The Observatory and Equipment

My observatory has varied throughout my years as an astronomer and currently consists of gardens at the back and front of my home in rural South Buckinghamshire, UK (51° N, 0.5° W), though I have observed from other parts of the southern UK and for long periods in the Canary Islands. My primary telescopes employed for high-resolution imaging were (until recently):

1. Celestron 11-inch (28 cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope: This is the primary telescope used for my planetary imaging programs. It was acquired new in May 2002 and is mounted on a G11 German Equatorial mount. The telescope is of high quality optically and presents superb views of the planets up to greater

Figure 7.1. An image of Saturn obtained by the author on December 16, 2003. This view of Saturn close to opposition, obtained under excellent atmospheric seeing conditions, reveals a level of detail greatly exceeding the finest Earth-based photographs from professional telescopes taken 20 years ago.

than 600x power. It is used in conjunction with high-quality Televue Barlow lenses to increase the focal length. At the rear of the telescope, the standard SCT focuser is "abandoned", and focusing is accomplished through a high-quality Crayford focuser manufactured by JMI, which is equipped with a digital readout of the focus position. This allows very fine and precise focusing. 2. Celestron 9.25-inch (23.5 cm) XLT Schmidt Cassegrain telescope: This telescope was acquired new in February 2004. The setup is very much the same as that on the larger scope, with a JMI motorized Crayford focuser being used to replace the standard one. This OTA can be used on either the large G11 or a smaller modified CG-5, which is used for travel purposes. This telescope has also provided many fine views and images.

However, these telescopes were both sold, being replaced, at the time of writing, with an Intes 10-inch F/6 Maksutov-Newtonian as the primary planetary telescope and a Meade 127ED Apochromat being employed for high-resolution imaging of the Sun.

Three different CCD cameras are used in all. I started with an SBIG ST-5c cooled CCD camera, but during late 2002 I made "the move" to using two webcams. These are the popular Philips TOUcam Pro webcam and, more

Figure 7.2. The author and his 28cm scope ready for action, with the imaging PC located close by. At the rear of the scope, the ATK-1HS is seen attached.

recently, an ATK-1HS black and white type. The webcams have allowed images of even greater resolution to be obtained with amateur telescopes (see Figure 7.1). Primarily, my telescopes are employed for long-term studies of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, but I have also employed them for high-resolution imaging of the Sun (see Figure 7.3), Moon and binary stars.

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