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Thanks John !!!

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There's little I can add in terms of thanks to John Smith, as it's all been said elsewhere in this jungle of words (and yes, he's on the left...). He won't appreciate my thanking him in this website, but what the heck, he made the mistake of solving literally every problem I ran into (and so deserves to be thanked).   Finding someone to consult with can be a bit intimidating, as you never know who or what you'll get.  I was, to say the least, very fortunate.  He spent many hours keeping me from making many of the mistakes I made in setting up my first observatory.  I never ceased to be impresed by the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and his patience in sharing this.  Without any exaggeration it was a privilege to have him consult on my project.  As we worked together, I began to realize that besdies criss-crossing the country and taking on challanging projects (such as setting up observatories), he's written some great software (CCDAutopilot II is an increadibly useful program).  Using his patience, adherence to basic principals such as the scientific method and a logical 'no frills' approach, he's improved upon many of the imaging systems I use (and many I haven't yet used).  He is well respected  and I hope will, some day, put his knowledge in book form (I'll tell you what John , we'll play an hand of Show Low, and if I win, you write the book and turn over Tucson, Arizona; if you win, I'll stop bugging you with my endless barage of questions...I'll start the game....wow...I just pulled the 2 of clubs...OK, now it's your turn, good luck........).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Modified Philips To-U-Cam Pro 840K

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I couldn't resist diving back into planetary imaging.  The RC-16 is ideal for planetary imaging with a FL of 3685 mm.  Using the Philips to-U-Cam Pro 840, this put me at an image scale of .32 arc-sec/pixel and a FOV of  2.6 x 3.5 arc-min (Although we could debate this for hours, I determined there would be no real need for barlow or eyepiece projection.  This is a real plus as any glass in the image train is bound to add noise).  My biggest problem was getting the video chip at the focal point of the telescope (remember, RC scopes should have their primary/secondary mirror in their ideal position, ie, no focusing !!).  The nosepiece I got with the webcam projected an extra 3/4 inch from a narrow neck located between the threads (into the web camera) and the 1.25" nosepiece.  As can be seen, I cut this neck at its' base on the 1.25" nosepiece.  To have a secure mounting surface I slightly widened the hole I created in the 1.25" nosepiece, allowing the neck to slide into it.  This firm metal to metal contact was then super-glued (it's rock solid).  I gained another .2" by removing the web cameras faceplate.  To get the extra 0.5" I still needed I modified my Van Slykes MegaPort Sidewinder, as is illustrated in the next frame.
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Van Slykes Mega-Port Sidewinder

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While building my observatory I spent a good deal of time agonizing over 4 issues: 1)  How can use the telescope visually without having to dismantle the CCD imaging set-up (potentially ruing my T-point model, not to mention the precision rotator, CCD camera, etc) 2)  How can I, at the same time, add an OAG for imaging, 3)  How can I do this with the necessary 2.7” of aperture (especially important if I eventually go to the 6303 camera or use my SBIG STL-11000) and 4)  How can I do all the above with the limited back focus available.

            To my surprise Van Slykes had already anticipated this issue and put together the Mega-Port Sidewinder.  It does all the above and a good deal more. For details please look at his site at  http://www.observatory.org/featside.htm .  Rather than review this precision multi-port device (which he does in considerable detail),  I’ll note a few import aspects from my perspective.  The system is solid and flexure free.  In my own testing, up to 20 minutes so far, my stars are perfectly round with the set-up shown above (using the OAG or SBIG internal guider).  The OAG has the ability to rotate and can be adjusted by raising or lowering its’ position, though with the SBIG 402XME I appear to be seeing magnitude 14 stars (i.e., I seem to generally, though not always, have good guide stars without moving from the center of my target).  The slider is nicely built and the mirror etched so that it will NEVER run into the OAG.  Equally important to me is the fact that Paul (Van Slykes) took the time to walk me through the items I would need.  And finally, being only 3” wide, I can use the system even with my limited back focus (more on this in the next image).  Shortly after installing the Mega-Port Sidewinder I took my first look at Jupiter through the 16" RC Optical Ion Milled Optics.  I’m still absorbing the details I could see, not just the bands, but the irregularities and bands within the major band pattern.  This multi-port instrument was a great find and is already being appreciated by those who happen to “wander” on by the observatory.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another "Latest 'Ideal' Image Train Arrangement"

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If you enlarge this image you'll see that I cut the viewport of the MegaPort sidewinder (where the web camera is attached), bringing the Philips To-U-Cam closer to the telescopes focal point (Paul Van Slykes is making me a proper one, but I just couldn't resist experimenting on my own !!).  The 2" to 1.25" adapter is super-glued to the port, as there was no room for a thumbscrew (and I don't have anything to tap one with, even if there was room).  This gave me enough working room to allow for an adjusting ring.  This is important, as I can slip the camera out and insert an eyepiece for viewing.  Once done, I can put the camera back and know it will be at its' ideal focus point. One note:  I use my STV as a wide angle live viewfinder.  Since the telescope is oriented to the STL-6303 in a fixed manner, I can use the STV to center objects on the web cam.  This is a useful feature as the web cam and CCD camera do NOT look at the exact same point in the sky (the ability to center planets to the web camera in this way is critical if using the observtory remotely).  I can do the same with my OAG (although I also used features in "The Sky" to build a reference point for the OAG). All's thats left for 100% robotic use of this web camera is a "robotic" way of pushing the MegaPort Mirror in (for planetary imaging) or out (for deep sky imaging).  For now I'll have to actually walk out and move it by hand on those nights of planetary imaging (it'll be good exercise). 
 
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Latest "Ideal" Image Train Arrangement

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This image is my ideal set-up, differeing from the previous image in that the camera being used is a SBIG STL-11000 (with a Class 1 SBIG 6303 arriving in 2 weeks !).  This camera can be replaced with the SBIG STL-6303, without disrution the image train (the distance from the camera face plate adaptor to the CCD is the same for both cameras).
   In setting up the image train on a RC telescope, the chip must be placed at the telescopes focal point (within 0.25").  If this isn't done, the coma free advantage of these hyperbolic mirrors is lost  (the field flattener is added to reduce astigmatism). For my RC-16, this distance is 10.09" from the back of the telescopes faceplate.  With this in mind the image train was set-up as follows:  1) RCOS flield flattener (2"), 2)  RCOS Precision Rotator (2.55"), 3)  AstroPhysics 2.7" Apeture Spacer (0.75"), 4)  Van Slykes Mega-Port Sidewinder with adaptors (3.25"),  and 5)  STL-6303's "true" distance from the mounting adapter of the camera to the CCD, with filters in place (1.470"; obtained from mechanical drawings on SBIG website for STL series cameras).  This places the CCD chip at 10.02" from the back of the RC-16 backplate.  Since the true focal plane is 10.09" from the back of the telescopes base, the "error is 0.07". This is essentulally "dead on". 
   A good measurement to know is the distance from the mounting plate of the CCD camera to the chip, which for the STL series is 1.470" (this measurement takes the presence of a filter into account).  One can then check the math by measuring the actual distance from the telescope's back plate to the STL's mounting adapter.  In my case it was about 8.6 inches.  This essentially matches the "expected distance" of 8.62" (10.09,ie, focal point, minus1.470, ie, adapter to chip distance on the STL series camera).   
   Now it's time to stop messing with the system and take some  images with the  STL-11000 or  STL-6303 images.  It will be possible, with this set-up (using Van Slykes Mega-Port Sidewinder), to use the internal SBIG imaging chip, the SBIG 402-XME autoguider OR to use the telesope visually WITHOUT changing the image train.
 
 
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