Astro-Tech 10" f/8 Ritchey-Chrétien carbon fiber optical tube


Availability: More on the way

After many customer requests, we are proud to now offer the Astro-Tech AT10RC Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph, a Sky and Telescope Hot Product for 2010, with a premium low thermal expansion carbon fiber body. The AT10RC is the first truly affordable large aperture true Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph available from a U. S. company, and is priced thousands of dollars less than competitive 10" RCs.
Our Product #: AT10RCF
Astro-Tech Product #: AT10RCF
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Product Description

Developed by Astro-Tech to make large-format CCD imaging affordable for the amateur astronomer, the Astro-Tech AT10RCF - a Sky & Telescope Hot Product for 2010 - is priced thousands of dollars less than the formerly least-expensive 10" R-C. The Astro-Tech AT10RCF is the first truly affordable large aperture true Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph available from a U. S. company. Even better, despite its low price, the Astro-Tech-developed AT10RCF has many of the same premium features as the much higher-priced competitive RCs (and some they don't have) - like quartz mirrors, carbon fiber body, and more.

This Astro-Tech AT10RCF Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph has:

• 10" f/8 true Ritchey-Chrétien hyperbolic mirror optical design
• low thermal expansion quartz primary and secondary mirrors
• center spotted secondary mirror
• low thermal expansion carbon fiber optical tube
• nine contrast-enhancing main tube knife edge light baffles
• shipped without focuser to allow you to add the premium focuser of your choice
• 1" and 2" focuser extension rings to fine-tune the back focus of your optional focuser
• three built-in cooling fans in rear cell
• two Losmandy-style "D-plate" dovetail rails
• mounting bracket for optional finder

The 10" Astro-Tech AT10RCF is the first truly affordable carbon fiber large aperture true Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph available from a U. S. company. Imitators will no doubt copy Astro-Tech's years of hard development work, but why settle for a copy when you can get the original? Sky & Telescope agrees, as they named the Astro-Tech 8" and 10" Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien astrographs Sky & Telescope Hot Products for 2010. (Incidentally, the original Astro-Tech 6" R-C was named a Sky & Telescope Hot product for 2009 and the new 12" AT12RC has been named a Hot Product for 2011.)

The surprisingly affordable Astro-Tech AT10RCF (and its even more affordable metal tube brother, the AT10RC) joins two other Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien firsts. One is the AT8RC, a Sky & Telescope Hot Product for 2010 - the first 8" true Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph available from a U. S. company and the first and still the only affordable U. S. 8" R-C with Astro-Tech-designed premium features like quartz mirrors, two dovetail mounting rails, and more. The other is the AT6RC - a highly affordable R-C astrograph for webcam, DSI, and DSLR imaging that was conceived and developed by, and first brought to market by, Astro-Tech and named a Hot Product for 2009. Both the AT6RC and the AT8RC were highly praised in a four-page review in the December 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.

And we are serious when we say the 10" aperture AT10RCF is "affordable." The premium feature carbon fiber Astro-Tech AT10RCF is priced thousands of dollars less than the formerly least-expensive phenolic tube 10" R-C. As Sky & Telescope pointed out in their Hot Product citation in the January 2010 Sky & Telescope, "Ritchey-Chrétien reflectors are highly regarded among today's elite astrophotographers, and premium instruments often carry price tags starting at about $1,000 per inch of aperture. So it's the best kind of "sticker shock" to see the prices for Astro-Tech's 8- and 10-inch f/8 Ritchey-Chrétiens, which pack features too numerous to list here. Our review of the 8-inch scope appears in last month's issue (December 2009), page 38, and our initial hands-on look at the 10-inch suggests that it will be equally exciting for deep sky astrophotographers." The magazine also pointed out that the 10" Astro-Tech RC cost "about one-fourth what similar instruments did just a couple of years ago."

The Ritchey-Chrétien optical design is used in virtually every recent large mega-million dollar professional observatory telescope - including the Hubble Space Telescope. The Astro-Tech AT10RCF astrograph (a telescope designed specifically for astronomical imaging, rather than visual observing) makes the coma-free imaging of true Ritchey-Chrétien optics available to the DSLR and large format CCD astrophotographer at a price less than that of many large format CCD cameras and DSLR camera bodies. Featuring first-quality premium low thermal expansion quartz mirrors, rather than aluminized Pyrex glass mirrors, this economical 10" Astro-Tech carbon fiber R-C makes you wonder just what competitive high-price R-Cs have that makes them cost so much more.

