How To Photograph Planets With A Telescope

It is much easier to photograph planets using your telescope than you might think. To photograph these planets, you will just need some simple equipment and an understanding of where and when to look for them.

How To Photograph Planets With A Telescope

You have a choice of using a DSLR camera and lens or an astronomy camera that will give you more surface detail. However, this is not necessarily to capture images of the five visible planets: Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.

We have compiled a step-by-step guide to photographing planets with a telescope! Read on for more information! 

1. Choose A Telescope 

There is a range of different telescopes available that will help you to photograph the planets. It is best to choose an aperture of 8 inches or more when it comes to planetary images, as you want to capture a high-resolution image. 

The best telescopes for photographing planets are those with a large aperture, long focal length, and a color-corrected refractor scope. 

This type of telescope will ensure that you have unobstructed and high-resolution images of the different planets.

Reflecting telescopes are also a great choice when it comes to photographing planets. However, for these scopes to work, you will need a long focal-length instrument, too.

You will also need to ensure that you have a solid tripod or mount for these telescopes as you want to ensure that the telescope is not shaky when you are looking for your planets. 

While a telescope with an aperture of 8 inches or more is best, smaller telescopes are also capable of capturing some details in the right conditions.

2. Use Filters For Planetary Imaging

Filters are often used when you are photographing planets. They can be used to enhance certain wavelengths, also stopping some of these wavelengths from getting to the camera.

An infrared blocking filter is very useful in this way, as it can block out infrared light. This light sometimes oversaturates the image and washes out the detail, meaning blocking this out will result in a clearer image. 

Some cameras have this infrared-blocking filter already installed in the camera, whereas others will need this as an addition. 

If you are using a mono camera, you will need to take full-color images using blue, green, and red imaging filters. To use these, place them one at a time in front of the camera sensor, and the full-color image will be formed.

This method of capturing images of planets will produce a very sharp image. You can also get filters for your camera that can pick out details of planets that are hidden without the filter. For example, a methane band can be used in this way.

3. Choose A Camera 

A camera is very important if you’re looking to photograph some planets. DSLR cameras are a great choice if you are hoping to capture an image of the planets.

With a DSLR camera, you will be able to capture great images of the planets, and the newer the camera, the better the image will be.

Using a more modern camera will give you a better chance of capturing images in space because they have more light sensitivity. This is also why DSLR cameras are best for astrophotography.

They allow you to leave the camera shutter open for a long time, meaning that more light can be collected by the camera. This will mean that you will get clear images of the night sky.

You can also use your smartphone to capture an image of a planet. Smartphone cameras are very developed in their ability to capture this type of image, and if you place your phone on the eyepiece of the telescope, then you will be able to get great images of these planets. 

To use your smartphone in this way, you will need to try out a smartphone adapter on your telescope.

4. Photographing Mercury

Capturing an image of Mercury can be very difficult because this planet is very close to the sun. This makes it difficult to separate from the bright light. 

At certain times, you will be able to see Mercury with the naked eye. This is only if you know where to look! You can also see Mercury through binoculars quite easily.

If you are hoping to catch a photograph of Mercury, it is best to take a photo during the daytime. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to do this. 

5. Photographing Venus

If you want to capture an image of Venus, you will need to use a shorter exposure image. This is because the sun is likely to have just set or be just about to rise.

Venus is an easy planet to identify because it is often very bright. It can be found in the sky at dusk, and it often appears out of nowhere. 

Often, Venus will look like the brightest star in the sky and as it is so bright, it makes for some very impressive photos. 

At certain times, Venus will pass in front of the Sun, which makes for a great photo! If you recognize a band of pink light that you can see on the horizon at dusk, you will have seen the belt of Venus. This marks the common height of Venus.

6. Photographing Jupiter 

Jupiter is a great planet to capture. It can be seen at any time of the day or night. Jupiter has a very long orbit, meaning it can be seen in lots of different places at different times. 

Jupiter is a big planet, and you will need to use the right lens to capture it. With the correct lens, you will be able to see some wonderful surface details. 

It is best to use a camera lens with 400mm, and you will also need to have steady tracking to follow the planet.

This planet is also fascinating to capture because of its rotation. You can photograph this throughout one night, capturing the rotating planet.

When photographing Jupiter, you are likely to see one of Jupiter’s four moons. They change positions every night but continue to orbit the planet. 

To capture this planet you will just need an ordinary DSLR camera and a wide-angle lens. If you can, try to get a long exposure image as this will reveal how bright Jupiter is in comparison to the stars surrounding it.

Using a Dobsonian telescope, you will easily be able to spot the planet.

7. Photographing Mars

The size of Mars appears to change over time because of its elliptical orbit. It is a very interesting planet to capture because it is very close to Earth, meaning you can see lots of surface details in your images.

Mars is relatively close to Earth, and using quite simple photography equipment, you will be able to capture surface details. Mars is the planet that we have explored the most from Earth due to its proximity. 

Mars comes to the opposition around every 2 years. This is the best time to photograph Mars. At this time, it appears at its largest and brightest. 

If you are photographing using a color camera, it is best to use this when Mars is at a high altitude.

8. Photographing Saturn

Saturn is a beautiful planet, making it one that lots of people hope to capture in a photo. However, with a wide-angle camera lens, you are unlikely to see more than a pale yellow star. 

If you are hoping to capture the rings of Saturn, you will need a large magnification and focal length.

You will be able to get a photo of Saturn through the eyepiece of a telescope if you have enough aperture. To do this, you will need to use a smartphone or digital camera held up to the eyepiece.

Final Thoughts 

So, there you have it! It is possible to get great photographs of the 5 visible planets using a telescope.

In this article, we have explored how you can do this. You will need to know when and where to look for these planets if you are hoping to capture good pictures of them. 

Astrophotography is a great hobby, and if you know what you’re doing, you’re likely to get some fantastic images!

If you’re hoping to try this out for the first time, this article should have given you some useful guidance when it comes to photographing planets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Time To Capture Images Of The Planets?

The best time to capture images of the planets is when they are at opposition. This means that the planet is as close to the Earth as it gets. 

For Venus and Mercury, the best time to capture them is when they are at the biggest elongation. This is when they appear the furthest away from the sun.

Laura McNeill
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