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September - what to observe

September - what I have observed with comments and rating out of 5 stars by constellation for this month Hercules M13  ***** Quite open globular cluster, can make out individual stars around the edge and center, looks to be thousands of stars and seems very dense almost nebulous at the center. Best in 15mm EP and 2x Barlow M92 **** Dense globular cluster, can distinguish individual stars around the edge, nice in the  8mm EP and barlow Lyra Epsilon Lyrae **** - double double Nice to view and easy to distinguish the binary stars M57 ***** Ring Nebula. Easy to locate and you can see the ring clearly and also see the red and green. Very nice object to observe, cannot see center star Cygnus Alberto *** Double star. You can clearly see they comprise of a bright yellow and a dimmer (but bright) blue companion Vulpecula M27 ** Dumbell Nebula - very faint and hard to distinguish but you can just make out the dumbell  shape and cannot see any colour but looks brownish Ursa Major M81 & M82 *** Can view both galaxies as fuzzy hazes with brighter centers at the same time using the 15mm EP.  M81 (below M82) looks bigger and looks to be edge on.  

PaulM

PaulM

 

Pocket Sky Atlas book

Looks good full index of constellations, objects by type and the charts are very detailed. Charts are organised in 8 ascention sections each by when visible in the evening, midnight and morning so all in all very logically set out. Has a telrad finder symbol for star hopping which is a nice touch Was hoping it would contain what to view guides etc but there is no such info but can get this elsewhere to plan observing sessions Hope the pictures are useful as I never came across any when researching which sky atlas/guide to buy

PaulM

PaulM

 

Another step forward

Clear Outside said it was to be a clear night so I got set up and set about tonight's challenge - Polar Alignment.
I've struggled to do this properly since I got the scope, lack of visibility of Polaris being the major issue as I set up close to my house facing south.  I've now got the camera, mount and guide camera running through a USB hub and have managed to set up far enough from the house that I could see Polaris. 

It took me a while to find the star, and longer to convince myself that I was looking in the right place.  Looking at the image in the finder scope didn't work for me as I'm looking over the city of Glasgow but once I had spotted it I was able to roughly align it by sighting along the side then top of the scope, and then centre it in the camera frame.  Once this was done the final adjustments in the finder scope were a breeze. What a difference that has made!  I've thought I was very close before but the goto proved me wrong every time as it never reliably switched between targets.  Like most things, it'll be easier to do in the future now that I've done it correctly.  There's no substitute for practice! This is a good example of why it is so important to stick to the basics and keep it simple.  

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

 

Raising the 200P Skywatched DOB on a water butt

Having done a few nights observing with my new 200P Skywatcher I've found its too low for comfortable observing So got a 9x50 right angled finderscope which had made things a lot better with positioning the scope as had the Telrad finder but the focuser was still too low for comfort having to crouch down all the time so went to the local garden center on the way home and bought a water butt for £10 which has worked a treat and had a good session observing Jupiter before the clouds inevitably rolled in 

PaulM

PaulM

 

Telrad finder and right angled finderscope fitted

After my experience with the standard finderscope on my 200P Sky-watcher and you having to either bend over the scope when looking low or crouching down on the floor when almost high vertically I ordered a right angled finderscope (https://www.firstlightoptics.com/finders/skywatcher-9x50-right-angled-erecting-finderscope.html) Now fitted I can see its going to be so much easier pointing the scope and its also the "right" way around so up is up and left if left With the finderscope fitted it was time to see where best to fit the telrad finder I had bought I had read other had fitted these and used 2" or 4" risers so the finder sits higher on the scope so I decided to get a 4" riser I tried a few locations before fitting the telrad finder in the only location that's suitable and as its only stuck on with adhesive strips I've also cable tied it down Sorry about the pictures there not very clear

PaulM

PaulM

 

