STELLARVUE SV80S, SV102ED AND LOSMANDY GM8
ATIK ATK-16 CCD CAMERA
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The Stellarvue 4 inch f/7 ED refractor is proving to be a splendid insturment for CCD imaging.  Star tests show dead-on alignment, contrasty, uniform diffraction patterns on both sides of focus, no astigmatism, no apparent over or uner correction and amazingly smooth optics.  Visually, very modest spurious color can be seen with Jupiter and the lunar limb, but frankly, you need to look for it.  Tube assembly fit and finish is excellent.  The 2 speed, 2 inch Crayford focuser is smooth operating and more than adequate for my modest size camera / reducer / filterwheel combination.  With cameras and guidescope attached, including rings and mounting plate, the whole assembly weighs 18 pounds; easily hanbled by my long suffering GM8 mount.

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The Stellarvue SV80S, 3 element 3 inch f/6 APO is an excellent instrument visually; pinpoint stars across the entire field of view with jaw dropping contrast, making it an outstanding astrograph, for which it was specifically acquired.  Unlike the 80ED, the APO can image without a UV/IR block filter - excellent for galaxies and globulars - and the shorter focal length provides an appreciably wider field of view with my relatively small format CCD camera.  The SV80S is solidly built, compact and relatively lightweight, with a smooth operating 2 inch, 2 speed Crayford focuser.

I'm using a piggybacked SV66ED as a guidescope, replacing the Orion 80ED.  The extra aperture of the 80ED was welcome for guiding, but not its weight -- the 80ED's proportions and weight are more like that of a 4 inch telescope.  By going to the lighter SV66 I shed over ten pounds from the overall setup, as I am able to eliminate one of the 7 lb., counterweights.  The SV66ED optics are excellent, and, like the SV80S, it also utilizes a smooth operating Crayford focuser.  The focus drawtube is threaded for SCT accessories, making it simple to mount the Atik 2HS with T-thread fittings.  I am using a variable eyepiece projection unit, without an eyepiece, between the drawtube and camera.  A very solid arrangement.

The Losmandy GM8 has proven to be an excellent platform for astrophotography.  The entire system is incredibly rigid and very smooth operating.  Polar alignment typically only consists of proper placement of Polaris and two neighboring stars on the reticule in the polar alignment scope.  Alignment seems quite adequate for imaging at 3-4 arc seconds per pixel.

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I'm using an Atik ATK-16 monochrome CCD camera for deep sky imaging.  The ATK-16 utilizes a 1/2 inch interline CCD, Sony ICX-429ALL (752x582 resolution w/ 8.6u x 8.3u pixels), is a 16 bit system and is peltier cooled to roughly 25 degrees C below ambient.  Images typically show extremely low noise, even at exposures of 20 minutes, often doing away with the need for dark frame subtraction.  The ATK-16 is shown here mounted on an Atik manual 5 position filter wheel with a Televue 0.8x focal reducer / flattener. 
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I'm utilizing a StellaCam II monochrome frame integrating video camera with a fast 50mm cine lens as a finder scope on my system.  This setup gives me a 7.5 x 6.0 degree field of view on my 9" video monitor, and at 8 second frame integration will show all of the Messier objects and many of the brighter NGC objects.  Typically I only need roughly point the scope at the region of sky where the target object is located, then center the object on the video monitor screen.  The live video image is also useful for spotting satellites or planes moving towards the object being imaged - I can easily cut short a sub frame exposure to avoid recording the intruding light trails.  And the camera will reveal thin high clouds not visible to unaided eye.

I use Dew-Not defogging heaters on my telescope and video finder objectives, powered by an 8 volt DC variable power supply.  These little heating strips are worth their weight in gold on those nights of heavy dew.

An Atik 2HS commercially modified web cam is used for auto guiding utilizing Stark Labs PHD Guiding software.  The software is simple to setup and insanely easy to use.  Initially, some tweaking of drive gears and scope balance was required, well duh, but I seem to be refining both and obtaining nice round stars in my images.
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Initial CCD imaging setup with Orion 120ST & 80ED with Moonlite Focusers

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The Orion 120ST (f/5 achromat) and 80ED f/7 are no longer being used for imaging, though both proved to be excellent for H-alpha imaging.  The original focusers on both scopes were less than adequate for deep sky imaging and both were replaced with Moonlite Crayford focusers.  The Moonlites are bulky and heavy, but extremely smooth operating and solid as the proverbial rock.  Well worth the investment.  I am now using the 80ED on a separate EQ mount for solar viewing and imaging with a Herschel wedge - pretty killer setup.

And the beat goes on......

Jim Ferreira
Livermore CA
BakerSt@comcast.net

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