8" F/4 imaging Newtonian optical tube

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A review of three Astro-Tech astrographs (the AT6RC and AT8RC Ritchey-Chrétiens, as well as this AT8IN Imaging Newtonian) in the December 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope said “While all three of the Astro-Tech scopes represent excellent value, the AT8IN, with its 8-inch aperture and $499 price tag, wins the biggest-bang-for-the-buck award . . . there’s a quality to this scope that seems contradictory to its relatively low cost.”

This Astro-Tech Imaging Newtonian optical tube has:

• very fast f/4 focal ratio 8” Newtonian reflector optics
• contrast-enhancing extended tube length with 15 internal baffles
• built-in cooling fan for faster primary mirror cooldown
• 2” dual-speed Crayford focuser with 2” and 1.25” compression ring accessory adapters
• 8 x 50mm finderscope in a quick-release bracket
• dual split hinged mounting rings

This 8” Astro-Tech AT8IN optical tube is a very fast focal ratio f/4 reflector that has been optimized for wide field deep space imaging. It can be used with 35mm cameras, DSLRs, web-cams, DSI-type cameras, and large format CCD cameras alike.

Astronomy named the Astro-Tech AT8IN a Star Product for 2010, saying “Astronomy Technologies has optimized the AT8IN for astroimaging, but the scope is just as adept for backyard viewing . . . a versatile instrument that will take you into the depths of the universe in style.”

    The light weight standard equipment mounting rings of the Astro-Tech Imaging Newtonian allow you to use it on a wide variety of dovetail plates and German equatorial mounts – from the most basic to the most elaborate high payload go-to system.

    In addition to deep space imaging, the Astro-Tech AT8IN is also usable for solar system imaging as well as deep space and solar system visual observing. Solar system visual contrast will be somewhat reduced compared to a longer focal ratio reflector because of the AT8IN’s larger secondary mirror that has been optimized for full-field photographic illumination. However, the visual performance will still be much more than acceptable, and the 800mm focal length of this Astro-Tech makes it quite possible to achieve the high powers needed for detailed lunar and planetary observing. Simply add optional 1.25” or 2” eyepieces, and perhaps an optional Barlow lens, and this Astro-Tech Imaging Newtonian will provide you with crisp and sharply detailed close-up views of the Moon and planets.

    Shown to the right, and full-size (as well as in the “Images of Some Features” section below), is an outstanding image of M33, the face-on spiral galaxy in Triangulum, taken by Craig & Tammy Temple in Tennessee. This was taken with a self-modified Canon Digital Rebel XT DSLR. It combines 98 separate 240 second exposures taken over two consecutive nights. Full details of the mount, guiding equipment, and processing software used can be found at Craig & Tammy’s imaging website. This image of M33 shows the kind of results dedicated astrophotographers can get with the economical AT8IN.

    Also shown below, in the “Images of Some Features” section, are two first light images through the AT8IN taken by Shawn Killian in central Pennsylvania. According to Shawn, these first light images were not processed except for a histogram stretch and a little unsharp masking. Each is a single 10 minute guided exposure using an Orion StarShoot Pro v2 camera and an Orion Atlas go-to mount. As first light images, they show very clearly the imaging potential inherent in the Astro-Tech AT8IN, even with minimal post image processing.

Another image in the “Images of Some Features” section below is an AT8IN image of NGC 6960, a.k.a. The Witch's Broom, and Western Veil Nebula taken by Jason Cottle. This image combines 23 separate 360 second exposures captured with a self-modified TEC-cooled Canon 350xt. Some of the other equipment used included an Orion Atlas EQ-G mount, a DSI camera, and MaximDL software, all available from Astronomics. More of Jason’s images can be found in his imaging gallery.

    Here's an absolutely superb AT8IN image, showing the international reach of astronomy today, of IC4812, (or click on the small IC4812 icon in the “Images of Some Features” section below). It shows IC4812 in Corona Australis. The image was captured by Gary Beal in New Zealand, with post-processing by Emanuele Colognato in Italy. To compare this shot with other images taken with scopes many, many times the price of the AT8IN, visit Emanuele’s Backyard Skies website. Modesty prevents us from saying it ourselves, but when sending us the image, Emanuele commented, “This scope is the best value ever out there.” Thanks, Emanuele. We couldn’t agree more.

