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Your Donations are Very Much Appreciated: 

For a time, Astronomy Online was a hobby paid for by my day job. In 2007 I became legally blind due to some rare genetic condition with similar effects as Macular Degeneration. With medical photography being my primary money maker, this condition makes that impossible. Not to mention my degree in astronomy. My wife has also become a statistic of the unemployed by being laid off in December 2011. With disability income and unemployment, Astronomy Online needs help to grow.

I am permanently disabled. This site has now become my way to contribute to society. I have plans I would like to list below.

I have considered non-profit status - 501(c)3, I learned by doing so I would give up ownership of Astronomy Online. Since the images and text are my intellectual property, one can see why I would not choose becoming non-profit.

A simple way of donating would be to purchase something from the Astronomy Online Store. However, this would not be enough.

Currently Astronomy Online is serving as a reference for many schools and universities around the world. I find this exciting. Because of this, I want to add features to the website to make the site a more effective resource. My wife is the one responsible for making Astronomy Online a reality. Donations will keep her focused on the website (in a sense this would pay her salary).

Changes and additions to the website will come in several stages:

  • Continue to update content based on new discovery and include information and data from new space-based technology, like the Kepler probe which is discovering new planets around other stars.
  • Provide downloadable content for teachers to use in the classroom. These documents will be based on standards set by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
  • provide end of section tests online so students can learn on their own at their own pace.

The challenge will be receiving large donations for the purchase of telescopes, mounts and cameras with prices totalling up to $50,000.While this equipment will be used by me, the data I would e able to provide will be invaluable to professional astronomers. For example:

  • Long term data collection of stellar brightness and spectroscopy
  • Sky surveys to assist in the search for new comets and Near Earth Objects (NEO's)
  • Long exposure photography to allow deeper views into other galaxies

I have compiled a list of cameras and telescopes and mounts that I would like to get which I think may help put some things into perspective.

Cameras for pretty pictures that can also do some real science:

  1. SBIG SFT-8300M Pro Package - this includes everything: autoguider, filter wheel and filters. This is the "affordable" choice.
  2. SBIG STL-11000M - this is the really nice one. It's not cheap because I would need a different filter wheel, a guide camera and filters all of which are always bought separately with the exception of the STF-8300 package above.

I would love to have the STL-11000 with extra guider, and the FW8-STL but I would be happy with the SFT-8300 Pro

Cameras for pure science. What the cameras above can do as far as science that these science only cameras cannot do is detect faint gases around galaxies and nebula.

  1. SBIG ST-9XE - a very nice sensitive camera perfect for photometry, supernova detection, looking for new asteroids and even new planets. It has an autoguider but it could use a better one. A filter wheel and filters are needed as well. The CFW-10 filter wheel in the accessories section is the better choice.
  2. SBIG STL-101E - this camera has twice the image area as the ST-9 meaning it can cover more sky. It can do all the ST-9 can do. Again, a better guider is needed as is a filter wheel - look in the accessories section.

I would like to have the STL-1001E with extra guider, and the FW8-STL but would be happy with an ST-9 with the SFW10 filter wheel.

Adaptive optics: This is a nice add on for any camera that clears up the image quite a bit. This is one of those devices that are not necessary but you'll (well me) be glad you have it. The STL line of cameras (STL-11000, STL-1001E) use the AO-L. This page will show what it can do. The ST series (ST-9) uses a different model, the AO-8, although if I am lucky to get the SFT-8300 or the STL-11000 and the ST-1001E I won't need the AO-8. If I get the STL-11000 and the ST-9 with the AO-L, SBIG makes an adapter for I can use it on both - the AO-L to ST Adapter kit. Note that the SFT-8300 cannot use the AO-L


This is a great tool for measuring temperatures of stars, determining the redshift of galaxies, even determining the contents of an atmosphere. SBIG has two I like and unfortunately both do different things. There is no spectrometer that does it all:

  1. SBIG Deep Space Spectrograph
  2. SBIG SGS with High-Res Grating

Both spectroscopes are designed for and work best with SBIG's ST-7 Deluxe camera. No guider or filter wheel needed. Just the camera.

All sky cameras:

These are awesome because the cover 180 degrees of sky. They serve several purposes like monitor cloud cover and capture meteor showers! The one I would like to get is the AllSky340 Color.

Telescopes: I narrowed the field down quite a bit

Now when it comes to telescopes, there are the dream scopes, one of which I will mention, and the affordable ones listed below. The telescope/mount combination I would love to get is Meade's MAX 20" ACF that comes in at $35,000. This is not the most expensive by any means. Specialty imaging telescopes from companies a RC Optics actually start at that price for a 16" telescope and NO MOUNT.

The thing to know about telescope mounts is they are more expensive than the telescope in some cases. How much it can carry, how accurate the tracking is and build quality are mandatory factors. You get what you pay for in a mount. Think about it, it must run all night on its own while tracking a single object billions of light years away.

  • Paramount MX - this is the best mount. I would need either a Celestron 1100 Edge HD or Meade 12" ACF optical tube. At $9,000 it's not cheap but this mount is at the top of every astrophotographer's list of a mount to get or upgrade to.
  • Celestron CGE Pro - a descent compromise to the Paramount. I would need a Meade 12" ACF optical tube ($5,000.00)
  • CGE Pro 1100 HD - The is a nice package that has the CGE Pro mount and 1100 HD telescope ($8,000.00)
  • Meade LX800 - This is Meade's new package deal. I prefer a 12" ACF telescope on their own LX800 mount (9,000.00). This system includes a self correcting tracking errors and can hold a lot of gear.
  • Meade Series 6000 APO - Every photographer also needs one of these. I like the 115mm model ($2,000.00). A refractor in the 102mm to 115mm range offers wonderful wide field views a 6" or greater telescope cannot do. It's a tool for a specific and important job!
  • A Stellarvue SV102 with required field flattener was recommended to me as an alternative to the Meade Series 6000. Stellarvue is a better product according to them. By the way OptCorp is a very reputable dealer of all things astronomy.
  • Another refractor that caught my eye is the Stellarvue SV Raptor 105. It's looks serve a purpose as the carbon fiber is lighter and cools down to ambient temperature much faster than a metal tube. Scrolling down the page will be a field flattener which is required for imaging and a case to protect it.
  • Meade 16" LX200 ACF - My dream telescope at $16,000. But its nowhere near the quality of the MAX 20" ACF.
  • SolarMax II 60 Double-Stack - This is a wonderful specialty scope that views the Sun in Ha meaning prominences and flares are visible and constantly changing. The 60 is much cheaper than the 90 ($2,500.00 versus $6,800.00).

The Celestron 11" optical tubes and Meade"s 12" optical tubes run around the $3,500.00 mark.

Just think of the science I can do with a 20" telescope and two good CCD's and a spectroscope! Anyone who helps with any major person will be listed by any discovery I may make since any discovery would not be possible without the much needed equipment.

Professional astronomers do not have long term access to telescopes. They must apply for telescope time and they may be granted a week or two to get the data they need. Amateur astronomers do provide the continuous data they require.

And finally:

  • The images and data I will capture and collect will be available to students, teachers and professionals - free
  • Create a tutorial for a student to create a proposal for telescope and grant them remote access to any telescope Astronomy Online may have - free
  • This will prepare students for the real world of astronomy research!

The only profit I would seek would be from the sale of images to be framed by those who would like them on their wall.

I will be happy to discuss these projects with you. Please Contact Us if you have questions.

Our Old Brochure Requesting Support:
Brochure - Side One
Brochure - Side Two

Ricky L. Murphy

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