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Equipment

Comets

Deep Sky Objects

About Me

Equipment

The observatory houses a 20-cm Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, with a built-in GPS unit, Ultra-High Transmission Coatings, and Smart Mount Technology. The latter was useful when the telescope operated in Alt-Az mode before the observatory was built, but is no longer being utilized, as the telescope is mounted on a pier and polar aligned. Attached to the Meade is an 80mm Orion EON Apochromatic ED refractor. Together, these telescopes enable me to acquire images with fields ranging from 8 to 30 arc minutes (Meade) and 1.0-1.5 degrees (Orion).

I use several different cameras on the telescopes:

Philips ToUcam:
This is currently my oldest operational camera, having been purchased during the Autumn of 2003. It is typically used to acquire movies of the Sun, Moon, and planets, which are then processed into a clear image using computer software.

MallinCam Hyper black and white video camera:
I purchased this during December 2005, with first light in late January 2006. This is the most sensitive camera in the observatory, enabling me to image objects as faint as magnitude 18-19 in seconds. To date, I have imaged a hundred or so comets, as well as hundreds of deep sky objects.

MallinCam Hyper color video camera:
The second most sensitive camera in the observatory is this color version of the above camera. Although it can take longer exposures than the black and white MallinCam, the chip is not as light sensitive. Nevertheless, I can see color in objects during the live video feed to the computer. It is a nice camera for astronomy outreach, enabling many people to see a color object live on the monitor.

Canon T2i DSLR:
This is the latest digital DSLR camera I have acquired for general photographic purposes (landscapes, wildlife, portraits, and astronomy). I originally began with the Canon Digital Rebel back in 2004, which enabled images with a 6.3-megapixel resolution. Over the years, I have upgraded to the Canon XTi, the Canon XSi, and now the T2i. This camera acquires images with a resolution of 18 megapixels. Although I have acquired stunning images of comets and deep sky objects, these standard cameras all have an infrared filter that the light passes through, so that some of the most spectacular deep sky objects...the red nebulosities that litter the sky...barely show up.

Canon T2i Modified DSLR:
With the success of the standard Canon T2i DSLR, I bought a modified version during October 2010. The infrared filter has been removed, enabling me to acquire images of the red nebulosities in the sky. I typically use this on the 80mm apochromatic telescope. The images are amazing, so that this is the best color option currently in use in the observatory.

I have one custom-built computer system running in the observatory. It is running a 2.6GHz dual core processor, has 2GB of RAM, and 500GB and 1TB hard drive. The primary guiding software is Guide 8.0 by Project Pluto, which is displayed on a 15-inch flat panel monitor, while imaging and processing is displayed on a 17-inch flat panel monitor.

The MallinCams and the ToUcam are video cameras which operate by making AVI movies. These are then processed using Registax, which is a powerful, free program. It is virtually impossible to take images on a night with perfect seeing and transparency, but Registax takes the best frames from the AVI movies and creates an excellent rendition of whatever I photographed. Details are brought out on planets that the visual observer may have only glimpsed and details within a comet's tail or the arms of a spiral galaxy are brought out that might have only been detectable using much larger telescopes.