I have been interested
in Astronomy for many years now. My first telescope was a Dixons
60mm refractor which I purchased from my paper round money when
I was 13 years old. I eventually sold this and purchased another
2nd hand 60mm refractor to try and view Halleys comet. This was
a very poor instrument, and was about as impressive as Halleys
comet! I gave up observing the stars for many years until I managed
to get my own house. It was then I decided I would like to get
a telescope again, and maybe get involved in some astrophotography,
a life long ambition.
The first real instrument
was a Meade 10" LX200. I purchased this in 1996, and decided
that carrying the OTA and Forks assembly into the garden was both
uncomfortable, and possibly a little dangerous in the snow and
ice. It was with this in mind that I decided to landscape the
garden to prevent bringing dirt into the house from the muddy
winter grass, and also save my back.
It was at this time
that I decided to purchase a Milburn Wedge to aid in my astrophotography.
This was a fine piece of engineering, and substantially stronger
than the Meade Super Wedge. It also cost less! which always helps.
The addition of a Lomo guider / wide field scope was also undertaken
again using rings supplied by Ken Milburn.
Having played with
the LX200 for some time, I decided that I would like to upgrade
the system. I wanted the GOTO facility without the problems of
the mount sounding like a tractor in the middle of the night.
In addition some problems with mirror shift occurred, but the
use of an NGF focusser also helped minimise this. The idea was
to buy a nice refractor for both planetary viewing, and deep
sky imaging, a ccd camera, and maybe another SCT OTA at later
I managed to pick
up a Takahashi FS128 on an EM10 mount secondhand, and in quite
nice condition. The EM10 was a bonus as I could use this as a
portable mount for the time being whilst getting a GOTO system
for a permanent mount in the garden.
For a permanent mount
I was restricted to a Paramount GT-1100, an AP 1200/900 GTO,
or possibly a Quadrant system. The latter I was not familiar
with, and the AP had a waiting list which was of unknown length.
Having spoken with Tom Boles our local supernova hunter, and
Jim Barclay in Australia, I decided that the GT-1100 should be
a good choice - if not an expensive one. I duly put my name down
for an AP, and ordered the GT-1100 from Software Bisque.
The Paramount GT-1100
is quite a beast, and is incredibly accurate for both pointing
and guiding. It is not a small mount as I found out when it arrived.
The mount was a serious
piece of kit. With the help of another local astronomer Dave Rose
we managed to get the system up and running just before the rain
came. Yes you've guessed another 'cloud magnet'. The mount is
controlled by either a small hand controller by moving N-S-E-W,
or via a computer using a very nice program called the SKY. No
GOTO facilities are available from the hand controller. Additional
software including T point for getting accurate alignment, and
orchestrate for planning Supernova hunts is also provided. My
system was designed to run primarily from a laptop PC which I
also intend to use remotely from the PC upstairs using an internal
LAN set up in the house.
This is how the system
was set to run with just the Takahashi FS128 and the Imaging system.
After sometime I began to miss the focal length I had with the
10" SCT, so I kept my eyes open for a long focal length refractor.
Something that I could use on the planets, and Sun in particular.
The Takahashi does have a vari extender which acts like a high
quality barlow which would give me extra focal length and a higher
f ratio. What would have been ideal was to compare the two. Soon
after these thoughts an Astrophysics 6" f12 refractor came
up. I decided to buy it and mount both refractors on the same
pier. This would of course mean raising the height of the pier.
This was duly done.
A special platform
was manufactured by a friend Ray Flaxman which held two sets of
Parallax rings to hold the Astrophysics 6" f12, and the Takahashi
FS128. In addition a further Takahashi - the FCT76 was acquired
for wide field imaging. This has a focal length of 487mm and is
very well constructed with a helical focusser. It's a marvelous
little scope, and incredibly sharp. This was attached using the
set of Milburn rings formally used on the LX200 to hold the Lomo.
The two Takahashi refractors can also be used on the EM10 for
visual and limited imaging work. This was the system that I used
for the Equinox Star Party at Thetford in September 2000.
