(Updated on 07/11/2015)
For info about the Paramount ME upgrade click the image above.
These images on this page are of some of the observatory's telescopes. The show the various configurations that the scopes are used in, as well as some of their accessories. The configurations change over the years as new equipment gets installed as a result of my changing interests. The Paramount ME page has info about the Software Bisque mount and so of the scope configuration it uses.
Above are images of the 50mm wide angle imager / finder scope. This scope is a DIY project made from various parts & pieces. The objective is made from a Meade 50mm finder scope that comes on their SCTs. These finders are actually quite good, it's the eyepiece on these scopes that are the weak link. The objective was fitted to a Meade zero image shift focuser. The back side of the ZISF is setup with a standard T-thread adpater so it can be connected to a CCD camera.. (Top Right) A eyepiece can also be easily attached. (Bottom Right) Scope mounted to a ST-2000XM CCD camera with a CFW10.
The above photo shows the scope
configured for AZ/ALT mode and tripod mounted. The scope piggy-backed on top is the optical tube assembly
that was "de-forked" from
a ETX90EC. The pink and yellow stickers on the bottom rail mark the
location the weight should be moved to when accessories are added or removed.
This photo shows the Pictor 201 autoguider connected to the ETX90 OTA which is piggy-backed on the LX200GPS. I never had any luck making the 201 work correctly (even after spending countless hours when it was connected to the LX200GPS via the off-axis guider). The 201 is not a user friendly device. In fact I now believe that Satan himself may have designed it. I have since given it to a gentleman in Lithuania. He has manage to get it working and is happy with it.
•Here the Meade 10" LX200GPS sits polar mounted in the observatory on the polished aluminum Milburn wedge (which is currently covered with finger prints).
•The Meade ETX90EC guider scope can be seen hanging down (which is really the top side of the scope). Also visible are the cables for the dew heaters.
•The cables are covered with Flexi-Tube. This prevents the cables from becoming tangled during scope movement.
This is the same kid I see at my diner table every night. In this picture the telescope is configured for sunspot observing. You can see the mirrored white light glass solar filter perched on the front. While this filter produces natural color views of the sun, no prominences or surface details other than sunspots are visible. (Note the finder and guide scope remained covered to protect them from the sun).
These still pictures are screen captures from the 2 night vision video monitoring cameras inside the observatory during night time remote operations. These cameras are used to monitor the telescope in case of cable wrap or "runaway slews". This SLEW MOVIE (approx 6.5 megs) shows the telescope and dome rotation from an outside security camera as well as one of the indoor monitoring cameras.
Here the 3 piggy backed scopes can be seen on top. From left to right they are:
* Short Tube 80, 400mm F7 wide field scope. In this picture the ST80 is configured for solar viewing. Solar filter material has been installed in the small center aperture. During solar viewing, only the small dust cap is removed. For night time viewing the larger cap is removed. The small scope on the extension is the finder scope from the ST80.
* Coronado ScopeMax 40 (brass). It's a 40mm solar only telescope with a 400mm focal length. The front of the scope has a energy rejection filter (ERF) to cut the harmful heat and UV energy from the sun, The black section behind the energy rejection filter is the Hydrogen-Alpha filter. This filter is tunable in order to allow views of the sun's surface as well as prominences.
* 8X50mm finder scope for the 10" LX200GPS.
•If you look closely underneath the LX200GPS you can see the ETX90. It was moved from the top to the bottom when the ScopeMax and ST80 were added.
•The top side scopes are attached using rails mounted on the two outer most mount locations. A bracket was fabricated using parts from the local Home Depot to hold the solar scope. In this configuration the scope weights almost 93 lbs.
•The the black raised strip of fabric is the dew heater for the main scope. It can be seen just covering the "M" in Meade. The heater keeps the corrector plate warm so dew will not form on it. The heater strip is controlled by a heater controller mounted on the right fork arm (not visible in the above photo). The controller uses a thermocouple located on the bottom on the aluminum dew shield to measures the ambient air. It then maintains the temp of the heat strip up to 20 degrees warmer than the ambient air. The delta temp is set by a thermostat on the controller.
•Another view of the top mounted piggy-backed scopes. In this view you can see the dew heaters mounted on the Short Tube 80 and the 8x50 finder scope. The heater strip on the ST80 is thermostatically controlled. The one on the finder scope is not.
•The Coronado Maxscope40 (center) has no dew heaters.
•The "N" on the wall indicates the direction of true north. The colored marks are used to accurately align the dome within 1 degree before the beginning of an observing session.
