Astro-Tech 6" f/9 Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph

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Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien optics
Optical features of this Optical Tube . . .
  • Ritchey-Chrétien optical design: This Astro-Tech optical tube is a true Ritchey-Chrétien (R-C) reflector optical system. Unlike a Maksutov-Cassegrain or Schmidt-Cassegrain catadioptric scope (that uses simple spherical mirrors and corrector lenses), or Newtonian reflectors (that use a coma-producing parabolic primary mirror), this Astro-Tech R-C is a Cassegrain-type two-mirror optical system that uses a concave hyperbolic primary and a convex hyperbolic secondary mirror to form its images. These sophisticated and difficult-to-make mirrors combine to produce images at the Cassegrain focus at the rear of this Astro-Tech scope that are free from coma and spherical aberration, with a smaller spot size, over a much wider field than conventional Newtonians or catadioptrics. The images are likewise free from the chromatic aberration found in refractors and some catadioptrics.
        Because of this wide coma-free field, small spot size, and relatively fast focal ratio, the Ritchey-Chrétien design is particularly well suited to astrophotography, rather than visual observing. For imaging, the R-C is the optical system of choice for most of the major professional observatory imaging telescopes built in the last half-century. For example, the Hubble Space Telescope, the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes in Hawaii, and the four 8.2 meter telescopes of the Very Large Telescope array in Chile are all Ritchey-Chrétiens. For serious amateur astronomers and astrophotographers without NASA’s optical budget, an Astro-Tech R-C is likewise the imaging system of choice.

  • Fully multicoated quartz and BK7 mirrors: The primary mirror of the 6” Astro-Tech is first-quality BK7 optical glass, while the 8” and larger Astro-Tech R-Cs use primary mirrors of low thermal expansion quartz for maximum focus stability during long exposure imaging sessions. Both 6” R-C mirrors are vacuum-coated with enhanced aluminum for high reflectivity and overcoated with a durable layer of silicon monoxide (quartz) for long life. The 8” and larger mirrors are dielectric multi-coated for long life and reflectivity approaching 99%+.

  • Computer designed and fabricated optics: To keep the cost of each Astro-Tech R-C so reasonable when compared to competitive R-C scopes, the computer-optimized Astro-Tech hyperboloid mirrors are automatically ground and finished to very high tolerances using custom-made computerized mirror grinding machines. This precision computer control guarantees an exact repeatability of figure from mirror to mirror that is difficult to achieve using more costly conventional hand figuring. After grinding and polishing, each mirror is individually tested multiple times during fabrication using Zygo interferometers to assure that it meets or exceeds its designed performance standards.

  • Frill-free design: To further keep its cost reasonable, an Astro-Tech R-C does away with most of the bells and whistles found on competitive scopes that add little to their performance (but much to their cost). For example, Astro-Tech front and rear cells are first die-cast, then CNC machine-finished, rather than completely CNC machined from raw stock at considerably greater expense but no significant improvement in performance as is the case with other R-Cs. Glare stops in many of the optical tubes are a molded insert, rather than machined aluminum, resulting in a significant savings in cost at no appreciable difference in performance. The Astro-Tech scopes use an external manual dual-speed Crayford focuser, rather than the considerably more complicated and much more costly motorized movable secondary mirror system that other manufacturers use for focusing. The result of the Astro-Tech no-frills approach is genuine Ritchey-Chrétien wide-field performance at a fraction the cost of other commercial R-C systems. While the mechanical bells and whistles may be limited in an Astro-Tech R-C, an Astro-Tech scope still has the high precision flat field/coma-free true Ritchey-Chrétien optics that are the most important reason for buying an R-C scope.
Mechanical features of this Telescope’s Optical System . . .
  • Fixed primary mirror with computer optimized primary and secondary baffling: Unlike traditional Cassegrain designs that move the primary mirror fore and aft along the central baffle tube in order to achieve focus (which can lead to image shift and focal length changes as the mirror position is adjusted) each Astro-Tech R-C primary mirror is fixed at the precise focal length required for optimum sharpness. The Astro-Tech is focused externally by means of a dual-speed 2” Crayford-style focuser on the rear cell, thereby eliminating a Cassegrain’s moving mirror image shift and focal length change during focusing. Molded field stops are installed along the interior of the optical tube to effectively prevent stray off-axis light from reaching the image plane, resulting in improved contrast. In addition multiple glare-stop microbaffles on the inner surfaces of the primary mirror baffle tube and the secondary mirror light shield further prevent off-axis light from reaching the image plane, resulting in still further improved contrast.

