Camera(s) and a key.

Having looked around the forums and read what others had remarked about DSLRs suited for astrophotography I decided to settle for a used Canon 40D unmodded. It was in excellent shape and had been lovingly cared for by its previous owner. According to him it had travelled round the world and had served him well. I got it for a bargain price and with two lenses thrown in.

Of course I only wanted it for its body and having obtained the proper fittings and adaptors I had it rigged up to the Celestron in no time. For software I decided on that excellent package with the name of Backyard EOS and bought the full version. It was worth it because it made hooking up to the gear very simple and provided a lot of useful tools  for the Canon that it detected automatically.

All was fine and for a few months I was happy snapping at this galaxy and that until one fateful night disaster struck and the usb lead to the 40D got snagged against the AVX rear azimuth adjustment knob and to my horror pulled off a bite of the camera’s printed circuit board with it!!!  My Canon was destroyed. A new Canon 1200 was bought as a replacement but somehow I felt the 40D had given me superior pictures.

To enable long exposures an autoguider was found indispensable and again following the recommendations of others from the forums I decided on the Orion Starshoot.

It is good value for money and has so far given me a stirling service. The PHD2 software provides a very suitable and versatile interface for the autoguider.

Canon 1200 and Celestron F6.3 reducer plus Orion Starshoot autoguider.

Another invaluable help in successful astrophotography is an f-reducer. This allows a wider field of vision and admits more light through the ODA providing faster resolution of faint and distant objects. I opted for Celestron’s own f6.3 reducer. It does introduce a bit of vignetting but I think its benefits outweigh this and anyway vignetting is fairly easily dealt with in post processing.

For planetary work I was using the Philips spc900nc webcam. I believe this model is no longer produced but its sensitivity to low light made it particularly suitable for planets and the moon. Video sequences are taken and then stacked using Registax 6 or some similar program.

At present I have replaced the Canon with a CCD monochrome cooled Atik 383L


I can’t say I am completely satisfied with it and I feel it does have its shortcomings. Many of these can be masked during post processing but even so I was expecting better results. I use an Atik EFW2 9-filter motorized wheel loaded with L,R,G,B,Ha, Hb,Oiii,Sii, filters. This is controlled using either the Atik provided Artemis software or via APT through the Ascom driver.

Atik 383L and EFW2 filter wheel attached

The added weight of the camera gear has significant effect on the AVX balance and for this reason an extra counterweight ring is added. This is probably overkill but with this in place balance is reestablished with the counterweights about half way along the shaft.

I have digressed a little and have jaunted through time to the present but I wanted to complete the chapter about the cameras so that in the next one I can return to the business of mechanizing the openings of the dome… a need that was felt very soon after first light!

But before I wind this up, as an anecdote, I would like to introduce you to the makings of my observatory door key. The lock I had chosen for the door was scrounged from some old door and lacked a key. Admittedly since the observatory was on my own roof it was highly unlikely to fall victim to  theft or sabotage but even so I thought it really ought to have a key… and so… I reverse engineered one taking measurements from the lock itself and  transferring these to the tip of another key body I had lying around. Having made a template I then forged a casting in aluminum..The propane forge itself was also home made and has served me well for several other projects.



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