This Astro-Tech Telescope’s Optical System . . .

  • Newtonian reflector optics: 8” aperture, 800mm focal length, f/4 focal ratio, parabolic primary mirror; 70mm m.a. elliptical diagonal mirror. The mirrors are ground and polished under computer control for guaranteed diffraction limited performance, coated with 91% reflectivity aluminum, and overcoated with a protective layer of silicon dioxide (quartz) for long life.
    The mirrors are made of B270 “water white” optical crown glass that is free of internal stress and striae. B270 glass is equivalent to BK7 in performance and optical quality. The thermal stability of B270 glass is generally better than the soda lime float glass used for the mirrors of most reflectors in this reasonable price range. For maximum contrast, the four secondary mirror spider vanes have been optimized to be as thin as possible without losing stability.

  • No-tool push-pull mirror cell: The die-cast aluminum primary mirror cell has six large hand adjust push-pull collimation knobs. These make it easy to collimate the primary mirror without tools, even while wearing gloves or mittens in cold weather. To further ease collimation, the primary mirror is precisely center-spotted. The Sky & Telescope review praised the “solidly made” primary mirror cell and secondary mirror holder.

  • Built-in cooling fan: A low-vibration/high CFM fan is mounted on the primary mirror cell. The fan is powered by a supplied battery pack that uses eight user-supplied AA batteries. Alternatively, the fan can be powered by a 12 VDC rechargeable battery if one is being used to power your mount’s drive system.

  • Extended optical tube with 15 internal baffles: To increase the contrast, the optical tube of the Astro-Tech AT8IN is extended 8.75” forward of the focuser centerline to act as a lens shade to keep ambient light from hitting the diagonal mirror. In addition, there are 15 internal knife-edge baffles installed down the interior length of the optical tube to eliminate any stray light that might get past the extended optical tube and lower the contrast. The baffles and tube interior are finished in matte black to further absorb stray light. The result is exceptional contrast, far better than a conventional reflector for both imaging and visual observing.
    The white-painted 32” long x 9” diameter (with 9.25" diameter front and rear cells) Astro-Tech optical tube is fabricated of rolled steel, to allow the mirrors to cool to ambient temperature more quickly. While the rolled steel optical tube is a little heavier than a more-costly aluminum tube, the Sky & Telescope review points out that “it also helps make it a very rigid setup, which is a good thing for astrophotographers.” The scope’s tube end rings are sturdy die-cast aluminum, to protect the tube during transport and provide exceptionally rigid support for the optics, “adding to the scope’s overall rigidity,” according to the Sky & Telescope review.
    For essentially coma-free imaging with the AT8IN, consider adding the Astro-Tech ATCC coma corrector. This imaging accessory essentially eliminates the coma inherent in all fast focal ratio reflector telescope designs, so that the coma-free star images remain point-like all across the field.

  • 2” dual-speed Crayford focuser: The precision-made 2” Crayford focuser drawtube ends in a 2” accessory holder. A 1.25” accessory adapter is standard equipment. Both the drawtube’s 2” accessory holder and the 1.25” accessory adapter have non-marring compression ring eyepiece/accessory holders.
    The focuser has two coarse focusing knobs. One knob also has a smaller concentric knob with 10:1 ratio reduction gear microfine focusing. This provides exceptionally precise focus control during critical CCD imaging. The focus knobs have ribbed gripping surfaces so they are easy to operate, even while wearing gloves or mittens in cold weather. A drawtube tension knob on the side of the focuser lets you adjust the drag on the focuser drawtube to hold various equipment load weights while focusing. A second knob lets you lock in a precise photographic focus.
    The drawtube has 34mm (1.35") of travel. There is 80mm of back focus available from the top of the focuser’s 2” accessory holder to the image plane. A 2” diameter x 35mm long extension tube is provided to match the back focus requirement to your particular photographic application. The 35mm extension tube has a non-marring compression ring eyepiece/accessory holder.