First night with the new 8" 200P Skywatcher

First night with the new 8" 200P Skywatcher Well after lots of cloudy nights finally managed to get a few hours observing with the new 8" 200P Skywatcher dobsonian Firstly what is the 200P like to observe with - well after collimating it when it arrived I tested this on some bright stars and all looks good when viewing the stars when slightly out of focus, its bulky to move around but manageable as one piece. The finderscope is painful to use, you need to strain your neck to view low lying objects and its even worst viewing directly above so have ordered a Sky-Watcher 9x50 Right-Angled, Erecting Finderscope, it also stands a little too low so will have to get a base for it to stand on when required. Optically its fantastic - beyond expectations for the price.
First target was Jupiter and I took the opportunity to perfectly align the finderscope. It was still twilight and Jupiter was low looking South above nearby roof tops. Could clearly see the four Galilean moons all were quite close to Jupiter, Jupiter itself was clearly a disk and two bands could be observed on the disc. Very pleased with what I saw. I first used the BST starguider 60 degree 15mm EP and then the BST starguider 60 degree 8mm EP to observe - very crisp images and was able to keep Jupiter and all the moons in view for a good time even with the 8mm. Next I connected up the ZWO ASI120MC-S camera and attempted to view Jupiter with no success - couldn't get an image up at all The moon was visible low in the sky to the left of Jupiter so with the camera still attached and using Firecatpure I could clearly observe the moon through the camera on the laptop - amazing - childhood dream come through viewing using a laptop !!! After playing around with the settings in Firecatpure (mainly gain and exposure) I could clearly observe many features on the moon and also through the BST Starguider 2x short barlow lens. I had also downloaded the ASICAP software from the ZWO camera website and managed to take better and larger images through that compared to Firecapture. ASICAP also has an auto function for gain \exposure which was very useful - maybe I need to get more familiar with Firecapture? Next was Saturn - again no luck getting any images from the camera so viewed this through the BST starguider eyepieces and barlow and wow! Despite it still being twilight\getting dark and close to a waxing gibbous Moon and low in the sky and above some local roof tops Saturn could clearly be seem as a orange\yellow disk. The rings clearly defined and the cassini division visible. Titan was to the upper left of Saturn and clearly visible. Spent a good half hour observing Saturn in awe. As the moon was close to Saturn I spend a little more time observing with the camera and getting some more images and playing with the settings Looking around the sky I decided to concentrate on Lyra as it was high up and away from the moon Could clearly observe the "double double" that is Epsilon Lyrae, have to say the clarity of the 200P telescope and eyepieces was impressive - could clearly make out the separate stars M57 ring nebula - clearly observable as a ring structure was very impressed with what I saw Finally to end my session I looked behind me and decided to view M31 and could see the bright center surrounded by a very light haze, no structure could be seen and was to be honest a little disappointing , hopefully I will make better observations of M31 later in the year when the moon isn't around and also when I view from a darker location Overall a great first night of observing and was very very impressed with the 8" 200P Skywatcher, the BST starguider EPs and barlow lens less impressed with the ZWO ASI120MC-S camera

PaulM

PaulM

 

Useful websites

After doing my usual research\looking around the web I have bookmarked the following useful web sites I will keep this blog entry updated as I come across other useful websites; Light polution web sites I've used the first website to shorlist a few locations within an hours drive or so from my home for dark sky viewing http://www.nightblight.cpre.org.uk/maps/
http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html
Interactive Observing Tools - such as Jupiter moon tracker \ Neptune triton tracker https://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/interactive-sky-watching-tools/
Star maps with planets \ moons of Jupiter Choose the different charts from the Charts drop down menu to view the different maps\views https://in-the-sky.org
Darksky weather forecast https://darksky.net/forecast/53.4029,-3.133/us12/en
Clear outside - provided First Light Optics This is also an android\iPhone app - I have downloaded the Android app and it looks and gives the the same information as the website http://clearoutside.com/forecast
Telescope - Field of view tool Useful for seeing what the FOV is for selected celestrial objects though a combination of different telescopes\eyepieces\barlow\reducers https://astronomy.tools/calculators/field_of_view/

PaulM

PaulM

 

