The New Forest Observatory is the creation of Emeritus Professor Greg Parker who took early retirement from the University of Southampton in September 2010 where he was Professor of Photonics in the School of Electronics and Computer Science.
The New Forest Observatory (NFO) web site keeps you right up to date with all the comings/goings ,new developments, and new images taken at the NFO.
Please click “Home” to get all the latest blog news and to see the very latest images – and please click “Image Library” to see all the images that have been taken from the New Forest Observatory.
As from August 1st 2011 there will be two imaging facilities operating at the NFO. The original (South) dome housing the Celestron C11 will continue Hyperstar III imaging with the perfectly matched M25C one-shot colour camera from Starlight Xpress. The brand new (North) dome houses the new mini-WASP array which will start off using two Sky 90 refractors and two M26C one-shot colour cameras for data collection. First Light for the mini-WASP deep-sky imaging array was on August 7th 2011 in the early hours of the morning – around 3:00 a.m.
Images from November 2004 until August 2006 were taken on a Celestron Nexstar 11 GPS (David Hinds) with Hyperstar lens (Starizona, U.S.A.) giving a massively fast f#1.85 optic, and a Starlight Xpress SXV-H9C one-shot colour CCD camera (Telescope House).
From September 2006 until June 2008 images were taken using a Takahashi Sky 90 refractor and Starlight Xpress SXVF-M25C large format one-shot colour CCD camera (Opticstar).
From June 2008 until September 2010 – all images have been taken with the amazing Hyperstar III lens assembly on the C11. A small very lightweight Celestron refractor is used as the guide-scope (the Sky 90 is removed). With an extremely fast f#2 ratio. From September 2010 until May 2011 I went back to Sky 90/M25C imaging again until the mini-WASP array started to be built in anger. In May 2011 I put the faithful Hyperstar III workhorse back on the C11 together with the very lightweight Celestron wide field refractor which is used as a guide scope. I will be solidly “beefing-up” the Celestron “Heavy Duty” wedge which has an open box section that causes the wedge to distort when the heavy C11 is panned all over the sky. Until May 2011 I used a 2.2mm sheet of Aluminium to close off the box-end of the wedge, from August 2011 I will use a 6mm Aluminium plate bolted to 2″ x 2″ Aluminium bar which in turn is solidly bolted to the wedge to stiffen things up. I don’t think there will be any wedge flexure after that lump of metal is attached. Needless to say – I am expecting the star quality in the corners of future Hyperstar III images to improve considerably – I will be more than a little unhappy if they don’t.
From the beginning of August 2011 the North dome housing the mini-WASP deep-sky imaging array becomes operational. There is a LOT of setting up to do in order to tune in the whole system, but the aim is to have everything sorted and ready for imaging this Winter’s deep-sky wonders with a field of view of 4 x 3.33 degrees at a sampling of 3 arcseconds per pixel and a data download of 20 Megapixels per sub-exposure.
The mini-WASP array only became fully operational during the winter of 2012 – lots of bugs to iron out :) However, since that date the array has been creating some pretty impressive deep-sky images on the very few clear night’s we have had. The array comprises 3 imaging telescopes and cameras, a Sky 90 with an M26C one shot colour camera and an SX slimline filter wheel with H-alpha, H-beta, SII and OIII filters, and two TS 80mm triplet APO scopes each with an IDAS light pollution filter and M26C 10-megapixel OSC camera. Guiding is via a Megrez 80mm scope and an SX guide camera which connects to one of the M26C OSC cameras. The array of 4 telescopes is mounted in a very rigid aluminium frame and the whole thing sits on top of a Paramount ME German Equatorial mount. The whole imaging head weighs around 90 pounds and the Paramount throws it around with ease. The array lives in a Pulsar 2-metre dome along with dehumidifier, heater and the 3 observatory computers. The computers are linked via a Gigabit LAN to the Control Room indoors so the array can be controlled and driven from a warm study. Tom How’s superb automatic dome rotation system keeps the dome aperture squarely in front of the imaging array, wherever it it pointed in the sky.
I exhibit the best of the deep-sky images taken from the New Forest Observatory, on a fairly regular basis. A list of exhibitions is shown below:
23rd October – 3rd November 2010 The PhotoGallery Bristol.
3rd September – 5th September 2010 ArtSway Gallery, Hampshire.
18th August – 24th August 2007 Brockenhurst Gallery.
27th July – 9th September 2006 University of Southampton Exhibition Centre.
In addition I regularly give (1 hour) PowerPoint presentations of the work carried out at the New Forest Observatory to clubs and societies in the South of England.