  • Collimatable secondary mirror: Since the primary mirror of an Astro-Tech R-C is fixed in position, only the secondary mirror can (or needs to) be collimated. This makes it easy to keep the Astro-Tech RC optics aligned for peak performance. Collimation adjustments to the secondary mirror are made by adjusting the three collimating screws in the back of the secondary mirror holder.

  • Cooling fan: The open tube R-C design allows for fast cool-down of the primary and secondary mirrors. Built-in fans on the rear cell of the 10” and larger scopes increases the air-flow around the optics to achieve still quicker “cool down” times of the larger primary mirrors. The 6” and 8” scopes do not have primary mirror cooling fans, as their mirrors are small enough to cool down quickly without any external aid.
This Astro-Tech AT6RC Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph has:

• 6" f/9 true Ritchey-Chrétien hyperbolic mirror optical design
• diffraction-limited or better BK-7 mirrors
• enhanced aluminum optical coatings, overcoated with quartz
• dual-speed 2" Crayford focuser
• 1" and 2" extension rings for fine-tuning the back focus
• Vixen-style dovetail rail

    Developed and introduced by Astro-Tech – and named a Sky & Tel Hot Product for 2009 – the Astro-Tech 6" AT6RC Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph is back by popular demand!

    The Ritchey-Chrétien optical design is used in virtually every recent large mega-million dollar professional observatory telescope – including the Hubble Space Telescope. And more “affordable" true coma-free Ritchey-Chrétiens made for schools and individuals, with prices starting in the thousands of dollars, typically come only in large apertures whose weights require a large and expensive mount to use successfully.

    In contrast, the Astro-Tech AT6RC is an incredibly affordable Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph (a telescope designed specifically for photographing comparatively wide areas of the sky) that virtually all astronomers can afford! At only 12.9 pounds, it can be used successfully with a wide variety of affordable equatorial mounts or piggybacked on an existing scope – no ultra-expensive astrophotography mount required.

    The AT6RC is designed for coma-free imaging using webcams, Deep Sky Imager-type cameras, and DSLRs. The December 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope said the Astro-Tech AT6RC is “a superb match" for the APS-C chips used in many DSLR cameras, “yielding a field almost 1° wide with very good star images in all but the corners of the frame." It is not designed for digiscoping through an eyepiece. Featuring a true Ritchey-Chrétien optical system, this very economical 6" Astro-Tech R-C makes you wonder just what those multi-thousand dollar R-Cs have that makes them cost so much.

    There’s an example of the wide field imaging capabilities of this compact astrograph to the right. The image of M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, was taken by Bill Bradford, and is used by permission. Bill took 60 five minute exposures using a modified Canon XSi, for a total exposure time of 300 minutes (5 hours). Click on this small image to see the full 1900 x 1213 pixel image. Bill points out that “There is a small area of elongation in the right, lower corner due to camera related tilt. I have tested by rotating the camera and determined that it is not from the scope." Bill’s opinion of the AT6RC of the AT6RC is short and sweet. He said simply "I cannot believe how good a scope one gets for such a low price. Great value."

    The M104, Sombrero Galaxy, photo in the image section above is also from Bill. He sent it to us simply with the comment, “Here is another shot with the AT6RC. Sure liking the scope." This image was named an astrophotography “Picture of the Day" on the Astronomy magazine website in July 2009.

    The AT6RC lunar photo in the image section above is from an AT6RC owner, John O’Neill. It was taken with an Olympus Evolt 300 DSLR camera at 1/200 of a second through a polarizing filter. John commented, “I took this last full moon with the 6" RC. I’m very impressed with this scope. I had to collimate it a bit but after doing that the images I am getting are just superb. You certainly have a winner with this scope, at any price point."

    “This may very well be the ideal scope for DSLR users," John continued. “Its fast focal ratio and wide field of view is ideal for many astro targets. I did take some shots of some deep sky objects from my light polluted neighborhood and found that the star field was pin point to the edges of my 35mm camera."

    The first light image of M81 and M82 above was made by Matthew Reiche using a modified Canon XSI, an Astro-Tech AT2F field flattener, and an Orion Atlas mount. It consists of 32 five minute exposures, plus darks, flats, and bias frames, for a total exposure of 2.5 hours. It was recorded at the Jenny Jump State Park in New Jersey. Matthew said, “This was first light with my AT6RC and I think it’s going to be a great scope."

