What Is A Telescope Autoguider?

If you are a keen astrologer, then you might have heard of a telescope autoguider. But if you are new to this world, then you might not know exactly what this means.

An autoguider is a device that can be attached to your telescope to hold it in an exact position, allowing it to stay focused on a specific object.

Autoguiders are usually a type of automatic electronic guidance tool, and a lot of astrologers agree that this is a very important piece of equipment. 

Unless you have any experience of astrology, then you probably will not appreciate just how easy it is for the telescope to drift. This is especially common when you are stargazing for long periods of time, and watching a single object.

But, a telescope autoguider prevents this from happening as it locks onto the object, ensuring that it always remains in the field of vision of the telescope. This ensures that no elongated imagery or blurring occurs to the photographs taken through the telescope.

The autoguider itself is a digital camera that comes with technology that allows it to remain focused on an object.

This technology usually comes in the form of a CCD or CMOS detector, and the autoguiders themselves come in a wide range of sizes, so that they can be used with pretty much any telescope.

Due to this, most keen astrologists, and definitely astrophotographers will have a telescope autoguider as part of their astrology kit. 

Do I need an autoguider for astrophotography?

No, you do not need an autoguider for astrophotography. However, most astrophotographers do have one in their equipment.

An autoguider is a fairly new piece of technology, and this is why you do not need one to be a successful astrophotographer.

For many years, people have been able to take successful photographs of the solar system without using an autoguider, so you do not need one. But, it will make taking photographs through your telescope a lot easier. 

Traditionally, astrophotography would have been very tedious. This is because you would have to manually guide your telescope to ensure no blurring or elongated images came out of it.

This would make the process a lot more stressful, and longer to complete. But, the invention of the autoguider made this process a lot easier, as this device will do all the work for you.

Simply attach the autoguider to your telescope, and you will be able to get excellent quality imagery from your telescope. 

But, autoguiders are not cheap. Yes, they make the process of astrophotography a lot easier, but unfortunately they are an expense that a lot of novice astrophotographers cannot afford.

So, don’t be misled into thinking that you need an autoguider to be able to take any photographs with your telescope. If you are a keen photographer and astrologer, then you will do manual guiding work until you are able to afford an autoguider.

So, no, you do not need an autoguider for astrophotography. But, it will make it easier. 

Do you need a computer for autoguiding?

Yes, ideally you will need a computer for autoguiding. There are ways to make it work without a PC, but these are very complex. With a PC, you will be able to easily access the photographs taken through your autoguider without any unnecessary stress or confusion.

If you use a laptop rather than a PC, this allows you to actively access the images acquired through the autoguider while you are still working. This will make the whole process a lot easier. 

Some people like to review their images through the backend of their camera, and this works fine for normal photography. But, for astrophotography, this is something that you should try to avoid as much as possible.

Astrophotography is a very delicate process, and it is very important that you do not do anything that could damage the position of the autoguider as this could cause you to lose the object that you are focusing on. 

Using the back of your camera to check your astrophotographs is okay as long as it is only every now and then. But, if you do this regularly you risk missing problems in the imagery, and this could render your entire batch of photographs ruined.

If you use a computer to monitor the photographs that you are taking, there is no risk of moving the autoguider or losing the object, as you are not actually touching the telescope. So, you can safely check your images without affecting the view that you are currently photographing. 

How do I attach an autoguider to my telescope?

Setting up your autoguider can be quite intimidating, but this is actually a very simple task to complete. To begin with, you first need to line up your mount.

By this, we mean that you need to align the right ascension axis of the telescope parallel to the Earth’s rotation axis.

This will ensure that you will not experience any field rotation when using the autoguider to focus on objects for your photographs. 

Polar alignment is the most important part of setting up your autoguider, and this will be more or less important depending on the style of photographs that you are aiming to take.

If you are working on a wide field, then polar alignment is less important. But, if you are working on a smaller scale, then polar alignment is absolutely vital if you want your photographs to be good. 

Additionally, polar alignment is also very important when you are using your telescope because of the distance between what you are photographing and the scope itself. So, begin attaching your autoguider by doing this.

Once the axes are aligned, all that is left is for you to attach the autoguider to your telescope. Some autoguiders will have a clip, others will have a mechanism with a screw that allows you to adjust the tightness.

Simply follow the instructions for your specific autoguider to fix it in place. Then your autoguider is ready to use. 

Gordon Watts
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