The Deep-sky Imaging Primer

If you’d like to learn more about astronomical imaging, The Deep-sky Imaging Primer covers almost everything you need to know to create beautiful images. This textbook is printed in full-color, with over 90,000 words and almost 200 illustrations.

The Deep-sky Imaging Primer

The book is structured in three sections:

  • The first section, Understanding Images, covers with the fundamentals of signal and noise and how electronic imaging sensors work,  laying the foundation for understanding the “whys” behind many equipment and processing choices.
  • The second section, Acquiring Images,  reviews all of the equipment involved in imaging–cameras, mounts, and optics–and how to use them. Focusing and autoguiding are covered in detail, as are the critical concepts of image scale and sampling.
  • The third section is about Processing Images. Calibration and post-processing are explained with numerous examples. The chapters break the image processing workflow into phases, with the tools and techniques for each thoroughly covered.

The book is available on Amazon here: The Deep-sky Imaging Primer on Amazon… or purchase directly from my eStore for 25% off with discount code UXS2ETT9 at checkout. Depending on where you are, the eStore price is often cheaper than Amazon.


The full chapter list is below.  I’m also happy to answer any questions at

Part I. Understanding Images
1 Electronic sensors
2 Signal and Noise

Part II. Aquiring Images
3 Mounts and alignment
4 Cameras
5 Optics
6 Image scale: matching sensor and optics
7 Choosing appropriate objects to image
8 Focusing and autoguiding
9 Setup and accessories
10 Filters and narrowband imaging
11 Taking the exposures
12 Atmospheric effects
13 Diagnosing problems and improving image quality

Part III. Processing Images
14 Color in digital images
15 The calibration process
16 Principals and tools of post-processing
17 Stretching: reallocating the dynamic range
18 Background adjustments and cosmetic repairs
19 Color synthesis and adjustment
20 Sharpening and local contrast enhancement
21 Star adjustments
22 Noise reduction
23 Composition
24 DSLR Processing example: The Witch’s Broom Nebula
25 CCD Processing example: The Rosette Nebula in narrowband

Appendix A. Exercise Answers
Appendix B. Moonless hours

  1. Pranjal Verma
    June 4, 2013 at 2:15 am

    How to buy this book in India. From Amazon, shipping charges are more than the cost of the book.

    • June 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Pranjal –

      I’ll see if I can find a more cost effective way to get a copy to you. Send me a note at with your shipping address, and I’ll send you a quote.


  2. Rod Hutson
    September 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Charles, I live in Canada and discovered that doesn’t carry your book, which I thought was odd… anyway, is there anywhere in Canada that can source it for me (bricks-and-mortar or online)? – Rod

    • September 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Hi Rod –

      Sorry for the book not being listed on I can have a copy sent to you (media mail) for US$32. That takes 1-3 weeks. (Priority Mail is ridiculously expensive, but available for $47.) If you are interested, email me at deepskyprimer*AT* You may also check’s rates to ship a copy to you in Canada, as they may actually be able to ship it cheaper than I can.

      Thanks for your interest!

  3. November 10, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Hi Charles,

    I’d like to thank you for your book! I’am french, I was trying to find a book about deep sky imaging but in french there are only 2 or 3 books that are dealing with astrophotography in general. Then I find your book on Amazon by chance. I looked inside and found it very good, with simple explanations… I bought it and I’m not disappointed! I had read the first part of your book and I find the answers to many questions… Thanks again! I’am going to read the next parts 🙂

    • November 10, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Thank you for your kind words about the book! I am happy to hear that the explanations are clear to you. I hope you enjoy reading the rest of it, and please send me a note if you have any thoughts or suggestions.

      Best wishes,

  4. December 16, 2013 at 12:09 am

    You produced a wonderfully readable and information-rich book! I bought a copy about 4 months ago, and find I’m constantly referencing it for one thing or another. Yours is the first imaging book I’ve purchased, and I would eagerly recommend it to others. Excellent work!

    • December 18, 2013 at 7:49 am

      Thank you very much, Sorin. I am glad that you are enjoying the book. And nice pics of Comet ISON on your blog, by the way!


