Digital Imaging of the Universe

Astronomical Equipment

Photographs by Matthew T. Russell  

Astrophotography gives you a different perspective of the night sky.

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There is a lot of equipment that must be used when imaging Deep Space Objects (DSO's). Listed here are my main ingredients that make up a good recipe for quality astro-images.

Paramount ME Mount & RCOS 16" Ritchey-Chretien Telescope

In May 2003 I acquired a new Bisque Paramount ME mount. It is resting on a permanent pier in the observatory. This setup is extremely stable and doesn't produce any vibrations. The only downside is this setup is fairly heavy.

This mount can carry loads of up to 125 lbs, and currently I'm only using about 115 of those. There are five 20lb counterweights attached.

The large telescope you see here is a 16" RC Optical Systems Ritchey-Chretien telescope. It arrived at the beginning of November 2003.

Coma is an aberration common in all reflecting telescope systems. The Ritchey-Chretien design utilizes a hyperbolic primary and secondary mirror, which correct for coma. The native focal length is f8.4.

Takahashi FSQ-106N APO Refractor & RoboFocus

This little refractor is a dream scope for the astrophotographer. The FSQ-106 is a state-of-the-art fluorite refractor that sets a new standard for innovation and color correction. It is excellent as a astrograph, not exhibiting inherent problems with field curvature and astigmatism. Takahashi's modified Petzval design employs two widely separated rear elements to correct field curvature and astigmatism to produce a flat field, high contrast image without any hint of lateral color.

The Robofocus is an automatic focuser I can control directly from my computer. This device is made by Technical Innovations, the same manufacturer of my 10' Dome.

SBIG STL-11000M CCD Camera

The Santa Barbara Instrument Group (SBIG) manufacturers high quality astronomical CCD cameras. These cameras house a light sensitive CCD manufactured by Kodak. I have had a variety of SBIG cameras, such as the ST-237, ST-7E and the ST-10XE. Believe it or not, in order to obtain a color photo, it actually takes a minimum of 4 individual photographs! This filter wheel has 4 different filters inside the camera: clear, red, green and blue. In order for the color to register, a photograph using each filter is required. Interestingly enough, when you look at the individual photographs, they are black and white. However, when you combine the different color channels, your color photograph is born.

I have been extremely happy with all the SBIG products I've owned.

Software Programs Used

ACP (DC3 Dreams)
ACP Scheduler (DC3 Dreams)
Photoshop CS2 (Adobe)
CCDStack (CCDWare)
FocusMax (Steve Brady & Larry Weber)
MaximDL v5 (Cyanogen)
PinPoint (DC3 Dreams)
TheSkyX (Software Bisque)

Copyright 2013, Matthew T. Russell. All rights reserved.