In this configuration the ETX90 is shown mounted to bottom of the LX200GPS. Notice the ETX90 has been rotated 90 degrees clockwise. This allows the flip mirror on the ETX90 to also be used when it mounted under the LX200. The ETX's finder scope was removed because it was to close to the rear mounting ring's adjustment screw. That location also didn't allow a cover to be placed on it during a solar viewing session. Without the cover the finder scope would be damaged when pointed at the sun. A stabilizer bar was installed between the 2 mounting rings to keep the ETX90 from vibrating when the main telescope is slewed.
The ETX90 with the Meade LPI (Lunar Planetary Imager) attached to the visual back. The USB cable connects to a 4 port hub mounted on the side of the adjustable height pier. In this configuration the ETX90 can be used as either a computer controlled autoguider for the main scope or as a lunar or bright planet imaging scope.
The business end of the scope showing another solar viewing configuration. The 77mm energy rejection filter seen attached to an aluminum cover on the main scope is from Lumicon. This setup uses a Hydrogen-Alpha 1.5 Angstrom filter which is mounted just ahead of the eyepiece. This filter is also adjustable and allows viewing of prominences and sunspots, but little or no surface detail.
•The front of the ETX90 (with dust cap on) is visible in this shot hanging from the bottom of the LX200GPS.
•The DewBuster heater controller can be see mounted on the right fork arm. The heater controller's thermocouple is visible as a dark horizontal line just below and to the left of the white square at the bottom of the large cover.
•Back end of the "belly-mounted" ETX90 with the Meade LPI attached. The EZ-focus knob (white circle with numbers) can be seen at upper right on the LX200GPS. This knob was added to help with fine manual focus adjustments.
•The Autostar-II hand box sits in the holder (an option for the Milburn wedge). The holder has had a heater pad attached to the bottom to keep the controller warm during cold observing sessions. The heater is controlled by the DewBuster, but is not on a thermostat. The handbox holder was insulated from the 1 inch thick aluminum wedge, so heat would not transfer to the wedge instead of warming the controller.
•Close examination of the base of the telescope will reveal labeling on each of the cables and their corresponding connection location. This aids with the cable reconnections when the scope has been removed from the mount for maintenance or service.
The Pictor 416XT CCD camera (sans color-wheel) is shown here mounted to the visual back of the ETX90 OTA. A 90 degree diagonal was used to mate the camera to the ETX. Care must be taken when the scope is in this configuration, as it can only be pointed up in declination to about 70 degrees, because the CCD camera won't clear the fork base. A 12 volt fan was added to the 416's cooling fins. This helps wick heat away from the peltier chip inside camera during the hot summer months. The fan is operated at only 4.5 volts so it does not vibrate and ruin the images. The eyepiece at the bottom of the picture is mounted to the flip mirror with a 45 degree diagonal. The eyepiece with this diagonal will also not clear the fork arms, but when the 90 degree diagonal is used clearance is not an issue.
•The Pictor 416XT CCD camera is now shown connected to the
visual back of the LX200GPS.
•An OPT Astro "Gorilla" Knob (upper right fork arm) and a longer threaded rod was used to repair the scope when the aluminum threads on the clutch trunion stripped. Epoxy was used to bond the threaded rod that normally mates to the trunion in place. The gorilla knob was modified so the rod would now freely thread into it. A clearance hole was drilled into the clutch plate to allow the treaded rod to freely rotate within the plate. The result is the EZ-clutch now functions correctly, and only a small amount force is required on the knob to lock the Dec drive securely in place.
•On the back wall hanging from the thermometer and humidity indicator is a device know as the "Sky Hook". The Sky Hook is a harness that uses a quick release heavy duty luggage strap and 2 quick release dog collars. The device is placed around the neck and attaches to the bottom of the fork arms of the main scope. This makes carrying the large, bulky telescope safer and easier. It is also used to aid in removal and installation of the scope on the wedge.
Here the Pictor CCD is mounted on the Short Tube 80. (Hmm.. where's the power and control cable?) It should be noted that MaximDL is used to control the Pictor 416XT and not Meade's software. This is because the 416 has a habit of frosting up when the humidity builds up inside the camera. (The o-ring system that seals the camera doesn't work very well). MaximDL allows the user to turn off the peltier cooling chip. The Meade software does not. Even when the temp is set higher than the surrounding ambient air, the camera's CCD chip may still frost up. Correcting the problem requires opening the camera every month or so and placing the camera in a conventional oven (not a microwave) with low heat to bake-out the moisture if you live in a high humidity area. This of course will void the warranty.
In this configuration a laser can be seen mounted to the
bottom of the main scope inside the adjustable clear tube. The laser is used to
visually show where the telescope is pointing. It is aligned to the telescope's
main finder scope. The laser is activated by a toggle
switch which is mounted near the DewBuster heater control box.
