As amateur astronomers, we love to gaze at the night sky. But how much can we really see with just our eyes?

Astrophotography can be a great way to capture images of distant objects that we can’t fully see with our own eyes. This is because a camera can collect light for many hours, unveiling and colour and details hidden from our less-light-sensitive eyes. Although it can be a richly rewarding hobby, it can also be one that bankrupts you.

There are different ways of capturing images of the universe. To start off, you might take wide-field shots of the night sky. This is fairly simple and cheap: any camera with a manual shutter will do, but you need a tripod. Set it up for an exposure of a few seconds, and — click! — you have an image of the night sky.

But if you’re looking to capture distant objects, you might want to invest in a DSLR camera. Other things you’ll need are: an adapter to attach the camera to the telescope; a good, sturdy mount (an equatorial mount is best); and lots of patience. Astrophotography is a waiting game and requires a lot of trial and error at first.

To increase the quality of images, many people move on to CCD (charge-coupled devices) cameras. These cameras use a chip to store the image and the convert it to a digital output. CCD cameras can be colour or monochrome. In monochrome CCD cameras, different filters are needed (red, blue and green referred to as RGB). You must then combine the three colour channels using stacking software such as CCD Stack or MaximDL. The quality of CCD images can surpass those taken by DSLRs.

Attached are two tutorials for editing atrophotos, one for Lightroom and one for Photoshop. Both document were created and kindly provided by RASC member Benjamin Lappalainen.