Home equipment - Planetary - Glittering Lights - Marco Lorenzi

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I image from my terrace on the 12th floor of a condo in Bedok area, Singapore. Despite not being the optimal location  in terms of local seeing control, this is a quite convenient solution since I only have to take the telescope outside a room avoiding transportation by car or by other means. Weather is quite unstable with clouds frequently passing over and a relatively clear night can become cloudy and vice versa in a matter of minutes, so this arrangement avoids lots of frustration.

Being close to the Earth equator means the ecliptic is crossing the zenith, so planets can be imaged at high altitude limiting the effect of seeing and atmospheric dispersion. At this latitude also the jet stream has very little influence and the seeing, on the few nights the sky is not covered, can be very good to excellent.

I use an Ioptron CEM60 mount, ideal for low latitude setups thanks to its clever design. I find this mount remarkably good in terms of performances/price ratio, to the point I do not really miss more expensive mounts I used in the past.

The Optical tube is a Celestron 9.25, a surprisingly good optics I had a chance to have tested on a optical bench confirming an excellent optical quality, fully diffraction limits once properly collimated. It is also quite lightweight. I modified the OTA back cell to add a cooling fan system (Tempest by Deep space products) in order to reduce the acclimating time and flocked internally the tube (Protostar FlockBoard) to reduce reflections and improve contrast.

I have two cameras I use for planetary work, both made by ZWO: a monochrome ASI-178MM and a color ASI-224MC. I use the former one mainly for lunar works, it has a large chip and small pixels so it works at ideal sampling at prime focus f/10. The color camera is primarily used on planetary works in combination with a TeleVue Powermate 2.5x and it produces very good results without the hassle of taking and assembling RGB sequences.  Both cameras have extremely low noise so it is possible use high frame rates without compromising much the s/n ratio of the single frame.

The imaging train includes a motorized filter wheel (as well by ZWO) containing luminance, infrared and other filters and a flip mirror that helps framing the planets at high magnification on the tiny chip. I also use an electrical focuser (Moonlite CS2) for smooth focusing at high magnification without imaging shift, a must in planetary work.

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