The roll off roof observatory in my back garden houses my Paramount ME Mk4000 mount, my Toscano 8 inch RC, William Optics FLT 110 and Tak FS60C Apo refractors. The Two larger scopes are mounted side by side while the Takahashi FS60C is rigidly mounted to the FLT. The FS60C doubles as a guidescope and a wide field imaging scope.

For those that have not heard of the Toscano scopes, they are made in Italy. There are not that many in the UK at the present but they are well made and exhibit some very good workmanship. They are a true RC design at a fraction of the cost of other RC scopes on the market. The optics in this particular scope has a primary Strehl ratio of 0.978 and 1/26 lambda peak to valley. I have not star tested the scope yet so whatch this space. The scopes are available in several sizes. The UK dealer is Ian King.

Of course the Paramount really needs no introduction but for those that are unfamiliar with it, its represents the best commercially available amateur mount on the market. Hopefully the last mount I should ever need.

Telescope

Mount

Observatory

Computer

Camera

Software

 

Telescopes

The Toscano 8 inch RC has a fixed primary and secondary true RC system and operates at f9. It is fitted with a William Optics Crayford focuser via an SCT thread. The scopes can be ordered with rings or a Losmandy dovetail fitting.

Click here to get my initial views on the scope.

The William Optics FLT is an oil spaced triplet designed by TEC and operates at f6.5. The scope has a retracting dew shield. This scope is also fitted with a large Crayford focuser.

I have had little chance to use the FLT but so far I am pleased with the views. It shows an excellent star test and the one image (luminance only) that I have taken showed good detail with well shaped stars and an almost unvignetted field on my ST2000.

A Tak FS60C is also used piggy back to take wider field shots and guide the main scope when required with narrow band filters. A 3x teleconverter yeilds a suitable focal length when coupled with an MX716 camera used as a guider. This is also an excellent refractor with a flourite element for minimal chromatic abberation. The only problem is that the focus travel is so short that adaptors have to be used for different setups with focal reducers etc. The TAK is rigidly mounted with a couple of Losmandy dovetail clamps and some scope rings from SOCAL Astro in the USA.

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Mount

The Paramount ME Mk4000 is stunning to use. It slews effortlessy to targets and stops with pinpoint accuracy and no waiting for the play to be taken up in the motion. The various functions are controlled via the computer running "TheSky 6". The through the mount wiring is excellent and means that slews are conducted without the need to guide wires and cables around, a real bonus in the confined spaces of my small observatory. Amoungst the other features of this mount are the "T Point" telescope pointing software tool and the very low Periodic Error (PE). The modelling software allows errors in the setup such as tube flex and other mechanical errors to be quantified and then corrected through software adjustments to the telescope motions. Of course it is better to reduce the mechanical errors to a minimum, and the software will also help to point you in the right direction in this regard also.

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Observatory

I was only allowed so much garden by my wife so some thought and adaptation was needed to make best use of the available space. It is tucked right into the corner of the garden so that it is still in the shadow of my garage, shielded as much as possible from the street light on my perimeter.The roof slides off on removable rails, another condition from my wife. The rails are supported by two Bamboo posts and a cross beam that do their best to blend into the rest of the garden. Everything was built to my own design by myself.

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Because the square footage had to be kept to a minimum it was necessary to make either the telescope pier tall, or the walls of the observatory short. it was not practical to make the pier too tall since this leads to vibration and access problems. However, a reasonable height was required so that the horizon was limited by the local buildings and trees, and not by the garden fence. This lead naturally to the need to have some of the wall roll away with the roof, hence the design that you see here. The slightly higher back wall was required since the lowest part of the roof still needs to clear the scope in its lowest "home" position.

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Again, due to the small floor space, there was a need to drop one of the sides to allow unobstructed motion of the scope. I have no horizon this low but the space is needed when looking North at, for example, the polar regions to allow the camera to clear the observatory structure. You can also see one of the roof rails mounted on the drop side.

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Computer

This closer shot shows the computer that runs the mount and camera tucked into the corner. It is enclosed to keep the dew away from the electronics when in use. The idea was to allow the heat generated by the computer to circulate around the units and keep their temperature above the ambient. The boxes also serve to prevent some of the heat percolating up and spoiling the views as much as possible. This seems to working out OK and I have noticed no difference in seeing and air current affects above what I normally get at my location. Files are down loaded via an ethernet link to my laptop.

The home made pier can also be seen. This was made from a 6 inch diameter, half inch wall steel pipe and 1/4 inch plate base and webs. The whole lot is bolted to a cage sunk into the concrete floor.Having an observatory is a real bonus. My time to open up and get sorted out for taking an image is roughly 15 minutes. The longest part of the process now is checking that the focus is correct, waiting for the scope to cool properly to ensure it holds focus, and swapping things like filter wheels!!

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Cameras

My main CCD camera is the Santa Barbara Instruments ST2000XM. This camera uses an integral guiding chip. I have found so far that the camera guides extremely well and has produced some of my best images so far in this regard. I use MaximDL to guide and acquire my images.

A True Technology manual Colour Filter Wheel, with True Technology RGB filters is used to acquire colour data. I also have Schuler 10nm Ha, Custom Scientific4.5nm OIII and SII filters for narrow band emmission images, and a Hutech LPR filter that is an excellent match for my local light pollution.

An AP 0.75 focal reducer gives me a range of fields to work with.

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I also use an unmodified Philips Toucam pro web camera for planetary imaging and a Nikon Coolpix 4300. The lower image shows the MX716 that I use as a guide camera when using narrow band filters prevents getting a guide star on the ST2000XM.

Previous cameras include an OM1, the Starlight Xpress MX5C and SXV-H9 cameras.

Previous mounts include the LX200 standard fork and wedge, A GP DX with Skysensor, and the Losmandy G11 with Gemini.

Previous scopes were, LX200 8 inch SCT, Vixen ED102SS, Celestron 9.25 inch SCT, TEC 140 Apo.

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Software

My software suite includes:

MaximDL

Astroart

AIP4WIN

Adobe Photoshop

Astronomy Tools - Actions for Photoshop by Noel Carboni

Registax.

Registar.

KC3CCD Tools.

Pleiades SGBNR.

TheSky 6 Professional.

T Point.

CCDSoft.

Fits Liberator

Some images on this site were created with the help of the ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator.

CCD Inspector

PemPro

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