Current astrophotography imaging chain: Artemis and a Meade LXD55

This page describes the current configuration I use to capture my astrophotography images. As I am constantly tweaking my setup and adding new homemade DIY astronomy toys, I will try to keep this information as up to date as possible. It is more likely I will maintain a simple page of text than a complicated set of pictures. This does however mean that if you arrive at this page from one of my presentation pages relating to an particular image, if the image is old, this information might be too new.

New!! Homemade focuser

Upon my homemade concrete post sits a homemade steel telescope adapter plate. On this is bolted a Meade LXD55 mount. The LXD55 mount has been hypertuned, teflon bearing-ed, Belt-drived-modded and generally tweaked to death. They say an Meade LXD55 mount is not suited to astrophotography, but I beg to differ.

The LXD55 mount holds a Helios 8inch aperture F5 (focal length 1000mm) reflecting Newtonian telescope. The Helios brand is no longer available, but the Skywatcher brand is much the same. The scope is attached to the LXD55 mount saddle plate using an over engineered homemade dovetail bar.

The reflector has the following modifications:

  • Homemade 6 point suspension mirror cell
  • Flocked OTA with optical flocking paper from Edmund Optics
  • Exterior white paint for visibility (and not to make it look like a Meade SN at all!)
  • Secondary mirror dew heater

The reflector carries a Meade 8x50 finder. The finder scope has a unmodified tocuam in the eye position to act as a remote finderscope.

Bolted to the back of the reflector is an 80mm aperture F5 Skywatcher refractor. This is used solely as a guidescope. The guidecamera is a black and white 098 chipped SC1 toucam.

The reflector has a rack and pinion focuser with a homemade focus motor. Bolted to this focuser, in order,

Pro Digital software photoshop astronomy tools

This whole lot sits in my lift-off shed observatory next to my bungalow. The various wires pass through a hole in the wall into my house, where the imaging computer runs the follow:

  • ASCOM POTH Plain Old Telescope Hub to bring together the various ASCOM applications and communicate with the LXD55 mount.
  • Skymap 10 for planetarium and GOTO services.
  • Guidedog or k3ccdtools for autoguiding
  • K3ccdtools to monitor the finderscope camera.
  • ArtemisCapture to gather data from the imaging camera.
  • DesktopTelescope - a simple ASCOM application I wrote in VB .net that gives me an on screen NSEW buttons. It also allows me to use a USB joystick instead of the worn-out autostar handbox.

The autostar controller is also here "indoors". If I wish to control the scope from inside the observatory, I can unplug the usb joystick and take it outside and plug it into the usb hub next to the telescope. An rather elderly laptop in the observatory is sometimes used to Remote Desktop back into the observatory computer in the house. This is normal only used for dull tasks like focusing the guidescope.

Also in this area you will find a number of PC power supplies that supply the LXD55 mount and Artemis. In the drawer is my increasing accessory stash. CLS filter, Staranalyser gratings etc. Also a number of homemade adapters to attaching these things to the scope. The manual control for the focus motor is also to hand.

This "observatory" computer is networked to the other computers in my house. It sits at one end of my long kitchen. The rest of the house is "optically isolated" from the kitchen. As the kitchen is unheated it gets a bit cold in the winter, so I usually operate via windows XP remote desktop connection from a somewhat more powerful computer in a warmer part of the house.

This computer runs just about every bit of astronomy and image processing software known to man. I won't list them here!

Some pictures of all this lot:

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