Ed Bianchina's Astronomy

Astrophotography

Equipment circa 2008-2009

Here is the original pier and the original ASGT mount.  What a mess of wires.  You can see the the hand controller on the pier and the single USB wire that I ran into the house.  What you can't see is the home made mounting for the guide scope.  In retrospect I can't believe I tried that.  It was awful.  The whole thing had so much flex that I could only do a minute exposure. At this time I was imaging with a DSI color (while using a DSI monochrome for guiding.  I also made an adapter so that I could focus without touching the scope using a Meade focus motor.  It worked great but could not be operated remotely.

 

In 2008 I made significant upgrades to my equipment.  I rebuilt my pier from a larger timber and added the Atlas mount.  I tried to make a mounting plate from a fence mounting post but it flexed to much so I had to purchase a 1" thick steel round and drill the holes myself.  This is not an easy task, particularity since I don't have a drill press or lathe. 

In the spring 2008 I purchased my Q-453 6 megapixel camera from CCD Labs.  I chose it because it is a single shot camera which offers a level of simplicity that mono camera's can't.  It was a real step up.  It is double TEC cooled camera and extremely low noise.  This really helps since the taking dark frames can take a long time.  The only draw back is that it is not quite a sensitive as a mono camera I can make up the time by not having to take images for each color.  

 

I then purchased a used Megrez 90 F/6.8 refractor telescope.  It is a great wide field scope.  When you add a focal reducer and a flat field lens the focal ratio goes to 5.4.  Perfect to nebula and larger galaxies.

 

I current own the following equipment

  1. Celestron 9.25 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope from the ASGT line of telescopes.  It is a vintage 2003 model  Works like a charm.  Used for higher magnifications and smaller objects.  I has a larger mirror so is more sensitive but is a larger technical challenge to operate and get high quality images. Targets are small nebula (or parts of nebula), planatary nebula and galaxies. (retail $1250)
  2. Megrez 90 Refracter This is my newest scope and I really like it.  Yields wide field of view for larger nebula and galaxy clusters.  I use a 0.8 field reducer/flattener to get a very flat and consistent focal plane. (retail $1199)
  3. SkyQuest XT8 Classic vintage 2002.  Works great with clean optics and is a great grab and go scope. (retail $329)
  4. Orion ShortTube 80-T Refractor used as my guide scope. (retail $229)
  5. Orion Atlas Mount - Heaviest of the "portable mounts.  Mine has been hypertuned which means I've replaced the bearings with high quality bearings.  I've also replaced the grease and done a little work on the gears.  Great scope for the price.  (retail $1400)
  6. ASGT Mount - My original mount.  Full goto capabilities.  GPS attached.  I use this as a travel mount.  Very easy to carry. (retail $700)
  7. Q453-HR (QHY8, Q8HR) 6.1 megapixel one shot color camera from CCD-Labs. Great camera for the price and can take some great pictures in the right hands.  I am still working on that! (retail at the time of purchase $2100 now $1500)
  8. Meade DSI mono camera.  Used as the guide cam on the ST80.  It was my main imager when I started.  Great starting camera. (retail $300)
  9. Misc (but important) items:
    1. Telerad finder
    2. 4 Dew heaters (main scope,guidescope, Telrad, Focal reducer when imaging)
    3. EQMOD for controlling the Atlas mount
    4. NexRemote for indoor control of the ASGT mount
    5. 7 - Port powered USB.  I seriously need that many ports.  This all runs to one central USB connection to my computer.
    6. Electricity--I think the whole neighborhood dims when I turn the whole thing on!
    7. 2 JMI Motor Focus with computer control.  This makes life much easier.
    8. Meade 6.6 focal reducer. Really helps getting a little larger field for imaging.  Absolutely required for imaging with the DSI.
    9. Meade 3.3 focal reducer.  Probably required for imaging with the DSI.
    10. Orion Sky glow light pollution filter.
    11. Williams Optics Field Flatner/Focal reducer III
  10. Home built wooden pier mounted to my deck.  Before you shake your head, it actually works.  True, I can't walk on the deck when I am imaging but I never did than when I had the tripod either.  I use a Telegizmo's 365 cover.  Everything is perfect.  I just walk out the back door, uncover the scope, mount the camera, power up and connect the USB connection and I am ready to go.  I can be imaging in 10 to 15 minutes (I still have to wait for the camera to cool off).  I also use a "Dry Rod" heating element from ScopeStuff to keep out dew.