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******StarGazing Equipment*****

In 1986 I bought a Coulter Odyssey 10.1 inch F/4.5 dobsonian telescope.  Then within a year a fellow astronomy friend and neighbor
David Hess showed me an article in the Feb. 1987 issue of Sky & Telescope.  There was a homemade folding split-ring mount that was motorized.  So I thought " I can make that!".  I did not want to change the pivot point with the dobsonian mounting so I made the split-ring disk 40 inches across.  It cost me $150.00 for the wood, wheels, motors and hardware to make my first motorized and tracking mount.  This is what it looked like when done.

 

After a few years, I did some modifying to it.  Then in 1991 I tried to take some 35 mm pictures through the main scope of the upcoming eclipse, since it wasn't a full eclipse I still gave it a shot! I used welders green glass on a step-down mask that I made to filter the bright sun light.  I took and snapshot every 5 minutes.  This picture is the most coverage from Escondido, California.

 

 

The Next Phase of the 10 Inch............

Kevin Hearst 

Well after numerous years of using the split-ring mount I discovered two things that made it a pain to use.

1. I could not rotate the focuser and some positions were so uncomfortable it was a real pain in the neck/back.  I could only flip the optical tube 180 degrees in the mount, which was of limited comfort.

2.  Next was the split-ring disk was made of 3/4 inch plywood and had a lot of flex, which made the scope shake while tracking objects.

So I decided to redesign the mount making the disk smaller and much more ridged.  I used 7-ply 3/4 inch plywood, two thick for the disk and three thick for the base.  Installed support gussets for the lower part of the disk at 60 degree angles.  Made an aluminum sub frame for the base and painted the tube royal blue.  Designed a rocker-box to sit in the split-ring so the optical tube could rotate in it and I can find the sweet spot for best comfort while viewing.  Lastly, upgraded to a JMI DX-1 2-inch focuser. 

It is a great scope to share with friends or to use at public star parties.  A scope of this size shows great views.  Dobsonians of this size can be purchased for a reasonable amount of money.

It is motor-driven so it tracks objects as the sky rotates overhead.    Building your own equipment is part of the fun of astronomy, plus it saves you money in return.

 

 

The main telescope that I used from 1996 until 2003 was a Celestron C-11 Schmidt-Cassegrain; which I still use today.  It was purchased used from a private party out of the local newspaper.  This is the scope that really motivated me to image.  It has excellent optics and in 2002 I upgraded the drive base with a Byers modified C-14 which has been retrofitted with high precision gears.  I feel that there a lots of deals on used equipment if one takes the time to research what they need and keep their eyes open.  I plan to use the C-11 for visual and webcam planetary imaging down the road.

 

 

This shows a typical camera setup for a night of CCD imaging with the C-11. Since this telescope was made in the early 1980's , all the accessories are after-market (and used).  Note the laptop computer on the table, which is used to control the digital camera and store the images.

Other accessories that I use are the Santa Barbara Instrument Group's Color Filter Wheel CFW-8 and the Santa Barbara Instrument Group's Adaptive Optics unit AO-7.  With the CFW-8 unit I can  filter the incoming light to compile color images or filter in certain bandwidths of light and, with the AO-7, more accurately guide the telescope while imaging.  Above is an example of the control panel I built to run the C-11.

But there is still something to be said about the size of your a telescope, which leads to my next telescope.  Because SIZE does matter!

 

 

Onward to Bigger and Better Toys!!!!!!!

In February of 2003 I purchased a used Paramount GT-1100 Robotic mount and a used Celestron C-14 Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube.  After constructing a platform with rollers and levelers for the stock C-14 tripod, I currently roll it out of the garage for a night of CCD imaging.  Addition of a rolling office desk and a new PC has me setup in 15 to 20 minutes.  If you go to the Images Page you can see some of the images acquired from my drive way.  I plan to build an observatory on the property to house multiple telescopes.  I also upgraded the filters in the SBIG CFW-8 to the astrodon LRGB and H-a set.

 

Unless the clouds are in sight; then it's time to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset!, Cheers!

 

In May of 2005 I purchased a RCOS 10 inch Carbon Fiber Ritchey-Chretien optical tube.  After modifying the GT-1100 Mount, installed a Celestron 102 mm F/5 refractor for guiding, a Borg ED 45 finder scope and additional ST-8.

 I'm ready to go!

 

 

Well just as the universe is always changing, so does the equipment.  I found out the C-102 and the ST-8 did not work well as a guider system.  Additionally, the Classic ST-8 had much longer exposure times on a 10 inch - F/9 compared to the C-14 at F/5.2.  I could not get the exposure times short enough with no guiding errors and low image noise.  So I decided that I needed a more sensitive CCD camera and a better guiding system.  I sold the two ST-8's on astromart.com .  I went with a used ST-8XME as the main imaging camera.  It has a fast USB interface and a more sensitive CCD chip.  I moved the ST-8XME to the C-14 and upgraded to a used ST-10XME on the R/C.

As for the guiding issue, I went with an Astrodon, remote off-axis guider (ROAG), and a ST-402ME CCD camera.  The ROAG and ST-402ME rotate close to 180 degrees, giving me plenty of guide stars, and both units are before the color filter wheel.  So I do not have the problems of autoguiding through a filter system.  I also went with a secondary water-cooling system on the main camera.  Even on warm-summer nights, I can cool the CCD chip down to -15C. Since taking this picture, I have purchased a  SBIG CFW10, which holds a total of ten 1 1/4 inch diameter filters.  I also purchased a set of UVBRI photometric filters.  With this set up I can do color imaging, or photometry.  You can follow my photometry progress on the photometry page.

 

Since I took the C-14 off the Paramount GT-1100,  and I still had the C-14 fork mount with the Byers retrofitted gear set, a wedge base, and a heavy duty tripod.  I'll put all this gear together and setup it up to learn spectroscopy.  But I still haven't figured out how to run the telescope from the spa and not get shocked yet!  You can follow my progress on the spectroscopy page.

 

The  most recent telescope to the Hearst Observatory collection was the purchase of a used 20-inch Obsession F/5 dobsonian.  It was another great find on Astromart.  For me personally, this was the brand of visual scope I always wished for.  It came complete with Argonavis digital setting circles, Telerad, a black ripstop cover for the truss-tubes,  Kendricks laser collminator, secondary heater, counter-balance bars, and Galaxy full thickness mirrors.  For more info you can read about this scope at their website.  He is a picture of when I first got it home.

 

The goal is to complete the observatory for the  R/C, C-14, and C-11.  The Obsession 20-inch will be used with family and friends either in the driveway or at remote locations.

All the images in this site are Copyright 1999-2012 by Kevin Hearst.
Commercial use of these images without the prior written consent or knowledge of the author is strictly prohibited.