FoucaultFringes

Lockwood Custom Optics - Projects

Lockwood Custom Optics (LCO) has been involved in some very interesting projects, including professional research telescopes, large amateur telescopes for imaging and visual use, and other one-of-a-kind instruments for science and industry.  This page summarizes many (but not all) of these projects, and shows a photo when available.  Projects are ordered from the largest to the smallest aperture.  Most projects are complete, but some are in progress and others are upcoming projects.

LCO understands that successfully completing unique, custom projects represents broader optical experience than turning out the same mirror over and over, and this page is intended to show a diversity of projects of varying complexity and size.  It also might give those who are looking for a unique or specialized telescope some ideas.  Links are provided to help put them in contact with a builder/vendor who can construct it.


50" f/2.2 hyperbolic primary50" f/2.2 R-C primary, 14.75" convex R-C secondary, 9.25" m.a. flat tertiary (f/8.2 system) 

When the 1200-lb fused silica primary mirror was received, it had been ground and was ready for polishing.  After the primary was finished by LCO, the flat tertiary mirror was found to not be flat, and then that the secondary mirror needed some work to make it properly match the primary mirror.  So, the fused silica secondary and tertiary mirrors were refigured by LCO as well.

This telescope isbeing used for exoplanet research by the University of Tasmania.  See this article about the telescope and facility, and an update with photos here.   The  telescope became operational in mid-2013, and images were quite good to start with.  A photo of the primary mirror during work can be seen above at right, lit by a blue rope light.

50" f/4 cast cellular mirror50" f/4.0 prime-focus Newtonian

This telescope was built by Bob Holmes, founder and operator of the Astronomical Research Institute.  Here is a link to Bob's official page for this telescope.

The cast cellular mirror was machined on the front, back, and parts of the sides by  JPAstrocraft.com. LCO completed optical work in late 2012.  Initial tests of the uncoated mirror in the telescope produced very good images with tight, round stars across the field of the CCD.

Just for reference, an uncoated 50" mirror easily saturates CCD cameras with a 3-second exposure on M42! Photos of the telescope with the uncoated mirror installed can be seen in this installment of "In the Shop".

45" f/3.75 visual Newtonian, 8" m.a. monolithic flat

This telescope will be built by John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com, and after testing (which we are really looking forward to), it will be shipped to its owner in Europe.  It is scheduled for completion in 2014.  The future owner purchased the 45" BVC mirror blank and did some work on it, but he has asked LCO to finish the optical work on the primary and secondary.  More will be posted on this exciting project as it progresses.

43.4" f/3.6 telescope43.4" f/3.6 visual Newtonian, 8" m.a. cast cellular flat

The primary mirror for this telescope was originally ordered several years ago.  It was supposed to be a cast cellular blank like the 50" f/4 mentioned above.  The cast cellular secondary mirror blank was received, and it was completed in 2007 and shipped to the client.  After years of waiting, it became apparent that the vendor was not going to deliver the primary mirror blank.  Patience had run out, but the client still wanted to finish the project.

So, at LCO's expense, a 2.3"-thick Supremax monolithic blank was ordered.   The original f/3.75 focal length was shortened to f/3.6.  The primary mirror was completed in April 2012.  The telescope saw first light in September of 2012.  Robert Houdart is the owner and telescope builder, and here is a link to his web page for the telescope.  He has been exceptionally busy, but looks forward to having more time to use the telescope in the future.

42" f/3.75 mirror test in its cell42" f/3.75 visual Newtonian, 8" m.a. cast cellular flat

This primary has nearly the same radius of curvature as the 43.4" listed above, so it was worked right after the 43.4" because the grinding tool and pitch laps were already made with very close to the proper radius.  Scheduling projects intelligently like this is one way LCO keeps efficiency high.

This mirror will go in a privately-owned telescope on the west coast.  The 54-point mirror cell, showed at right with the mirror in it, was made by John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com, and the edge support of the cell was tested with the actual mirror in it with excellent results. While at LCO, the cell was also used to test Tom Clark's 42" f/3.86 mirror mentioned below.  The 42" primary was picked up by the client in early 2013.


Tom Cleark 42" in old Chiefland dome42" f/3.86 visual Newtonian, 7" m.a. elliptical flat

This telescope is owned by Tom Clark, the well known former editer/publisher of Amateur Astronomy Magazine, who recently moved from the Chiefland Astronomy Village in Chiefland, Florida, to the New Mexico Astronomy Village (Tom's page).  Another NMAV page is found here.  Tom has completed a new dome for the 42" at his new homestead.

