It is seriously cloudy tonight in Simon’s Town, near the southern tip of Africa, as the first powerful cold front of winter makes landfall. We’re thrilled to see the rain, having had a prolonged drought in the Cape.
This gives me an opportunity to ask for advice on a scope that I received this past week.
I am not sure where this post belongs. It could easily go to the astrophotography forum, but as it concerns a ‘vintage’ telescope system, I have decided to post it here. Apologies in advance to the forum administrators if this is the wrong choice.
To the scope: It’s a Meade 10” SCT, Model 2120 dating back to 1983 [serial number 100870], coupled with a Meade 4” SCT photo guide telescope plus all the other goodies needed for astrophotography – an off-axis guider, illuminated reticile, tele-compressor etc. The 4” SCT guide scope is in itself a superb instrument.
The attached photo shows what the setup looks like.
The previous and original owner took wonderful care of the scope and the scope and all the accessories are in superb condition. He used it for astrophotography with a film camera, but as far as I can tell, did not use it with a DSLR. The motor drives both appear to be in excellent condition, but off course, it has no encoders and no facility to couple the drive control [which uses a joystick mechanism for control] with a laptop. In the era of film photography, one had to constantly look though either the off-axis guider or the 4” guide scope, which could observe off-axis at up to 4 degrees, to guide the main 10“ scope via the joystick. No subs in those days, so you might have had to hand-guide it in this way for a continuous exposure time of an hour or more, using ASA 400 film.
I’ve only had it outside on one night and was mightily impressed with the views. I do most of my observing with an Orion 12” Dobsonion, usually with 2” eyepieces – an Erfle 33mm, a 40mm and a 25mm Swan. The skies are great at the moment, because of the virus induced lockdown – Eta Carina and the likes are simply splendid and of course greatly enhanced with the use of filters. The SCT came with the Meade-supplied 1.25 original eyepieces, manufactured in Japan, which are of an outstanding quality. I tried them on my Dobsonion and felt that they offered even more detail of Eta Carina than my two-inch eyepieces, but I’ll need to review that again, as with each passing night, the skies become clearer – after this storm, the sky will be especially beautiful. I have found a way to connect my wo-inch eyepieces to the SCT by using part of my two-inch Barlow mechanism – if you have enough stuff in your toolbox, you can make things work…
Anyway, I’d like to have a go at astrophotography with this setup. I have Canon EOS DSLR, known as the Canon 650 D in South Africa and known as the Kiss X6i in Japan or the Rebel T4i in America. It dates from 2012. I have done some basic unguided work with it, both with its standard EFS 18-55 kit lens as well as though my Dobsonion, both as a standalone camera and using my laptop to connect to it via the Canon EOS utility. The camera is unmodified.
The results have been mixed. Using the Dob, which is a pure rocker box system – no guidance etc, the results were poor to terrible to shocking, but could probably be improved with extreme persistence and patience. A low-profile focuser would make life a lot easier too. With the kit lens, the results were so-so and once I master the stacking software etc, if think it would produce acceptable images. I’ll start by using the DSLR in piggyback mode, as the attachment for the 4” guide scope provides the perfect attachment for this purpose. I’ll then move on to imaging via the 10”, although it occurs to me that you could capture images simultaneously with the 4” with an additional DSLR, either of the same object and stack them [would that work?!] or of some other object, given that the 4” guide scope is capable of pointing at an object some distance away from the main field of view. Given the lack of computer guiding, I’d probably have to settle for fairly short exposure times, but from what I have read, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Anyway, if anyone else out there has experience of using this system, I’d be grateful for your comments and advice etc, as well as recommendations for possible upgrades.