PART 4: 1987-1990

Starting in 1990, the CCD camera with a tire inner tube joint was used by a team which was pioneering amateur spectrography on Pic du Midi.  At up you can see the 24”, on which the spectrograph built by Daniel Bardin was mounted. Michel Espoto is at the foot of the telescope.  On the down, during the same trip to the Pic in February 1992, Valérie Desnoux and Alain Klotz were at the controls.  Even in the 24” telescope’s laboratory it was none too warm!

The papa of the 24” spectrograph, Daniel Bardin, beside his baby.  Some of the very first digital amateur spectrograms were obtained with this instrument, thanks notably to a dynamic team and with the help of CCD technology.  Moreover, these researches were conducted in a very fruitful collaboration with professional astronomers.  The CCD was used there as it was meant to be, that is to say, as a veritable instrument of precision measurement.

The last detection of Comet Halley by amateurs, after its 1986 perihelion passage.  This was taken with the 24” telescope and a CCD camera based on the Thomson TH7863 chip.  The magnitude of the comet, by then already far from the Sun, was on the order of 21st magnitude.

That was a time of intense, frenzied technical development, which led to the construction of a new camera each year.  Sometimes those cameras were completed only at the cost of excruciating suffering, even on the very night we were to have departed for a 10-day trip to Pic du Midi – to the great despair of our traveling companions!  In this picture you can see one (rather delirious) result, the fruit of numerous attempts to improve CCD systems.  This time, the camera is built around a large, specially fabricated isothermal cylinder, which contains dry ice.  The CCD chip is mounted on the left end.

Here you see the installation that enjoyed the longest lifetime.  This camera, based on the Thomson TH7863, was particularly successful (but it still had a water circulation system that always froze up in winter, and a vacuum pump that hummed all night).  The camera is at the focus of a Celestron 11.  The blue part is a wooden filter holder.  For some years, I observed absolutely every clear night with this equipment, in order to compile the Buil-Thouvenot Atlas.

This assembly was installed in 1991 under a dome located close to Toulouse, on the property of Paul Bertincourt, who by his generosity thus acquired some crazy observers!

1990 was the year of the “Second Carcassonne Conference on Optical Detection Techniques in Amateur Astronomy.” These meetings were organized by the Alpha Centauri Club of Carcassonne, of which I am a member.  Guy Anduze, Serge Chevrel, Jean-Louis Delon, and Bernard Malière all worked their carcasses to the bone (which is normal, in a town called Carcassonne) in order to make this get-together a real event.  Advances in CCD technology were covered at length.  Click on the left image to see the Convention Evaluation Card, written by a young amateur, Alain Klotz, already well-specialized in amateur spectrography, and latter, a senior lectureur at the Centre d'Etude Spatial des Rayonnements (CESR) in Toulouse!  On the right, that same amateur caught at his favorite activity: priming the pump of the cooling system for the 24” spectrograph (February 1990).  This picture is characteristic of the CCD equipment of the time: a bucket full of water (and not of alcohol!), washing machine pump, vacuum pump.  Note that the vacuum pump is mounted on a bed of polystyrene in such a manner as to absorb the motor’s vibration – and also so as not to wake up half of Pic du Midi!

CCD technology, our little boy, is growing up.  Here is Alain Maury at the 1990 Carcassonne Conference.  He took his time about it, but finally admitted that in most realms CCD technology outclasses photography.  Since then, he has been one of the most brilliant and effective advocates of this technology.  To prove it, he is now Honorary President of the Aude Association.

Still at the Second Conference, an intense discussion between some of the people who developed the CCD in France.  In the foreground, Patrick Martinez, and seated beside him, Christian Buil.  In the background, in a striped shirt and holding a book, is a very young Cyril Cavadore.  On the far right, with the beard, you can see Jean-Noël Michel, who was the first in the group to attempt to distribute a CCD camera in kit form.  Note the 5¼” diskettes, which were the standard storage medium of that era.

Back to index page                   Previous page                      Next page