  5. December 25, 2013 at 6:30 am

    This was the x-mas gift from my wife. So far, it looks VERY good and informative .

    • December 25, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy the book, and feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions or suggestions.

      Best wishes,

  6. Angelo Pierfanti
    August 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I think the book is great, however the font used is way too small. It is nice looking, but I have to make a real effort to read it. I would have much preferred a thicker book, but easy to read, after all books are meant to be read, not to be looked at. That is too bad, as the book deserves all the praises, and I do hope that a future edition considers this point of view. Thank you.

    • August 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Thank you for your helpful comment, Angelo. I am working on the second edition, and I have indeed increased the font size by one point. I’d rather have a thicker book too, but the book’s cost is based on the number of pages, so increasing the font size can increase the final price of the book. To balance the increased font size, I’m planning to increase the size of the book itself from 8×10 inches to 8.5×11 inches.

      Best wishes,

      • Angelo Pierfanti
        August 25, 2014 at 6:20 am

        Hello Charlie,

        Thank you for your reply. I understand your concerns and am glad to read there will be a second edition with an increased font size. Do you know when it will be out? Thank you.

        Best regards,

      • August 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        Hi Angelo –

        My goal is to have the second edition ready for NEAF in April.


  7. January 17, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Have you considered releasing the book as an e-book? It’s great having a paper copy to read from cover to cover, but I find e-books much better for a quick reference. An e-book can go with me wherever I have my iPad. Eithe e-pub or pdf would be great.

    • January 18, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Hi Brooks –

      I am looking into it for the second edition, as I’ve gotten a lot of requests. How would you feel about Apple iBooks vs. epub?

      • mbrooksclark
        January 18, 2015 at 10:32 am

        Apple iBook is even better from my perspective.

      • November 16, 2016 at 4:35 pm

        Hi Charlie, would like to buy both your Primer and The Astrophotography Sky Atlas. But I’m just interested in ebooks, for several reasons. I travel a lot, like to look back on stuff I have read, and then save shipping duration, cost – and environment. Unless truly forced – a principle. Many great hi-res tablets these days. No idea why you would choose iBook platform lock-in. Kindle is at least everywhere. ePub is great, can even accept (Adobe) DRM. If you do, please let me know, and don’t forget adaption to be within the readable! (this guy, like plenty of others, forgot to check:

      • November 19, 2016 at 10:51 am

        Thank you for the feedback. Now that the ePub and Kindle formats seem to be maturing, I will consider offering the second edition as an eBook. I’ve had several similar requests, and I completely understand the convenience of eBooks. I read most of my magazines now on the iPad. There are some challenges with the eBook formats that still make me hesitant due to the nature of my books: they are full-color with high resolution images. Neither book would be appropriate for monochromatic eReaders, as a lot of information is communicated with color in the figures, and one of the chapters is specifically about color. I fear the atlas is possibly too high resolution to work on an eReader. If I had a way to prevent those with monochrome devices from purchasing the books, I would be more comfortable. I don’t want anyone to be disappointed after downloading an expensive eBook!

        I still have a long way to go with the second edition though, so perhaps things will be different by the time I’m ready to publish it. Or perhaps I need to create a specific version for tablets that is designed for the format. I’ll investigate my options, and appreciate any additional thoughts you have.


  8. Greg
    March 12, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I am hesitant to buy this first edition if the second edition is being released soon. What are the plans for the second edition, still looking for ab April release date?

    • March 12, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      Sorry, work commitments have delayed my ability to finish the second edition. I do not expect to have it ready until later in the year now.


  9. deepskyov
    September 6, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Hi, Any news about the second edition? I can’t wait 🙂

    • September 6, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      I’ve re-written sections 1 and 2 already, and I’m re-writing section 3 with a much greater focus on PixInsight this time. I have another book coming out next month (an astrophotography atlas), so work on that has delayed the second edition of this book. Thanks for your interest! When the second edition comes out will mostly depend on my work schedule, but I don’t think it will be ready before the end of this year.


  10. November 11, 2015 at 1:57 am

    I bought this about 18 months ago as a newbie. It’s one of the best you can buy on the subject. Covers most of the significant concepts in a relatively simple langauage that one can understand. Especially stuff like full well capacity, the coverage of the field of view and then processing tips as well. Well written with clean colour images. I still use it whenever I need to brush up. I bought several books before but this is the stand out for DSLR especially.