Mike completed the refiguring of the primary and secondary in early 2013. He delivered and helped install them in the new observatory in April 2013.  An article that Mike wrote about that trip can be found here.  He says the skies are very dark and transparent when the dust is not blowing around, that he has never seen the zodiacal light so bright, and that on his his "next visit" (of which there will likely be quite a few), he may not leave!

40" f/3.0 visual Newtonian, 9" m.a. secondary mirror

This telescope will be built in 2014 by SDM Telescopes in Australia for a private client there.  As of mid-2013, the 2.3"-thick Supremax mirror is complete, and awaits telescope completion.

40" f/3.0 parabolic LIDAR mirror

This 2.3"-thick Supremax mirror was made for a scientific client in Germany, and was completed and shipped to the client in January of 2012.

40" f/3.75 visual Newtonian, 7.5" m.a. secondary mirror

This 2.6"-thick Cervit mirror will be made for a private client.  The telescope will be build by StarStructure Telescopes.

40" f/8 Ritchey-Chretien optical set

These optics are currently unfinished, and will be used by a large astronomy club.  More on this project as the beginning of work approaches.

36" f/6.3 telescope - "Bigger Blue"36" f/6.3 visual Newtonian, 5" m.a. secondary mirror

No, that's not a typo - it is f/6.3, not f/3.6.  This mirror replaced the primary mirror of the formerly 31" f/7 Newtonian at the Warren-Rupp Observatory near Mansfield, OH.  I wrote an article about attending the Hidden Hollow Star Party in August of 2012, where I got my first views through this excellent telescope.    The new mirror is thinner and cools faster.  It is made from Supremax.  Some photos of the mirror during work can be seen in this installment of "In the Shop".

In late 2011, the original secondary mirror assembly fell down the tube, breaking the old primary.  The tube was large enough to increase the size of the primary mirror from 31" to 36", and after some discussion it was decided to increase the aperture of the instrument.  John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com made a new, improved primary mirror cell, new rotating secondary holder, and a mounting plate for a second focuser.  The second focuser will make the equatorially-mounted scope usable over much more of the sky.  So, overall, this work can be considered a serious upgrade of the former 31" telescope to a larger aperture and more usable 36" instrument.

36" f/3.3 visual Newtonian, 7" m.a. secondary mirror

This mirror was made for a European client, and the telescope will be built by a European builder.  More to come later, and hopefully a photo.

36" LIDAR mirror36" f/3.3 parabolic LIDAR mirror

This mirror was made for a scientific client, and was completed in November of 2010.  It is currently in northern Norway being used for LIDAR research, and it is shown in the photo at left.  In most cases that I deal with, LIDAR mirrors are used to collect laser light.  A laser is fired into the upper atmospher, and a tiny amount of it is scattered and returns to the mirror.  The mirror then focuses the light into a fiber optic, and it is analyzed.

While LIDAR mirrors don't need to be as accurate as a telescope mirror, they are generally quite fast (have a low f/#) and usually fairly large, making them difficult to fabricate.  The large collection area allows the instrument to collect enough light from the atmosphere to allow analysis, and
the low f/# keeps the instrument compact.

Starstructure Telescopes34" f/3.6 visual Newtonian, 7" m.a. secondary mirror

Yes, the size is correct - this will be a 34" scope for a new observatory complex that is being constructed in Yancey County, North Carolina, and will be the largest telescope in that region.

The telescope will be built by Starstructure Telescopes.  Starstructure builds superb metal instruments that are extremely stable in just about any environment, from humid observatories to dry mountain tops.  A smaller Starstructure telescope is pictured at right.

I visited one of the club members who is helping to organize the new observatory, and that is described at the end of this installment of "In the Shop".  The mirror is currently polished to a near-sphere, awaiting edge-support testing in the actual mirror cell.  This is a great opportunity to gather some data.


Bob Holmes and his 32" f/4 telescope32" f/4 prime-focus Newtonian

This fork-mounted telescope was built and is operated by Bob Holmes of the Astronomical Research Institute.  
This telescope has taken tens of thousands of images of asteroids and near-Earth objects (NEOs) over the last six years.

Here is a link to the official page for this telescope.