Designed for exceptional imaging, the Astro-Tech AT10RCF provides the coma-free photographic field that large format CCD astrophotographers crave, but can't get from conventional reflectors and Schmidt-Cassegrains. Likewise, as a pure two-mirror system, the AT10RCF has a wide spectral response and is totally free from the spurious color that affects the imaging of all but the most costly apochromatic refractors, and it does it with an 10" aperture that dwarfs the light gathering of most apo refractors.

An example of the kind of imaging possible with the AT10RCF is Brian Kimball's exceptional image of NGC2244. This open cluster of young stars is nestled within the Rosette Nebula, and was recently formed from that nebula's material. Brian's AT10RCF image easily stands up to a side by side comparison with photos taken by professional observatories using much larger and more expensive telescopes, as well as to those taken with the most expensive amateur astrographs.

If serious astrophotography is your goal, but the price of most true Ritchey-Chrétien optics has been keeping you from the optical design used by most modern professional observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope for their imaging, your wait is over. The 10" Sky & Telescope Hot Product for 2010 Astro-Tech AT10RCF astrograph can bring the world of professional DSLR/CCD deep space imaging to your backyard observatory at a truly affordable price.

Features of this Astro-Tech AT10RCF Astrograph . . .

Optical design: True Ritchey-Chrétien Cassegrain-type two-mirror optics, with hyperbolic primary and secondary mirrors. For more details, click on the "optics" icon above. The 235mm available back focus allows for the use of long CCD equipment trains.

Optical specifications: 10" aperture, 2000mm focal length, f/8 focal ratio.

Hyperboloid primary mirror: Made of low thermal expansion quartz, rather than the Pyrex used by competitors. Ground and polished under precision computer control. Unlike catadioptric designs (SCTs, Maksutovs, etc.) that move the primary mirror fore and aft in the optical tube to focus (which can lead to image shift as the mirror position changes) the AT10RCF primary mirror is fixed to eliminate both a catadioptric's image shift and the frequent primary mirror collimation requirements of a Newtonian reflector. Collimation is pre-set at the factory but can be adjusted, if needed, using three traditional push/pull locking adjustment screw sets.

Hyperboloid secondary mirror: Made of low thermal expansion quartz, rather than the Pyrex used by competitors. Ground and polished under precision computer control. Mounted in a four-vane spider and fully collimatable using simple standard Cassegrain reflector collimating techniques. The secondary mirror is precisely center-spotted to make collimation easier. Unlike complicated R-C designs that use motors to move the secondary mirror fore and aft to focus, the AT10RCF secondary mirror is fixed and focusing is done externally.

The December 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope said that the Astro-Tech R-C's fixed primary and secondary mirrors "eliminate image shift, which has been the bane of Cassegrain scopes with moving-mirror focusing systems . . . It also keeps the effective focal length of the system constant, and the infinity focal point remains at a fixed point outside of the telescope, neither of which is the case with moving-mirror systems that change the separation between a Cassegrain's primary and secondary mirrors."

Multiple internal light baffles: Computer optimized primary and secondary baffling. Nine contrast-enhancing glare-stop knife-edge baffles in the optical tube; multiple glare-stop microbaffles in the secondary mirror light shield; baffles in the primary mirror baffle tube, and baffles in the focuser drawtube, provide truly dark sky backgrounds during imaging.

Carbon fiber optical tube: Made of a high strength woven carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy-coated composite with extremely low thermal expansion characteristics to reduce the possibility of temperature-related focus changes during an exposure that can occur with aluminum or rolled steel tube systems. Die-cast and machined aluminum front and rear cells. The carbon fiber tube is dent-proof and virtually indestructible. Carbon fiber composites are so strong that the new $200,000,000 Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet will use a wing and fuselage made almost entirely out of carbon fiber.

The December 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope said of the carbon fiber tube used in the 8" Astro-Tech RC, "the carbon-fiber tube did a good job of holding focus over the modest temperature changes occurring during my summer evenings. More telling, perhaps, was the scope's tendency to remain accurately focused after several days of inactivity during which the temperature in my backyard observatory would cycle over a huge range."

Dual-speed 3.3" linear bearing Crayford focuser: A newly-designed extra-sturdy "linear bearing" Crayford focuser is threaded onto the rear cell of the AT10RCF. A locking collar allows the entire precision-made non-vignetting focuser to be rotated to the most convenient imaging angle and locked in place. There is 140mm (5.5") of back focus available with the focuser installed (235mm from the rear cell of the scope, without focuser, to the focal plane).