    Designed for exceptional imaging with DSLRs and DSI-type cameras, the Astro-Tech AT6RC provides the wide coma-free photographic field that astrophotographers crave, but can’t get from conventional reflectors and Schmidt-Cassegrains. Likewise, as a pure two-mirror system, the AT6RC 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 6" aperture that equals or exceeds the light gathering of most apo refractors.

    The compact size and light weight of the AT6RC, and built-in Vixen-style dovetail, makes it easy for you to mount the ascope on any mid-range equatorial mount by itself or piggyback it on your existing larger scope for imaging. An optional second Vixen-style dovetail (#AT6SDP) is available for mounting on top of the AT6RC body. This allows you to piggyback accessories (such as a photoguide scope) on top of the AT6RC if the scope is installed directly on your equatorial mount.

    If serious astrophotography is your goal, but the price of most true Ritchey-Chrétien optics has been keeping you from the optical design most modern professional observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope use for their imaging, your wait is over. The Astro-Tech AT6RC can bring the world of professional deep space imaging to your backyard observatory at a truly affordable price.

Features of this Astro-Tech AT6RC Astrograph . . .

  • Optical design: true Ritchey-Chrétien two-mirror Cassegrain optics, with hyperbolic primary and secondary mirrors. 6" aperture, 1370mm focal length, f/9 focal ratio. For more details, click on the “optics" icon above.

  • Hyperboloid primary mirror: Made of BK-7 optical glass. Polished to diffraction-limited or better surface accuracy. Unlike catadioptric designs (SCTs, Maksutovs, etc.) that move the primary mirror to focus (which can lead to image shift as the mirror moves), the AT6RC mirror is fixed to eliminate potential image shift. The fixed primary mirror also eliminates the frequent primary mirror collimation requirements of a Newtonian reflector.

        The December 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope said that the AT6RC 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."

  • Hyperboloid secondary mirror: Made of BK-7 optical glass. Polished to diffraction-limited or better surface accuracy. Mounted in a four-vane spider and fully collimatable.

  • Enhanced aluminum optical coatings: Both primary and secondary mirrors have enhanced aluminum mirror coatings, overcoated with a protective layer of quartz for long life. Reflectivity is in the 96% range, the same as the larger multi-thousand dollar R-C scopes.

  • Optical tube: Painted rolled steel, 7.5" o.d. x 19.25" long, with die-cast and machined aluminum front and rear cells.

  • Internal light baffles: Computer optimized primary and secondary baffling. Eight contrast-enhancing glare-stop baffles in the optical tube, multiple glare-stop microbaffles in the secondary mirror light shield, and four baffles in the primary mirror baffle tube provide truly dark sky backgrounds during imaging.

  • Dual-speed Crayford focuser: A 2" Crayford focuser is threaded onto the 90mm x 1mm pitch rear cell of the AT6RC. The non-vignetting 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 CCD imaging. All focus knobs are ribbed, so they are easy to operate, even while wearing gloves or mittens in cold weather.

  • Focuser travel: Focuser drawtube travel is 34mm, while back focus between the focuser's 2" accessory holder and the focal plane is 150mm. The December 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope said that “the infinity focus of the AT6RC falls 9-3/4" outside the back of the telescope, allowing plenty of room for all types of cameras, filter wheels, and ancillary equipment."

        Two extension rings (one 1" and one 2") are provided to thread onto the rear of the scope (singly or in combination) between the scope rear cell and the focuser. These form a very rigid and tilt-free extension that moves the focuser out from the rear cell to accommodate the varying back-focus requirements of webcam/Deep Sky Imager-type cameras versus DSLRs. Typically, both rings (one 1" and one 2") will properly position most DSLRs at the AT6RC focal plane. Sky & Telescope pointed out that the “1- and 2-inch extensions, as well as conventional extension tubes that fit in the 2-inch focuser, mean that you can always assemble the system so it comes to focus with whatever camera and accessories you're using."

        While it is possible to use large CCD cameras and filter wheels with the AT6RC, these cameras are generally not recommended. The weight of a standard CCD camera and the color filter wheel typically used with it may cause the focuser drawtube to tilt slightly when fully extended, affecting the focus. Adding an optional Feather Touch focuser (our part #FT-1.5BC), plus an optional 90mm x 1mm pitch adapter (our part #M90X1), will eliminate any such potential problem, although at significant additional cost (more than double the cost of the AT6RC itself).