LCO completed the BVC primary mirror in June of 2006, after another optician had the mirror for 18 months and returned it to Bob with many waves of astigmatism and a large number of scratches on the polished surface.

After the completion and testing, Bob began to collect valuable scientific data with this instrument in the hopes of receiving funding to do the work.  The results were indeed so good that Bob received NASA funding to do asteroid/NEO follow-up measurements to help refine the calculated orbits of potentially hazardous objects. Bob then expanded his stable of instruments - his 24" f/4.5 and 30" f/3.0 instruments are detailed below, and his 50" f/4 is described above.

JPAstrocraft 32" f/3.632" f/3.6 visual Newtonian, 6" m.a. secondary

This telescope was built by John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com.  It was completed in early 2014.  It features an extremely solid offset spider of John's design, John's unique, convenient, and solid truss pole system, a state-of-the-art welded steel mirror cell with whiffletree edge support, suspended front boundary layer fan for the primary, Starlight SIPS system, and Servocat/Argo Navis drive system.  It is truly a beautiful telescope, built to the highest standards.

Whoever says big, fast telescopes can't produce sharp images has not observed with this telescope or a properly set-up telescope using quality optics from LCO.  Try one and see the difference.

32" f/3.6 Novak telescope32" f/3.6 visual Newtonian, 6" m.a. secondary

This beautiful, all-metal telescope was built by John Novak, and has been modified a bit by the new owner to better suit his observing needs, including optics from LCO.  This telescope is frequently enjoyed under warm, steady Florida skies, and is housed in a roll-off building.  The deck around the telescope raises the viewing position, shortening the required ladder and keeping observers' feet out of wet grass and sand.  This arrangement may also somewhat reduce the effects of ground seeing.

A friend of the owner, who had basically given up visual observing some time ago had comments to share - he said he had always thought of large Newtonians as "light buckets" and had never seen a large Newtonian perform like this one with LCO mirrors. He also commented that with views like what we were seeing, he could easily become a visual observer again and was amazed at the detail on the Moon that could be resolved.

32" f/3.6 at WSP32" f/3.6 visual Newtonian, 6" m.a. secondary

This wood telescope, originally built by Webster Telescopes, has traveled many miles in its fairly short lifetime, making multiple trips to Cherry Springs, the Okie-Tex Star Party, and the Winter Star Party, where it is pictured at right on the "berm". 
The first time it went to WSP, it was a revelation to its owner and to Mike.  With Lockwood Optics, It has delivered amazing view at powers up to 2400x under the steady skies of the Florida Keys, and Mike Lockwood credits this telescope with some of his best views of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter, also from the Florida Keys.  It now features a front and rear fan on the primary mirror, which aid greatly in the fast, even cooling of the large mirror.  This telescope has proven to many WSP attendees that large, fast telescopes with good optics produce some of the finest images of planets and deep-sky objects ever seen by amateur astronomers.

32" f/3.3 visual Newtonian, 6.5" m.a. secondary

This telescope will be build by StarStructure Telescopes.  It should be completed in 2015.

32" f/2.8 visual Newtonian, 8" m.a. cast cellular secondary

This telescope will be built by Tom Osypowski of Equatorial Platforms.  It should be completed in 2014.  The primary mirror was finished in June.

32" f/2.35 parabolic LIDAR mirrors (three)

These mirrors were made for a scientific client in Colorado, and are being used for LIDAR research on Antarctica.  They are 2.2" thick, made from Supermax.  Two were completed in 2011.  A third, identical mirror was delivered in early 2013.

30" f/3.6 StarStructure Horizon30" f/3.6 visual Newtonian, 6" m.a. secondary

This is the first large-aperture Horizon telescope, built by Starstructure Telescopes.  This is an innovative design with truss poles of different lengths, so they only go together one way, which means very little collimation adjustment is needed.  The mirror box has a rounded back and "tilted" top.  This makes for a more compact, easier to transport mirror box that is space and material efficient, typically 5"-7" narrower than similar aperture telescopes. The bearings are actually the side of the mirror box, and this helps make the structure stronger.  The rocker is very low profile, and the rounded back allows easier access to the things that are in there, such as the drives, electronics etc.

You probably won't be seeing this scope any time soon though - it is in Sweden, where its very happy owner enjoys viewing with it on the longer nights from fall to spring.  Summer nights there are quite short, and not completely dark.

