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Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

Gear and site upgrades

I will be making updates to this site and trying to be more active with the hobby.  Started by updating some gear on the equipment page.  Future plans include putting together an outreach program to expose astronomy to the community.  Cheers!

First Night Autoguiding

Well my guidescope project is done! I recently installed windows xp sp2 on my new macbook pro. Only reason for doing this is the desire to run certain astronomy applications that do not run under Mac OS (I hope these companies realize the superiority of mac’s and develop mac os versions). I am running PHD with the meade DSI pro as a camera on the lxd75 mount. Setting everything up was simple. First I polar aligned, then did a 2 star alignment for the autostar computer, slewed to Vega to focus the canon xs, and the DSI.

I had no idea what to expect using the PHD program.  I didn’t look at any instructions, I just hit buttons with what made logical sense.  The title of the program “Push Here Dummy” is pretty self explanatory.  On the provided graph, I noticed that the DEC was going way south.  I changed the exposure time from 1sec to 0.5sec on the camera, thinking that would solve the problem; it did not.  I pressed the little brain button and changed the Max Dec Duration from 150ms to 210ms.  This fixed my problem and the DEC/RA was running pretty stable.  Before packing it in I did a 6min exposure of NGC 6997, a mag 10 open cluster in the middle of the North American Nebula (NGC 7000).

I was looking at The Sky software and found that there are mag 14 stars in this image of NGC6997.  I am very happy considering I took these from my home, 25 miles outside NYC.

DSI + homemade guidescope

I got a DSI pro to auto-guide my LXD75 with my DSLR.  I didn’t want to spend the money right now for a guidescope so I converted my old 9x50mm meade finderscope from the 5″ lxd refractor.  I unscrewed the eyepiece and objective lens.  Drilled some 6-32 holes into the tube and tapped them with thumbscrews.  I found a pvc coupling at home depot that fit right into the finderscope tube.  For the camera, I ordered the DSI low profile plate which surprisingly fit right up to the tube allowing me to focus by screwing the finders objective.  I am hoping to have first light with this camera next clear night.  My idea for this project was adapted from this website here:  http://msfastro.net/articles/finder_guidescope/

Meade DSI low profile plate installation:

M13 & CLS

On Monday I received my new Astronomik CLS EOS clip filter to block out the awful light polluted sky where I live. The day was pretty cloudy and very humid. But it started clearing up toward the end of the day. I decided to set up the LXD75 and my AT80LE. I disassembled the mount a bit last week to tighten the worm gears. Did a computer reset and calibrated the motors. After dealing with some clouds and doing a 2 star alignment, the mount hit objects dead center. I was able to shoot a little of m13, but not much more than 60sec without an autoguider. Better polar alignment should improve this. Here is my result of 5 stacked 45sec images at iso 1600, no darks or flats.  I did however enjoy spending some time with a friend and having a couple beers while waiting for the clouds to disperse.

Saturn Spectacular

This past Saturday evening was the Saturn Spectacular observing event with the Rockland Astronomy Club at Anthony Wayne State Park, NY.  Lots of high clouds in the sky made for poor seeing but it was good to see all the people that turned out.  A personal highlight was two of my good friends who came up with me to view Saturn loved it.  It was the first time they had ever really experienced amateur astronomy, I know at least one is hooked a bit.  We observed Saturn with my 5″ refractor.  I broke out my binoviewer that night to get some 3d views.  I have to play with it to fine tune it, its been about a year since I last used it.  One other thing that I need to do is upgrade the focuser on the meade AR5.  The stock focuser simply sucks, its not smooth, plastic, and just aweful.  I am thinking about a moonlite or the scopestuff.com focuser.  One is $100 more than the other, so its something I have to think about.

Besides Saturn, we looked at M13, M51, M81, M82, and M57.  Its amazing how 4 hours of being out there and we only looked at a half dozen objects.  I originally set up the AT80 with the AR5, but the balance was off.

My only complaint for the night was parents who allow their kids to run all over the place.  I know they are only kids, but there are multiple thousands of dollars worth of equipment around, not a good place for kids to be “kids.”   It was a fun night, despite the seeing conditions.  I am looking forward to doing more with the Rockland Astronomy Club.

Earlier in the day I purchased this battery pack from walmart.  It was only $42.00 and works great.  Its 12v, 7AH.