Astro-Tech 12" f/8 truss tube Ritchey-Chrétien optical tube


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This newest Version A of the Astro-Tech AT12RCT carbon fiber Serrurier truss Ritchey-Chrétien Hot Product for 2015 makes high quality large-aperture/large format DSLR and CCD imaging affordable for the dedicated amateur astrophotographer and educational institution.
Our Product #: AT12RCT
Astro-Tech Product #: AT12RCT
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Product Description

This newest Version A of the Astro-Tech AT12RCT Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph (named a Sky & Telescope Hot Product for 2015) has:

12" f/8 true Ritchey-Chrétien hyperbolic mirror optical design
carbon fiber Serrurier truss tube design with CNC-machined stainless steel and aluminum components
low thermal expansion quartz primary and secondary mirrors
99% reflectivity non-tarnishing multi-layer dielectric mirror coatings
three built-in cooling fans in rear cell
3" dual-speed Crayford focuser with 2" and 1.25" adapters
focuser attachment collar isolated from the primary mirror and baffle tube
dust covers and finder shoe

The original steel body Astro-Tech AT12RC was named a Sky & Telescope Hot Product for 2011. It joined the line-up of other Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien scopes that have previously been honored by Sky & Telescope (the original Astro-Tech 6" R-C was named a Hot product for 2009 and the Astro-Tech 8" and 10" R-Cs were named Hot Products for 2010). The Sky & Telescope Hot Product for 2015 carbon fiber truss-tube AT12RCT is the latest addition to that lineup, featuring the same high quality R-C optical system used in the award-winning 12" steel body version.

This newest version of the Astro-Tech AT12RCT makes 12" coma-free true Ritchey-Chrétien imaging available to the DSLR and large format CCD astrophotographer at a price less than that of some large format CCD cameras by themselves.
Featuring first-quality 99% reflectivity dielectric mirror coatings and premium low thermal expansion quartz mirrors, rather than aluminized Pyrex glass mirrors, this reasonably-priced 12" Astro-Tech truss-tube R-C provides the coma-free photographic field that large format CCD and DSLR astrophotographers crave, but can't get from conventional reflectors and Schmidt-Cassegrains.

Likewise, as a pure two-mirror system, the AT12RCT 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 a 12" aperture that dwarfs the light gathering of every commercially-available apo refractor.

If serious astrophotography is your goal, but the price of true Ritchey-Chrétien optics has been keeping you from the optical design most modern professional observatories use, your wait is over. The 12" Astro-Tech AT12RCT truss-tube R-C 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 AT12RCT 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 288mm available back focus (from the focuser attachment collar) allows for the use of long CCD equipment trains.

Optical specifications: 12" aperture, 2432mm focal length, f/8 focal ratio. Multiple Zygo interferometer tests, during every stage of optics manufacturing (after rough figure generation, after fine figure generation, after final polish before coating, and after dielectric coating), assure premium optical performance.

Hyperboloid primary mirror: Made of low thermal expansion quartz. 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 AT12RCT primary mirror is fixed to eliminate both a catadioptric's image shift and the frequent primary mirror collimation requirements of a Newtonian reflector. Focusing is done by means of an optional external focuser, discussed below. Primary mirror 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 Pyrex. Ground and polished under precision computer control. Mounted in a CNC-machined 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 AT12RCT secondary mirror is fixed and focusing is done externally by means of an optional external focuser, discussed in the focuser section below.
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."

Carbon fiber truss-tube design: Three CNC-machined aluminum support rings form the basic structure of the optical tube. Light-weight and rigid carbon fiber tubes connect the support rings in a Serrurier truss design, using CNC-machined stainless steel ball and socket hardware.

The Serrurier truss solves the problem of optical tube flexure by supporting the primary and secondary mirrors with two sets of opposing trusses mounted before and after the center support ring. The trusses are designed to have an equal amount of flexure, which allows the optics to stay on a common optical axis. When flexing, the "top" truss resists tension and the "bottom" truss resists compression. This has the effect of keeping the optical elements parallel to each other. The net result is that the optical elements stay in collimation regardless of the orientation of the telescope, including passing through the meridian during imaging.

The truss tubes are made of a light weight/high strength woven carbon fiber-reinforced composite material with extremely low thermal expansion characteristics. This reduces the possibility of temperature-related focus changes that can occur with steel or aluminum optical tube scopes during extreme temperature swings.

The Astro-Tech AT12RCT is 33-1/8" (841mm) long without focuser. The supplied focuser adds 5.25" (133mm) with the drawtube retracted. The center and rear truss tube support rings are 17.25" (438mm) in diameter, while the front support ring is 15" (381mm) in diameter. The AT12RCT weighs 49.8 lbs (22.6 kg) without focuser. The supplied focuser adds 2.2 lbs (1 kg).
3" Crayford focuser: The AT12RCT is supplied with a basic light duty 3" Crayford focuser to get you started imaging. While acceptable for casual imaging with a light imaging train (such as a light DSLR body by itself), upgrading to a high quality rack-and-pinion focuser is required for serious imaging with an optical tube of this quality. A heavy multi-component imaging train will require a rack-and-pinion focuser to support the extra weight without focus shift. Alternatively, you may already have a premium focuser being used on another scope that you would like to use for imaging.

The supplied light-duty Crayford focuser can be unthreaded from the focuser attachment collar, allowing you to use another focuser. One popular choice is the dual-speed 3" diameter 1.5" travel Feather Touch #3015 rack and pinion focuser, available from your Astro-Tech dealer.

