With gratitude and humility, I acknowledge the Munsee and Muhheaconneok people as the original stewards of the land from which I observe the skies. Due to their forced removal, the community now resides in Northeast Wisconsin and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. I honor and pay respect to their ancestors past and present, as well as to future generations, and affirm Indigenous sovereignty, their history, and their experiences
“Observatory” is too pretentious for stuff I carry outside and back in at night. Maybe one day I’ll have a pier and a dome. But given that I’ve writen about trying to optimize it for ease and joy, it’s worth sharing some details about what I’m using, how, and why.
My primary telescope is an Astro-Tech AT115EDT 115mm f/7 ED Triplet Refractor. This is about the largest telescope I have any desire to own right now in terms of weight and physical dimensions. It’s perfect though, in that for its size it gives a relatively wide field, not too wide, and is relatively fast (f/5.6 with the Astro-Tech 0.8x reducer/flattener).
On the AT115EDT, I have a ZWO EAF focuser, which I’ve covered in black vinyl to match the rest of my setup’s aesthetic. I’m not a huge fan of the red-everything trend in consumer astronomical equipment lately. I also have a dew heater. This is 5V USB, which means it is wired into my USB hub as part of the rest of the OTA cable harness.
My guide scope is an SVBony SV106 60mm with a helical focuser.
In the past I’ve used an Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Doublet and a Meade LX90 f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain.
- Wide field
- Astro-Tech AT115EDT 115mm f/7 ED triplet refractor (with camera angle adjuster, finder bracket removed)
- Astro-Tech 0.8x reducer/flattener
- ZWO EAF electronic focuser motor
- Astro-Tech handle kit w/ piggy back dovetail
- Widest field
- Rokinon 135mm f/2.0 ED UMC lens for Canon EF mount
- Williams Optics Cat series mounting ring
- Williams Optics Cat handle
- Williams Optics Vixen/Arca Swiss dovetail
- ADM Vixen to Vixen dovetail clamp
- SV106 60mm with a helical focuser
- ADM Vixen to Synta finder dovetail clamp
My mount is a Losmandy GM-8 with Gemini 2 GoTo computer, on top of a Losmandy Folding Lightweight Tripod. This is an easy to use and stable mount, setup is a breeze, and it is more than capable of anything I want to do with it. It’s also, like my AT115EDT telescope, probably the heaviest mount I ever want to own — I don’t really plan to go bigger, but Losmandy’s modularity means I could replace the RA axis with the G11 axis if I wanted, for example.
My least favorite activity is setup and polar alignment, and the built-in bubble levels and the altitude and azimuth adjustments — combined with the iOptron iPolar polar camera — make that painless.
I have a USB hub velcroed to the tripod above the Gemini 2 computer. I find this preferable to me than mounting it on the telescope itself because it keeps the weight down off either axis, reducing any balance concerns.
I also have a Vixen Polarie that I use either with my Rokinon 135mm lens and Canon cameras or my with Fujifilm XF lenses and cameras if I want to do some portable astrophotography.
In the past I’ve used an Orion SkyView Pro with the drive motor and SynScan GoTo controller upgrade kit. My experience with this mount with the upgrade kit is that it is much more capable for astrophotography than popular astrophotography forum searches might suggest.
- Losmandy GM-8 with Gemini 2
- Losmandy 11lb counterweight
- Losmandy 7lb counterweight x2
- iOptron iPolar polar alignment camera
- Vixen Polarie
- Leofoto LH-30 ball head
- Leofoto VH-30R 2 way tripod head
- Leofoto Ranger LS-364C carbon fiber tripod
My primary astrophotography camera is a QHY 268C single-shot color camera that I use with an Optolong IR/UV cut filter. Generally, I’m satisfied both in terms of what I’m able to capture with it, as well as the overall aesthetic I’m able to express with those results.
I also have a Canon EOS 6D Mark II, H-α modified, which I use for wider field astrophotography with my Rokinon 135mm lens. This used to be my primary camera, and I have gotten some images I really love out of it.
For autoguiding I’ve had an Orion StarShoot Autoguider for ten years that has been consistent, reliable, and has worked across my macOS, Linux, and Windows setups without issue.
In the past I’ve used a Fujifilm X-T2 (for which software control is very difficult), a Canon 500D, Canon 300D, and an Olympus OM-1. Sadly I don’t really have any good images to show from my film days. All I have is one photo of my setup (Meade LX90 with an early autoguider.
I’m in the process of building a solar-powered all sky camera based on a Raspberry Pi and Thomas Jacquin’s AllSky.
- QHYCCD QHY268C single-shot color camera
- Canon EOS 6D Mark II, H-α modified by Kolari
- Orion StarShoot Autoguider
- Polar alignment
- iOptron iPolar
- All sky
- Raspberry Pi HD camera
Computing and Software
It is frustrating to me that Windows is the center of gravity for astronomy and astrophotography software, but that’s how it is. For several years I used BackyardEOS in a Windows VM on my Mac. I have made various attempts at Raspberry Pi and Mac control with INDI/KStars/Ekos. But my goal is to optimize for ease, and this is where I presently find the lowest friction.
I have a MeLE Quieter3C fanless mini PC attached to my mount, running Windows. I use Remote Desktop to control it from my Mac, my iPad, my phone, etc, which is nice.
- MeLE Quieter3C fanless mini-pc with 8GB RAM
- Anker 10 port USB hub
- iPolar software for polar alignment
- ASCOM with Gemini.net and the ZWO EAF and Orion SSAG drivers
- ASCOM Remote to enable connection via SkySafari
- SkySafari Pro 7 on iPad for planetarium/goto functionality
- PHD2 for guiding, connected to the Orion SSAG and Gemini via ASCOM
- Nighttime Imaging ‘N’ Astromony (N.I.N.A.) connected to my camera and focuser, to center the mount on my target, focus, and capture
- 14" MacBook Pro M1 Max w/ 32GB memory
- Synology DS920+ NAS for hot archival storage