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A Quantum Leap

The year was 2010. My wife and I were in Tucson, AZ for the annual convention of the Astronomical League. One feature of the convention that I always looked forward to was the hall full of vendor exhibits. Manufacturers and dealers of astronomical gear were always there with their latest offerings. As I browsed through the booths, I came upon a display by a local dealer named STARIZONA.  They were showing an optical system called HyperStar, which they said would enable Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes to image at the prime focus of the primary mirror, f/2, and obtain images of faint deepsky objects with exposure times up to 20 times shorter than required by the SCT's standard f/10 system. To the right is a picture of HyperStar, along with its two accessories, the electronic Micro-Touch Focuser and its digital hand controller.

To me, their claim seemed too good to be true. While looking at the HyperStar, I was approached by Dean Koenig, the owner of STARIZONA. Dean is a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guy, and he patiently took the time to answer every question I had about HyperStar. He showed me a video that explained how the system is installed in place of the regular secondary mirror holder in an SCT, and how the lenses in HyperStar allow you to take images at the native f/2 focal length of the primary mirror. He even showed me an album of hundreds of images taken with HyperStar.

After spending about an hour with Dean, I had decided that HyperStar was just what I needed to take my astro imaging to the next level. I told Dean that I had decided to purchase a HyperStar. He than asked me what type of CCD camera

I was using. When I told him I was using the very basic Orion Starshoot camera, Dean suggested that to really take advantage of HyperStar I should upgrade my imaging camera. He showed me the StarlightExpress SXVR-H694C camera. This camera had many advantages. First, its round body is smaller diameter than the HyperStars' body, so I would not lose any light-gathering aperture. Second, it has a more sensitive chip, the SONY HAD 694 Exview chip with 6 million 4.54 micron pixels, as compared to my StarShoots' puny 438 thousand pixels. In addition it had electronic cooling down to -30 degrees below ambient, greatly reducing electronic noise in the image. By now I was hooked. By the time I had purchased the HyperStar and its adapter, the electric Micro Touch Focuser and its Hand Controller, plus the StarlightExpress camera, I was out over $3,500. BUT, when I got back home and had everything installed and working in my observatory, the results of my first HyperStar imaging session had me grinning from ear to ear!

The StarlightExpress SXVR-H694C six

megapixel CCD imaging camera

The camera's 6 megapixel SONY

HAD694 Exview chip.

The HyperStar and SXVR-H694C camera installed on my Celestron C-11

The results that had me grinning from ear to ear!

This is a 10 minute integration of five 2 minute exposures of the Veil Nebula, using HyperStar and the SXVR-H694C camera.

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