Secrets of a backyard astrophotographer

My old pal Eric Paulos is an engineer, artist, and computer science professor at UC Berkeley. While he's been curious about astronomy since he was young, his interest went supernova (heh) in the last two years. Astrophotography became Eric's primary pandemic passion. After Eric posted a few astonishing backyard astronomy images on social media, his friends started asking questions. Lots of questions. So Eric kindly wrote a wonderful guide to his gear and technique. From his post on Medium:

I've been into astronomy since I was about 10 years old and taking images along the way with a variety of equipment. However, over the past 2–3 years I've significantly upgraded my setup. Amateur astronomy also saw an exciting upswing in interest during the pandemic and locating scopes and gear was nearly impossible. Things are a bit better now but some stuff was out of stock for almost a year. If you were discouraged by this check back now as more astro gear is back in stock and available! And please…you don't need to start anywhere near what I describe below to have fun. I often go outside at night with just a nice set of binoculars and watch stars, planets, satellites, etc.

When I do go out to image deep sky objects, I have a more dediated astrophotography setup. My latest images are shot using a Celestron Edge HD 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a 2032mm focal length (and 8" aperture) making it F/10 (see image at top). It's on an equatorial CGX mount that helps cancel the rotation of the earth to enable taking long exposures without star trails. I'm also using a ZWO ASI533MC Pro dedicated color astronomy CMOS camera cooled to -20C, a ZWO ASI290MM Mini guide camera on a 60mm guide scope, an electronic auto-focuser, and an ASI Air Pro (essentially a specialized Raspberry Pi for dedicated astrophotography) to manage everything. I always select targets before I go out to image for the night so I have a plan. I select objects appropriately positioned high in the sky (to avoid atmospheric disturbances) and up for long periods of time to allow the longest possible imaging opportunities.

"Cosmos Capturing: Under the Hood (and Clear Skies)" (Medium)

M27 Dumbbell Nebula 1360 light years away and only 9,807 years old from 30 stacked 2 minute subs

top image: M51 Whirlpool Galaxy 30,000 light years away from 20 stacked 2 minute subs