Rick Singmaster with a 30" f/3.330" f/3.3 visual Newtonian, 6" m.a. secondary

A number of these have been made for Starmaster Portable Telescopes over the years, and all have very happy owners.

The image at left shows just how manageable the size of a scope of this focal ratio is, even at 30" of aperture.  Owners have reported people walking up to them and asking if it's a 24" telescope, just based on the size.  When those people are told it's a 30" f/3.3, people are shocked!

A six-foot ladder is tall enough to use the scope over the entire sky unless small children want to view at the zenith.  F/3.3 has become LCO's most popular focal ratio in recent years.

30" prime focus Newtonian telescope30" f/3.0 prime-focus Newtonian

This telescope was built and is operated by Bob Holmes of the Astronomical Research Institute.  The new mirror replaces the previous defective Cassegrain optics and the shorter focal length results in a much wider field of view.  A new optical tube assembly (OTA) and mirror cell were built by Bop to hold the new 2"-thick, Supremax mirror.  The rest of the mount and drive system (which was re-done when Bob first received the telescope) will be re-used.

The mirror was completed in November 2012, and became operational in mid-November.  After only a the first few nights of operation it had already recovered several NEOs that had not been observed for some time (thus the term recovery).  The wider field of view made this much easier, and Bob's telescope building expertise resulted in an instrument that worked extremely well right "out of the shop".

The instrument is prime-focus, with a camera placed at the upper end of the tube at the focal plane, seen in the photo at right.  A Paracorr 2 is employed for coma correction.  More information and photos are given in this installment of "In the Shop".

Short instruments like this are well suited for Bob's relatively windy location in central Illinois.  Bob has done more NEO measures than just about anyone else in the world, all from a corn field in Illinois at an elevation of a mere ~750 feet above sea level.  Many people can't believe it, but it shows what dedication and good optics can do.

30" f/2 LIDAR telescope30" f/2.0 parabolic LIDAR mirror

This LIDAR mirror made from Supremax glass was completed in mid-2013.  It will be used by a foreign university for LIDAR research.

LIDAR involves the collection of laser light after it is fired into the atmosphere.  A small percentage of the scattered light is collected by the telescope and focused into a fiber optic, which routes it to various instruments for analysis.

The very solid custom aluminum structure, seen at right, was built by StarStructure Telescopes, manufacturer of superb all-metal telescopes.

28" string telescope by Dan Gray28" f/4.5 primary, 8" round flat

This mirror is used by Dan Gray in his 28" string telescope, shown at left.  LCO refigured the previously astigmatic mirror and a fairly thin 8" diameter flat that is used as a secondary in this interesting design.  Here's a bit from my customer comments page:

"Testing out the mirror was a success, but I needed to spend a bit more time than I had. I did find that I could find NO astigmatism, Zero! I also am now really appreciative of the tight stars, even at 358 power!   ....  Eric found NGC5584, so we could have a look at the super nova. It was clearly visible......Then we looked at M3, then M4, both at 358 power. Tight star images, and M4 was really cool, 'cuz of it's trails of stars and empty space. We had a look at M57, but twilight was starting to interfere. We ended on Jupiter. It was fairly low, so we went down to 246 power. When I first looked I gasped, I've never seen this much detail in the clouds. Eric made the statement 'This is the best view of Jupiter I've ever seen'."

28" quartz Cassegrain primary28" f/4.0 quartz Cassegrain primary

This massive, full-thickness, quartz mirror was completed in 2008. LCO is unsure if it ever made it into its intended home, some type of classical Cassegrain telescope.

One thing's for sure - it's heavy!

Thankfully lifting and moving such heavy pieces of glass is something that I have lots of experience with, and something that LCO does on a daily basis.

28" f/3.66 visual Newtonian, 5.5" m.a. flat

This telescope was built by StarStructure telescopes.

28" f/3.5 in a dome28" f/3.5 visual Newtonian, 5.5" m.a. flat

This telescope lives in a beautiful dome in Florida, under steady, fairly dark skies.  It was built by Starmaster Portable Telescopes, and was customized to a focal ratio that was specified by the original buyer.  After a couple of previous owners, it ended up here.

On a good night, with some dome ventilation, powers of 500x-800x are commonly used under the steady air that flows off the ocean, which is only 15 miles away.

Mike Lockwood enjoys visiting the owners during the cold winter months and observing Orion in a light jacket or sweatshirt.

