Category Archives: Eqiupment

One man’s misery…

…is another man’s good fortune.

I was fortunate enough to pick up an Orion 10-inch SkyQuest Dob, Orion 9 and 25 mm plössls, a Celestron 3.6mm plössl, and an Orion DeepView 35mm multi-coated lens for a measly $200 at a “we’re getting divorced get this the hell out of our house” sale.

Needs a little cleaning up but it’s all in GREAT shape! Now if I could only get first light for the brand new ETX125 AT I got for $200 two years ago at a clearance sale, I’d be happy!


Better Mount, Better Moon

I was able to get out tonight and get a few shots of the Moon before a hazy cloud layer streamed in. The temperature was 63º F with 88% humidity so a felt a bit warmer then Monday night’s 64º. Of course my son in his “PJs” was at the back door “I need to come out… I NEED to see the Moon!”

I cobbled together a temporary counterweight setup as I was getting SERIOUSLY worried about stripping the DEC axis of my telescope mount. The last two times I had the scope out with the Canon EOS 300D attached at prime focus I was seriously torquing the DEC clamp in order to hold the telescope in position… and then only barely. The camera assembly with the added right angle viewfinder adds 2.08 lbs to that end of the scope so it wants to pull the OTA back.

During the summer period — when the viewing here is at it’s worst and the jungle bugs are biting — I researched and ordered 2 of these counterweight sets from Astro Engineering (I mainly wanted the weights and the OTA screws and not the eyepiece mount) with the expectation of making something more permanent before this winter’s clearer skies arrived… I did not. So tonight I went into the garage and within 15 minutes emerged with these:

Clamped onto the dew shield they total 1.57 lbs. The telescope now holds in perfect balance with the DEC lock totally loosened. It will now pivot to any altitude and hold perfect balance without stressing the DEC lock in ANY way. I’m a happy camper! I will at some point fashion the design I originally had in mind which would allow me to easily add and/or remove weights in the dark. However in the interim, this works like a charm.

In turn the whole setup is now also stable against the camera’s shutter action, although I did STILL notice some wobble that needs to be addressed if I’m going to do exposures longer than fractions of a second. 🙁 But anyways as I started to say at the top of this post I was able to get a few shots before the clouds rolled in and nearly ALL of them came out better then the other evening. I’m still not quite “there” yet but I’m FAR more satisfied with the results I got against the effort I put in tonight.

While I’m here I thought I would point you all to this post on Space Photos that shows a time-lapse sequence of Venus taken over many months as it swings around to pass between us and the Sun. I get a weird “inspirational-our-place-in-the-cosmos” kinda feeling watching it. It’s VERY cool!

Tuesday Two-fer

Well at long last the sky has cleared up and the haze has lifted. The temperature is 47º F (which is so cold for us here that I’m tempted to express it in Kelvin… but anyway) and I’d say the seeing is about as good as it ever gets.

I took the scope out on Christmas day and pointed it at a distant terrestrial object (a tree) in order to train the drives but clearly I did something wrong. I went out tonight and began the alignment procedure and the telescope asked me to verify it was pointing at Sirius — the first “alignment star” it chose — not even close. Back to the old drawing board I guess. I didn’t need Autostar to find something like Saturn so I set up for imaging anyway. Here is the result of my labor.

click for larger

Yes, not the prettiest but I consider it practice for the Jan 27th opposition. You can clearly see the Cassini Division and some banding in the atmosphere (South Equatorial Belt). Also you can note the sliver of a shadow the planet is casting on the left hand side of the rings behind it. At the eyepiece there wasn’t as much color as captured here, but there was far more crispness and detail in the ring system. There has got to be a better way to do this.

Earlier in the evening just after sunset, I pulled the scope out in manual mode with the Canon EOS 300D at prime focus. I took a number of shots of Venus at varying exposures, 1/200 sec came out the best which incidentally was the first one I took.

click for larger

I found that with any longer exposures, shutter-induced vibration blurred the image as the scope (with the camera attached) was sorely out of balance. I need to quit talking about making a counter-weight for this configuration and just do it! I have all the freakin’ parts for crying out loud.

Lastly, for Christmas Santa left me a Canon Angle Finder C, a Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3for me Digital Rebel (300D), and the Orion Deluxe Stargazer’s Filter Set for the telescope. Hopefully I’ll get to give all these items a good workout soon!

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday!

Weasner’s iSight Astrophotography Page

Being a Mac user and an iSight owner I was very excited to find this, Weasner’s iSight Astrophotography Page.

The iSight is a fantastic and versatile quality firewire camera and until now there has been (and continues to be officially) no retail device to mate it to a telescope. Apparently this person has stumbled upon a simple method already available to most of us ETX owners whose scope arrived with the stock 26mm eyepiece!

I can’t wait to try this in the coming cooler months.

Here is an image I snapped of the moon last week that I keep meaning to post. It was taken with my new Canon Digital Rebel with a 300mm telephoto. I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’ve already got my t-rings for this camera (actually it’s the main reason I’m building a counter weight system) and it’s on my list of things to try out this fall!

click for larger

Lastly, Perseids were a bust. I saw nothing over 40 minutes during the local peak. I had high hopes as the Perseids of a few years back were simply inspirational. Ah well, nothing ventured. I can sleep anytime right?