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(21 April 2022)
Here are several links to various aspects of the research programs at the Virgil Observatory. Note: some content is still missing, sparse or being redefined on most links at this point in time.
Minor Planet Observations
Investigations of short-period variable stars.
Equipment Configuration(12 December 2017)
The Virgil Observatory is home to a 12-inch Meade f/10 SCT classic mounted on a home-made, fixed-angle wedge and SkyShed pier. The pier is bolted to a 12-foot 12-1/2 inch diameter footing of 2000 pounds of concrete. I use ACP Observatory Control with the telescope.
I have an SBIG ST-7XME, a camera with a CCD detector similar to my old Pictor 416XTE, but with a completely different electronic interface. This camera uses a USB 2.0 interface that is both more reliable and provides significantly faster downloads. I use MaxIm DL/CCD to control the camera.
Currently I use an f/6.3 focal reducer and a spacer to get a focal length reduction to about 55% (1630 - 1635 mm), with a resulting image scale of 1.14 arcsec per pixel and a field of view of 15' x 10'. The effective reduction depends on the both the distance of the reducer from the secondary mirror and the distance of the reducer to the CCD chip itself. Changes in ambient temperature change the effective focal length.
The following equipment is mounted on the telescope, in order from the telescope tailpiece:
a) The f/6.3 focal reducer. The focal reducer is mounted inside the TCF-S focusing sleeve in an Agos adapter.
b) Optec TCF-S focuser (with digital readout), using FocusMax to automatically focus.
c) A very short T-thread spacer. (An AO-8 could go here instead.)
d) SBIG CFW-8A color filter wheel, with Hα, V, R, I and Clear filters.
e) SBIG ST-7XME CCD camera, cooled typically to -35C to -25C in the winter and -15C or -10C in summer, but not water cooled.
With this configuration, the OTA will not swing through the forks, so I'm limited to observing objects that are south of declination 69°N.
The roof, an AstroHaven Enterprises 7-foot diameter clamshell, opens and closes automatically. It takes little effort to move the four shutter segments up or down. Once it's moving, it takes only about five seconds to fully open. The clams open to the north and south. Each shutter can be opened or closed independently. An ASCOM Astrohaven driver links the dome shutter control mechanisms to the computer.