The observatory was very good this year so Santa brought it a very nice present – a new telescope for the South Dome! Actually it isn’t all that new. It’s a Meade Instruments 16-inch Schmidt-Cass likely from around 1994 or so. It has some mileage on it, and the previous owner had gutted the electronics to upgrade them with Sitech controllers and encoders which seem to be the best drive and control system for these telescopes. Actually none of that will be of much concern as I plan to “de-fork” the telescope to place it on the Astro-Physics 1200 mount in the South Dome. Another nice addition is a three inch Optec TCF-S3 focuser, which should be more than sufficient to support the spectrograph and camera.
It’s sort of a shame to waste the mounting as I understand it tracks really well. The telescope’s previous owner was able to use it to track satellites across the sky keeping the object centered in the field the whole time. But the AP1200 is actually a much better mount and is much more compact – definitely an issue. Furthermore, because of the short fork, the camera and spectrograph would limit how far north the telescope could point as they would not pass between the forks without hitting the base. Anything northward of about +55 or +60 degrees would be out of reach. That’s not a whole lot of sky but there are objects in my observing programs that would no longer be available.
Once the dovetail rail (used to attach the telescope to the mount) arrives I’ll begin testing the optics. Meade Instruments were known to deliver some clunkers, optically speaking. I’m also already aware of other common problems with this model, including mirror flop. That’s why I acquired the Optec focuser. I plan to lock the mirror down to prevent it from “floating” around – which can affect pointing and image quality. Not surprisingly it has been raining since the telescope arrived home.