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
- 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)
- 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)
- SkyQuest XT8 Classic vintage 2002. Works great with clean optics and is a great grab and go scope. (retail $329)
- Orion ShortTube 80-T Refractor used as my guide scope. (retail $229)
- 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)
- ASGT Mount - My original mount. Full goto capabilities. GPS attached. I use this as a travel mount. Very easy to carry. (retail $700)
- 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)
- 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)
- Misc (but important) items:
- Telerad finder
- 4 Dew heaters (main scope,guidescope, Telrad, Focal reducer when imaging)
- EQMOD for controlling the Atlas mount
- NexRemote for indoor control of the ASGT mount
- 7 - Port powered USB. I seriously need that many ports. This all runs to one central USB connection to my computer.
- Electricity--I think the whole neighborhood dims when I turn the whole thing on!
- 2 JMI Motor Focus with computer control. This makes life much easier.
- Meade 6.6 focal reducer. Really helps getting a little larger field for imaging. Absolutely required for imaging with the DSI.
- Meade 3.3 focal reducer. Probably required for imaging with the DSI.
- Orion Sky glow light pollution filter.
- Williams Optics Field Flatner/Focal reducer III
- 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.