First use of the telescope : Jupiter\The Moon

Since getting the telescope (a week ago) I have had no luck really with getting some observing in as there has been 100% cloud cover  But one evening early on before it got too dark I managed to view Jupiter and its 4 moons low in the sky with the new BST Starguider barlow lens and eyepieces At the same time I setup the viewfinder so it was dead on using the 15mm eye piece  Well what can I say compared to my 4" reflector Jupiter looks great. Could clearly see the four galilean satellites and banding on Jupiter despite it still being light and early evening. The clarity and crispness of the view was very very good - better than I expected if I am honest and was very pleased I also liked how easy it was to guide the telescope using the little handle under the scope to follow Jupiter and keep it within view, unfortunately clouds appeared soon after I began viewing Jupiter and then it disappeared behind some houses for the evening In anticipation for a break in the clouds I got the laptop out and connected up the ZWO ASI camera in preparation for viewing the moon and Saturn An hour or so later the moon was viewable and again through the BST Starguider barlow lens and eyepieces the moon looked fab - very clear and crisp. To view the moon I had to move the telescope out of the conservatory into the garden - this was the first time I have had to move the telescope property - its a bit of a stuggle but managed to relocate it and in the future will remove the telescope tube from the base and move both seperately so I don't trip up or put my back under any strain walking and carrying it all at one Once in the garden I pulled up a garden chair and small table and put the laptop on the table and attached the camera to the focuser and started up the Firecapture software and after aligning the telescope via the view finder on he moon was seeing a white smudge so after focusing I managed a clear and crisp image on the laptop and watch in excitement as the section of the moon I was observing slowly glided across shimmering away. Using this camera you do not get to see a large section of the moon (certainly not the whole of the moon) but for me the camera will be about imaging planets but was happy to be able to mount the camera, use the software (changing the gain \ exposure and other setting) to get a good image. I also did come capture but these were saved in the default SAT format which I couldn't view\playback so after the moon disappeared behinds clouds for the night I adjusted the setting in Firecapture to save movies as AVI and images as JPEG for next time. So overall a good but short session viewing Jupiter and its moon and our very own moon and getting familiar with the ZWO ASI camera as well as the eyepieces and guiding the telescope. As I have been doing much reading up I was appreciative of what I was seeing using the 8mm and 15mm eyepieces and the barlow lens, whereas when I was using my 4" I use to randomly change eyepieces not knowing what to expect to see haha !

PaulM

PaulM

 

Drivers\software for the ZWO ASI camera

In preparation for my first nights viewing (been cloudy since I bought the telescope) I readup on how the ZWO camera is used and supporting software Firstly went to the ZWO website (https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com/software-drivers) and downloaded the following onto my Windows 10 laptop; ASI drivers ASICAP software - to capture images with the camera At the same time I also downloaded FireCapture (http://www.firecapture.de/) as this seems to be the most populate software for working with ZWO ASI cameras  - I could be wrong though !! Unpacked the camera and plugged it into the laptop (via USB lead) and fired up Firecapture - it gives you the option of ZWO camera on startup and all seems to be working ok - getting an image from the camera I also after watching some tutorials on the Firecapture site setup default folders to capture to and played around with some of the other settings\icons etc So happy that the camera works and the laptop\software is setup and ready for my first observations

PaulM

PaulM

 

Books : Making every photon count \ Turn left at Orion

As I ultimately was to get images of what I observe I acquired the following book from FLO Making Every Photon Count  read the first few chapters - is very good so far and aimed at the absolute beginner I also bought 2nd hand Turn left at Orion Ok book - pretty basic diagrams of the constellations and star maps\objects of interest (all in sketch form) but good enough to find objects of interest and there is info about them 

PaulM

PaulM

 

Collimating the telescope

Well being new to all this and doing much research and reading up I knew I would need to check the collimation of the telescope so bought a collimation cap for this With the instructions provided with the telescope it was pretty straight forwards to do and as I have also watched a few youTube videos and read some how-to's so I knew what to expect and do So firstly fitted the collimation cap and check things - things were not ideal (see attached image) So using the instructions the first thing to do was alter the secondary mirror (the one that direct light into the eyepiece) which was straightforwards so I could see the three tabs on the edge of the primary mirror (in the attached image you can only see two) Once this was done it was time to adjust the primary mirror. There are three holding screws and three allen key bolts, the allen key bolts move\adjust the mirror and the holding screws hold it in place. So following the instructions I attempted to loosen the allen key bolts with no luck using the smaller provided allen key - I had to go into the shed and get a much smaller allen key that would fit. So by adjusting things I got the central circle lined up and tighted up the screws. All in all 20 mins to read through the instructions and do the adjustments - now I have done it once its will be more straight forwards next time

