Astronomy Equipment


Telescopes, Pier, Light Box, Stool

In 1997 I purchased the telescope used in most of these astrophotos. It is a Meade 2080 LX-3 SCT (circa 1988). It has an eight inch aperture with a focal length of just over 2000 mm. Like many SCTs it is fork mounted. It has a crystal controlled Right Ascension motor and a manually controlled Declination motor for guiding. The Meade has a piggyback mount I have used for a guide scope, refractor, or camera.

In May 1999 I purchased my first refractor, an Orion Short Tube 80. I was looking for a fast telephoto lens for the upcoming Nebula season and found I could buy a 400mm f/5 telescope for less cost. I can now image those wide Field Of View objects my f/10 SCTs could not handle.

In August 2000 I purchased an SBIG ST7E CCD camera. I had often heard how CCDs can cut through light pollution, and the SBIG has tremendously increased the objects I can image. No longer are galaxies faint fuzzy puffs, they now have shape, texture, and dust lanes.

In July 2004 I purchased a Stellarvue Nighthawk 80/f6 refractor. The Orion belongs to my wife, and I was borrowing it too often. I decided to upgrade to better optics rather then buy another ST-80.

In March 2006 I purchased an LX200 base and forks, and moved my trusted LX3 OTA to a new mount. It took awhile to get it adjusted but now I can position the scope remotely.

In April 2010 I purchased an SBIG ST4000XCM which is a One-Shot-Color camera. This camera proved more sensitive to blue nebulas which were impossible with my previous cameras.

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Orion Short Tube 80 f/5 Wide Field Refractor.



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Stellarvue Nighthawk 80/f6 Refractor.

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Stellarvue Nighthawk 80/f6 Refractor.


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LX3 OTA on LX200 mount


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The Stellavue proved too heavy for my balance kit and SCT drive. I "borrowed" the 2 inch focuser and installed it on the much lighter Orion OTA. It fit fairly well, except the three mounting screws were rotated 180 degrees! My old piggyback mount was not very solid so I made an aluminum mounting bar. I added brackets to support the camera since even the larger focuser sagged under the weight.




I have the usual collection of accessories us SCT owners feel we can't live without: Meade 6.3 and 3.3 focal reducers, Lumicon UHC, O III, and H Beta filters, Telrad, 8*50 Finder, Orion Offset Guider (never used), JMI MotoFocus, JMI NGC miniMAX Digital Setting Circles, etc. I credit the DSCs with allowing me to image galaxies I can't even find in the eyepiece. I credit my homemade $45 pier with allowing me to set up quickly, stay polar aligned for months, and provide places to hang all the accessories. Since the pier is wood, it is easy to add hooks and holes to hang controllers. When I've tried to do astrophotography at remote dark sites I'm awash in cables and hand controllers.

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Click here for pier building instructions.

Pier with hooks for battery, outlet for power, holder for observing list holder for DSC,
holder for hand controller, shelf for eyepieces, holder for MotoFocus.


I built a Dobsonian mount for the Celestron 114 HD from instructions on the web site below. I added a hinged door on the top of the Tube Box to allow removing the OTA for use in the equatorial mount. I discovered other benefits since the tube rotation and balance are adjustable unlike some Dobs.

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Click here for Ray Cash's Dobsonian building instructions.

I made a sturdy step stool with full depth steps for those odd positions SCTs sometimes force you into (such as viewing around Polaris). Also, at public viewings a stool is needed for short guests. Later I realized long guided exposures sometimes require an adjustable chair. I added a seat to the stool with about 11 inches of height adjustment. The seat is usually stowed under the bottom step when not needed.

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Stool with adjustable seat.

I needed a Light Box for taking flat images with the CCD, and found instructions for "The 10 minute light box" by Gerry Melino. I built my version from an old plastic flower pot and a string of 100 clear holiday lights. I cut two circles from an old (10 years+) sheet of 3/4 inch milky white Styrofoam. It worked very well, just bright enough for exposures between 2-10 seconds at the focal ratios I'm using.

I don't know if it was the old foam, partially closed rear end, or hotter bulbs but unlike Gerry I had a heat problem. On my third time out the inner circle of foam collapsed. Inspection revealed the heat shriveled the Styrofoam causing the bulbs to fall out. I remade the Pot using newly purchased precut inch thick circles (8 & 9 inch) of pale white (more translucent looking) Styrofoam. I enlarged the air vents and will modify my flat taking procedure to set up autograb first. Then I'll only power on the Light Pot for the few minutes it takes to download a dozen or so flats. The new foam passed far more light resulting in over exposure at fast focal lengths even at the minimum 0.11 sec STE-7E shutter time. I made a small change in the holiday light string so that it operates as one string of 100 bulbs instead of two strings of 50. This reduced light output by about 4:1 with a similar reduction in heat.

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Light Pot for taking CCD flat images.

When I started using a color filter wheel to do LRGB imaging I found the Light Pot was very weak in blue. I made a new battery powered LED light box using plans from Al Kelly. My color photos improved considerably with this and other suggestions from the AIP eGroup.

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Light Box with white LEDs.

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Wood and Aluminum wedge for ETX-90

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