Sunday, May 19, 2013

Throwing out the focuser

Every summer - where the Danish nights are too bright for deep sky imaging - I have fun doing Solar imaging instead. Being able to enjoy astronomy on a nice summer day without the cold and fatigue of a winter night is great!

I do high resolution imaging using a 6" f/6 achromatic refractor and a Daystar Quantum SE 0.5Å H-alpha filter. A Baader TZ4 tele-extender increases the magnification four-fold. When building such a setup the imaging train on the rear side of the telescope becomes really long and this leads to significant problems with flexure. Over the last few years I have optimized my setup to employ threaded connections everywhere, thus reducing flexure to a minimum. The imaging train currently looks like this:

Imaging train for high-res Solar imaging in H-alpha light (click to enlarge).
A special feature of this setup is that the telescope's original focuser has been replaced by a fixed length tube. Instead, focusing is done with a small helical focusser just before the camera. This way only the camera is moved and not the entire imaging train. This makes for much less flexure and focus slippage while shaving off nearly a kilogram from the total weight on the rear side of the scope.

Yesterday was my first time out this year with this setup and it was also first-light for the fixed-length telescope adapter. I had measured out very carefully how long it should be, but it was still scary-exciting to see whether or not I could get a sharp view using the little helical focusser at the camera. Fortunately, it worked just fine!

I only had a few minutes before having to go out but I managed to shoot active region 1748 which just a few days before unleashed four X-class flares in quick succession. More flares are likely but nothing happened during the two minutes I shot it.

AR1748, best 60 out of 2200 frames (click to enlarge).