  • Split tube rings: A pair of die-cast aluminum hinged split tube mounting rings are provided. Each ring has a flat boss on its underside with a 1/4”-20 thread mounting hole, flanked by two 4mm metric holes on 30mm centers, for installing the ring on a Vixen-style or Losmandy-style “D-plate” dovetail mounting plate. This lets you mount the scope on virtually any equatorial mount. In addition, there is a flat boss with a 4mm metric hole on the top of each ring. This allows you to install a separate dovetail on top of the optical tube for mounting photoguide rings and a guidescope or similar accessories piggyback on top of the AT8IN. The lightweight optical tube (18 pounds tube only; 21.6 pounds with rings and finderscope) rotates in its felt-lined die cast cradle rings to bring the focuser and finder to the most comfortable viewing position.

  • Finderscope: 8x 50mm straight-through dark crosshair achromatic design, in a spring-loaded quick-release mounting bracket. The finder has a long and comfortable 13mm eye relief. To focus the finder, loosen the trim ring behind the objective lens cell, screw the lens cell in or out to focus, and tighten the trim ring to lock in the correct focus.
Highest Useful Magnification:
This is the highest visual power a telescope can achieve before the image becomes too dim for useful observing (generally at about 50x to 60x per inch of telescope aperture). However, this power is very often unreachable due to turbulence in our atmosphere that makes the image too blurry and unstable to see any detail.

On nights of less-than-perfect seeing, medium to low power planetary, binary star, and globular cluster observing (at 25x to 30x per inch of aperture or less) is usually more enjoyable than fruitlessly attempting to push a telescope's magnification to its theoretical limits. Very high powers are generally best reserved for planetary observations and binary star splitting.

Small aperture telescopes can usually use more power per inch of aperture on any given night than larger telescopes, as they look through a smaller column of air and see less of the turbulence in our atmosphere. While some observers use up to 100x per inch of refractor aperture on Mars and Jupiter, the actual number of minutes they spend observing at such powers is small in relation to the number of hours they spend waiting for the atmosphere to stabilize enough for them to use such very high powers.
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.

0.57 arc seconds
Visual Limiting Magnitude:
This is the magnitude (or brightness) of the faintest star that can be seen with a telescope. The larger the number, the fainter the star that can be seen. An approximate formula for determining the visual limiting magnitude of a telescope is 7.5 + 5 log aperture (in cm).

This is the formula that we use with all of the telescopes we carry, so that our published specs will be consistent from aperture to aperture, from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some telescope makers may use other unspecified methods to determine the limiting magnitude, so their published figures may differ from ours.

Keep in mind that this formula does not take into account light loss within the scope, seeing conditions, the observer’s age (visual performance decreases as we get older), the telescope’s age (the reflectivity of telescope mirrors decreases as they get older), etc. The limiting magnitudes specified by manufacturers for their telescopes assume very dark skies, trained observers, and excellent atmospheric transparency – and are therefore rarely obtainable under average observing conditions. The photographic limiting magnitude is always greater than the visual (typically by two magnitudes).

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.
The weight of this product.
21.6 lbs.
Heaviest Single Component:
The weight of the heaviest component in this package.
18 lbs.
Based on Astronomy magazine’s telescope "report cards", scopes of this size and type generally perform as follows . . .
Terrestrial Observation:
Observing terrestrial objects (nature studies, birding, etc.) is usually possible only with refractor and catadioptric telescopes, and convenient only when the scope is on an altazimuth mount or photo tripod. Most reflectors cannot be used for terrestrial observing. Scopes with apertures under 5" to 6" are generally most useful for terrestrial observing due to atmospheric conditions (heat waves and mirage, dust, haze, etc.) that degrade the image quality in larger scopes. 
Lunar Observation:
Visual observation of the Moon is possible with any telescope. Larger aperture scopes will provide more detail than smaller scopes, thereby getting a higher score in this category, but may require an eyepiece filter to cut down the greater glare from the Moon's sunlit surface so small details can be seen more easily. Lunar observing is more rewarding when the Moon is waxing or waning as the changing sun angle casts constantly varying shadows to reveal craters and surface features by the hundreds.  
Planetary Observation:
Very Good
Binary and Star Cluster Observation:
Very Good
Galaxy and Nebula Observation:
Very Good
Terrestrial Photography:
Photographing terrestrial objects (wildlife, scenery, etc.) is usually possible only with refractor and catadioptric telescopes, and convenient only when the scope is on an altazimuth mount or photo tripod. Most reflectors cannot be used for terrestrial photography. Scopes with focal ratios of f/10 and faster and apertures under 5" to 6" are generally the most useful for terrestrial photography due to atmospheric conditions (heat waves and mirage, dust, haze, etc.) that degrade the image quality in larger scopes.
Lunar Photography:
Photography of the Moon is possible with virtually any telescope, using a 35mm camera, DSLR, or CCD-based webcam (planetary imager). While an equatorial mount with a motor drive is not strictly essential, as the exposure times will be very short, such a mount would be helpful to improve image sharpness, particularly with webcam-type cameras that take a series of exposures over time and stack them together. Reflectors may require a Barlow lens to let the camera reach focus. 
Planetary Photography:
Star Cluster / Nebula / Galaxy Photography:
1 year
Reviews from Cloudy Nights (www.cloudynights.com)
These reviews have been written by astronomers just like you and posted on the Cloudy Nights astronomy forums . . .
A great bang for the buck!

