Squirrel Valley Observatory is a privately owned roll off roof observatory located in the foothills of western North Carolina. Major construction was completed in the summer of 2015 with equipment upgrades continuing to be made for astrophotography and private research. The observatory is the culmination of a life long dream.
The primary purpose of this observatory is research and astrophotography work. However it is also meant to serve as a tool for public outreach in an effort to educate individuals about the universe we live in.
The primary optical telescopes are rather modest in size, (a Celestron EdgeHD8 and an Explore Scientific CF 127mm triplet refractor), but can be configured for planetary and deep sky imaging as well as visual observations. This setup is in an imaging configuration at least 90% of the time for now. This configuration allows for far better results to the eye, but at the cost of more time processing images for final review. With the advancements in noise reduction and the increased sensitivity of today’s CCD and CMOS cameras, the time spent imaging may soon relax somewhat and also offer the opportunity for near real time imaging, similar to a video feed. Many facilities are already doing this. This is a goal for the current setup, along with various types of research such as minor planet (asteroid) detection, supernova detection, etc. It is possible today for even small facilities such as this to make modest contributions to astronomical research.
The EdgeHD scope is an 8″ aplanatic schmidt-cassegrain, and the 127mm refractor is normally saddled to the EdgeHD main tube, which tracks the sky using a Losmandy G11/Gemini 2 system mount. This mount is in turn secured to a 12″ steel pier, bolted to an isolated concrete pier/footer. This setup minimizes much of the vibrations that are detrimental to long exposure imaging. An auto-guider system is currently being installed to provide for even longer exposures. An Explore Scientific 102mm triplet refractor is available for field work on a portable AVX mount.
The primary and secondary scope can be computer controlled from the observatory and from inside my home.
Additional portable telescopes are stored in the observatory. They include a homemade 10″ f5.6 reflecting telescope which is currently in a dobsonian mount configuration (grab and point). It is awaiting some upgrades and much needed maintenance. The remaining instrument is a small, highly portable Meade ETX 80mm short tube refractor on a Meade goto mount. This is used as a grab and go scope for the brightest of objects and is not intended for serious imaging and or research. There is also a Celestron 3″ “FirstScope tabletop reflector available for hands on public educational purposes.
The facility also houses a small real time weather station which is available online 24/7.
Director/Operator/Janitor: Randy L. Flynn