PaulM

PaulM

 

New eyepieces \ telrad finder \ collimation cap \ barlow lens

While waiting for the telescope to arrive I went and bought the the following; Telrad finder - looks like a nice piece of kit and looks useful to star hopping as I plan to view deep sky objects (DSO) and the dimmer planets not visible to the naked eye BST Starguider 2x short barlow lens BST starguider 60 degree 15mm eyepiece BST starguider 60 degree 8mm eyepiece Rigel Aline Collimation Cap

PaulM

PaulM

 

Building the 200P telescope

The 200P Skywatcher 8" Dobsonian telescope arrived in two large boxes, one containing the base, tools and screws etc and another containing the actual telescope\tube and accessories (viewfinder \ eyepieces) Assembly of the base was straight forwards and all the tools required were provided - allen keys \ screwdriver - overall took around 20 mins and due to its size is a little cumbersome for a single person but not an issue - once built seems sturdy enough Telescope was very well packaged (thankfully) so took this out and mounted it onto the base with ease Fitted the eyepiece adapter and viewfinder and was done I will be keeping the box the telescope\tube came in as I plan to travel to better viewing locations in North Wales All in all 30 mins to unpack and build Its a bit bulky and cumbersome to move around and pretty heavy but manageable  

PaulM

PaulM

It's getting dark...

There's an old saying, 'If you want to give the gods a laugh tell them your plans for the future'. 
My plans were along the lines of spending the very light nights setting up and testing ASCOM,  PHD2 and other software and practising my post processing.  What actually happened was that my laptop died, taking with it all of the settings that I'd struggled to figure out - but hadn't noted down  It also had lots of personal data that hadn't been backed up recently so a new laptop and dozens of hours getting the old hard disk connected and copied.  I also had and my mount in bits as I tried to figure out how to improve the latitude adjustment. Anyway, on Thursday night I had everything assembled, all the software re-installed and maybe working and a free evening to play with it.  I got on quite well before it clouded over and Friday night was forecast to be clear.  By twilight I was all set up and ready to go.  I started work as soon as it was dark enough for the guide setup to work and got a good series of exposures up to 3 minutes long guiding with perfect stars - I was delighted! After trying a few things out I set the rig up to take a series of 20 second exposures of M11, the Wild Duck Cluster.  It was still too light but I wanted to see if it would behave when left alone. A bit later I started on M27, the Dumbell nebula.  There was quite a bit of high, wispy cloud blowing through so I kept it to 30 second subs - 198 of them.  Basic processing has got me this image which is my first public post on Astrobin.  I still need to go through the images and remove the poorer quality ones, re-stack and spend more time processing. https://www.astrobin.com/full/360831/B/  

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

 

Light relief for Cosmologists

'Calculating the Cosmos' by Ian Stewart and 'The Universe Next Door' a New Scientist compilation are both extremely enjoyable reads and have kept me going in between the'dark clear nights' here on the east coast.  So having time on my hands this summer, I prepared a digital image and poem in 'homage' to two of my favourite pursuits: reading books on cosmology I barely understand and eating shellfish most people tend to avoid.    'Winkles in the fabric of Space-Time' - mixed media - George Roberts - June 2018   "If there were winkles in the fabric of Space-Time At the Planck scale squid and plaice would rhyme If the Universe and Albert Einstein could spin on one sharp pin Might each sardine simultaneously be alive and dead in it's tin? Perhaps dark matter would even cease to matter? If cod, god and gravity were resolved in batter".   George Roberts from the book 'A Brief History of Gastropods'  

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Gina's Ultimate All Sky Camera

