Goals and Instruments

My 200 mm SkyWatcher Newtonian telescope and EQ6 Pro mount, set up at a park in April, 2013.

My 200 mm SkyWatcher Newtonian telescope and EQ6 Pro mount, set up at a park in April, 2013.

Personal Goals

I feel that it is important to approach something as complex (and potentially as expensive) as astronomy with deliberation. Here are my personal goals – at present – that I am using to guide what I do in this hobby:

  1. To improve my skills as an astronomer and astrophographer (by studying these subjects and practicing them when I can),
  2. To deepen my knowledge of the night sky and the science and history of astronomy (by spending time observing the sky and also studying images I record),
  3. To make beautiful images of the night sky (by taking photographs of the many different subjects entailed within astrophotography, and looking to improve the results over time),
  4. To enjoy playing with the gear, and returning old equipment to service if I can (by using my equipment, and when I can experiencing gear that others bring to the hobby, as well as gradually fixing up the “old beaters” I currently have), and
  5. To pass along what I learn (through this blog, and by other means).

My most important tools are therefore my eyes and hands, and my knowledge and willingness to learn. However, the equipment is also fun and important. As the Pine River Observatory is very much an observatory on a budget, I’m using good used equipment wherever I can. I have a variety of instruments that I press into service for various purposes.

coronado

My Coronado 60mm Solar Max II BF15 Hydrogen alpha telescope being used as part of a “Solar Thursday” event at Royal Botanical Gardens, July, 2013. Mounted on an old EQ4 with polar axis motor drive.

Pine River Observatory’s Equipment

Because Pine River Observatory is mobile there’s no dome or observatory building. Everything I use on any particular date must be transportable in my car and, to some degree, by carrying.

Telescopes:

  • 200 mm f/5 Sky-Watcher BKP200 Newtonian Reflector, 2″ focuser
  • Meade ETX 125EC Maksutov–Cassegrain catadioptric telescope tube (manufactured for the Terabeam telecommunications project around 2000), fitted with a Wegat Optical 2″ back
  • Coronado 60mm Solar Max II BF15 Hydrogen alpha telescope
  • 4.5 inch f/7.8 Netwonian Reflector, Tasco 11TE-5, circa 1970, manual mount (my father’s telescope: a good introductory instrument for its time, and still in reasonable condition. These ‘scopes are limited compared to today’s equipment, especially in the quality of the mount and the 0.965″ eyepieces; a sentimental favourite, however)
  • 130 mm f/5 Sky-Watcher Newtonian Reflector, circa 2010, with one-axis motorized mount, 1.25″ focuser
  • 80 mm f/15 Polaroscope Refractor, circa 1960, purchased with a heavy manual mount and wooden tripod
Meade ETX 125EC 125 mm f/15 Maksutov–Cassegrain catadioptric telescope, set up for terrestrial photography. This versitile instrument has a focal length of 1,900 mm.

Meade ETX 125TB (Terabeam)  125 mm f/15 Maksutov–Cassegrain catadioptric telescope, set up for terrestrial photography with a Nikon D7000 dSLR body. This versatile instrument has a focal length of 1,900 mm and can be used as a very high power spotting scope with either 1.25″ or 2″ eyepieces.

Mounts:

  • Orion motorized EQ1 mount and tripod for tracking sky with camera and lenses
  • EQ4 with steel tube tripod, polar axis motorized
  • EQ6Pro with Synscan GPS, customized
80mm f/15 refractor equipped with a Nikon D5100 at prime focus. 19 December 2012, Hamilton, Ontario.

Shooting the moon from an apartment balcony. An older 80mm f/15 refractor equipped with a Nikon D5100 at prime focus. 19 December 2012, Hamilton, Ontario. This equipment shot the background photo for the P.R.O. blog.

Eyepieces:

  • 1.25″ 6 mm and 15 mm, 2x Barlow, Celestron
  • 1.25″ 8-24mm zoom, unbranded
  • 0.965″ 8mm and 24mm, 3x Barlow, from the Tasco kit
Solar kit 2012

Observing the sun from an apartment balcony in Hamilton, Ontario, December 2012. Sigma 150-500mm telephoto lens with 1.4x teleconverter, Nikon D5100 body, mylar solar filter, on an Orion GE1 motorized mount.

Cameras:

  • Nikon D5100 body (16 megapixels; my favourite for attachment to a telescope, because of its light weight and pivoting live view screen)
  • Nikon D7000 body (16 megapixels)
  • Nikon D800 body (fantastic for wide-angle views of the sky at night, at 36 megapixels)
  • Sony 10 megapixel pocket digital camera, used so far for eyepiece projection
  • Celestron NexImage 5 Solar System Imager Camera

Lenses:

  • Sigma 150-500 mm for Nikon; Sigma 1.4x teleconverter for Nikon (together they are effectively a 700mm f/9 telescope)
  • Nikon 10-24 mm wide-angle DX lens, which works OK on the full frame D800 too; some vignetting
  • etc.

Accessories:

  • 0.96″, 1.25″, 2″ prime focus adaptors for dSLR cameras
  • 86mm mylar solar filter for the Sigma 150-500 lens and 80 mm refractor telescope
  • 125mm Kendrick Astro mylar solar filter for the Mead 125 TB catadioptric telescope
  • 2″ Baader Planetarium continuum filter
A nice little "family" telescope - a Skywatcher Netwonian Reflector, 130mm objective, f/5 (650mm focal length), with a motorized mount.

A nice little “family” telescope – a Sky-Watcher Newtonian Reflector, 130mm objective, f/5 (650mm focal length), with a motorized mount.

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