User Ratings/Reviews from our Customers (www.astronomics.com)
Overall Product Rating: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics(4.00)   # of Ratings: 7   (Only registered customers can rate)

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1. Christian on 5/16/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
This is my first telescope specifically for astrophotography and I was definitely not disappointed. The optics are designed for the focal point of a camera which does make it tricky sometime to use visual eyepieces but that means I don't have to get extenders and jump through other hoops to get my camera to focus. The images I've been able to capture so far as great (given my skill level of course)!
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2. James on 5/15/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
I think the AT8IN accomplishes its intended task, that is, provide a fast, reasonably easy to use focal length telescope with generous aperture at an affordable price. To use this scope to its potential you will need a coma corrector and you will need to upgrade some of the hardware. You will need to learn about critical collimation at f/4 and out of the box the collimation adjustment hardware is frustrating at best. The secondary holder's design makes it difficult to collimate properly and most users find that they need to replace pieces of hardware to get it adjustable. The focuser also exhibits a bit of flex and it can be difficult to keep the imaging sensor orthogonal to the image plane. Now having said all that, this can be a fun scope to image with if you are willing to understand what it takes to make it perform. Personally, I would gladly pay a little extra if some of these issues were addressed from the factory so that the out-of-box experience was a little more rewarding.
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3. Karl on 5/15/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
Good scope for the money. With Bader MPCC corrector you can cover most of a full frame 35mm with round stars. Gives excellent image over full area of a KAF 8300 ccd. Really needs an upgraded focuser ( Moonlite , etc.) but you can get by with the supplied focuser with light loads.
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4. Eric on 4/24/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
Drove up from Dallas to get one of these, well worth the trip. Probably the most scope available in this price range, has some features you would be paying extra for from some other scope manufacturers. The cooling fan and the focuser are definite upgrades from most scopes in this price range.

Also the CUSTOMER SERVICE IS AWESOME, they only had one left in stock and I asked if they would hold it for me until I could make the drive up there, Mike said it would be no problem to do that and didn't even have to prepay it, just gave him my name and it was there waiting for me when I got to the store. Made sure it was in good shape and even offered to help carry it down to the car for me. The quality of the scope and the excellent customer service have made this an excellent value for the money. The pics and the views are pretty awesome too!
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5. Paul on 3/11/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
This is a great astrophotography scope, and comes with fine focus setup 2" eyepiece. So you can get full frame photos with a DLSR. My only negative is mounting the DLSR requires an extension tube of rather great length on my Canon. Other than that, it is finely engineered and at a great price for the optics
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6. Paul on 3/11/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
Currently this telescope is the heart of the Temple Research Observatory. It has been modified for robotic operation and it's full capability is not being used due to a small CCD Chip. However, it does an outstanding job of wide field photometry and imaging.

The 4 star rating is simply due to the weak focuser. In it's current configuration a Robofocus unit has been added and with it's addition has overcome the focusers weakness. When you added a heavy camera ST-7E to the stock focusing unit it would not stay focused and would experience drift. This would cause you to have to refocus quite frequently. Without a Robofocus type unit the problem made it hard to do long time series which is a major part of the work of TRO1. The focuser is adequate for visual and light cameras. In it's visual configuration the views are quite spectacular but need a field flattener.