        For even more impressive coma-free DSLR imaging with the AT6RC, consider adding the Astro-Tech AT2FF field flattener. 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 of the APS-C size imaging chip used in most DSLR cameras. Use of the #AT2FF with a DSLR will typically requires one optional #AT2EXT 2" extension ring, instead of the two rings generally needed with a DSLR camera alone.

  • Compression ring accessory holders: The focuser drawtube ends in a 2" accessory holder that uses a non-marring soft brass compression ring to hold 2" imaging accessories in place. The compression ring won’t scratch the barrel of your accessories as an ordinary thumbscrew can. Also supplied is a 1.25" accessory holder that slips into the 2" compression ring holder to let you use 1.25" imaging accessories. Like the 2" eyepiece holder on the eyepiece holder rotation mechanism, the 1.25" adapter also uses a non-marring soft brass compression ring.

  • Mounting dovetail: a Vixen-style dovetail bar runs the length of the underside of the optical tube. The dovetail can be removed, if desired, so the AT6RC can be installed in optional user-supplied mounting rings for piggyback mounting on a larger scope. An optional #AT6SDP Vixen-style dovetail is available for mounting on top of the AT6RC to allow you to mount an optional photoguide scope on top of the astrograph.

  • Finderscope dovetail: a Vixen-style finderscope bracket dovetail base is installed on the upper left side of the optical tube. 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.

Focal Length:
This is the length of the effective optical path of a telescopeor eyepiece (the distance from the main mirror or lens where the lightis gathered to the point where the prime focus image is formed). Focallength is typically expressed in millimeters.

The longer the focallength, the higher the magnification and the narrower the field of viewwith any given eyepiece. The shorter the focal length, the lower themagnification and the wider the field of view with the same eyepiece.

Focal Ratio:
This is the ‘speed’ of a telescope’s optics, found by dividing the focal length by the aperture. The smaller the f/number, the lower the magnification, the wider the field, and the brighter the image with any given eyepiece or camera.

Fast f/4 to f/5 focal ratios are generally best for lower power wide field observing and deep space photography. Slow f/11 to f/15 focal ratios are usually better suited to higher power lunar, planetary, and binary star observing and high power photography. Medium f/6 to f/10 focal ratios work well with either.

An f/5 system can photograph a nebula or other faint extended deep space object in one-fourth the time of an f/10 system, but the image will be only one-half as large. Point sources, such as stars, are recorded based on the aperture, however, rather than the focal ratio – so that the larger the aperture, the fainter the star you can see or photograph, no matter what the focal ratio.

This is the ability of a telescope to separate closely-spaced binary stars into two distinct objects, measured in seconds of arc. One arc second equals 1/3600th of a degree and is about the width of a 25-cent coin at a distance of three miles! In essence, resolution is a measure of how much detail a telescope can reveal. The resolution values on our website are derived using the Dawes’ limit formula.

Dawes’ limit only applies to point sources of light (stars). Smaller separations can be resolved in extended objects, such as the planets. For example, Cassini’s Division in the rings of Saturn (0.5 arc seconds across), was discovered using a 2.5” telescope – which has a Dawes’ limit of 1.8 arc seconds!

The ability of a telescope to resolve to Dawes’ limit is usually much more affected by seeing conditions, by the difference in brightness between the binary star components, and by the observer’s visual acuity, than it is by the optical quality of the telescope.

0.76 arc seconds
This is the diameter of the light-gathering main mirror or objective lens of a telescope. In general, the larger the aperture, the better the resolution and the fainter the objects you can see.
Back Focus:
150mm with focuser installed
The weight of this product.
12.9 lbs
Telescope Type:
The optical design of a telescope.  Telescope type is classified by three primary optical designs (refractor, reflector, or catadioptric), by sub-designs of these types, or by the task they perform.
1 year
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Overall Product Rating: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics(4.67)   # of Ratings: 6   (Only registered customers can rate)

