First operating platform from the new observatory. Takahashi TOA 130 NFB, Moonlite “Nitecrawler” focuser-rotator, SBIG STXL 6303E camera, Paramount MEII mount
First ever deep space image from Orion’s Belt! The Rosette nebula in the constellation Monoceros which is just on the northeast edge of Orion. This was a 15 minute guided HA image (3nm HA filter)
Finally! I know it’s been awhile but after weeks of battling with the Gremlins I was able to do something. First there was a faulty declination worm block in the mount causing terrible backlash. That was finally replaced after a few weeks of troubleshooting that. Back and forth with the Software Bisque engineers and finally they concluded I needed a new block. First customer ever with a Paramount MEII WITH encoders that had to have a worm block replaced. Lucky me. But they did send it and helped out a lot during the swap. I had to basically disassemble the thing to get the encoder cables out safely! The new block is perfect and my pointing error went from over a hundred to 7 arc seconds!
Then the refurbished computer I had running everything died and that had to be replaced including reinstalling all the software. The new focuser could not reach focus without additional extension pieces I had to wait for. I had to ride out in the midst of everything the worst flu I have had in about 15 years!
After all that, then installing the camera drivers, the focuser driver and checking to make sure everything worked, I finally was ready to take my first test image from the new observatory! It was about 10:30, seeing not great, high thin clouds and a quarter Moon. It gets cold up there in Winter but not bad tonight, maybe upper 30’s. Plus I have the warm room. That really is huge. Just insulation alone keeps it at least 15-20 degrees warmer in there! I decided to target the Rosette nebula. Very popular amateur target. It’s a large spherical emission nebula heated up by massive open cluster of stars in the middle. Measuring 50 light years in diameter and 5000 light years distant, it is a huge object and typically not able to be captured in its entirety without wide field optics. I was just able to capture the bulk of it with this 1000mm focal length set up. The SBIG 6303 chip is not full frame but large enough format to produce a 63 x 95 arc min field. Currently I have no flattener in the optical train as I am waiting for an adaptor but actually the curvature is not awful and is only noticeable in the corners of the image.Overall I was encouraged by the test particularly as seeing was supposedly poor that night! While the image platforms up here will be constantly changing I was excited to be able to take my very first legitimate image with anything! Now it’s onward and upward as they say!
Clear skies and thanks for reading!
This will be the final installment for the Talavera site. I upgraded my main scope from an Astrotech 10RC to a 12″ carbon truss. It just barely fits in the 8 foot square structure! Mounted on the 12 is a William Optics GT102 refractor. The camera is an SBIG STXL 6303E.
I went back and forth on the main scope. I never have been comfortable with the SCT design for deep space imaging due to the fact that you have to move the main mirror to focus and if you decide to focus using the optical train then you have to lock the mirror, so you are basically converting it to a fixed mirror design anyway! The RC optics are proven and the Astrotech line is solid in my opinion. I was very happy with the performance of the 10 so I felt an upgrade to a 12 was reasonable. I think if you go much bigger than 12 in this location probably it’s a long run for a short gain with the increasing light glow in the area, not to mention it wouldn’t fit anyway! The long range plan will be eventually to use this site for planets, spectroscopy and video and do the deep space imaging up at Stars End once it’s completed. Of course we will have a much different set up up there!
I upgraded the camera to the new SBIG 6303 sensor. I don’t see how you can do better than a self-guiding camera. The new line of cameras has the guider in front of the filter wheel so you don’t have to worry about guiding through the filters! The 6303 is twice the size of the sensor in my old ST8XE but still not considered a full frame camera. While the RC optics are great, there is field curvature esp without field flatteners. This would be accentuated with the full frame sensor. Plus the 6303 has a much higher QE than the 11002.
Mounted on the RC is a William Optics GT102 triplet apo. Excellent value for a 4″ triplet. This is used mainly for video astronomy but periodically I will play around with dslr wide field imaging!
Final upgrade showing the 12″ RC truss and STXL6303E mounted on a Paramount ME
William Optics GT102 triplet mounted on the 12
First light for the new set up! Looks like it will be a while before the first images can be captured as I will need a completely new pointing model with the additional weight of around 20 pounds plus a 25 pound counterweight. We will also need to collimate this! I have a feeling it won’t be as easy as it was with the 10