Outline of a typical observing session



Variable stars to start with

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Weather at SETEC Observatory

30 cm Telescope and Equipment

30 cm Meade LX-200 "classic"
Optec TCF, Optec f/5 focal reducer
SBIG CFW-10, SBIG ST-8ixme, Schuler BVRI filters
Kendrick Dew Heater and Controller
Milburn Wedge

A real workhorse. In service since September 2001. Only problem to date has been a minor issues with power connector. Runs unattended overnight, and has never ran away. 150 second unguided exposures are no problem.  Over 15,000 CCD observations were taken in the first 5 years of operation with this scope. Most of those have been submitted to AAVSO or published in IBVS.  Still in use tonight.

40 cm Telescope and Equipment

40 cm Meade LX-200R
Finger Lakes Instruments Filter Wheel with Schuler BVRI filters
Optec f/5 focal reducer
Kendrick Dew Heater and Controller
Milburn Wedge

A portion of the 40 cm telescope was paid for with a small research grant from the American Astronomical Society.

Installed in December 2006. Doesn't track as well as the 30cm.

It has "run home" to the pole on it's own while unattended. When this happened, the instrument package crashed into the forks. Meade wanted me to ship it back and pay shipping (almost $2000 from Kansas) plus the cost of the repair parts (a little over $1100) . I wouldn't have a problem with this, but they kept reminding me that their contract price with Yellow Freight was only $40. I did offer to send it in IF they let me send it in at their contract price. This didn't happen.

Plan B

If I sent it in, I'd be out over $3000 and in the end, I'd have a fixed scope that could do the same thing again. I decided to fix it myself.

It took me six months to get the parts from Meade, install them, design and install the limit switches on the DEC and RA axis that would stop the scope from "running away". The limit switches only took a weekend to figure out. And it took a little bit for the parts (about $100). Total cost for all the repair parts and the limit switch install, about $1200.

After fighting tracking problems for a while, I installed the SBIG ST-8xme and let MaximDL guide the 40cm as the CCD gathers data. This made a huge difference and reduced the uncertainty in the data by a factor of 2! Now a typical session is +/-0.003 or better.

Things that didn't work out as expected.

The first CCD and filter wheel used on this scope was an Optec IFW and an Apogee AP7 that I picked up on Astromart. I really liked the AP7, big pixels, deep wells, and the price was right. I got one and then was able to obtain a second camera as a spare. The AP7s cameras and the filter wheel worked OK as long as you were right there. But they struggled to run unattended overnight. The 30cm was taking data to beat the band, but the 40cm wasn't working so well. And this time the problem wasn't with the scope. CCD shutters would stick, the dynamic range on the CCD started doing goofy things (30K counts as dark current in 60 seconds), filter wheel would hang when told to change filters. It was not a fun time and took a while to get figured out.

So I made a change, and went back to SBIG and a different filter wheel.

I have had great support from SBIG. I've owned a ST-6, ST-8i and currently have the ST-8ixme and ST-8xme's taking data. Just remember to regenerate the desiccant every year.

FLI filter wheel is chain driven, so the stepper motor doesn't slip.

So even if it doesn't work right out of the box, stay with it, when it all works, it's great.

If you are looking for spare parts for your Optec IFW or Apogee AP7 (AP7/AP7B CCD camera, cables, ISA or PCI cards) drop me an email, we might be able to work something out, cwrtwo@pixius.net (change the two to 2).

Updated on 13 June, 2010
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