This year I've added an Astro Tech 8" Richie-Chretien telescope (the big one on the bottom). This type of telescope was designed specifically for imaging by providing a flat field free from coma distortion. I sold a bunch of my old stuff and was able to totally self finance the scope (thus saving a marriage!) It has a carbon fiber tube making it very stable to changes in temperature. It also has a large opening in the bottom of the scope to minimize vignetting.
The design of the scope (the same as the Hubble) is that the primary and secondary mirror are fixed (non-movable) which provides very stable images with respect no shifting due to mirror flop as is common on SCT. Instead you focus the telescope by moving the camera back and forth. On top of my new baby is my trusty Williams Optics Megrez 90 wide field scope. By switching between the two I can image small objects (galaxies, planetary nebula) and large objects (nebula, galaxy clusters).
I have also added a Celestron CGE mount to be able to carry the heavier load more easily. I am still working out the bugs, like the GOTO accuracy but I am sure that will come. This mount is a huge step up from the Atlas (which I loved) so the growing pains will be worth it.
I also added a Star Shooter Autoguider to the set up for my guide camera.
I still have not spent a single dime on the upgrades. All of the funding came from sell all the stuff I never did anything with.
Projects left for the year is a METAL pier to be installed. I still don't think it will be set in concrete but I don't want to leave the tripod out.
I current own the following equipment
- AstroTech 8" Richie-Chretien astrograph. Brand new! This scope is designed especially for astrophotograhy. I will use it to image smaller objects like galaxies and planetary nebula. (retail $1365)
- 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), planetary 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. I still have it but I am going to sell it. (retail $229)
- Orion Atlas Mount -
- Celestron CGE Mount - I am still working out the bugs on this one. It is huge and it is portable but it will be difficult. (retail $3600?)
- 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)
- Orion Star Shooter Autoguider. Used as the guide cam on the Megrez 90 and the AT8RC. The jury is still out in this one.
- Misc (but important) items:
- Telerad finder
- Dew heaters (guidescope)
- NexRemote for indoor control of the CGE 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 neighborhood dims when I turn the whole thing on!
- 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.
- Orion Sky glow light pollution filter.
- WAstrotech Field Flattener
- 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.