My Equipment- Talavera Space Hut

Equipment updated as of July 2015

theater

The “Talavera Space Hut” as we affectionately call it. No, those chairs are not for people to watch me take images as someone recently asked. They are for people to enjoy the “Theater of the Universe”! We have a 40″ flat screen that is placed on that table next to the observatory door and they can see the live video output from the Mallincam camera.

We now live in a development called ‘Talavera’ which is right on the west side of the beautiful Organ Mountains at an elevation of 4800 feet. We are about 8-10 miles east of town and the skies are pretty decent here for being that close to Las Cruces center. There is a light dome from the town to the west and to the south there is also a light dome from El Paso. I’m going to say seeing wise it’s probably around Bortle class 4-5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bortle_scale. Not bad for a backyard. One day I will have my permanent set-up in New Mexico Skies which is about an hour and a half northeast from here.

My observatory is an 8 foot square structure with roll-off roof. Small but not too small. This is our “backyard”! My main scope now is an Astrotech 12″ carbon truss. Here is what that means:

  • Ritchey-Chrétien optical design: This Astro-Tech astrograph is a trueRitchey-Chrétien (RC) reflector optical system. Unlike a Maksutov-Cassegrain or Schmidt-Cassegrain catadioptric scope (that uses simple spherical mirrors and corrector lenses), or Newtonian reflectors (that use a coma-producing parabolic primary mirror), this Astro-Tech RC is a Cassegrain-type two-mirror optical system that uses a concave hyperbolic primary and a convex hyperbolic secondary mirror to form its images. These sophisticated and difficult-to-make mirrors combine to produce images at the Cassegrain focus at the rear of this Astro-Tech scope that are free from coma and spherical aberration, with a smaller spot size, over a much wider field than conventional Newtonians or catadioptrics. The images are likewise free from the chromatic aberration found in refractors and some catadioptrics.
    Because of this wide coma-free field, small spot size, and relatively fast focal ratio, the Ritchey-Chrétien design is particularly well suited to wide field astrophotography, rather than visual observing. For imaging, the RC is the optical system of choice for most of the major professional observatory imaging telescopes built in the last half-century. For example, the Hubble Space Telescope, the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes in Hawaii, and the four 8.2 meter telescopes of the Very Large Telescope array in Chile are all Ritchey-Chrétiens. For serious amateur astronomers and astrophotographers without NASA’s optical budget, an Astro-Tech RC is likewise the imaging system of choice.

Mounted on the main scope is a William Optics GT102 triplet apo refractor

Cameras include the SBIG STXL6303E shown here mounted on the main scope. I use a modified Canon EOS 600D for wider field imaging and Mallincam Xtreme for video astrononomy.

The mount is of course the most important component of the system, and I am fortunate to have the Paramount ME

12" RC truss and STXL6303E mounted on a Paramount ME

12″ RC truss and STXL6303E mounted on a Paramount ME

William Optics GT102 triplet mounted on the 12

William Optics GT102 triplet mounted on the 12

First light as dusk settles in in Las Cruces!

First light as dusk settles in in Las Cruces!

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