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Stargazing 16 inch f/8 Meade RCX 400

  1. Jul 4, 2005 #1
    My school is building a new science complex and the administration has agreed to make an observatory part of the complex. The budget may be in the high 5 figures for the equipment (maybe a slim chance for low 6 figures).

    I'm pretty new to observational and CCD astronomy and so would like to solicit advice from anyone who cares to give it.

    What I would like to know is, if you were in this situation and could purchase a 16 inch f/8 Meade RCX 400 (Ritchey-Chretien) or 20 inch f/6.8 Celestron C20 (Dall-Kirkam), which would you choose? I was even looking at the $48K 20 inch f/9 or f/8.1 Ritchey-Chretien from RC Optical Systems. The plan is to fully automate the observatory and make it available remotely on a supervised basis to secondary and maybe a few post-secondary schools and science education organizations (e.g. museums, Challenger Learning Center, etc.) in our region. I'm also trying to involve amateur astronomers to help operate and maintain it. In a sense it would be their telescope too.

    It would probably be used primarily for deep sky photography but it should be capable of lunar and planetary work. I'd like to use it to search for SN's, NEO's and other minor planets and do some stellar spectrography as well. My naive response was of course the C20 ($40K) but i was talking to someone at a well established telescope retailer and to my surprise, he thought that i should really lean towards the 16 inch RCX 400 ($16K). In addition to cost, he said that the Dall-Kirkam design is much touchier in terms of getting and keeping collimation.

    In order of priority after the telescope:

    The CCD will be an SBIG ST-8 with AO and all the standard filters and a selfguiding spectrograph.

    There should be enough left in the budget for an H-alpha and maybe a Ca-K telescope (like the one available from Coronado) to send live daytime solar video to everyone who wants it. I am not sure if there would be enough for a separate smaller dome and mount/pier, etc. in the building funds or alternatively if it would have to be piggybacked on the primary telescope.

    If enough is still enough left after this I would like to get one of the large portable planetariums (like the 23 ft one from Digitalis or the large Star Lab).

    Finally, if there was enough to get all of this with the 16 inch RCX but not enough to get everything with the C20 with associated factors thrown in, where might you draw the line?

    I should add that a meteorology station would be almost essential since it is a robotic telescope and this would probably be considered part of the building infrasturcture and so not part of my equipment budget. At least that is my hope.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2005 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    That question is probably beyond our expertise here. I'd suggest a dedicated astronomy forum - www.cloudynights.com is one I visit and there are a number of people there (amateurs and professionals) who own/use scopes in that class.
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