Astro Photography

Subtitle

Stargate Astro Shack

   

The Stargate Astro Shack was conceived and construction started in Feburary '03. The original 12'x14' building was a lumber storage shed. The initial modifications were completed in April '03, thou "tweaking" continues even now. The building now has 3 rooms, each at different levels, with the goal being total remote control for imaging.

   The control room (6'x12') is outfitted with work tables, shelves, white lights, red lights, red foot lights and task lights, baseboard electric heat, ac unit, telephone and internet hookup, cable tv, intercom, stereo, 220vac,110vac and 12vdc, tv/monitor, desktop computers and the laptop networked with the desktop in the house. 

   The equipment room (4'x8') has the same lighting system and houses the telescope accessories and is 15"s (2 steps) above the  control room.

   The telescope room (8'x8') is 30"s (4 steps) above the level of the control room, has the same lighting system, 110vac, 12vdc, computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, webcam, USB terminal boxs. The desk top computer can be operated from the control room or the telescope room at the same time. There is a remote controlled video camera to monitor the mount on the tv in the control room when the slew/camera location is questionable.   

   All rooms are insulated, sheetrocked, painted flat black and carpeted.  The pier is 15" diameter, 840 lbs of concrete and rebar, anchored to the 7 1/2" thick concrete floor below and on top of the concrete is a 16" tall adjustable steel pier with a 12" extension that the Losmandy G11 mount head sits on. The roll off roof (8'x8'), weights 180 lbs. and is held shut by turnbuckles when storms approach. It is constructed of solid wood and plywood and covered in galavanized steel roofing material and a 1/2" thick layer of reflective insulation inside. The roof rolls on four, 7" lawnmower wheels with ball bearing centers in a pair of fabricated steel tracks. There is a thermostat controlled exhaust fan to move air thru the telescope room when the roof is closed.The whole Astro Shack system can be controlled with TheSky6 and CCDSoft ver5.  

    The Astro Shack main scopes are currently a William Optics (WO) 110mm Megrez refractor, a 8" Astro Tech (AT8RC) (sold July 5, 2011) and the newest addition (spring 2011), a 10" LX200ACF OTA togather with a pair of WO 66mm refractors serving primarily as the guide scopes.  These take turns setting on the pier that holds a Losmandy G11 head. The whole rig is guided thru either of the two 66mm scopes. The main camera is a QSI 583ws. In the spring of 2017 I acquired a (new to me) SBIG ST-10XME camera and CFW-9 filter wheel fitted out with a new set of Astrodon LRGBHa filters. The ST-10XME is identical to the ST-8XME I used to have with a bigger chip, but what I was after was the >85% QE. The autoguider setup is a DSI Pro/PHD software. The same imager/guider rigs are removed from the pier and used on the tripod when in the field. In October 2010 I acquired a second complete Losmandy G11w/Gemini to use in the field so I don't have to disassemble the OB setup in order to go mobile.  The 10" LX 200 ACF uses a Moonlite motorized focus controlled by the Rigel Systems Hand controller. The WO110mm refractor was just fitted out with a Moon Lite motorized focuser (summer 2011).The WalterLee heliFocus motor is now installed on the QSI/35mm lens wide field rig and will use the same Rigel Systems nFocus hand controller with belt drive to the lens. So far I really like what I see from the Moonlite focusers. Fall 2011...just ordered another Moon Lite to work on the WO66mm refractors.

    The "mobile" Astro Shack has evolved over time to make field imaging easier and is now setup to enable all acquistion, focusing and imaging operations to be controlled from inside the trailer.

  The aerial pixs below are taken using my latest toy...a hover craft...(quad chopper)

 

The Astro Shack

Closer view of roll off roof

Astro Shack Entrance

Here's the entrance to the "shack", also shown is the resident "amateur" and my "most understanding" wife, Phyllis, who for 50+ years now, has allowed me to explore an untold number of adventure trails.

New Roof

This roof was installed in '06...the first was built from materials that didn't stand up to the weather too well and lasted only about 3 years...Since replaced again in summer of 2013 with same style but roofing material is now galvanized steel and all wood is wrapped in aluminum coil stock.

Control Room

Equipment room

Mobile Stargate unit

This is the early version of the mobile "Astro Shack"...the trailer is a modified Leonard 12' utility trailer, complete with, sleeping quarters, toilet facilities, storage cabinets, water, heat, AC, 12vdc and 110vac system...the 10" LX200 GPS has since been relegated to the fixed "Astro Shack" and replaced with a much simpler Orion XT10i w/object locater for visual and a LXD75/SN6 for astrophotography with a ST-8XME....And further improvements over time...continued, July '09...The LX200, XT10i, and both LXD75s are now gone as well as the ST-8XME and have been replaced with a Losmandy G11 w/Gemini. OTA's now include a William Optics 110mm (ED) refractor and just acquired (Oct.,2009) Astro Tech 8" reflector (AT8RC) both used with a QSI583 ws camera. Autoguiding done with a pair of WO 66mm refractors and a DSI Pro for each, one setup for each main OTA....continued, October, 2010...I acquired a second complete Losmandy G11 w/Gemini to use in the field. This enables me to go mobile without breaking down the outfit in the Astro Shack (AS) to use mobile. The only thing from the AS I need for mobile operation is the QSI camera and whatever OTA I want to take...much easier! Still further on (late spring 2011), I replaced the AT8RC with a new 10" LX200 ACF OTA fitted to the Losmandy G11. With a Lepus focal reducer I can have nearly the same field of view as the AT8RC and w/o it, I get the benefit of the 2500mm focal length of the OTA. Still further on (early fall 2011), getting into wide field a bit. Fabricated an adapter plate to fit the front of the QSI camera and hold 35mm camera lens. This is very wide field...lens are from 28 to 400mm. Also, just acquired a Moon Lite motorized focus for the WO66mm guide scope to make use of the short FL for wide field imaging.

A new imaging platform

The  mount in the Astro Shack has been changed and a new Losmandy G11 installed. The next several pictures are the making of that new platform. So let's build a new rig.

The Foundation

 

 This is 800+ pounds of concrete that originally supported the 10"LX200GPS stub mast. Only about half is visible here. The other 1/2+ is below the wooden floor which is 30" above the ground level.

The Steel Stub Mast

This is all that remains of the 10" LX200GPS platform. The Meade wedge use to bolt to this stub mast and the LX200 bolted to that.

Adding the new G11 w/Gemini in the Astro Shack observatory (next 4 photos) (June 6, 2009).

 

This is the original base left over from the 10" LX200 GPS with the home brewed adapter plate installed for the G11 extension

This is the 12" extension sold by Losmandy for their tripod. I used it here to be able to install the G11 head on my existing pier and raise the G11 head high enough to 'see' over the roll off roof.

And here is the G11 head installed on the extension

110mm refractor on G11 in Astro Shack

110mm other side

This setup is used when attempting wide field imaging when it's not required to be so "wide field". See "wide field imaging" page for other setups.

10"LX200ACF on G11 in Astro Shack

10"LX200 ACF (other side)

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