Coronado Solarmax II 90 – July 2011
I bought a while back a coronado PST and got enthusiastic about H-Alpha observing. The 90mm aperture allows relatively high resolution photography in the H-Alpha wavelength.
This is the “single stack version”. I plan to acquire later on the double stack filter.
First views were impressive. I have the version with a 15mm aperture filter on the back and it is far than enough since the primary usage of this telescope is digital photography, and second visual observing.
- Baader Herschel wedge for white light and Calcium-K line observing
- Baader Calcium-K 8nm narrowband filter
You can see below the Herschel Wedge mounted on my Stellarvue 90mm,
The calcium-k narrowband filter can be used in conjunction with the Herschel Wedge.
In addition, I acquired the DMK 41au02.as camera: even though the maximum frame rate is 15 fps, the larger resolution (1/2″ ) of the sensor is well adapted for Solar (and lunar) astrophotography.
Celestron EdgeHD 1100 – February 2011
This is my last acquisition. I use it (for now) mainly for planetary imaging, and plan to us it for planetary nebulae imaging.
I found the visual views (planetary so far) very pleasing.
This telescope has a relative large aperture and yet is lightweight enough to be handled by one person.
See the pictures of Saturn I took with this telescope
Stellarvue Raptor 90 Triplet – September 2010
I acquired this Telescope as a replacement for my Orion 102ED, to do short focal imaging.
This Apochromatic triplet provides great images, whether visually or photographically. It has a carbon fiber tube, and the feather touch focuser is very sturdy and precise.
The photography shows the Stellarvue and FS-60c mounted on it, ready for auto-guiding.
I am very satisfied with it, and would recommend it to anybody looking for a high quality refractor in this aperture size.
This is really a pleasure to image with this set-up: no cool down time, no collimation …
Takahashi FS 60-C Refractor – May 2010
A small but great quality refractor, built like a tank. I got it in June 2010.
I use it as a grab and go scope, a guidescope and as a wide field astrograph (with a flat field corrector) – see picture of Markarian’s chain with this telescope.
Visual observation esp. contrast is great. A great telescope but also a great scope for bird watching…
Very light and ideal to take in a carry on luggage along with a DSLR and teleobjectives.
Orion 8″ Newtonian Astrograph – March 2010
My new acquisition (March 2010)
I acquired the 8″ orion Newtonian astrograph for a couple of reasons:
- Fast focal ratio telescope to reduce exposure time
- Great capabilities given the price – it compares well with a SCT of same aperture for deep sky imaging but provide a faster optic
- Large field of view compared to instruments of similar diameter
- Lightweight and easy to set up (compared to larger focal length Newtonian) or a Maksutov Newton of same diameter, putting less stress on the mount
- Do not break the bank… The cost of the Fs60-c I use as a guidescope on the picture above is twice the price of the 8″ optical telescope tube…
Optics is not perfect and shows spherical aberration – but it is not a big deal for prime focus photography in average seeing condition. One can still capture quite sharp images if the telescope is well collimated. The relatively large aperture and short f/d ratio allows to use it as a “light bucket” to take pictures of faint nebulae, even in a light polluted environment.
But collimation has to be done each and every time – and even repeated if the scope is pointed to another direction – collimation is not held very well. That is why it is critical for this telescope to have all the possible collimation tools. I use a laser collimator, finalize the collimation with an orthoscopic quality eyepiece. Then if needed touch again the collimation once a CCD is installed using the “CCD inspector” program – allowing me to assess precisely the collimation and do real time collimation using a succession of snapshots. The nice thing with CCD inspector is that you just need to take snapshots of any part of the sky and do not need to center exactly the focus on a bright star…
I use with this set up a Coma corrector (Baader Multi purpose coma corrector) – a must have accessory for this (astro imaging only) telescope.
Here is an example of B33/Horsehead nebula taken with this telescope.
Orion Maksutov-Newton 190mm (7.5″) – July 2009
This telescope went through a thorough star testing done with an artificial star (as for the Mak Cassegrain below).
I made the test and found (after thorough collimation) the optics extremely satisfactory, with nice diffraction patters in focus, and very similar (almost textbook-like) forward and inward out of focus diffraction patterns.
Visual image of Jupiter was also crisp and contrasty, making it a good planetary instrument when well collimated, even though this is not the primary purpose of this scope (which is flat field astrophotography).
On the cons side, as per Mak-Newton design, the OTA weight implies a robust mount – and ideally a Pier – for serious astrophotography work.
Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain 9″ 1/4
It is probably one of the best Celestron SCT in terms of compromise between portability and “raw power”:
- large aperture but lightweight enough to be carried and installed on the mount by one person – without too much struggle…
- it has a primary mirror at f/d 2.5 instead of f/d 2 for the other models which makes it supposedly better for planetary observing ( but I never saw facts / data proving that…)
The OTA is seen below with a Losmandy plate to support the guidescope. I found it quite efficient to minimize tube flexture between the OTA and the guidescope.
