The P.H. Summers Observatory

 
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The P.H. Summers Observatory

Imaging is done from the P.H. Summers Observatory.  The primary instrument (shown below) is a 14″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on a pier-mounted Celestron CGE Pro equatorial mount.  The structure’s roof slides open (rather than peering through a slot, like you might seen in a traditional observatory) to eliminate “slot currents” that can degrade high-resolution imaging.  The observatory structure is over-sized and includes 7′ walls.  The walls of the observatory were built at full-height to minimize wind buffeting of the telescope during long-exposure photography.  In order to maximize the field of view, the pier is centered in a 16′ structure, so that the distance between the walls and the scope allow for imaging down to targets at 20 degrees altitude.

14″ Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope

The primary purpose of the observatory is high-resolution imaging of the planets and moons in our solar system.  The current planetary imaging system includes a Celestron C14xlt, Point Grey Research Flea3 monochrome CCD camera, and Starlight Express 7×1.25″ filter USB filter wheel with Astrodon and Astronomik filters.  To achieve different focal lengths, I use various Barlow lenses from Televue, Meade, and Baader.

rig

Takahashi FSQ106 (bottom) with an SBIG STL11000m camera. Riding on top of the FSQ106 is a smaller guide scope that doesn’t see much use and has since been replaced with a 50mm finder.

For deep-sky and widefield imaging (when there are no planets, moons, or comets to photograph), my current setup includes a Takahashi FSQ106EDXiii, FLI PDF microfocuser, and SBIG STL11000m imaging camera with TC-237 internal guider and 5-position filter wheel with Baader filters.  The piggy-backed guide/finder scope is an Astro-Tech AT72 that I got for free in a sale a few years ago, when I bought an Astro-Tech AT111.  It’s since been replaced with a 50mm guide scope, which is more practical for this application as an “electronic finder”.  The rig is connected locally to a networked laptop, permitting remote control of the entire observatory.

shed-in

Inside the observatory with the FSQ106 on the mount during the fall of 2014 with a modified Canon 500d camera attached.

Please note that my use or ownership is not an endorsement of any product and I have no affiliation with any equipment manufacturers, suppliers, or distributors.

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