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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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"
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.
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
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!!
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.
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.
My software suite includes:
Tools - Actions for Photoshop by Noel Carboni
TheSky 6 Professional.
Some images on this site were created with the help of the ESA/ESO/NASA
Photoshop FITS Liberator.