Astro-Tech 8" f/8 Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph, steel tube


Availability: More on the way

The steel tube Astro-Tech AT8RC makes premium 8" Ritchey-Chrétien optics for serious deep space imaging available at the lowest price ever. Sky & Telescope named the AT8RC a Sky & Telescope Hot Product for 2010. A review in the December 2009 Sky & Telescope said "it was how nicely this scope is matched to APS-C and 35mm formats that really wowed me."
Our Product #: AT8RCS
Astro-Tech Product #: AT8RCS
Recommended Accessories

Product Description

This Astro-Tech AT8RCS Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph has:

• 8" f/8 true Ritchey-Chrétien hyperbolic mirror optical design
• low thermal expansion quartz primary and secondary mirrors
• 96% reflectivity enhanced aluminum mirror coatings
• ten contrast-enhancing main tube knife edge light baffles
• dual-speed linear Crayford focuser
• 2" and 1.25" compression ring accessory holders
• two dovetail rails - one Vixen-style and one Losmandy-style "D-plate"

The original carbon fiber tube AT8RC that Astro-Tech helped develop was the first sensibly-priced 8" true Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph with premium features available from a U. S. company. Sky & Telescope magazine named it a Hot Product for 2010, along with its larger 10" brother, the AT10RC.

As Sky & Telescope pointed out in their Hot Product citation, "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."

Be prepared for more "sticker shock,' as the new steel tube AT8RCS is even more affordable than the original carbon fiber version.

The Astro-Tech AT8RCS astrograph (a telescope designed specifically for photographing comparatively wide areas of the sky) makes the coma-free imaging of true Ritchey-Chrétien imaging optics available to the DSLR and CCD astrophotographer at a price less than that of most CCD cameras. It is not designed for digiscoping through an eyepiece. Featuring premium low thermal expansion quartz mirrors rather than ordinary optical glass, this very economical 8" Astro-Tech R-C makes you wonder just what those outrageously expensive R-Cs have that makes them cost so much.

Designed for exceptional imaging, the Astro-Tech AT8RCS provides the wide coma-free photographic field that DSLR and CCD astrophotographers crave, but can't get from conventional reflectors and Schmidt-Cassegrains. Likewise, as a pure two-mirror system, the AT8RCS 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 8" aperture that dwarfs the light gathering of most apo refractors.

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 AT8RCS astrograph can bring the world of professional DSLR/CCD deep space imaging to your backyard observatory at a remarkably affordable price.

Features of this Astro-Tech AT8RCS astrograph . . .

Optical design: true Ritchey-Chrétien Cassegrain-type two-mirror optics, with hyperbolic primary and secondary mirrors.
Optical specifications: 8" aperture, 1625mm focal length, f/8 focal ratio.

Hyperboloid primary mirror: Made of low thermal expansion quartz, rather than the ordinary optical glass used by competitors. Ground and polished under precision computer control to diffraction-limited or better surface accuracy. 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 AT8RCS primary mirror is fixed to eliminate both a catadioptric's image shift and the primary mirror collimation requirements of a Newtonian reflector.

Hyperboloid secondary mirror: Made of low thermal expansion quartz, rather than ordinary optical glass. Ground and polished under precision computer control to diffraction-limited or better surface accuracy. Mounted in a four-vane spider and fully collimatable using simple standard Cassegrain reflector collimating techniques. Unlike complicated R-C designs that use motors to move the secondary mirror fore and aft to focus, the AT8RCS secondary mirror is fixed and focusing is done externally.

96% reflectivity enhanced aluminum coated optics: Both primary and secondary mirrors are coated with 96% reflectivity enhanced aluminum, overcoated with a layer of quartz for long life.

Steel optical tube: While not quite as resistant to temperature-related focus changes as its more expensive carbon fiber brother, the 9" o.d. x 18" long steel tube of the AT8RCS will require few, if any, focus adjustments during most imaging sessions.

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

Dual-speed linear Crayford focuser: A new design 2" Crayford focuser is threaded onto the 90mm x 1mm pitch rear cell of the AT8RCS. The matte black interior of the new longer 50mm travel drawtube has anti-reflection threading for high contrast. The focuser can be rotated to any convenient angle for the sake of photographic composition by simply loosening the collar that secures the focuser to the scope body, rotating the focuser to the desired angle, and tightening the collar to lock the focuser in the new orientation.

The new bearing-less linear focuser has a polished stainless steel drive rail that runs the length of the drawtube, rather than having the stainless steel drive shaft simply press directly on (and wear) the aluminum drawtube as with conventional Crayford focusers. The drive rail rides in a self-lubricating track that extends most of the 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 less potential drawtube flexure and no wear (much less uneven wear) on the drawtube.

The precision-made 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 imaging. All focus knobs are ribbed, so they are easy to operate, even while wearing gloves or mittens in cold weather. Multiple internal baffles in the focuser drawtube assure high contrast.

Despite the new more rigid focuser design, the weight of very heavy equipment trains (camera, plus filter wheel, plus temperature-compensated electric focuser, etc.) may cause the 50mm long focuser drawtube to tilt slightly when fully extended, affecting the focus. Three threaded extension rings (two 1" in length and one 2") are provided to install singly or in combination between the AT8RCS 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, while minimizing the need to extend the focuser drawtube. Additional optional 1" and 2" long threaded extension rings are available to fine-tune the back focus as needed, as well as optional Astro-Tech 2" compression ring extension tubes that fit into the focuser drawtube.