I'm hoping this is my final and hence "Ultimate" generation of all sky cameras.  Based on the ASI185MC CMOS astro camera and Fujinon fish-eye lens of 1.4mm focal length and f1.8.  Image capture is provided by a Raspberry Pi 3 in conjunction with INDI drivers.  This is used with KStars/Ekos client software running on a Linux Mint desktop indoors.  Communication is via Wi-Fi.  The astro camera is an uncooled version but I have added a Peltier TEC cooler.  This cools the camera down to something like -15°C for night sky imaging with longer exposures of around a minute.  Daytime imaging is also covered using the camera's minimum exposure and gain.  The colour camera differentiates between dark clouds and blue sky and also shows the colours of stars at night. This Blog will describe the construction of the hardware and the special driver coding used to control dew heater, camera cooling and focussing.  

Gina

Gina

 

Creating a Pond Garden.

I'm starting with an empty area about 10 x 4 metres between sun lounge and observatory in front of living room window and facing roughly south.  I have killed off most of the weeds and grass by covering with an old tarpaulin for a year or so.  This has also stopped the ground from drying out and making it easier to dig.   In addition to providing a path to the observatory, this will provide flowers and shrubs to see from the living room window.  Plus a small pond and fountain.  The latter is something I have been working on in 3D printing and plan to have something unique.  Apart from the pond there will be planting areas and slabs and ornamental stepping stones. I have removed most of the tarpaulin and started digging a hole for the pond.  The latter is a pre-formed pond I bought from Amazon :-
Bermuda Sand Pre Formed Pond 128 x 84 cm. Here are some photos of pond hole digging and the general area.

Gina

Gina

 

The trip so far

Well I have been studying the various ways of looking at the night sky now for the last 9 months or so , after wanting some means to do this for a long time and finally  have the time to put some cash into it. So here in this blog I will attempt to document my path and try and keep myself on track. My main interest  is astrophotography so I will start with the equipment I have or intend to obtain , with comments Book: Make Every Photon Count: Bought on recommendation of folks in this forum , excellent read and will need to be read more times once my rig is complete. NEQ6 Pro Mount : Found one at a low price which needs some repair work and will be installing a belt drive mod into it. Decided to go right for a decently large mount so I'm not wishing in 6 months time I had done this in the first place. Camera: Canon D450 will be in my hands at the end of the month and I will be doing the IR modification on it. Still undecided on whether or not to do a cooling mod on it as well. Telescope: undecided upon right now and currently using my eyes to identify my way around the sky. Guide scope and guide scope camera: undecided . CAT5 fed USB hub system. EQMod PHD Backyard EOS : this will be setup once I have all the hardware. Assorted stuff : A lot of this I will 3D print I'm sure there will be some things that will be handy , will find out what these when they are needed Looking forward to fun and interesting times will update as we go .

PaulR1

PaulR1

 

