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[Ultra-Beginner] Help with Mount and General Advice

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Hello, fellow astrophotographers.

This summer I plan to finally kickstart my serious astrophotography hobby after years of shooting only wide photos of the Milky Way. I own a stock Nikon D5100 and this will be my main camera. A week ago, I had basically zero knowledge about dso astrophoto gear, being used with camera lenses I was so new into this that I didn't even understand why telescopes are described by two mm values and I couldn't find the f-stop in their titles. I spent a LOT of time this past week in learning and here is the gear I added in my wish-list so far:

  • First things first, the camera that I mentioned earlier, the Nikon D5100 -> I was thinking about modding the battery port of the camera to allow me to keep the multiple batteries attached to a tripod leg and have wires connect them to the camera, which is an effort to prolong the shooting time and decrease the weight of the camera.
  • William Optics ZenithStar 73/430 -> Looks like very good quality optics and sharpness, has a focal length good enough to shoot many galaxies and seems to have decent aperture. I've seen people using this one even on portable mounts like the iOptron SkyGuider Pro. As an alternative I would go for something similar from SkyWatcher.
  • ZWO Camera ASI 120 MC-S Color Artesky Guidescope UltraGuide MKII 32mm -> As I understand, guiding is almost as important as the mount since if offers precision for longer exposures and assures smooth tracking. These two seem like a good combination.

Now my biggest concern is the mount itself and is something I don't want to spent more than 1k euro on. As I mentioned earlier, someone was using a SkyGuider Pro with a similar configuration, but to me it seems that it's reaching the upper limit of that tracker and if I'll want to invest in a bigger telescope afterwards, it will probably fail in overweight for this one. It is really important that the mount offers an ST4 port to allow the guider to send commands to it. I've read about the EQ5 from SkyWatcher but it seems an autoguider cannot be connected to it without further motors and upgrades to the mount. I am looking for something that can be used out of the box. Another topic that I'm not sure about is the GoTo function, which seems to have no effect on actual tracking or guider compatibility, it's just a little help in finding those dsos in an instant. Can anyone confirm this, because if the GoTo is not mandatory for tracking and guiding, I wouldn't spend more money just for that. All these things mentioned, what mount would you recommend for me and help me get 3-5 minute exposures withe the guider connected?


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No GOTO is not mandatory for tracking. However it is really useful to be able to align your scope easily. A mount must be capable of tracking to avoid star trailing and must be capable of polar alignment. Most of all it must be able to easily carry the weight of the equipment used. You might want to consider getting a used mount to cut down on the expense. I think that you will find that all the most suitable EQ mounts will have a GOTO capability.

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I use a Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro and have been imaging for 11 years.  It is a goto and guides and provided you don’t  want to put a really heavy telescope on it it will do all you need.   This should fit your budget. 

l use an ED120 on it.  Also l use an ED80 and a WOZS71 simultaneously on it as a dual rig (just to give you an idea of it’s capabilities).


Edited by carastro
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I would rate a GoTo mount as essential.  As noted above, all the serious imaging mounts have GoTo, and though you could use an electrically driven mount with ST4, you will be spending half the night trying to locate your objects instead of getting them within seconds with a "Platesolve & Resync". The GoTo mounts are also said to have more effective motors.

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2 hours ago, Radu Marinescu said:

Another topic that I'm not sure about is the GoTo function, which seems to have no effect on actual tracking or guider compatibility, it's just a little help in finding those dsos in an instant. Can anyone confirm this, because if the GoTo is not mandatory for tracking and guiding,

The GoTo is NOT needed for guiding or tracking. But, you need a mount that has an RA motor so it can help with tracking. You would also need a DEC motor to correct for errors in DEC axis. So when you add all these into the mix, it might make it worth your while to purchase a GOTO :) I would suggest looking for a second hand one if budget is the constraint. 

Here is one of the benefits of a GoTo which I have found useful. I started off without a guidescope and found that my HEQ5 Pro mount could hold its position quite well upto around 5minutes as long as my exposures were less than 60secs. So I used to take a series of 30-60s subs and force the mount to realign to the object (using platesolve) at the end of 5mins ensuring that drift was minimal.

The other obvious area to help keep to your budget is to go for a reflector (like a Newtonian) instead of a refractor.

Good luck.

Edited by AstroMuni
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Hello Radu and welcome to the site. Whichever mount you choose, it will need some sort of power pack, can I suggest a dummy battery for your camera and then power that from the mount power pack or alternatively it's own power pack? This will then get rid of a load of batteries bolted to the tripod. All the best.

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