Night Sky Photography Resources
Recent advances in digital imaging make it possible to image the night sky in ways and with quality that was not imaginable during the film days. A quick list of resources for the night sky photographer.
Technical articles on making true-color images of the night sky
Roger N. Clark’s technical series has no peer. http://clarkvision.com/articles/nightscapes/. There are 32 or 33 articles here currently, each several pages in length and densely researched and demonstrated. Highly recommended, plan to spend some time going through them. Donate to support his fantastic work. This is the best resource that I've come across and it debunks a number of popular web sites and chat rooms. You can also go through his voluminous support and commentary on DPReview.com for a deeper dive into the practical applications of his teachings and responses to questions.
Night sky conditions sites
Finding dark sky areas in the US:
First, note Roger’s authoritative list of recommended gear. http://clarkvision.com/articles/astrophotography-recommended-gear/. For Canon users, my experience supports his note about the Canon 24mm f/1.4 Mark II lens:
“NOTE: the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens has a lot of aberrations when used wide open. I recommend the Sigma 24 f/1.4 over this lens. The Sigma 24 f/1.4 produces better stars at f/1.4 than does Canon 24mm f/1.4L II at f/2. But if you already have this lens, by all means use it. You may need to crop the images some. It should be better on a crop sensor camera. But if you are in the market for a new 24 f/1.4, I recommend the Sigma over the canon lens.”
Note that the mount will require either a “wedge” like Astrotrac sells or a geared tripod head to mount it to your tripod. This is so that it can be tilted to align with Polaris. And then you will need a ball head to place on the mount to hold the camera.
Many photographers like the Vixen Polarie mount, which performs the same function of allowing longer streak-free images of stars than a stationary camera
There is almost too much specialized astro software to list. A few valuable tools for the astro hobbyist are:
Starstax, which blends stationary images taken using an interval timer into star trails. Freeware - http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/software/software.html
Time Lapse Assembler - makes quick movies from a series of tif or jpeg files from your time lapse series. Donationware - http://www.dayofthenewdan.com/projects/time-lapse-assembler-1/
Stellarium - night sky visualization for laptop/desktop