The newly designed focuser attachment collar is bolted rigidly to the back plate of the AT12RCT, completely independent of the primary mirror and baffle tube. This allows it to be collimated separately from the primary and secondary mirrors if needed, using the built-in focuser collimating ring. The focuser attachment collar has a male 117m x 1mm pitch thread for attaching the focuser.

The Feather Touch #3015 normally comes with a 109mm threaded collar for connecting to a scope. Using the #3015 with the AT12RCT therefore requires an optional #M117x1 Feather Touch adapter. The #M117x1 adapter threads onto the focuser attachment port. The #3015 focuser (without its 109mm collar) then slips into the #M117x1 adapter and is held in place by three large brass Delrin-tipped retaining knobs. Only focusers with a maximum 1.5" drawtube travel, such as the Feather Touch #3015, are recommended for use with the 12" Astro-Tech AT12RCT Ritchey-Chrétien. For other focusers, such as a MoonLite, contact the focuser manufacturer for an adapter to fit the 117mm x 1mm port on the rear of the scope.

To fine-tune the 288mm back focus of the AT12RCT to the requirements of your camera and equipment train, three threaded extension rings (one 2" and two 1" in length) are provided to thread singly or in combination between the 117mm port on the AT12RCT rear cell and the focuser of your choice. These provide a flex-free solid metal extension that changes the distance between your chosen 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 2" threaded ring weighs 14.4 ounces, the 1" rings weigh 7.2 ounces each.

Cooling fans: To allow the AT12RCT 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 14" Losmandy-style "D-plate" dovetail rails are bolted to the top and bottom of the center and rear truss-tube support rings. These allow you to install the AT12RCT directly on an equatorial mount and mount optional accessories (such as rings for a photoguide scope that attach 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.

Other accessories: This new Version A of the AT12RCT includes slip-on dust covers for both the primary and secondary mirrors. Also included is a mounting shoe for a red dot-type finder, such as the Astro-Tech ATF. The mounting shoe can also accept the Astro-Tech ATF50QRB 50mm finderscope quick release bracket.

Tech Details

Aperture 12"
Focal Length 2432mm
Focal Ratio f/8
Heaviest Single Component 49.8 pounds
Weight 52 lbs.
Resolution 0.38 arc seconds
Telescope Type Ritchey-Chrétien
Warranty 1 year
Back Focus 11.33 (288mm) from rear cell


Review by:
I have had this telescope for just over a year and I really like it. The optics are sharp and I like the truss better than I expected. The standard focuser is adequate; however, for imaging you may want to upgrade to an electric focuser. I have no problems with the standard focuser. The only drawback that I have found is the need to change out the tube extensions that attach to the focuser when you change the configuration from visual, DSLR, and CCD. This can be a pain, and I would plan in advance, as if you swap out equipment during the evening, you will have to remove the focuser and camera or diagonal/eyepiece to add or subtract the tube extensions. The good news is that they screw on and off easily. Astronomics was great when their shipper, Fed Ex , destroyed the first 12 inch RC that I ordered. Even though it wasn't Astronomics' fault, they sweetened the pot and sent me another telescope after it was manufactured. From the date of order to the receipt of the second telescope was about 5 1/2 months. Fed Ex took no responsibility for their actions, and I wish that Astronomics would use a different shipper. This is a good telescope at a very advantageous price. It is my second Astrotech RC telescope (the third if you count the damaged unit). I am pleased with the product and with the customer service. (Posted on 12/16/2018)
Review by:
After many years of imaging with short and medium focal length refractors, I purchased this scope to move into long focal length astro-photography with a larger image scale but needed to keep the weight down for a one-man lift. The scope was packed well and shipping was fast from Astronomics. Fit and finish is excellent and this scope rivals the more expensive RC telescopes. Collimation is not difficult using a laser collimator and the images are bright and sharp. I did replace the stock focuser with a 2.5-inch Moonlite RC with motor drive. Using a Baader CCD67T on my SBIG STF-8300 the Ring Nebula was amazing. I am very satisfied with this telescope and highly recommend! (Posted on 10/7/2018)
Review by:
I purchased this superb piece of optics for my fixed observatory -it provides images at are stunning in their clarity and detail. The telescope is very well built, and the built-in fans allow for imaging almost immediately after dark. The OTA is equipped with Losmandy/ADM dovetail plate on both the top and bottom, which allowed me to mount and go immediately.
The focuser is very well built and allows for large 3" diameter optical paths. It comes with spacers to allow the user to dial in the precise sweet spot for different eyepieces or cameras.

This scope is every bit as good as a 12" Planewave scope without the $16,000 price tag! (Posted on 10/6/2018)
Review by:
This is just a preliminary review since the weather has not been cooperating since I received the scope (so what else is new). First, let me tell you that this is my fifth Astro Tech RC, starting with the 6" and moving up in aperture Each one was exceptionally made and a joy to use. Once I heard that Astro Tech was coming out with a carbon fiber truss design, I knew I had to have one. The advantages are many; from fast cool down, to focus and forget it, to thinner spider vanes (nicer star images) and lighter weight. One of the first things you will notice is the excellent workmanship and the fit and finish of the scope. It rivals scopes costing five times as much. Optically I have only had a chance to do some limited testing. The ronchi test showed beautiful straight lines with no turned edge. Visually Jupiter was razor sharp and full of color. I did have a chance to put my ST-10XME camera on the scope which revealed beautiful star images and spikes before the clouds rolled back in. This scope will require some maintenance, since the secondary has to be dead on to get best performance and will require tweaking after a long transport. My scope arrived slightly out of collimation but is a breeze to adjust. Five stars nails this scope. As for value there is nothing on the market that even comes close. (Posted on 8/4/2017)
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