Taking it seriously

Having wanted to do astronomy properly for decades I finally took action late in 2017 and bought a pair of Canon 15x50 image stabilised binoculars.  I was absolutely blown away with what I could see using these from my garden with what I now know are Bortle 8 very light polluted skies. For the first time in my life I saw the Orion Nebula M42 - only as a small cloudy area but I knew there was more to see with better optics. 
When I saw the Pleiades, directly overhead, for the first time I knew I was hooked! I'd been reading posts here and on other sites and blogs and I knew that I'd need to think through what I wanted to achieve and what to spend my money on.  I used a strategy that has served me well over the years - Start from where you are!
That might seem obvious but I have read so many posts - facebook is the worst - where people go out and spend thousands of pounds on equipment because it is the 'best' but they don't know how to set it up never mind use it!  I experimented with what I had so that I'd know what I needed.  I started with my wife's Canon PowerShot SX730 which takes great pictures but isn't suited to astrophotography and then I got out my old Canon SX1.  That was a bit better and I used CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) to allow longer exposures.  I tried taking pictures through my binoculars but would have needed some precision DIY to hold the bins and the camera together.
I wasn't getting any good images, but I was learning about aperture, exposure length, ISO and the importance of keeping the camera still! My first purchase was a Canon EOS 7D Mark1 and a couple of lenses (18-55 and 75-300).  I got an Amazon Basics tripod - very well built for under £50 and set about trying to capture the universe. Using the 7D with Canons capture software I was taking lots of pictures and learning the hard way about star trailing.  With the 300mm lens fully extended the longest exposure I could manage which kept round stars was 0.8 seconds - so I took lots and lots of them and fed them to DSS. Of course DSS sometimes struggled to stack them and I couldn't see the results at first because the images were still extremely dim but I'll do a separate entry about software and how I got round these issues. It was clear I would need to buy a mount or a tripod mounted tracker if I was going to progress but first I had to think seriously about how I planned to use it long term. My Priorities - Transportable, sensibly priced, good quality. As mentioned, the sky where I live is Bortle 8.  I'm fortunate that I live on the southern outskirts of Glasgow and my back garden faces south so I can do a lot of practice and get some reasonable images but I really wanted to be able to pack my stuff up and drive to better sky.  20 minutes takes me to Bortle 4-5 so it's worth doing. I'm trying to do this as a hobby and not go overboard with the budget but I also don't want to waste my money on cheap stuff that doesn't perform well.  That's been great because it's forced me into researching options and being strict about what I need and what is just a 'nice to have'.  I don't buy stuff just for bragging rights! I'd thought seriously about getting an Ioptron Skytracker or Skyguider sized device but I didn't want to be too restricted on what I could mount on it, and I'm not likely to take my kit on a flight very often.  In the end I saw a 2nd hand Skywatcher EQ5 Goto mount at a reasonable price and I already knew it would do what I need for now.  I had originally planned to use the DSLR with a large zoom lens but when I costed these it was clear that I'd need to spend several thousands to get what I wanted.  That led me down the path of a short APO refractor.  Again, into the classified ads and someone here pointed me in the direction of a Skywatcher Esprit 80 which I am absolutely delighted with! So that's me got all of the hardware I need for now... but then I saw a 60mm Guide scope and Orion SSAG for a good price... So now I have everything I need for a while.  Why am I still looking at the classified adverts?  Just in case there's a bargain
 

My first astro photo

This was taken 8th April 2016 from an apartment in Hamilton Island, Australia.  The equipment I used was a Samsung Galaxy S5 and an old but good quality pair of binoculars left by the owners.  The skies were incredibly dark and we were able to attend a talk by a local astronomer who guided us around what could be seen with the naked eye. I was delighted last year when I used Stellarium last year to look at the view on that date and confirm that I had indeed captured Jupiter and 4 moons!
 

Improving An Aluminium Tripod

The aluminium tripods that come with a majority of beginner and mid-range scopes have had a bad name for years as being poorly made, sloppy and people have tried various ways to make them sturdier such as filling the legs with sand, lead shot, or even expanding foam. 
I just read an account the other day of where a person was fitting steel rebar into the legs to see if it will help…
The only problem with these solutions is that you end up with a very heavy cumbersome tripod that is really no better than what it was when the modifications were started. 
I will show you what I do with these to help take the shakes out of them. 
The tripod modifications can be done to any of these aluminium tripods and not limited to adapting the SLT mount.

Before starting the modifications, read the instructions thoroughly! If there is any part you are not sure of feel free to PM me.

The tripods are manufactured cheaply and are not a precision work of art but can be fixed to be quite usable for only a few dollars.
There are 3 different pivot points on the tripod that total 21 different places that the tripod can move so these can all be stiffened up.

Tools required:
Robertson or Phillips screwdriver
Drill and ¼” and 1/8” drill bits
Skilsaw
Hacksaw or angle grinder
Fine flat file
White glue
Paint or varnish of choice
Socket/ combination wrench if using nylocks

All the needed supplies should be available at a local hardware store. 
18- #6 flat washers
18- #8 x 3/8” sheet metal screws
3- 1/4” x 3 1/2” bolts
3- 1/4” wing nuts or nylock nuts (preference)
6- 1/4” x 1” flat washers
6- 3/16” x 1” bolts
6- 3/16” wing nuts or nylock nuts
12- 3/16” x ¾ or 1” flat washers 
1- 1/8” x ¾” aluminium flat bar (need about 9”)
Container for all the old bolts and screws

Note: If you wish to paint your tripod and mount I recommend a degreaser and an aluminium etching primer to help the paint adhere to the aluminium parts. 

