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12" f/10 Cassegrain Truss Telescope

This truss Cassegrain was my follow-up to building the truss Newtonian. The optics were purchased second hand and I learnt lot about optics testing and setup trying to get the scope aligned and operating. Currently the optics are with John Nichol since the primary turned out to be a bit rough and the secondary was under-corrected. John has reduced the f/2.7 primary to a f/3 and the secondary is becoming a hyperbolic to make a 12" RC at f/8.
It is described more fully here.

12" Horseshoe Mount Newtonian

This truss newtonian is my first build from scratch using wood and truss tubes. Its all hand-built and machined bar the ball-ends used to capture the truss tubes. It is described more fully here.

80mm StellarVue Achromat Refractor.

This refractor is a 80mm ED achromat doublet at the front and a 2" rotating 10:1 geared focuser at the rear. At 450mm I use it for wide-field photography and H-Alpha solar with a Quark. This scope provides a shorter focal length and a wide flat field for imaging, using a Vixen flip-mirror for framing and acquisition. At about 6Kg, its chunky and mounted sitting fairly forward due to the weight of the camera or Quark to achieve balance.

140mm F8 Vixen NA140SS Neo-Achromat Refractor.

This refractor is a multi-element OTA with an achromat doublet at the front and a Petzval field flattener and colour corrector at the rear in front of the focuser. This provides a shorter focal length and a wide flat field for imaging. At about 8Kg, its chunky but not too long. On the Obbo mount, it just fits inside the dome when panning and tracking.

10" f/6 Newtonian Reflector on worm-driven equatorial mounting by Astronomical Systems of Luton.

The mount and telescope came from MikeMS who knew I was looking for quality mount and was moving abroad. Basically funded by the sale of my Vixen Photo-Guider. The mount is now in the garage having a re-fit and respray. Eventually it will grace the top of my permanent heavyweight observatory pier and be driven and controlled by the SS2K controller from the Vixen GP-DX it replaces.

This has now been repaced by a Skywatcher EQ8 due to the motors not being able to drive the static load on the PTFE sleeve bearings. With a choice of replace the bearings for something less precise (pillow block bearings) or forever burn out motors, I retired it for a beefier mount with more traditional bearings.

Vixen SP102M refractor on Super Polaris Mount and HAL-110 Aluminium tripod.

This has been my single most useful telescope. I bought it from an observatory technician ( Chris at ULO , cheers! ) for 650 all in, in 1987, and it has been a solid workhorse, even with the SP's underweight capacity. The refractor comes with a standard shoe for the Vixen range of finder scopes, the standard 30mm finder is inadequate, so a larger one can be substituted.
In all, the biggest drawback was that the polar altitude adjustment and locking mechanism is inadequate and much better on the GP. Under my care, the tracking handset blew up rapidly so I replaced that with a home-built crystal oscillator stepper controller and that has been great.
Next steps for this mount, which has been superceded in daily use by my GP/DX, is to apply NexStar motors and handset for GOTO performance. I really have been spoilt by the SS2K. NOW SOLD and replaced by a GP-DX Vixen mount.

Vixen VC200L 8" modified Cassegrain reflector on Vixen GP-DX German Equatorial Mount

This telescope has two blanks in the optics cover which I had machined out and two covers made to fit, this provides a simple Hartman mask for critical focusing and apertures for off-axis stopped down imaging. This scope initailly came from Orion UK with tube bands to fit the old SP mount. This configuration did not allow the scope to move far enough forward to balance the tube against the weight of the primary mirror and focuser, hence it can only really be used on the GP/DX with a proper VISAC dovetail plate.
This scope is primarily an astrograph - the field is very wide and optically very sharp but the scope has a large central obstruction to mount the secondary. I use it all the time for night work, while the refractor above is almost entirely solar and sometimes planetary usage only.
Due to weight issues with the Vixen 80 RF guidescope I moved to this configuration which uses the Vixen Largen accessory plate to mount the two 'scopes side by side. To get to this point I had also made a large Aluminium plate to do the same job. This was too heavy for the mount and counterweights and telescopes so I dug the LAP out of the spares heap in the corner and found I could get both 'scopes to fit and align and cut down on the overall weight. The rings and mount used to mount a Skywatcher 80 ED are from Anthony Davoli at ADM and come highly recommended.

