StarBlog 1/1/2015

Happy New Year to everyone!

Temperatures and skies have been more or less miserable here at night, however, I have been using the time to work on various aspects of the AP Platform.

I had a bad HDMI cable that caused a lot of delays and my Gemini 2 Hand Controller became corrupted which also caused a lot of delays.

I managed to take my Nikon DF and mount it to both OTAs to quickly find a near focus point for the CCD cameras and this rapidly allowed me to find focus for both CCD cameras and perform a Startest with the scope in my garage pointing out to a low patch of sky.

Cloudy Nights and the SBIG Yahoo group have been huge helps in both learning and helping resolve issues.  Slowly my memories of days past also return and help with the path to eventually imaging.

My current woes are with getting the cameras to work via Ethernet with Maxim DL.  It would appear that I will only be able to run one imager with Maxim and will need to run the other with either another copy of Maxim or other software.  That may be ok eventually as I work my way towards the ultimate setup.

The way I am approaching this is really not recommended, as I have stated previously I obtained a lot of gear rapidly through some trades and seriously good luck.  The cabling you see below is a serious mess and will be cleaned up when I know how I want it all to work.


So some of what you can not easily see is a Wireless Ethernet Router attached to the scope and either net cables running from the cameras and the Gemini to the hub.  This allows for a wireless access point for the laptop to connect to and control the scope and cameras.  While this is a neat plan, it remains to be seen if its actually going to all work with Maxim DL 6 Pro and the Sky X.  Currently I am struggling to get Maxim DL to remain stable connected to the cameras.

So at present all the hardware seems to work, I can connect to the cameras through their web interface as well as connect and control the scope.  The next major step is integration with Maxim DL. 

Worth noting is that I have managed to get DC power for the whole AP platform meaning I can truly go to any field and setup.  Note the 100 AH battery below the scope.  I will actually travel with two of those.  I found a nice DIY webpage for the battery lid to add three Cigarette Adapter sockets into the hood.

Powestream also sells a nice DC step up Power Supplies to lift the DC voltage for the Laptop and Losmandy mount which likes a higher voltage for optimal performance.  Th scope likes about 3.5amps while each camera claims to like 2.5A and you can figure the Laptop at 2.5A and the Dew straps at 1A each.  The Router also draws 2A, as you can see thats quite a bit of power to support. at about 13A per hour.  With a total bank of 200AH between two large Deep Cycles there will be plenty of power for even those coldest nights.

Total weight of both OTAs and all cameras sits at 38lbs, so I am sittings little heavy for the optimal desired setup.  I am not opposed to splitting it up though and or working my way into getting a Titan mount somewhere up the road if I like all of this.

Believe it or not, it all seems to balance with the current 11 & 21lbs counter weights.  I have some cool Ankle weights I found online coming that allows adding 1lb weights at a time so I can fine tune the balance for both the OTA and or the Counterweights.  These cost about $20 an I will just use Velcro to secure them to the OTA as needed.  This was a really cheap way of finding counter weights.

If the OTA works well it will be repainted and flocked inside to finish off my dream setup.  I will then build some lightweight crates for the OTA and other gear that will be designed to double as an observing table on site.


StarBlog 12/24/2014

So here I go again as some famous lyrics go, another chapter in my world of Amateur Astronomy.  Its for pleasure this time and while I do have some goals, they are definitely not aggressive goals like I have had in the past.  At the simplest level I aim to have fun as I am a techno nerd by heart and so building a new astro system and getting good at astro imaging is probably the most complex it all gets.  If the net results are a nice set of Astro images that develop over the next 10 years, I will be satisfied.

It was obvious that subconsciously I kept the Meade 8” Schmidt Newtonian for a reason.  It sat in a plastic garden chest wrapped in foam, endured being kept through 2 moves as my life changed and recently emerged from it’s confines just 3 weeks ago, 

It’s rather fun because for the life of me I thought it was a 10” scope and only after I ordered the wrong focuser mounting block and tried to install it did I realize it was actually an 8” OTA.  It’s mount (LXD55) was sold many years  ago.  I thought the plastic and mostly air tight case and giant pillow case I has stored it in would have perfectly preserved it.  Regrettably a few bugs got in it and died and created a few minor issues.  The corrector plate was soiled pretty good with bug guts and fortunately the mirrors only had some layers of dust.

Well, guessing it would never be the same I found a 10” LXD75 OTA on the internet by luck, it was an old add that nobody acted on and I contacted the seller along with a few others I found as not sold and one came back and had a pristine 10” OTA for a nice price.  So I have that OTA laying in waiting, however, I am going to start and make any mistakes I will on the 8”.

The corrector plate too a few hours to clean and multiple passes of Rubbing Alcohol which after about 50 coats finally broke up and dissolved the bug guts and cleaned to corrector to look like new.  I have no idea yet if its ruined, however, as I said I have the 10” as a backup plan.

Meanwhile what got me started was pursuing Astromart for Eyepieces as I want to do visual work and I do plan on using the 10’ for that at a minimum.  Should yield some nice views!

II needed a mount though as well and I knew I needed a intermediate level mount for the weight of my OTA’s and plans for Astro Imaging.  I was going to go after a Celestron mount, I actually looked for an older CGE and came close to pulling the trigger on a few, however, a Losmandy mount with just the right price and accessories caught my eye and I persuaded the seller to sell and send it to me.  It was in new looking condition, had a nice spacer and gear mod to it and the seller had incredible images to show that he made off it.  It arrived and appears to be perfect!  Nice HD Tripod and Pier extensions, Polar Scope, Gemini 2 GOTO so I got really lucky!

Little did I know though that I was about to get even luckier!  My plan was to use a DSLR to image, however, as I read and read more I started to want an SBIG 8300 CCD Camera.  The price on a fully loaded camera though was beyond my current budget.  On an outside chance that someone might make a trade, I put my Nikon D810 up for trade and found a taker.  The result netted me a larger swap for 2 CCD Cameras, a Selfguiding Filter Wheel for my camera and some lenses.  It was a win win as the trade partner got his son a dream camera and I got my dream cameras as well. 

So as it sits right now, I am awaiting the second camera that resulted in additional trading for lenses and I have begun trying to set the 8” OTA up on the mount with cameras and am trying to get a balanced load on the mount.  This has turned out to be a challenge and I am still working on it all.  The weather has been grey and cold so no chance to even try some test images.  Plus, I have not achieved balance yet.

So that's where things site as of this first entry on the new site and new adventure.  Patience I hope will reward me and I will step my way through building and then learning the new system.   I’ll update this post with pictures soon!