  11. Michael Ogle
    January 25, 2016 at 2:29 am

    I have the First Edition. I was working thru the exercises and came to Exercise 1.3 on page 33. The answer on p.185-186 confused me. How did you get 18.3 e- per second? From Ex 1.2, the thermal noise was 1.68e- per second at 20 deg C.

    • January 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      You are correct, this is an error in the book that carries over an old version of the question. The answer to 1.2 should read:
      “An exposure of 20 minutes at 40 degrees Celsius would produce 20 min x 60 sec x 1.68 e- per second = ~2014 electrons. Dark current would fill 2014 / 25500 = ~8% of the full well capacity. The brightest capturable level would be 25500 – 2014 = 23486. The noise from the dark current is SQRT(2014) = ~45 electrons. The read noise is given in the problem as 10 electrons, thus maximum theoretical dynamic range is 23486 / (45 + 10) = 428, or 53 dB.

      For the same exposure at -15C, following a similar set of calculations, the dynamic range would be 25468 / 15.6 = 1629, or 64 dB.

      (Note that we are simplifying our calculation of total noise here by not using the proper summing in quadrature method, as that is not covered until the following chapter, but this simplification does not have a meaningful impact on the results.)”

  12. toggle
    March 6, 2016 at 1:06 am

    Hi! I see there’s mention of a second edition of this book being prepared last year. Will that be released soon? I’d like to buy it.

    • March 6, 2016 at 8:11 am

      I took a year off from writing the second edition to create The Astrophotography Sky Atlas. Now I’m working on the second edition again, but it’s still a long way from done. Sorry for the delay. It can be hard to squeeze in the time to write with a full-time job and family!

  13. Larry Field
    March 26, 2016 at 12:59 am

    Hi from New Zealand. I wonder if your Astrophotography Star Atlas includes the Southern Hemisphere for all of us below the equator? I assume that you have probably spent most of your focus on only the Northern Hemisphere. thanks.

    • March 26, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Hi Larry – The atlas covers the entire Southern Hemisphere in the same detail as the Northern Hemisphere. With so many great objects visible from “down” there, I couldn’t leave out the southern skies!


  14. Bjorn Crewe
    April 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Hi, I´m here to bug you, good Sir, for a digital version of your work. In my search for just that I see illegal downloadable copies in pdf-format out there. I simply refuse to go that way, it would not be fair to all that work you´ve put into your books.

    SO many people have a full colour tablet these days, I really think your work would reach more people that way. Pictures could be enlarged for potentially better viewing than on paper.

    E-books tend to come cheaper as well, no postage, no paper, instant delivery, has a lot of benefits. Please concider some sort of comercially available digital version of your work soon.

    For my personal interest, the Deep-Sky Imaging Primer is my first wish. I´m rather impatient when I see something I need for my hobbies. I´ll probably acquire the printed version none the less, while I wait for my wish to come true (around Christmas? 😉 ).

    Kind regards and hopes for clear skies
    Bjorn, Denmark

    • April 20, 2017 at 4:03 am

      Hi Bjorn – I appreciate your thoughtful note. As the e-reader market evolves (and I get feedback from potential readers like you), I am reconsidering my publication options. I still need to do some research on pricing structure, file formats (Kindle vs. ePub vs. iBooks), and resolution. All of my efforts right now are still on finishing the upcoming book, but once I’m done with that, I can see about releasing a digital version of The Deep Sky Imaging Primer.


  15. Bjorn
    April 21, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Thanks, Charlie. And best of luck with your current work.
    I will order the hard copy asap. Can’t wait…

    To promote the digital version you could stress the practicality of having it along in dark conditions (if the book should find it’s use in real-time-next-to-scope situations, idk.), some ebook-apps have night lighting, so one doesn’t spoil night vision.

    I use both Blue Fire and iBooks, the former comes in both iOS and Android. Some inspiration:

    Clear skies (and clear types)

  1. February 23, 2013 at 11:05 am
  2. September 20, 2014 at 9:28 pm
  3. October 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm

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