28" f/3.3 cast cellular primary, 9" minor axis cast cellular secondary

This telescope is being built by a private client for imaging use.  The primary mirror was completed in 2011, and the secondary in 2012.

28" f/3.3 from SDM Telescopes28" f/3.3 primary, 6" minor axis elliptical flat

This telescope was built by Peter Read of SDM Telescopesin Australia and completed in early 2013.  Here's a photo of it with its new owner and Peter (at right).  Looks like the kids are eager to help take the wheels off so they can get to observing.

Nicknamed "Wild Thing", its purple color make it stand out from the crowd, even though it's not tremendously tall.

Peter's page about the telescope with lots more pictures can be found here.

28" f/3.3 primary, 6" minor axis elliptical flat

No this is not a typo - yet another 28" f/3.3 will be built by Peter Read of SDM Telescopesin Australia.  It should be completed in 2014.

Me with a 28" f/3.1 cast cellular mirror28" f/3.1 prime-focus corrected Newtonian telescope (three)

Three of these telescopes were built by Astroworks Corporation for prime focus-imaging use.  Here is a link to the official web page for these instruments.

LCO completed the optical work on the three primary mirrors, which are of cast cellular construction and feature hyperbolic figures to go with custom correctors.

LCO was the fourth company to work on these mirrors.  At right Mike Lockwood is shown with one of the three mirrors on the machine while it was being worked.  Before work it was necessary to machine the back surface flat so that the mirrors could be supported uniformly.


28" f/2.75 telescope28" f/2.75 visual Newtonian, 7" m.a. secondary mirror

This telescope was built by Webster Telescopes for a private client in Florida.  At f/2.75, it is one of the fastest visual instruments in the world, but the client's experiences indicate that it performs exceptionally well compared to similarly-sized telescopes with much taller ladders.

The client is extremely pleased with the performance of this ultra-fast instrument, and routinely uses it at high power under steady Florida skies.  It requires no ladder, and only a short step is needed to reach the focuser (a SIPS focuser/Paracorr 2 unit) at zenith.  With superb optics and a compact structure, this extremely versatile instrument shows what large, fast instruments can and will do in the present and in the future.

F/2.75 is LCO's recommended threshold for visual telescopes.  Faster mirrors can be made, but they are not recommended at this time unless the application is different than usual visual observing.

R-C primary in crate28.4" f/2.66 hyperbolic primary, ~10.5" m.a. flat or ~8" diameter Cass. secondary

This telescope is being built by a French client for imaging use.  A custom corrector will allow imaging and visual use utilizing the hyperbolic primary mirror.  The primary mirror was complete in September of 2012.  The primary will either be used with a flat secondary mirror and custom corrector.  LCO is currently waiting for the cast cellular 10.6" m.a. blank to be produced.  At right is a photo of the primary mirror safely covered up and packed in its crate, ready for coating when the secondary is complete.

26" f/3.3 visual Newtonian, 5.5" m.a. secondary mirrorCompleted 26" f/3.3 Horizon telescope by StarStructure

This telescope is being built by StarStructure Telescopes for an international client.  The optics were completed in early 2013, and the scope soon afterward.  This is the first instrument built with new Horizon design, one of the most interesting and innovative designs to come around in some time.  The whole rocker box is curved around the same countour as the outside radius of the altitude bearing.  No doubt we'll be seeing more of them in the future.

Mike Zammit, owner of StarStructure, says that the design works extremely well for large instruments, so hopefully we'll see some 36" f/3 and 40" f/3 Horizon StarStructures taking shape in the future with optics from LCO.

25" f/3 by JPAstrocraft25" f/3.0 visual Newtonian, 6.0" m.a. secondary mirror

This custom telescope was built by John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com, for a private client in North Carolina.  The mirror is 1.75"-thick Pyrex.  The cell is a state-of-the-art design validated by JPAstrocraft and Lockwood Custom Optics.

It can also be seen in this JPAstrocraft web page, which shows the scope in the second photo from the top, and other construction details of the 25" instruments built by John Pratte.  It also features a custom-made mirror cell designed by John and tested in the LCO shop.

These telescopes are extremely solid, and hold collimation superbly.  They are built to the highest mechanical standards.

John Pratte and his 25" f/4 at the Okie-Tex Star Party25" f/4.0 visual Newtonian, 4.5" m.a. secondary mirror

Very similar to the telescope above (almost identical, in fact), this telescope is simply longer than the f/3 version.  Also built by John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com, it features the same extensively-tested mirror cell.