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1. Rodrigo on 6/5/2015, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
The telescope is easy to handle, it has good image quality and the optics are fine. However, the focuser does not perform very well. When the tension screw is tightened, takes the focuser out of collimation.
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2. Jeffrey on 5/1/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
I bought this about 4 months ago, and only recently have i had a chance to really try it out. Put it on my atlas mount, and with no guiding, took a bunch of 30 second unguided pics, and stacked them in DeepSkyStacker. Wow, if i can do this well without really trying, without accurate polar alignment, I cannot wait to see how well this little baby will do when I learn how to use it. I'm using it with a canon xsi, and i'm using it with a russian extension tube that has a t-thread on the end of it, so that may help with the focuser rigidity, or just the fact that i don't have a bunch of heavy gear hanging off it, but it has done fine so far. All in all, I'm very pleased with my purchase, and am looking forward to years of astrophotography with this scope.
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3. Damon on 5/1/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
I have had this scope for a couple years now and really enjoy using it. I have used it primarily with my Canon 20D for Astrophotography. I have used it with my QHY5 Planetary/guider camera on Jupiter and Saturn. The large secondary does rob some of the light and contrast on solar system objects though. The size of the OTA is great for medium sized mounts, but I would still recommend a CGEM size mount for Astrophotography, for that added stability.
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4. Dan on 4/30/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
These are really nice. I've used one of these just about every clear night since buying one on sale. Living near Saint Louis, these telescopes are amazing since they *never* dew or frost up due to the design. I've used mine at 0 and 100F with 90 percent humidity. I've liked this one so much that I picked up an AT8RC when I saw one come up for sale.

If you do decide to go for one of these, I highly recommend buying a good focuser since the stock one doesn't handle weights well. I've been using an automated Moonlight 2.5" setup for a couple years with no issues. This setup can easily hold my ST-8300M, OAG with ST-i, and AT2FF.
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5. Gary on 4/1/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
5 stars from me. I too jumped on the AT6RC when it was on sale for $299.00. It's a steal at $499.00. The price:performance ratio is almost untouchable. My comparable scope is a C6. I know it's not the same type of scope, but they both have 6" apertures. The biggest factor is the contrast. Image quality is great. I have no issues with this OTA.
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6. John on 3/11/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
This is a surprisingly good scope for the money. At $499 it is a bargain. At $299 it was a steal. It seems overkill to add a Feathertouch focuser to a $499 scope but so worth it. It is an RC so it is meant for rich field imaging. I have found that it also makes a good visual scope. I would use it with a DSLR and save for the 8" carbon fiber RC. You will need front side counterweights or have a very long dovetail to balance it. I found I needed to add just a couple of pounds to a lower side of the dovetail with a Losmandy Vixen style bracket. The Celestron version usually mentioned in accessories is also a good option. One issue I did have using the existing focuser is that it started to unthread from the scopes backing plate when I rotated the focuser. A drop of blue Loctite may assist you here so it is still possible to remove it without destroying it when you move from a visual back to an imaging setup where you add some of the extension tubes available. I used 2 of the 1" spacers.
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Showing comments 1-6 of 6
General Accessories
Counterweights (1)
2.5 Lb. weight & dovetail to balance equatorial mount in declination | Vixen-style dovetail plate
by Losmandy
Dovetail Plates (1)
Vixen-Style dovetail rail for mounting accessories on Astro-Tech AT6RC 6" RC
by Astro-Tech
Finderscopes (2)
Illuminated multiple reticle finder
by Astro-Tech
Vixen-Style mounting bracket for Astro-Tech multiple reticle finder
by Astro-Tech
Visual Accessories
Dewcaps and Lens Shades (1)
Flexible black plastic for the 6" Astro-Tech AT6RC Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph, with two notches
by Astrozap
Tele-Compressors (Photo/Visual) (1)
2" Field flattener for imaging with Astro-Tech and TMB refractors
by Astro-Tech
Photographic Accessories
Camera Adapters (5)
2" x 35mm extension tube
by Astro-Tech
2" x 50mm extension tube
by Astro-Tech
2" x 80mm extension tube
by Astro-Tech
1" Extension ring for A-T Ritchey-Chrétien astrographs
by Astro-Tech
2" Extension ring for A-T Ritchey-Chrétien astrographs
by Astro-Tech
Collimating Tools (1)
Focuser collimating ring for 6" and 8" Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétiens
by Astro-Tech
• 1" and 2" extension rings for fine-tuning the back focus
• Vixen-style dovetail rail
Astro-Tech - AT6RC instruction sheet 747 KB
Astro-Tech - AT6RC collimation sheet 365 KB
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Astro-Tech - 6" f/9 Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph

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Astro-Tech - 6" f/9 Ritchey-Chrétien astrographAT6RC full Moon image by John O'NeillAT6RC image of M104, the Sombrero Galaxy, by Bill BradfordAT6RC first light image of M81 and M82 by Matthew Reiche
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The exceptional value 6” Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph is once again available for the serious deep space astrophotographer on a budget . .

. . . our 39th year