The focuser has dual-speed focusing. There are two coarse focusing knobs. The right knob also has a smaller concentric knob with a 10:1 reduction gear microfine focusing ratio. This provides exceptionally precise image control during critical imaging. All focus knobs are ribbed, so they are easy to operate, even while wearing gloves or mittens in cold weather. A lock knob underneath the focuser lets you adjust the tension on the drawtube to accommodate varying equipment loads. A large lock knob on top of the focuser lets you lock in your photographic focus.

The new linear bearing focuser has a polished stainless steel drive rail that runs the length of the underside of the drawtube. The focuser's stainless steel drive shaft presses on this drive rail to move the focuser, rather than having the hard steel drive shaft press directly on (and wear out) the softer aluminum drawtube as with conventional Crayford focusers. The steel drive rail rides in a self-lubricating track that extends almost the entire length of the focuser body. The drive rail and its attached drawtube are thereby supported over most of their length at all times, rather than by a conventional Crayford focuser's two sets of small contact area roller bearings. This system distributes the drive force evenly over the entire drawtube, without concentrating it on a few small contact points. The result is a very rigid drawtube with essentially zero flexure and no wear (much less flat spots or uneven wear) on the focuser drawtube.

To fine-tune the long back focus of the AT10RCF to the requirements of your camera and equipment train, three threaded extension rings (two 1" in length and one 2") are provided to install singly or in combination between the AT10RC rear cell and the focuser. These provide a flex-free solid metal extension that changes the distance between the focuser and the rear cell. This lets you accommodate the varying back-focus requirements of DSLR-type camera imaging versus long equipment train CCD imaging. The two 6.4 ounce 1" extension rings and the 14.4 ounce 2" ring add 1.7 pounds to the weight of the scope when all rings are installed.

Optional field flattener: For even more impressive coma-free imaging with the AT10RCF, consider adding the Astro-Tech AT2FF field flattener. While not specifically designed to work with Ritchey-Chrétien astrographs, images taken with the field flattener by Astro-Tech R-C owners have shown that the Astro-Tech 2" field flattener works remarkably well with these advanced coma-free reflectors as well as with refractors. This modestly-priced imaging accessory essentially eliminates the residual field curvature inherent in all reflector telescope designs, so that the coma-free star images remain point-like all across the field. An optical analysis and ray tracing of the field flattener was done in ZEMAX and applied to the R-Cs by Roger Ceragioli, the noted optical designer who did the final optimization of the Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien optics. Here is what he had to say about the #AT2FF, "My conclusion, which seems supported by what users are saying, is that you don't need any other field flattener. This one performs well over a 40mm image circle in all three small RCs (6", 8", and 10")."

Cooling fans: To allow the AT10RCF to reach ambient temperatures more quickly for optimum imaging performance, there are three small low vibration/high CFM primary mirror cooling fans built into the rear cell. The high speed DC fans are powered by a standard equipment battery pack that plugs into a jack on the rear cell. The battery pack uses eight user-supplied AA batteries. An optional external DC power supply, such as a rechargeable 12VDC battery pack can also be used to power the fans.

Two dovetail mounting rails: Two Losmandy-style "D-plate" dovetail rails are provided for installing the AT10RCF on an equatorial mount, as well as for mounting optional accessories (such as rings for a photoguide scope) on top. The 21" long dovetail rails run the length of the optical tube. One is mounted underneath the tube for installing the 33.6 pound AT10RCF directly on a suitable payload capacity Losmandy-style equatorial mount. The second dovetail rail is mounted 180° away from the first, on top of the tube. This can be used for installing a photoguide ring set, piggyback camera adapter, or any other accessory that attaches to a scope by means of Losmandy-style "D-plate" dovetail adapters. The undersides of the dovetails have been hollowed out to lighten their weight without compromising their strength, as can be seen in the side-view feature image below.

Finderscope dovetail: A Vixen-style finderscope bracket dovetail base is installed on the upper left side of the optical tube's rear cell. It can easily be removed if not needed. It will accept Vixen-style finderscope brackets as well as red dot-type finders, such as the Astro-Tech #ATF.

Other accessories: A snap-in dust cap is standard.