Vixen astrophotography tracking mount.

Very simple to set up using the polar alignment scope and very accurate. Purchased second hand one winters day in Bognor. Now Sold due to lack of use. Then replced with a Polarie. Which was sold.

Shared mount using a A.W.E. target mount I bought at R.A.L. for 10

Shown mounting a 6" cassegrain and a 4" Vixen SP102 refractor. The mount is now used to hold test optics i teh garage.
One of the best things about this mount is that you adjust the height and its very stable.

Modified 'Boots the Chemist' Expanding aluminium beauty box fitted with foam inlay to each shelf and bottom section. Carries EVERYTHING.

  • Top tray: eyepieces and 2.5X powermate

  • 2nd Tray: Herschel diagonal, compass, hex keys for mount, camera shutter cables.

  • 3rd Tray: Star diagonal, 11/4" extension tubes, Vixen focuser tube adapter ring, AG3 guider

  • Base Tray: 2 OM1 manual SLR bodies, t-rings, Vixen 43mm camera adapter, Celestron eyepiece projection camera adapter, grating mounted in 48mm camera filter mount.

Now replaced as it got too small..
I replaced it with a portable fishung stool thaat contains loados of drawers and adjustable height feet to sit on. Big space at the bottom for those large items and the draws are deep enough for most filters and 1.25" eyepieces.

Home-built hard case for Vixen Sp102 and GP-SP equatorial mount head.

Made from 1/4" plywood with a few bearers of 3/4" internally for trusses and partitioning, this case is glued together and then wrapped in a layer of rubber for waterproofing, shockproofing and then brass corners and heavywieht handles fitted to the two ends and one to the top. Carries EVERYTHING, counterweights, motors, EQ head, 4" refractor and 2" guidescope and all the eyepieces. On the other hand this is a HEAVY box.

  • Top row : Vixen SP102 refractor.

  • Top row, 2nd down: Meade 2" refrator used as a guidescope.

  • Bottom Row, left : support for SP mount head, counterweight, motors, hand-set, counterwight arm.

  • Bottom Row, right : area for vixen eyepiece containers, accessories, cameras and tooling.

Spectrometer grating

This spectrometer consists of a 48 mm diameter circle of Edmund optics holographics transmission grating with a ruling density of 12500 lines/inch , or approximately 500 lines/mm.
The grating is mounted in a camera filter mount which is inserted into a Vixen 43mm camera adapter.

Starlight Xpress HX916 CCD camera

This B&W camera uses a Sony HyperHAD 1300 by 1030 6.7 µm pixel sensor to produce 16 bit electronic images. Basic output consists of fits format files that need subsequent processing for visual effect or to maximimse the scientific content. along side the camera are the nose pices to allow it to be used in a 1¼" eyepeice holder and the custom made adapter that allows olympus fit lenses to be used with the camera in a wide-angle format.


Philips ToUcam Pro Webcam ( 3 ). This camers is the cuurent standard webcam of the astrophotographer with 5.6µm square pixels of sufficient sensitivity to guide on 6th mag stars ath prime focus of an 80mm O.G.

SkyCam - pan and tilt webcam with sky temperature sensor
this item is constructed using three components:

  • Philips ToUcam Pro webcam

  • Robot Technology servo mount pan and tilt base using R/C model servos for positioning control.

  • Milford Instruments 8-Servo PIC controller board ( RS232 interface )

All this is driven with some java server pages, the Caucho Resin servlet container in an Apache webserver and the Javax.comm serial/parallel interface packages.
The test pages just allow a web user to pan around the local environment to the webcam, the final installation will image the sky to monitor cloud cover and sky temperatures on an ongoing basis.

8.5" f/8 Newtonian Reflector on sector-driven equatorial mounting.

The mount and telescope came in a dome purchase. The dome is now on top of my new observatory and the telescope mount waits in my garage for a re-furb.
Now gone to MikeMS of UKAI in a swap for a MOM mirror grinding machine- see the mirror grinding pages here