Astronomer Wei-Hao Wang, who works at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, shares his essential photo kit
Astronomer Wei-Hao Wang reveals the kit that helps him reach for the stars
MODIFIED NIKON D800 (SIN CE SUPERSEDED BY THE D810, £2350, $2999; CONVERSION £200, $350)
What’s it for? My D800’s IR-blocking filter has been replaced with a filter that allows deep-red H-alpha light from celestial objects to reach the sensor.
Plus points Incredible resolution, low thermal noise for long exposures.
Minus marks The D800’s EXPEED 3 engine removes useful data from the NEF file. This can be fixed by a firmware hack, and it’s addressed in EXPEED 4.
SIGMA 50MM F/1.4 DG HSM |A (£700, $950)
What’s it for? The 50mm focal length is useful for Milky Way and constellation pictures. I often use it to produce ‘finding charts’ to assist with target selection for deeper imaging with telescopes of 500mm to 1100mm focal lengths.
Plus points Extremely high overall image quality.
Minus marks This is nitpicking, but it produces coma distortion at the extreme corners, even when stopped down to f/4.
VIXEN ADVANCED POLARIS SM EQUATORIAL MOUNT AND TRIPOD (£1200, $1200)
What’s it for? A motordriven equatorial mount is required to automatically track the motion of stars across the sky, to enable long exposures.
Plus points Lightweight, but sufficient payload to support a small telescope. Set-up is quick and easy. The tripod is solid and the overall system is stable.
Minus marks The tracking accuracy is only fair for the price.
APPLE 13-INCH MACBOOK AIR (£999, $1199)
What’s it for? Software is used to control cameras and telescopes, and I run various astrophotography programs. A laptop is also handy for image processing.
Plus points I can run many astronomy programs, and image-editing tools like Photoshop, simultaneously.
Minus marks Many astro tools are Windows-only (I use Parallels Desktop). Not enough power for all-night use – I take a small marine battery as back-up.
DIGICAMCONTROL REMOTE CONTROL APP (FREE)
What’s it for? It can remotely control D-SLRs from Windows computers to make sequenced bulb exposures and display Live View images on the large laptop screen for manual focusing and framing on faint stars.
Plus points It’s free! Plus it has all the basic functions required for astrophotography.
Minus marks Windowsonly. Not bug-free, although bugs are fixed quickly.