Tech Details

Aperture 10"
Binary and Star Cluster Observation No
Focal Length 2000mm
Focal Ratio f/8
Galaxy and Nebula Observation No
Lunar Observation No
Weight 33.6 lbs.
Planetary Observation No
Resolution 0.46 arc seconds
Telescope Type Ritchey-Chrétien
Warranty 1 year
Back Focus 9.25 (235mm)


Review by:
I'm still very new to Astrophotography and I dream allot about equipment I would love but cannot afford. Well this was one. Until I found one for sale used at a price I could not ignore! If I knew back in my dreaming days, what I know now, I'd pay full price for one of these with no hesitation or regrets! This scope is well made top to bottom! It is light weight and my old CGE mount handles it perfectly with lots of accessories hanging off of her. And you can find allot of room for accessories with the top and bottom full tube length dove tail rails! I'm gonna be using this one for a lifetime! Thank you Astro-Tech! (Posted on 10/26/2019)
Review by:
I owned one of the early models of this telescope. Great buy, used it strictly for astrophotography. It rode on my G-11 mount and it held collimation for the entire time I owned. I only sold it because it was a bit too heavy for me to handle anymore.
I gave it 4 stars because the primary mirror wasn't polished as well as it could have been - didn't effective the final images but that was its only slight defect. (Posted on 7/22/2019)
Review by:
I have had an AT-6/RC for several years, and loved its light weight and lack of aberrations, but had had my eye on something bigger for a while. When I found an ad for a used AT-10/RCF for a good price, I jumped at it. My first light was a 3/4 moon shot, and when I posted it, people asked how many frames I had stacked to get the image, and were shocked when I told it them it was a single frame, not even cropped. 'nuff said... (Posted on 1/11/2019)
Review by:
For the price you can't beat it. The carbon fiber OTA is light weight and temperature stable. For Imaging I found that a .67 Focal reducer works really well allowing me to guide the kit effortlessly. (Posted on 10/6/2018)
Review by:
By John O'Neill

While reading Astronomy Magazine and looking at an ad by Astronomics about a new true RC scope, with quartz mirrors, carbon fiber tube, and baffling all for under $4,000. I couldn't believe my eyes. Could this be? There has to be something wrong with these scopes to go for that price. Happily I can state without reservation that I have found what I was searching for. I need not look any further (unless I win the lottery).

First, I bought the AT6RC and it was love at first sight. The scope is extremely well made and optically a marvel, not to mention the great price. A perfect fit for my Olympus Evolt.

This review will be on the production model Astro Tech 10" RC Astrograph; a f/8 true Ritchey-Chrétien hyperbolic mirror optical design, carbon fiber tube (aluminum tube is also available) with nine knife edge baffles, low thermal expansion quartz mirrors with dielectric mirror coatings (primary and secondary), 3 cooling fans, a robust mirror cell and Losmandy "D" mounting plates top and bottom. The RC's have fast optics. At f/8, the 10" scope is a very desirable 2000mm, add a .75x reducer/flattener you can get the scope down to a very fast f/6 at 1500mm. Even at f/6 the limited tests I did using my Evolt showed a sharp field right to the edges.

I found the workmanship to be top notch in fact the scope made Sky and Telescopes hot product list for 2010. The carbon fiber and back plate with cooling fans looks terrific. I recommend the carbon fiber over the aluminum tube because of temperature stability (focus and forget) and ease of disassembly, if ever needed.

Initially when the scope first came out, there was a buzz about the collimation of the scope. The truth is the RC is NOT hard to collimate but the RC design does demand that you have near perfect collimation. There has also been an issue for those using large chip cameras with strange flat fields. Adding flat black to their extension rings and adapters, etc. solved the problem. The central obstruction is big but a necessary evil of the RC design. The scope is not heavy, but a good-sized mount will help if imaging.

Almost all of my previous scopes had inherent problems such as mirror flop, causing major focus problems; The AT10RC has a fixed primary, and no meniscus to degrade the image.

The scope is not perfect but for the price, it has to be the best value out there. Most RC's have a cost per inch of $1,000 or more. Then you have to purchase expensive accessories to bring it up to full working order. No so with the AT10RC scopes. They work great right out of the box. You can pay $10,000 for a 10" RC or you can pay $3,500 for an Astro Tech RC.

The RC scope is primarily aimed at the astro imaging community but observing through the scope is also a joy. At f/8 the field is bright and stars are pinpoints to the edge. The best of both worlds' (Posted on 8/4/2017)
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Supplied Accessories

• 1" and 2" focuser extension rings to fine-tune the back focus of your optional focuser 
• three built-in cooling fans in rear cell 
• two Losmandy-style "D-plate" dovetail rails 
• mounting bracket for optional finder