The OTA has been modified to provide the maximum stability and rigidness to the system. The spider and mirrors were moved to allow the heavy camera assembly to be used without an extension. This has also helped with the balance issue since balancing this unit with a heavy camera can be a challenge. In fact balance was achieved by adding a weight extension on the opposite side of the OTA from the camera, hanging off the bottom of the tube. This allows the unit to reach acceptable balance. It has, however, caused a problem with collimating the mirror. It was much easier to collimate in it's stock configuration. In fact collimation was very easy in it's stock form and unless you need a fully robotic telescope I would not recommend making this kind of alteration.

TRO1 is currently involved in researching fast Eclipsing binary systems. This requires a precision of .01 magnitude and this scope is more than capable of this level of precision. Overall, it is hard to beat the cost vs aperture that you get with this scope! It is highly recommended for anyone needing a large aperture, wide field scope.
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7. Richard on 11/15/2012, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
Very nice astrograph for the money. Very hard to beat at this price. Only 4 stars because the focuser leaves a bit to be desired but still for this money you can buy a Moonlite for it and have an excellent f/4 astrograph. Oh, also for visual use it needs a longer extension tube than the included 35mm tube. I have to pull mine out a fair amount to reach focus. Needs a longer extension tube.
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Showing comments 1-7 of 7
General Accessories
Dovetail Plates (2)
7.9" Losmandy-Style "D-plate" short universal dovetail plate, black
by Astro-Tech
7" Short universal dovetail plate for Vixen-style mounts, black
by Astro-Tech
Photographic Accessories
Camera Adapters (1)
2" Prime focus adapter, needs T-ring
by Astro-Tech
Coma Correctors (1)
Photo-visual Coma Corrector & field flattener for fast focal ratio Newtonian reflectors
by Astro-Tech
  • 8 x 50mm finderscope in quick-release bracket
  • Cooling fan and battery pack
  • Hinged split tube rings
  • 35mm x 2" compression ring extension tube
  • 2" and 1.25" compression ring eyepiece/accessory holders
  • Dust cover
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Astro-Tech - 8" F/4 imaging Newtonian optical tube

Click icon(s) below & hover image above for zoom

Astro-Tech - 8" F/4 imaging Newtonian optical tubeClose-up of the front of the Astro-Tech AT8IN, showing the internal baffles, secondary mirror collimation screws, and center-spotted primary mirror.Close-up of the mirror cell of the Astro-Tech AT8IN, showing the push-pull no-tool collimation knobs, cooling fan, and cooling fan power jack.The Astro-Tech AT8IN, shown with all supplied accessories, and also showing the distance the body is extended in front of the focuser to act as a contrast-enhancing lens shade.Close-up of the 2First light image of the Trifid Nebula, courtesy Shawn Killian. Orion StarShoot Pro v2 CCD camera, Orion Atlas go-to mount, single 10 minute guided exposure, unprocessed except for histogram stretch.First light image of the Lagoon Nebula, courtesy Shawn Killian. Orion StarShoot Pro v2 CCD camera, Orion Atlas go-to mount, single 10 minute guided exposure, unprocessed except for unsharp masking.Image of M33 spiral galaxy in Triangulum, courtesy Craig & Tammy Temple. Self-modified Canon Digital Rebel XT DSLR, Orion Atlas go-to mount, total of 98 separate 240 second exposures.Astro-Tech AT8IN image of IC 4812 in Corona Australis, courtesy of Gary Beal (New Zealand) and Emanuele Colognato (Italy).Jason Cottle AT8IN image od NGC 6960, a.k.a. The Witch's Broom, and Western Veil Nebula.David Rosenthal AT8IN image of NGC 6992, the Eastern Veil Nebula, using H-alpha and RGB filters.
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Sky & Telescope said this Astro-Tech AT8IN Imaging Newtonian “wins the biggest-bang-for-the-buck award,” and Astronomy named it a Star Product for 2010 award winner. Its contrast-enhancing extended nose and 15 internal knife-edge baffles are just what the imaging doctor ordered to improve the looks of your deep space photos . . .

. . . our 38th year