ST-6 CCD camera setup and CCDOPS initialization

These steps explain how to set up a ST-6 CCD camera for imaging with a portable Meade telescope on one of the observatory’s permanent piers. The start-up and initialization of CCDOPS is also covered.

Although the steps are listed in a “typical” order, they do not need to be followed exactly. As you gain more experience using this equipment you will come to have your own setup and imaging routine/technique. These steps should provide you with the general idea, however.

As always, you should familiarize yourself with the general precautions to be taken when using the ST-6 CCD cameras. Also, please use common sense and be careful when using the CCD cameras.

Step 1: Choose a cart and take it out to the observing pad

Choose which CCD and/or computer you want to use. This will determine which cart you take out to the pad.

Make sure the cart’s computer is turned off (choose “Shut down” from the desktop’s “Special” menu to do so) and then unplug the cart’s surge protector (located on the bottom shelf of the cart) from the wall. Hang the surge protector’s cord over one of the cart’s posts so that it will not get in your way while you are moving the cart. There should be a short, hot-pink ethernet cable on the cart. Unplug the blue ethernet cable from the back of the computer (it unplugs similarly to a phone cord) and leave it lying on the floor. You will use the hot-pink cable outside on the pad.

If there are any items on the cart which will not be going outside with you (celestial sphere, cd-rom case, etc) take them off and leave them in Rm. 104. Put the mouse in the mouse holder on the monitor’s side, place the mouse pad on the cart, and slide the mouse shelf into position under the cart’s monitor/keyboard shelf (this will allow you to get the cart through the door).

Make sure that there are no cables dragging on the floor. Usually all long cables can be draped over one or more of the cart’s three posts. It is also not a good idea to have any items on the top shelf of the cart as such items might fall from the shelf while in transit. Even if some items might survive a fall from the top shelf, realize that such items could easily slide off the shelf and land on the keyboard, your fingers, feet, etc…

Once the cart has been preped and is ready to go, roll the cart out to the observing pad. When leaving Rm. 104, it is best to pull the cart through the door with the monitor facing the direction of movement. You will probably have to lift the cart up slightly to get over the door jam. Whenever you lift up on one side of the cart watch the cart’s contents to make sure that nothing is going to slide off of the shelves.

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Step 2: Plug it in and turn it on

Plug in the surge protector, connect the ethernet cable, and turn on the computer and CCD controls

Once you get the cart to the pier that you will be using, plug the cart’s surge protector into the pier’s standard power outlet (the lower outlet on the pier, beneath the ethernet outlet). Next plug one end of the hot-pink ethernet cable into the computer’s ethernet jack, the same one from which you disconnected the blue ethernet cable when you were inside. Plug the other end of the ethernet cable into the ethernet outlet on the pier.

Turn the computer on by pressing the keyboard’s power key. The power key is the the one with the triangle on it, on the opposite side of the keyboard from the “esc” key. Then switch on the CCD camera’s “black box” (the black box should be on top of the computer on the shelf below the monitor/keyboard shelf). When turned on, the black box’s toggle switch should light up.

Pull out the mouse shelf and replace the mouse and mouse pad.

Step 3. Start and configure CCDOPS

Start CCDOPS by clicking on the rainbow apple (Apple menu) from the desktop’s menu. From the menu that appears, choose Applications and then CCD&Imaging and finally, CCDOPS. For the remainder of these steps such menu actions will be written as:

Apple menu:Applications:CCD&Imaging:CCDOPS

Once the program starts, a box should appear indicating that a connection to the CCD has been made and the “Video” and “Offset” should be calculated. A status window should then appear.

To configure CCDOPS, from the CCDOPS main menu choose:

Misc:Telescope Setup

In the dialog box that appears, the most important thing to set is the Observer field. Put your name in this field. Next make sure that the Focal Length and Aperture fields are correct for the telescope that you you will be using (see the following table but keep in mind that if you are using a focal reducer or a barlow lens with any of these telescopes, the focal lengths will be different than those listed here):

  Focal Length
(sq. in.)
LX200 f/10 80 43.2
LX200 f/6.3 50.4 40.9
2080 f/10 80 43.4

Choose “Ok” when you are done entering this information.

Next, from the CCDOPS menu choose:


In the dialog box that appears, make sure that the temperature regulation field is set to Active. Then, in the “Setpoint” field, enter an appropriate temperature value to which the CCD should be cooled. In general, you would like the camera to be as cold as possible. The camera, however, can only cool itself to 40° C below the ambient air temperature. So, for example, if the outside air temperature is 10° C then a reasonable value for the setpoint might be -30° C. The other options in this dialog box should be fine as they are set. However, typical values are as follows:

  • Reuse Dark Frames: Yes
  • Antiblooming Rate: Low
  • Resolution: High
  • Response Facor: 300

Choose “Ok” when you are finished.

You should now notice that the “Temperature” reading in the status window will begin to decrease until it reaches the setpoint you specified. The percent value in the parentheses is the percentage of power being applied to cool the CCD chip. When the Temperature reading reaches the setpoint, if the percentage value is at or near 100% you have chosen a setpoint that is too “cold”.

Change the setpoint to a “warmer” temperature by following the above procedure. Ideally, the percentage value should be around 70% when the chip has reached the setpoint.