Some of the first photographs ever taken in 1838 were of the Moon,
so we could say that astrophotography pre-dates portrait photography.
Further, the invention of the digital camera's CCD chip was first
used in astro-photograpy applications.
For years astronomers took pictures of deep sky objects by taking
a series of very long exposures from about 30 min up to several
hours. These photographic sessions were tedious and the long exposure
times opened up vulnerabilities to the process. Imagine if 75 minutes
into your capture a plane or satellite passing through the field,
or a gust of wind shaking the scope.
With the advent of CCD imaging, the time required to image a
deep sky object was reduced to less than two minutes. The problem
is that the equipment is very expensive. A grayscale CCD camera
for astrophotography can cost from $3,000 to $10,000.
Enter the Web Cam and some imaging software and the price tag is
reduced to less than $100! Over the past few years I have seen more and more armature astronomers at star parties using web cams to capture images in the night sky.
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