The picture at right shows it at the Okie-Tex Star Party, and it has also ventured to the Winter Star Party a few times.

The photos don't really do it justice, you have to see it for yourself to see all of the details that make it outstanding.  John has these available for sale, and may even have one in stock.

Here is the web page for John's 25" scopes.

25" f/2.4 LIDAR mirror

This mirror will be completed in early 2014 for a European research agency.

24" f/4.5 ARI telescope24" f/4.5 prime-focus Newtonian

This telescope was built and is operated by Bob Holmes of the Astronomical Research Institute.  It features aluminum construction with carbon fiber tubes.  The mirror is 1.6" thick Pyrex.

Despite its relatively large aperture, it is lightweight (143 lbs.) and is comfortably carried by a Paramount ME.

Every year it is used to take thousands of high quality scientific images that determine the positions of asteroids in order to help refine their orbits.  It produces extremely sharp images that allow it to image fainter objects than many larger scopes.  Not doubt the fairly thin mirror's fast cooling also boosts performance.

Here is Bob's official page for this instrument.

Mike Lockwood with the 24" f/4.4 mirror24" f/4.4 conical mirror for Newtonian telescope

This mirror had major overcorrection when tested initially.  The owner, who was involved with the Okie-Tex Star Party, had been disappointed with its performance for many years, but had not had it tested.

After taking delivery of it at a star party, it was refigured, and the owner is now extremely pleased with its performance.  The photo at right shows Mike Lockwood posing with the mirror while wearing one of his Okie-Tex T-shirts depicting the bolide that lit up the star party several years ago, and which Mike saw through his eyelids while trying to go to sleep!

Large conical mirrors represent a challenge to support during work and testing, but LCO is up to the challenge of these, and other unique substrates.

24" f/4.0 corrected Dall-Kirkham primary, 10" diameter convex secondary

The optics for this telescope were completed in early 2012.  The builder/designer designed a custom corrector for the system.

24" f/3.3 StarStructure Horizon telescope24" f/3.3 visual Newtonians (many)

In recent years, a 24" f/3.3 mirror and 5.5" m.a. flat secondary has been LCO's most popular optical set.  The sets feature a primary mirror that is 1.5"-1.6" thick for light weight and fast cooling.  LCO has made them for a variety of manufacturers, including Starmaster and StarStructure.

The image at right shows a 24" f/3.3 StarStructure Horizon telescope and its owner, Doug, in northern Michigan.  He's very pleased with the tight star images and detailed planetary images.

24" f/3.25 Spica-Eyes telescope24" f/3.25 visual Newtonian

The optics for this telescope were completed in 2012.  Tom Osypowski, of Equatorial Platforms, produced the telescope.  The telescope owner said this:

  "Mike Lockwood really hit the ball out of the park with this set of optics, and though I am of course relating a purely subjective experience that is not easily relayed unless actually experienced live, and I am certainly not blind to any bias from the sheen of a new purchase, to see such sharp and high contrast views really brought home what a precisely figured mirror in a well designed Newtonian properly collimated under dark skies can do. The Lockwood mirror, the overall design and engineering of Tom's Spica Eyes structure and slip clutch drive and tracking, the Aurora Precision mirror support system and a host of individual stylistic design touches, all worked together as an integral system and delivered big time."


Marc with his new 24" f/3.25A second 24" f/3.25 telescope was also built by Equatorial Platforms, and is now in the hands of a very happy owner, Marc, in Germany.  He sent a photo of first light (at left).

In fact, one of his friends was quite impressed, so impressed that he is ordering an even larger 36" f/3.3 optical set for his future telescope.

LCO is eagerly awaiting Marc's first observing report, after he had some very favorable things to say about the telescope on its first nights out under the stars.  Unfortunately, the weather has not cooperated very much, so stay tuned for future updates.

UPADATE - I joined Marc on a cold summer night in August of 2013, high in the Austrian Alps for some observing, the scope performed superbly under some very dark mountain skies.  For more about this night, see my article here.

24" f/2.75 research and visual Newtonian

This mirror has been ordered by an international client who will use it for spectroscopy and possible visual work in the future, so it must be fully up to telescope standards.  I purchased an extra blank, so if you are interested in your own ultra-short telescope, let LCO know!

