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The 24" R-C Reflector at Star Hill, New Mexico

A heavily-laden amateur astronomer approaches the Dome housing the 24-inch.  The dome opening is controlled by using a hand crank, and is operated using a hand box controller. The entire dome, including the entry door,  rotates instead of just the top part.  The interior of the dome is equipped with an 8-foot wheeled ladder, several chairs, an equipment rack and a desk holding a computer/ monitor and control box for remote telescope pointing. 

As can be seen here, this telescope is a serious piece of equipment.  According to the Star Hill Website, it was previously owned by the University of Denver, and when the University needed to upgrade to two larger telescopes, it was purchased by Star Hill.  The telescope and dome were disassembled, moved down to Sapello and reassembled as you see it here  The mount and drive motor assemblies are very beefy, and can support hundreds of pounds of equipment attached to the tailplate.   The telescope alignment and pointing controls were done using NGC-MAX..  After alignment, RA and DEC were determined by reading the numbers from the control display, and using the built-in object database, it was reasonably straightforward to find objects.  Phil also had The Sky software and interface to control pointing. 

In this photo, Pete has removed the focal length reducer (f/10 to f/8) and the  extension tube.  The 2" flip-mirror and ST-2000XM imager has been installed, and he is rotating and testing the fit for stability (we don't want this stuff falling off in the middle of a nice series).  The data and power cables, and the safety harness have yet to be installed and routed.  Note the lead weights bolted to the back end of the telescope tube. 

Pete climbs back down the ladder after attaching the imager and flip-mirror.  Note the 6" refractor tube attached to the side of the main telescope tube- this piggybacked 'scope serves as a general finder, or for secondary viewing.  Also note the control paddle attached to the back of the telescope, which allows the operator to make minor adjustments to the pointing for finding and centering the object in the field of view.  When the telescope is pointing in certain orientations the eyepiece may be ten feet above the dome floor, requiring the ladder to reach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete gives a final check before connecting the cables to power the imager, and allow software control using the computer.  All this setup was done during the day, in order to save time after telescope power-up and alignment.  We would typically join the owner shortly after last light make preparations for the evening session.  Also, during the day, I would select objects and establish a viewing schedule to save time.  I would try to select objects in the same part of the sky to minimize slewing.