Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Observatory Upgrades

It's been a busy winter here at Heritage Park Observatory. We've retired three telescopes, and added some new equipment.

It all started when I bought the Astro-Tech AT6RC 6-inch Ritchey-Chr├ętien astrograph. I had mounted it on the Meade LXD-650, but wasn't happy with the results. At the same time, I came across a great deal on a Celestron C-11, an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. It took a little soul searching, but I decided to sell the LX200 and fund the C11. That left room to add a new mount, a used Celestron CI-700. The short tube 80 went with the LX200, but Mr. Daniel donated a used Zenithstar 66 to the stable. Got all that?

Before: 10" LX200, C6, AT80EDT & ST80, LXD-650 mount
After: C11, AT6RC, AT80EDT & ZS66, CI-700 and LXD-650 mounts

The end result is that the observatory is much more flexible in scope sizes. The CI-700 is semi-permanently mounted on the pier, and is capable of carrying the big C11 with the ZS66 riding piggyback, or any two-scope combination of AT6RC, AT80EDT and ZS66. The C11 should provide higher-resolution planetary imaging than the LX200, the AT6RC is an excellent all-around photography scope, the AT80EDT a good wide-field visual and imaging scope, and the ZS66 a lightweight guide scope also capable of wider fields than the AT80EDT.

The LXD-650 is now the portable setup. It can carry the C11 for visual use, which should make a nice setup for outreach activities, or it's good for imaging with the 80 or 66mm scopes. About the only time I might foresee taking the CI-700 into the field would be to travel to dark skies, like the Texas Star Party or X-Bar Ranch.

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