Following my return
from Thetford I was notified by AP that the AP900GTO mount was
available for order if I was still interested. With the limited
weight capability of the EM10, and my interest in imaging both
at home and away, I decided to sell the EM10, and put the funds
towards the AP900GTO. With funds also being rather tight I decided
that the slight improvement of the 6" over the 5" refractor
was difficult to justify having both, so the AP 6" f12 was
also sold, and I kept my eyes open for a largish SCT OTA as originally
I managed to locate
a second hand Celestron C11 OTA, and have now installed that on
the Paramount GT-1100, the AP900GTO mount has also arrived, and
this is assembled onto a portable pier system by AstroPhysics.
The FS128 and FCT76 are kept joined together using the ring system,
and are connected to the mount with a Losmandy dovetail plate.
This makes assembly quick, and safe. Small bits of tape indicate
the position at which balance has been achieved
Well that's where we
are now, ideas are in place for possibly building a dedicated
Solar telescope, but funds are not available yet. Something on
the lines of a 6" f30 folded refractor for high resolution
H alpha images, with an option for white light as well. All I
need now is a box so I can reach the SCT - or shall I cut the
pier back to where it used to be? Hmmmmmmm!
Update October 2002
Well that was how I
left it last year. This year things have changed slightly. The
Paramount GT-1100 has been sold, and so has the blue pier. The
centre of the garden now contains my Observatory - Sirius Observatory
from Australia. It is 7' 6" diameter, and 8'7" tall.
It is motorised, and is almost completely finished.
I still have the two
Taks FS128 & FCT 76, and the C11. I expect the Paramount ME
to be arriving in November, and the AP900 GTO will become my transportable
system complete with the portable pier.
Update June 2003
Well it may have been
later than I expected, but its here. The Paramount ME arrived
at the end of April, and it is a work of art. It is now set up
in the dome in place of the AP900GTO which has been put aside
for portable applications etc.
The mount itself is
huge compared to the AP900GTO as you can see in the image below.
The build quality and finish is nothing short of superb.
It is now holds the
Takahashi FS128, the Vixen 80mm, the FCT 76, and the Celestron
C11. Even with this load it will zoom around easily using the
joystick. It sounds effortless.
The Paramount ME fully
loaded, and ready to run n the dome. At last I am getting somewhere.
For more details of
the Sirius observatory dome and its construction etc see the link
Well a new year, and
a new piece of gear, has a familiar ring to it doesn't it!.
The C11 has been sold,
and I am now the proud owner of 12.5" RC manufactured by
RC Optical Systems.
Probably the finest
optical configuration there is for imaging. This system produces
a completely flatfield over large areas associated with that required
for todays larger CCD chips. The build quality is incredible,
and it is also a work of art.
I am also now the UK
dealer for these scopes.
Kev with his new toy,
just installed. The original pier was shortened by removing the
pier extention, and a new circular disc was placed on the top,
and an additiona; ME plate was incoporated to allow the new system
to fit in the dome.
The next task is to
get the lot aligned, and also get the refractors mounted around
Special thanks also
to Dave Rose for his assistance in getting all in on Saturday,
Update July 2004
The next task of getting
the refractors mounted on the side of the RC is now complete,
thanks to Dave Rose for designing some rather fancy brackets which
bolt directly onto the RC OTA, it has now been possible to mount
the FS128, the FCT 76, and the Vixen refractors permantley on
the side of the RC. It also means I can use the FS128,. and FCT
76 portable very easily. If I want take the complete telescope
setup out portable on the new pier and mount in support of either
portable imaging, or promotional purposes for Sirius Observatories,
then I can
Here you can see the
two side of the RC holding the two refractor packages. It appears
that the mount is quite happy with the combination, which is a
relief, but I still need a little final twaeking to ensure all
is ready for imaging.
Here is a view of the
rear of the telescope assemblyshowing the refractors. I am just
waiting for the instrument rotator due any time now, and I can
get all accurately balanced,a nd running.
Here is shot of the
scopes through the dome slit. Not a huge amount of room left,
but enough I guess for one more if I ever need it. Certainly looking
forward to getting all running.
Observatory - April 2002
H alpha & Calcium solar accessories
I will update the site
when the new Paramount GT-1100ME arrives. I have moved on my AP900GTO
as I will no be running an ME portable on a Pier-Tech 3 pier.
This will allow me carrying capacity to take the RC, and all equipment
out for either observing, or just for demonstartion purposes.
I am no the UK dealer for the RCOS RC's, and also the Pier-Tech
piers, so it seemd a sensible move. To demonstrate those I do
need a pier / mount combination which I can use together in the