My Equipment- Talavera Space Hut
Equipment updated as of April 2019
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 a 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. When we first moved here I did do some deep space imaging here but since the construction of Orion’s Belt Observatory in Mayhill, that activity has moved up there full time
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 at this facility is a Celestron C14 . It’s the “Black tube” version with the Starbright coatings. Not the HD version
Mounted on the main scope is a William Optics GT102 triplet apo refractor
Cameras include an Atik 460EX for spectroscopy, and ZWO 174 for guiding during spectroscopy. Since starting high resolution spectroscopy in the Summer 2018 with the Lhires III I am finding there are too many projects now to do anything else at this site besides occasionally video astronomy for visitors.
The mount is of course the most important component of the system, and I am fortunate to have the Paramount ME which I have owned since 2006
The “Talavera Space Hut” as it is affectionately called is a simple 8 foot square manual roll-off. It’s a wonderful place. Very intimate and hands on! Just enough space for me to maneuver around the equipment. Basically 360 degree unobstructed viewing! Here we are opening the observatory and viewing the amazing sunset at the same time!
This is the current configuration at Talavera. The Lhires spectrograph is mounted directly onto the telescope. No intervening focusers. This is totally “old school”! I have discovered with time and experience you can do an excellent job of fine focusing an SCT just with the knob on the primary! Adding an extra focuser is likely going to lead to a lot of tail chasing do to the mirror shift. Eventually you get a feel for moving the knob just enough to eliminate the mirror backlash. I would not recommend this for planetary imaging but for stars it works very well. Attached to the spectrograph are the Atik 460EX (right) and the ZWO 174 (left) which is the guide camera. Occasionally we do use the refractor for video astronomy. The current camera is a Mallincam Skyraider
Close up of the Lhires III spectrograph and cameras. ZWO 174 is on the left. Atik 460EX right. The spectrograph has everything conveniently contained in there including a neon calibration lamp and a tungsten flat lamp. You can see the switches labeled there