I have to admit I have been in awe of the night sky since my childhood growing up in rural Arkansas. Growing up away from the city lights, I was able to see a sky that many will never experience. Even now, I love to stand out at twilight and watch the stars come out, and observe satellites as they zip overhead.
I love taking photos of the night sky as well. I have an 8″ telescope on an equatorial mount. But when I’m not in the mood to drag out a 120lb. telescope I have found an alternative. The iOptron Sky Tracker mount is lightweight enough to carry anywhere. It performs very well at a reasonable price.
The iOptron mount takes a standard ball head camera mount and converts your tripod into an equatorial mount able to track the sky for long exposure night photography. If you set your camera up on a regular mount and shoot a 30 second exposure of the sky, you will get stars trailing due to the rotation of the earth. Depending on your lens focal length, 12-20 seconds is about the maximum exposure length you can get without apparent star trailing. With the iOptron mount, I have taken up to 2 minute exposures and the stars are still points in the photographs.
So how does all this work? The iOptron tracker has a finder scope for polar aligning the mount. The mount has an adjustment to set for your latitude, which raises or lowers the mount to accurately track the sky overhead. You find Polaris (The North Star) in the northern hemisphere, point the mount north, and using the finder scope to center Polaris in the crosshairs of the viewfinder. I found that using a visible green laser pointer, I can get the mount set up fairly quickly by simply shining the laser through the eye piece of the finder scope and adjusting the tripod until the laser points at Polaris. A few fine adjustments to center Polaris, and the mount is tracking. Then you simply attach your camera to the mount, set your intervalometer to the time your want your exposure to be, and take great photos of the night sky.
The blurring of the trees is due to the tracking of the mount.
Please leave comments or questions below, or post some of your own night sky photos.