Al Nagler, John Joseph, and Rick Singmaster pose with a 22" f/3.3 Super-FX telescope22" f/3.3 visual Newtonian, 1.4"-thick primary - The FIRST commercial visual f/3.3 telescope

This mirror was finished in March of 2009, and it has an important claim to fame - it was the FIRST commercially available f/3.3 visual telescope.  Others are now making this focal ratio, but Lockwood Custom Optics did it first, and is the most experienced with these fast mirrors.  The structure was built by Starmaster Portable Telescopes.

The 20" f/3 telescope shown below provided the visual proof that an f/3 telescope could provide stunning visual images using modern eyepieces and coma correctors, and Rick Singmaster immediately decided to offer a 22" f/3.3 telescope.  The Super-FX line was later expanded to include 20", 24", 28", and 30" f/3.3 telescopes, also firsts.  Many f/3.3s of various sizes have been produced in recent years.  The scope is pictured here with (from left) Al Nagler (TeleVue), John Joseph (Starlight Instruments) and Rick Singmaster (Starmaster Portable Telescopes).

A 20" f/3.3 Super-FX Starmaster with quartz optics20" f/3.3 visual Newtonian, 1.25"-thick QUARTZ mirror, 4.5" m.a. quartz secondary

I produced the first 20" f/3.3 quartz mirror in May of 2010 for Starmaster Portable Telescopes.  This mirror was the thinnest 20" mirror ever offered in a production visual telescope, and the first such scope with all-quartz optics.  The thickness and substrate type make it, in LCO's opinion, the best performing 20" Newtonian available, especially while the air temperature is dropping.  The thin primary can keep up with temperature drops far better than thicker mirrors, providing much better images during the cooling evening hours.  The more stable quartz primary and secondary change also shape less than a Pyrex mirror would as they cool.  These telescopes have been extremely well-received by their owners, who often show them to friends who decide that they want one for themselves!

The 20" f/3 MX telescope20" f/3.0 visual Newtonian (1.25"-thick Pyrex primary), 4.5" m.a. secondary mirror

This landmark telescope was built for Mike by Starmaster Portable Telescopes, and was the first commercially built f/3 visual telescope in the world It proved the concept, and Starmaster began building f/3.3 scopes after this scope was evaluated and found to perform as well as or better than other 20" instruments.  Featuring one of the thinnest (1.25"-thick Pyrex) and thus fastest-cooling 20" primary mirrors ever made, it outperformed 20" and larger scopes with slow-cooling, thicker mirrors.  Mike Lockwood still uses it for most of his observing, and finds that the "seeing" in the midwest is not as bad as it used to be when he used thicker mirrors.

This telescope was used to test the then-new Paracorr type 2 and Starlight Integrated Paracorr System (SIPS), which I highly recommend for all fast Newtonian visual telescopes.  Three articles have been written about this instrument: First look at the Starmaster 20" f/3 MX, Observing with the 20" f/3 in Missouri, The 20" f/3 goes to Florida and WSP 2009, and it has been featured in columns in Astronomy Magazine and Sky and Telescope.

20" F/3.0 by JPAstrocraft20" f/3.0 visual/imaging Newtonian (1.25"-thick Pyrex primary), 5.0" m.a. secondary mirror

This telescope was built by John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com for a private client in Florda.  He will use it for visual and video observing as well as some imaging.  The primary is 1.25"-thick Pyrex, just like the mirror in my telescope shown in the section above.

It has many unique features, including multiple sets of truss pole brackets to position the focal plane for visual use, use with a Mallincam, and imaging with a DSLR.  It includes a mirror cell made specificially for this thin mirror.  The edge support of the cell was tested in the LCO shop with the nearly-spherical mirror, and was found to perform superbly.  So, aiming this telescope low at the jewels in the southern sky visible from Florida is encouraged.  It also has many other features that will no doubt be discussed on the JPAstrocraft web site at some point.  Its owner reports seeing markings on Ganymede during one observing session, so clearly fast telescopes can produce planetary images of the highest quality, and they have added advantages such as image stability on windy nights.  This highly-customized instrument clearly has many more amazing observations in its future.

18" f/11 fused silica classical Cassegrain optical set

These optics were refigured in 2014 for a European client.