• Each of the 3 rails holds weights which can be positioned along the rail in order to balance the scope. In the picture above 2 of the weights can be seen. The one on the top is a 16 oz weight, the partially shown weight on the lower left is 5 lbs. There is also another 16 oz weight not shown on the bottom rail. The weights can be position anywhere along the rail (except the one the shares the rail with the laser). This configuration allows the weights to be staggered for precise balance. This is very difficult to achieve with a single rail mounted weight.
This is what the observer sees when the scope's laser is activated. The green laser's beam is projected upward through the observatory's open shutter. As you can see this makes it very easy to pinpoint exactly where the scope is pointing, especially when the expected object is not visible in the eyepiece. The beam can also be seen in the finder scope and the eyepiece. A separate hand held laser is used for teaching and or showing guests where an object is in the sky. (When this picture was taken the red interior lights were on and there was cloud cover).
The Starlight Express CCD camera, the Pictor control box and Starlight Express USB interface box share one side of the pier. Most of the cables are covered with Flex-tube to prevent them from getting tangled during operations.
In this photo the ETX90 has been mounted on the computerized Meade "goto" LXD-55 German Equatorial Mount (GEM) with the Canon 10D Digital SLR camera attached at prime focus. This is the scope and configuration used for portability. This setup also supports the quick removal of the telescope and replacement with the camera and lens when wide field views are desired. The GEM mount is capable of remote computer control. (Note: Before use the camera strap is rolled up and secured so it does not get tangled during operation).
Stellarvue Binoviewer attached to the generic Short Tube 80. I am impressed with the views from these binos, even though their price is on the low end of the scale for binoviewers. When attached on the Hydrogen-Alpha Scopemax-40 a Siebert OCA corrector is used.
A Meade pier with a German Equatorial Mount (model 628). The pier was manufactured in the 1980's. It suffered from corrosion (inside and out) and the AC powered clock drive was not working. The unit has been repaired and now works. It is shown here topped with an Orion 80mm refractor. It will also be used as a mount for 4.5" Newtonian and the ETX90 OTA.
Here is the most recent addition to the observatory's telescopes. It is a Stellarvue SV102A. A apochromatic refractor with a 102mm aperture and a 890mm focal length. In the first photo it is shown mounted on the Meade LXD-55 GEM. The second image shows it inside the observatory mounted on the 10" LX200GPS using Losmandy hardware. Its configured for imaging with the SBIG ST-2000XM camera attached to the SV102A and the DSI-Pro attached to the LX200GPS as the autoguider.
Here are some of the 23 lbs of counterweights that were needed to perfectly balance the piggy-backed SV102A telescope and SBIG camera shown in the previous photo. The large counterweights total of17-1/2 lbs and are attached to a modified Lomandy WS C11/M10 counterweight system. Two small black 1 lbs weights can be seen on each side of the larger weights. An EZ-Balance 3 lbs weight (not shown) is also attached to the visual back of the telescope. In addition to that there are about 5 to 7 oz of weights in the fork arm where the batteries used to be. This helps the RA balance of the scope.
The Williams Optics Zenith Star 80 refractor is seen here mounted on the LXD-650 German Equatorial Mount (GEM)
In this configuration both a Calcium K and Hydrogen-Alpha PST can be seen piggy-backed on the LX200GPS. The 2 PSTs are bolted to a standard 4" wide Losmandy dovetail plate adapter which is attached to the dovetail plate on the OTA. This rail and dovetail adapter setup allows for very quick reconfiguration of the scope. The total time to swap from the SV102a above to the dual PST setup was less than 5 minutes and required no tools.
The grab-and-go solar platform. This setup features (from left to right) a Coronado 40mm Hydrogen Alpha Personal Solar Telescope (PST), a Williams Optics 80mm ZenithStar with a white light glass solar filter, a finder scope with a solar film filter and a Coronado 40mm Calcium K PST. The plate the scopes are attached to can be configured for mounting on either a Meade LXD650 GEM or any 4" Losmandy type dovetail plate.
The Stellervue F50 finder scope has been modified by removing the original diagonal. I never like the fact that the original diagonal didn't rotate. An extension barrel was bonded to the removable back of the finder. This will allow standard eyepieces and CCD cameras to be connected to the F50. In the image above the Mallincam CCD video camera is attached. This turns the F50 into a video finder or a widefield video image which is great for remote use.