The takahashi FS-60C is here used as a guidescope.
I used it at the beginning for planetary observation.
More recently, with my pier and NJP mount (and better imaging techniques…) I am using it for Galaxy
and Planetary nebulas imaging (using it with the Celestron reducer / corrector).
This is a great scope, very versatile, still lightweight but with great capabilities.
Collimation needs to be done regularly – to get the best of this telescope.
Takahashi NJP-Z Mount on Pier
I used to have an Atlas Mount (bought in July 2009), which has a fantastic quality price ratio. However I felt I reached the limit of it, especially when trying to do long exposure with long focal telescope and more than 30lbs of gear.
I bought in September 2010 a used NJP-Z mount. The NJP-Z is the last series of the NJP, but with a modified base identical to the EM-400 base. NJP mounts, which are somewhat between the EM-200 and EM-400 are not longer produced. Too bad…
The mount is fixed on the Pier using an EM-400 pier adapter.
The NJP-Z is lightweight enough to be transported in one piece yet can carry up to 70lbs of gears. The polar scope precision is fantastic as on the other Takahashi mount and allows quite precise polar alignment without the use of drift alignment.
I use an Ascom driver, the Ascom platform, and Skytool Pro v3 for go-to operations. Autoguiding is done with a star shoot autoguider directly connected to the NJP autoguider port. Go-to functions and auto guiding requires a computer. I use a Toshiba netbook which has up to 8h of autonomy on a single battery charge.
The pier was bought at Skyshed. I would recommend this company.
The ordering process went pretty well and it was fairly easy to contact them to check from time to time how things were progressing. The ordering took about 2-3 weeks.
I dug a 45″ x 14″ hole and filled it with concrete for the pier base. Four 1/2″ J-Bolts are used to support the Pier.
Astrotrac Travel System – July 2010
Acquired in July 2010 – in preparation for a trip in New Mexico in September 2010. I am trying out the mount before with different instruments: Takahasi fs60c and Canon 200mm Teleobjective with Canon XTi.
So far, it sound like a very robust mount, great for Wide field astrophotography. Here is one of the first picture I took with a Canon 200mm teleobjective.
I bought this camera about two years ago. A great camera with low noise, and high resolution.
Used in conjunction with an Astronomik CLS CCD filter, this is really a “killer” combination to take shots in a light polluted environment.
I got this camera in March 2010 from Starizona. Really easy to use, with extremely low noise and great resolution. For example – see the picture of M1 I took with the Qhy8.
It has a medium size pixel (7.8 Microns) ideal to use with medium to low focal length.
I use it with my 8″ Newtonian and SV90 refractor.
The only complaint: terrible time to install the native drivers – and buggy Ascom drivers…
I got this camera in Jan 2010 from ccdlab. The qhy9 is a black and white camera with high resolution (+8MP) and small pixel size that I intend to use primarily for
- narrow band imaging and LRGB imaging
- LRGB pictures at longer focal length (requiring 2×2 or 3×3 binning)
- “science” work such as Astrometry, and photometry
I have a large collection of software I have been using during the past 2 years. I but in “Red bold” are the one I found the most useful at this stage…
SkyTool Pro V3: a nice observation and astrophotography planning software
Carte du Ciel v2.76 – Freeware
Winjupos – Freeware to compute planets ephemerids – including Central Meridian for Jupiter and Saturn,
Image Capture and pre-processing
Maxim DL 5: simple to use software with great camera / driver support. I used it mainly for pre-processing (flat / dark substration, alignement, stacking)
Maxpoint: optimize mount tracking. I have not tried it out.
Registax - Freeware: I use this software to process my planet pictures. Great free software!
Avistack- Freeware: I found AVI stack to be the best option for processing planetary images of the moon and the sun. With Registax and Avistack this is all you need to stack and optimize your planetary imaging.
CCD inspector: real time collimation and assessment of field curvature. Great tool to optimize CCD imaging..
PhD Guiding – Freeware – great and very simple to use for auto guiding. Amazing to have such quality software as a freeware…
AIP4Win v2.0: the software companion to the great reference book on imaging.
Photoshop CS4 extended edition: do not need to present this program. I used Paintshop Pro in the past. But given the capability of Photoshop – and all the training and books on this product – there is in fact no other option I found to process my pictures… Very expensive though.
AstraImage 3.0: good deconvolution routines in this program. I routinely use the maximum entropy deconvolution and wavelet sharpening for planetary imaging (photoshop plug in)
Neatimage 6.1 Pro
Noise Ninja: noise reduction program with many “tweaking options”. My preferred one.
Focusmagic v3.0: a great sotware and photoshop plug in to enhance image sharpness through sophisticated deconvolution algorithms. I use it routinely on planetary and deep sky imaging.
RC-Astro GradientXterminator: great plug in for gradient reduction by astrophotographer Russel Croman,
Nik Software – Sharpener Pro v3.0
Genuine Fractal 6.0: enlargement of pictures for poster size printing.
Visual Pinpoint - Astrometry