The image plane is located 10" behind the rear cell. With the standard dual-speed Crayford focuser installed on the scope, there is 159.71mm of back focus available from the top surface of the 2" accessory holder to the image plane.

For exceptionally long and heavy imaging equipment trains, the standard Crayford focuser can be user-replaced by an optional 1.5" travel Feather Touch focuser from Starlight Instruments, #FT-1.5BC. This requires a 90mm x 1mm pitch rear cell thread to Feather Touch adapter, #M90X1. Optional MoonLite focusers from MoonLite Telescope Accessories can also be used.

For even more impressive coma-free imaging with the AT8RCS, 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")."

Two 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" accessory holder on the drawtube, the 1.25" adapter also uses a non-marring soft brass compression ring.

Two dovetail mounting rails: Two dovetail rails are provided for installing the AT8RS on an equatorial mount, as well as for mounting optional accessories (such as a photoguide scope) on top of the AT8RCS. One is a Losmandy-style "D-plate" dovetail rail that runs the full length of the underside of the optical tube, for installing the AT8RCS on a Losmandy-style equatorial mount. The second is a Vixen-style dovetail rail that runs the full length of the 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 Vixen-style dovetail adapters. If the AT8RCS is rotated 180°, it will bring the Vixen-style rail to the bottom of the tube so it can be used to install the AT8RCS on a Vixen-style equatorial mount. Competitors provide only one Vixen-style dovetail. Providing two dovetail rails on the Astro-Tech AT8RCS does not limit your choice of mounts or accessory mounting options, as can happen with similar scopes provided with only one mounting rail.

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.

Tech Details

Aperture 8"
Binary and Star Cluster Observation No
Focal Length 1625mm
Focal Ratio f/8
Galaxy and Nebula Observation No
Lunar Observation No
Weight 18.9 lbs.
Planetary Observation No
Resolution 0.57 arc seconds
Telescope Type Ritchey-Chrétien
Warranty 1 year
Back Focus 10 (254mm) from rear cell, 6.25 (159mm) with standard focuser installed


Review by:
This 8" ATRC really hit the spot for me. I have owned for a while and still it serves me well. Good quality but as with any scope like this is it really difficult to collimate just right, but I can get really close without having to purchase glatter laser. (Posted on 10/4/2019)
Review by:
The 6" was nice and the 8" is even better. I bought a used 8" Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien hoping for deeper 3 minute subs of nebulas and it made all the difference. You will probably need to collimate it first because of its very narrow field of view compared to the fast focal length OTA's. The best part is the dual speed focuser! I use this scope all the time! (Posted on 10/4/2019)
Review by:
This scope is sturdy, collimation was great out of the box and fits on my AVX mount perfectly! I have yet to take any images with it but the views from it are stunning to my eyes! (Posted on 9/10/2019)
Review by:
I got this scope for imaging and I tried to use the built in focuser with a Rigel motor to do automated focusing and the focuser was not up to par. I suggest you replace it with a good focuser if you want to automate it. The scope was in good collimation, excellent packaging and arrived in great condition. It really is a great long focal length scope for imaging. (Posted on 12/31/2018)
Review by:
I've owned the 8" RC scope for several years now. It is optically very good, when properly collimated. That is the challenge of all RC scopes - getting it collimated. But given that challenge, it gives great images and gathers a bunch of light for it's weight. I upgraded the focuser to a moonlite for imaging and added the tilt-plate to allow me to make sure that the focuser is perpendicular to the optical axis. That with a Howie Glatter collimation laser gave me a great imaging system. I run it on an Atlas EQ-Pro mount with either a modified Cannon DSLR or a ZWO ASI1600mm with a filter wheel and OAG. Works fine. (Posted on 12/20/2018)
Review by:
Build quality is good and optical performance is very good for a scope in this price range, although focuser is difficult to adjust to avoid slippage or excess stiction. I've taken many photos with the AT8RC and recommend it for use in a portable imaging system ( I use it on an AVX mount). (Posted on 12/10/2018)
Review by:
The is the best value out there for a RC scope. Collimation was dead on out of the box, great imaging scope, just on the heavy side. If you are concerned about weight, go with the carbon fiber version. Like was said before, the focuser is the weakest link and could be improved. Not as smooth as other scopes, but workable. (Posted on 11/15/2018)
Review by:
For the price, this is a wonderful scope for AP. The images are outstanding and the scope is a pleasure to use. It is a bit heavy, but nothing that is unmanageable. Great scope! (Posted on 10/16/2018)
Review by:
At $895 you will be hard pressed to find a better quality AP scope of this focal length. The optics overall are of above average quality but collimating these RCs is always a challenge and good collimation is essential to getting this scope to perform. The focuser is also of average quality with some tube shift when you lock the focuser down. The images I have seen from this scope are always pleasing and of good quality but as with everything in AP you get what you pay for. This is not a $7,000 TEC. It is a $900 mass produced Chinese product . I am happy with mine but I will ultimately be trading up as my imaging skills increase and I become more demanding. Bravo to AT and Astronomics for providing an affordable imager that performs well! (Posted on 10/6/2018)
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Supplied Accessories

• 2" and 1.25" compression ring accessory holders 
• two dovetail rails - one Vixen-style and one Losmandy-style "D-plate"