Stewart William Astrophotography

Stewart William Astrophotography


Here is list of all my current equipment, for both deep sky and planetary imaging..

Skywatcher EQ8 pro, on my shell pier, made by Astroengineering

This is my Skywatcher EQ8 Mount, and my Astroengineering steel pier. I acquired the pier a few years ago, but due to a house move I did not install, so it’s only been installed and used for around six months.

The EQ8 I bought secondhand and was three years old, but was barely used and in mint condition, it’s a heavy duty observatory mount with a 50kg payload, more than enough for my needs. The EQ8 is left on the pier permanently, and very well polar aligned with a QHY Polemaster, it’s then covered at the end of each session with a Telegizmo 365 cover, with a 20w heater inside to stop any condensation, this works extremely well indeed.

The accessory tray I added fairly recently and just gives me that extra space to store accessories, during a session.

Takahashi FSQ85 quad imaging scope

This is my Takahashi FSQ85 also known as the Baby Q, it’s an 85mm Modified Petzval quadruplet apochromat, 450mm focal length and f5.3. its a beautiful scope and one I did not think I would own, but when it came up secondhand and in as new condition, I could not resist. It rests on a 14” Losmandy plate with parallax 95mm rings, and the handle on the top was 3D printed by a nice chap on an Astro forum. 

The motor fitted to the focuser is a Pegasus branded one, but I used the ZWO Takahashi bracket as it was less obtrusive than the Pegasus offering.

Takahashi FS60cb 60mm guide / Solar scope

My latest purchase was this nice compact light Takahashi FS60cb, it’s an air spaced fluorite doublet, with single speed focuser, 355mm focal length at f5.9. 

I bought this to replace my 80mm Altair maxiguider guide scope, as I wanted a quality one that would also double up as a solar scope, as this is an area I would like to try next year. Again I purchased secondhand and was in mint condition and the price was excellent. The stock focuser did have a bit of slop, but soon had that sorted. It sits in the standard Takahashi clamshell clamp, which hold it rock solid, this in turn is bolted to a Losmandy saddle to fit my dual mount set up.

8” Meade LX90 Classic SCT

The 8” Meade LX90 SCT, f10, 2000mm focal length scope, I have had since I started Astroimaging many years ago, this was on its original fork mount until very recently, when I de forked it to use on my EQ8. It’s a classis model from the late 1990’s, but it still in mint condition, I bought is of a guy who had owned from new for 12 months and barely used it. This is a superb example of this model, and the views through it are stunning, this is my GOTO scope for visual and planetary Imaging.

I do have a focal reducer for this too which takes it down from f10 to f7.5 and this is good for imaging as I can used shorter exposures. I also have the Meade 1209 zero image shift focuser on the back along with a feathertouch micro focuser replacing the stock version, this gives much more precise focus, and stops image shift from the moving primary mirror Inerrant with this design of scope.

Starlight Xpress SXVR M25 One Shot Colour CCD imaging camera

My GOTO (excuse the pun) CCD camera, I love this camera and it always gives excellent results. It has a large APS size sensor and the extra cooling fan on the side, the super sensitive Sony sensor gives clean images with almost no need for dark calibration frames. It cools to approx -30 below ambient, which is more than enough for here in the U.K.

This camera has a very large, high resolution 'SuperHAD' CCD chip, with 6,000,000 x 7.8uM square pixels in a 23.4 x 15.6mm array. Size equivalent to APS film.Single-shot colour, using a Bayer matrix of R, G and B on-chip filters. High sensitivity, equivalent to 60% QE at peak of green filters. Exceptionally low dark signal - No dark frames necessary for most deep sky objects.

Starlight Xpress SXVR H18 mono CCD imaging camera

After having my one shot colour SXVR M25c for a while, I decided I wanted a mono camera too, and again sticking with SX products I started the hunt for a used H18, it took a few months ths but eventually one popped up on the UK astrobuysell site, and I promptly purchased. The same form factor as the M25, but just very slightly longer, the Kodak KAF8300 mono sensor is one that has a proven record.

The SXVR-H18 mono is a medium format, high- resolution cooled CCD camera, especially designed for astronomical imaging. The SXVR-H18 uses a Kodak KAF8300 ‘Full Frame’ CCD, with 3326(H) X 2504(V) pixels in a 17.96mm x 13.52mm active area. The SXVR-H18 can download a full resolution 16 bit image in only 4.5 seconds.

The H18 is unusual in that it is the first SX camera to incorporate a mechanical shutter. This is required for correct operation of its full-frame CCD chip, but also permits the user to easily take dark frames when required. However, the mechanical cycle time does limit the shortest practical exposure time to about 0.05 seconds.

Starlight Xpress Lodestar mono guide CCD camera

This is probably one of, if not the best guide camera available, I had the version 1 initially and was very impressed, and then I got this, again secondhand from the same guy I bought my Tak FSQ85 from. I like the small 1.25” form factor as well as the super sensitive Sony CCD mono sensor. Total simplicity it just works, especially now the guide port socket has been upgraded to an rj45 type connector, instead of the older small four pin one, which was prone to breaking.

The SX Lodestar x2 has a Sony ICX829 EXview HAD CCD. Transfer Method: Interline. Image Size: 8 mm Diagonal, Type 1/2.Total Pixel Array: 795 x 596.Effective Pixels: 752 x 582. Total Effective Pixels: 440K.Pixel Size: 8.2 um x 8.4 um. Computer Interface: Built-in USB 2.0 compatible interface.

Dual side by side Losmandy mount, with Pegasus UPB V2 & Raspberry PI4

Although my imaging set up is not that big or heavy, I still decided to use a dual side by side set up. this was for a couple of reasons, the first being that I wanted to be able to swap from my Tak FSQ85 to my Meade 8” SCT, with the minimum of fuss. So to do this, the side by side set up was born.

On the right side of the dual mount, is where the imaging scope sits, on the left there are two Losmandy plates with 40mm spacers between, this was to house my Pegasus UPB V2 and my Raspberry PI4 single board computer (more on this later).

And atop of this sits my guidescope, this can all be left in place regardless of which scope I decide to image with. It also makes it a bit easier as there is not much difference in weight, between the Tak and the Meade SCT.

The second reason for the dual set up, was to help with the built in imbalance on the EQ8 mount, the two motors are located on the same side of the mount and are quite heavy, this does cause issues for a piggybacked system and extra weights are used by some people on the opposite side of the mount, to counteract this, but with a dual mount, is not needed.

My only other option would have been a single saddle and the whole lot piggybacked, which was doable, but not for me, for the reasons stated above...

This shows you a closer look at how the Pegasus hub (on the left)  and Raspberry PI (on the right) fit in the set up.
Site designed by Stewart William