


3.1″ (80mm) around by 7.9″ (200mm) long.


It weighs 35 oz (990g).


See All 5 naked Eye Planets This Week

If you follow celestial comings and goings at all, you know that most of the bright planets have been largely missing from the evening sky for a few months.  But really all the action has been in the sky before sunrise.

During the next two weeks you’ll have a good chance to view five planets at once. It’s a real visual treat, so don’t pass up the chance to see it.

You can see all five bright planets in the evening this month! But you’ll have to look hard for two of them. First, the easy ones Jupiter, Mars and Saturn pop out as darkness falls in July 2016. Jupiter, brightest of the bunch, is found in the western half of the sky until late evening. Mars is still a bright beacon, although fainter than Jupiter at nightfall and early evening, still in a noticeable triangle with Saturn and the bright star Antares. Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are visible throughout July.

Now the more difficult planets now (Mercury and Venus). In July 2016, they’re low in the glare of evening night quickly following the sun below the horizon before nightfall. By mid-July, you can start searching for them with the eye, in the west after sunset. By late July you might be able to see all five bright planets at once briefly after sunset.

I hope to bring you some images of most of them, fingers crossed!

Amateur Astrophotography ARTICLES and IMAGES