Here is a closer look at the Modified F50 Mallincam configuration. Because of the weight of the Mallincam the F50 OTA was moved forward in the mounting rings so the 3 adjustment screws on the rear ring hold the 2" barrel assembly and the front screw hold the OTA. The F50 can still be used with a standard 1.25" eyepiece as finder finder scope. With some eyepieces the Stellarvue helical focuser can also still be used. The modification allows other cameras such as the DSI Pro or the Canon 10D to be attached. In all cases focusing is achieved by adding or removing sections of 2" extension barrels and then adjusting the depth of the camera's nose piece (or eyepiece) in the barrel.
A 2nd video camera was added to the system. The GStar-EX black & white camera was attached to an inverted Losmandy DCM2 camera mount which is attached to the dovetail plate on top of the SV102a refractor. The camera is actually mounted further forward than shown in the image above as the front ring mounting clamp was visible in the camera flied of view. Although it doesn't look like it from the picture above the lens clears the ring mount when the camera was moved forward. The output from both the Mallincam and the GStar-Ex are fed to a Slingbox A/V unit. The Mallincam is connected via S-video and the GStar-Ex via an RCA jack. Either output and be video remotely from any network PC that has the SlingPlayer client installed.
This is the output of the GStar-EX (left) and the Mallincam (right) which are pointed toward M42 (the Great orion nebula).
This is the display from the SlingPlayer remote client. The actual picture on the PC is much clear than the screen shown in the example above. The white tube see on the top is the OTA of Stellarvue 102A, the dark tube on the bottom is the dew shield on the 10" SCT. The 3 stars in Orion's belt can just been seen to the right of the SV102a. The gain on the camera and the iris on lens have turned down so the camera can function from dusk to dawn without washing out the image.
The camera is sensitive to infrared light. The 2 images above capture the effect of an infrared beam when one of the observatory's security cameras is triggered. The camera also must be covered during Solar viewing to prevent damage.
The telescope configuration was recently changed. The 10" SCT is no longer in use. The new configuration consists of 6 refractors ranging in size from 40mm to 102mm. The setup has been nicknamed the "Array" and it can either be used for visual observing or imaging. The GStar-Ex camera that is used for monitoring the dome position is part of the Array. All of the scopes except for the larger 102mm mounted in the middle ride on dovetail adapter plates and are adjustable. This allows the Array to be collimated so all scopes point at the same target as the 102mm. (Click on the images above for larger versions.)
Shown above are the bottom (left) and top (right) views of the mount base for the Array. The base was assembled from ADM dovetail plates. The center plate was assembled upside-down so it could be attached to the Paramount ME's Versa-Plate. Unfortunately after assembly I found the difference in dimensions between the AMD and Losmandy Plates meant the ADM plates would not slide into the Versa-Plate. To work around this issue a Losmandy plate (not shown) was used in the center position. (Click on the images above for larger versions.)
After playing around with different refractor configurations like "the Array", the setup shown above was chosen to replace the 12" Meade LX200R. The setup consists of a Stellarvue SV110ED-A (bottom left), a Stellarvue SV102A (bottom right), a Williams Optics Zenithstar 80 and a Coronado Maxscope40 solar scope. In the center is the GStar-EX CCD video camera with the 8.2mm lens, a reflex finder is mounted on top.
This is the view from the GStar-EX CCD video camera (scope labels are not part of the project image). The image is display with K3CCDTools, which has the ability to superimpose either 2, 4 of 8 Telrad type circles on the image. This is very useful alignments.
A Side by Side plate that would work with the Paramount's Versa plate was cobbled together from parts on hand.. While I have a ADM SBS plate, using it would require me to unbolt the Versa-Plate from the top of the Paramount and rotate it 90 degrees. I didn't want to do that. So I made my own SBS plate from pieces I had laying around. The ownly issue with that was the plate would have to clear the knobs used to tighten down the dovetail. A 1/2" block of aluminum fixed that.
Even though the Paramount has through the mount cabling there aren't enough wires inside to handle all the cables needed. So all the cables had to be carefully routed and tried off so none of them snag on stuff. I bundle my cables in flexible plastic. While it may not look pretty the cables don't get snagged as the mount moves or when camera rotates (ST-402ME right side).
This is the LHIRES-IIII. It is a Littrow high resolution spectrograph. The LHIRES-III is shown setup in stand-alone solar mode. The LXD-650 is used as the mount that allows the LHIRES-III to track the sun. In order to balance the setup the counterweight shaft was fully extended and 2 lbs of weights were placed on the end. The image on the right shows the Sun as a bright dot displayed on the dust cap of the guider port. Without a telescope attached this is the easy way to be sure the scope stay pointed at the Sun. For stellar spectroscopy the LHIRES-III is connect to a medium to large telescope, an imaging or video camera is attached where the eyepiece is and a autoguider is place on the guide port. The LHIRES-III is capable of measureing both absorption lines and emission spectra.
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