Dream Telescopes 16" f/3.6 astrograph16" f/3.75 monolithic and cast cellular primaries, 5.75" cast cellular secondary flat

Dream Telescopes began offerering 16" astrographs a number of years ago, and I made a series of monolithic primaries, 1.25" thick.  Shane Santi then switched from monolithic to cast cellular blanks, and LCO completed a number of those.  (The leftover 16.5" blanks later became the Starmaster 16.5" f/3.65 FX telescope primaries that so many have become fans of, and you can read that story here.)

These carbon-fiber telescopes offer exceptional stiffness, and are incredibly stable in terms of focus and collimation as the telescope is moved to point anywhere in the sky.

LCO has also completed several 24" cast cellular primaries for these instruments and other clients, as well as some 7.75" cast cellular secondary flat mirrors.  Despite their superb performance, Dream has brought much of their optical work in-house.

John Pratte and the 16" f/4 at the Winter Star Party16" f/4.0 visual Newtonian

A 16" f/4 instrument is one of the most convenient sized telescopes for observing that I have seen.  It offers quite a bit of aperture, but the scope parts are easily handled by most people.  The eyepiece height is just about ideal for most people, too.  It proves very popular at star parties and outreach events because everyone can look through it without having to climb up on a ladder.

John Pratte of JPAstrocraft.com builds fine instruments of high quality, high structural integrity and rigidity, and superb appearance.  These instruments usually feature an LCO 16" f/4 primary and secondary tested by LCO.

To fine woodworking and a beautiful wood finish, John also adds exceptional mechanical stability.  His mirror cells and truss poles are made of his own designs, for stability and repeatable assembly.

14.5" f/2.55 telescope14.5" f/2.55 visual Newtonian, 4.5" m.a. sec. mirror

Mike Lockwood built this telescope (mirror cell and truss poles were made by JPAstrocraft) as an experimental instrument to see how modern eyepieces and coma correctors would perform in such a fast system.  As it turns out, it performs quite well, even on planets, and he hopes to use it in the future as a video astronomy instrument
when cold winds or mosquitoes drive him inside on clear nights.

Mike says it is absolutely amazing for scanning the dark and light nebula in the summer Milky Way under a dark sky.  While the edge of the field with wide angle eyepieces is not perfect, at high power it performs surprisingly well, showing lots of detail on Jupiter's disk.

Here's a link to an article about this scope at the Okie-Tex Star Party.

Arie Otte and his 13" f/5 binocular telescope13" f/5 binocular visual Newtonian telescope

Arie Otte of the Netherlands built this beautiful instrument for visual observing.  LCO supplied the 1.1"-thick primary mirrors and some elliptical flats.

This type of instrument consists of two complete 13" f/5 Newtonian telescopes, built into one structure.  Each upper cage contains two mirrors, one in the center of the tube to reflect the light path out the side like a normal Newtonian, but then another mirror to reflect the light path upward.  The eyepieces are located just below and between the upper cages.  The cages are rotated to adjust the inter-ocular distance (distance between eyes), and the user looks down toward the primary mirrors into the eyepieces.

This installment of "In the Shop" links to his own web site about it.  It's recommended reading.

12" cast cellular mirror12" f/4 cast cellular primary mirror, weight:  3.5 lbs!

This very lightweight primary mirror was made for a private client, and can be seen in this installment of "In the Shop".

It weighs only 3.5 lbs, a fraction of what a conventional 12" solid Pyrex blank at say, 2.25" thick, would weigh.

This miror will likely cool off at least 10x faster than a monolithic blank of similar dimension.  Such optics are not cheap, but the payoff in improved cooling is worth it in many applications.  LCO made a superb mirror from this somewhat delicate substrate.

11" f/30 Cassegrains system, quartz optics

This high-performance Cassegrain system will be used for solar and planetary viewing and imaging.  More later.

My first mirror - an 8" f/3.98" f/3.9 Pyrex primary mirror

This was the first mirror that Mike Lockwood ever made, so maybe it is a bit easier to understand why he makes fast mirrors.  Here's a link to a short web page about it on his ATM page.

It was not easy to make, and started off as a mirror-grinding kit from Willmann-Bell that was ground to several focal ratios before he finally settled upon something around f/4.  Dick Wessling gave some advice over the phone regarding figuring, and that started off his journey into mirror making.

Mike says:
  "I have enjoyed this telescope observing Mars, and also when used as a wide-field instrument under very dark skies.  After completing this very nice mirror, I had the skills and courage to start tackling some mirrors that needed refiguring.  Soon afterward I was making new mirrors for friends, and the rest is history."

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