The use of Astronomical equipment combines multiple technologies: Optical
systems, Mechanical systems, Electronic systems, and software, all working together in harmony.
quality of the equipment employed during imaging is a big contributor
to the final result. Note, while it is natural to equate spend with
quality, there is a balance in this mix. Some not-so high-end equipment
can actually be very good quality. And likewise, some more expensive
equipment is sometimes junk, especially the mass produced equipment.
For any long exposure CCD imaging the most important equipment factor is a stable
error-free mount that can accurately track the sky and can support the
weight of the telescope and associated equipment.
A Celestron 8" Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope is used as the
primary instrument. The 8" OTA is FASTAR capable,
originally an Ultima2000. The
Ultima2000 was a nice GOTO scope but the mount had excessive periodic and other tracking
errors. These tracking errors were very much limiting my imaging exposure time.After fighting the tracking errors of the Ultima 2000 for some time, eventually it was realized that
without better gearing and correction, the limitation would remain. I
sold the U2K mount and switched
this OTA over to an older Ultima
8 PEC mount for long exposure
Celestron OTA on an Ultima PEC mount
The Ultima PEC mount is robust, and carries the 8" OTA and ED80 Piggyback with ease
Ultima mount employs a precision Byers gearset, resulting in periodic error in the order of <5
arc-sec. The Tangent electronics include Periodic Error Correction.
on the links below for further details of the Ultima 8 PEC mount and circuitry
Platform on Ultima PEC mount
||Other telescopes include an
Orion ED-80 for
widefield imaging and observing, a Meade 2045 SCT for guiding.
The ED80 and 2045 and DSLR with lens were used initially piggyback on the Ultima 8 PEC OTA.
then, I aquired another
Ultima PEC mount, built a cradle for the forks, turning the mount
into a tracking platform, on which various combinations of gear
can be mounted.
was a successful project and the mount tracks as good as my other
Ultima PEC mount, employing the same gearset and electronics.
the use of any optical equipment in the night air, dew and frost on the
lenses must be mitigated. The easiest way to deal with both is to apply
heat to the sky facing lens.
|Build a DIY Dew Heater Controller > |
CCD cameras employed over the past have been:
From there, moved to dedicated CCD cameras... The MX716 was
upgraded from the MX7C, exchanged the original colour
CCD chip for an ICX429ALL monochrome chip. Then upgraded to an SXV-H9
camera, then to an SBIG ST8300M camera
- LX Modified Philips Vesta
- LX Modified Philips Toucam Pro
Astroimaging has been on
a back burner for a while, due to some other priorities in my life. But
occasionally I still make time to get out and take a few images.
- Starlight Xpress MX7C
- Starlight Xpress MX716
- Starlight Xpress SXV-H9
- SBIG ST8300M
use the dedicated CCD camera for deep sky imaging... and Canon
DSLR cameras for widefield imaging, and webcams for planetary imaging,
on a somewhat intermittent basis. I am more apt to do some quick grab-n-go
visual observing of a comet passing through.
DSLR Astro Images
lunar and planetary
imaging I still use a Philips Toucam Pro PCVC740K webcam with an eyepiece
adapter threaded in place of the original lens. For Win7 I have
switched to a Philips SPC900 webcam which also works on my old Win 98 PC
LX Toucam with Cooling|
Prior to the MX716, I modified first a Philips Vesta and then a Toucam Pro
PCVC740K webcam for long exposure imaging. That was my first foray into long exposure CCD imaging
|Details on the SC1 mods... >|
Over a period of 5 years,
I modified multiple Philips webcams for long exposure imaging, using the SC mod from Steve Chambers.
have been for my own use, and others have been modified for friends.
While I no longer use these cameras, the reward was significant -
seeing deep sky objects appear on the screen after relatively short
integrations (even 15 seconds)
Below are some nostalgic pics of the a cooled CCD camera I built... using a Vesta SC inside.
The Peltier cooler radiates heat through a heatsink.
motorized filter wheel is used to index one of 6 filters
into the optical path between the telescope and the CCD
With the earlier MX7C an external filter wheel was not required to
attain colour images, but the sacrifice was reduced sensitivity and the
inability to shoot narrowband and pure luminance frames.
I started with a Homeyer
MFW6 wheel, which I have since upgraded from, and am now using a Finger
Lakes Instruments filter wheel. The thinner profile is preferred for
The filter wheel contains True-Technology LRGB
dichroic filters, as well as an Optometrics Ha 10nm filter. I occasinally use a Hutech
IDAS NBN-PV filter.
For IR blocking I use a Sirius Optics NIR-1 filter
external to the filter wheel.
am in the process of adding microprocessor control to the FLI filter
controlling a stepper motor for indexing, and an LCD display. The end
intent is to allow remote control and automated filter indexing, the control will be ASCOM compliant.
With the use of a small metal lathe, the
fabrication of various accessories is achievable.
The image below is the start of a focuser assembly.
A lathe is a fantastic tool for making am-Astro DIY accessories.