For this I will show what I did to adapt the aluminium tripod to a Celestron SLT hub/mount.

The supplied screws/ bolts holding everything together are cheaply made and it does not take much to strip these so all the hardware will be replaced with better quality. 

Start by taking the tripod legs off of the hub and set the hub aside as it will not be reused. 
Take the legs apart and remove all the factory screws/ bolts holding the cast metal pieces together. 
Check all of the plastic end pieces in the legs to make sure they are tight. 
If not they will need to be removed for now. You may wish to mark all the pieces so they go back together on the same leg but it is not essential. 

If you are going to paint your tripod/ mount now is the time to do it and give it a full day or two to properly dry. 
Use either #220 grit sandpaper or a course scotchbrite pad to scuff the metal to help it adhere to the parts. 
Do not forget to scuff the primer before painting! 

Now that you are ready to put the tripod back together we will stiffen up any of the plastic leg inserts if they were loose. 
The only piece you do not want to do this to is the top cap for the center leg. 
Do not install this cap or the center tray support brackets at this time. 

Put a bead of white glue around the inside of the leg where the insert goes and then push the insert into place. Using the new #8 x 3/8” (6 per leg set) screws, snug all the parts up. 

Picture 1:
 

Set aside and let the glue harden.
The #8 screws are slightly larger than the original size and will snug up nicely. You can see the difference in the photo above.

I tend to reuse the lower single leg bolts as they are usually fine for this job. I use the glue on the insert and then the bolt.

Before you reinstall the cast lower leg pieces run your finger around the hole that the center leg slides through, if there are any rough or sharp spots file them down smooth. 

Now that everything is dry start reassembly by installing the side legs and then slide the center leg up through the bottom. 
Set the legs aside for now. 

Now we get to the fun part, power tools!

Using the 1/4” drill bit enlarge the holes on the SLT mount hub to match the larger hole in the tripod legs. Once done set this part aside. 

The next step is modifying the center tray supports.
The supplied tripod tray is a flimsy piece of stamped metal and using the 3 original screws and wing nuts leaves much to be desired for tripod stability!
Using 6 bolts in the tray will hold the legs firmly in place and not allow any play.

Using the drill and the ¼” drill bit, drill a hole at the furthest end of the slot and another half the distance of the support. 

Picture 2:
 

Now to make the new center tray. This tray will spread the legs out a bit more making alarger ground triangle which helps with stability. 
I used a piece of 3/8” plywood with dimensions of 15 3/4” on the flat side and 13 5/8” flat to peak. Your 2 holes should be approximately 2 ½” and 5” from the peak. 
Drill ¼” holes and set aside for now.

TIP: Use the tray support as a template to mark out the holes to ensure alignment.

Picture 3:
 

Using the aluminium flat bar cut 3 pieces 2 3/4” long. Use the file to smooth and round off the edges of the piece. (I used the edge of a quarter as a template to round off the corners.)

Now to reassemble the tripod! 

Take a leg assembly and lay it flat on your work surface, insert the center leg cap at this time but do not screw it into place. 
Take one of the flat bar pieces and lay it across the legs butted up against the lip of the center cap and mark out the location of the screw hole on the flatbar. 
Using the 1/8” drill bit make a hole and then install this with the center cap.
If you have ever noticed on these tripods, as soon as you put some weight on them the center leg tends to slide/ lean inwards which causes only a small part of the leg to actually be making full contact. This flatbar brace will keep the center leg inline with the other legs when the scope is mounted. 

Picture 4:
 

Optional: I drill a second hole and rivet it into place so that the flatbar cannot loosen off and the cap can still be unscrewed and removed if needed. (3/16” drill bit and 1/8” rivet)

Once the flatbar is attached turn the leg section over and it is time to install the tray brace. 
Screw one of the pin brackets onto the leg and then insert the pin. 
Put 3 of the #6 flat washers on the pin and then slide the tray bracket on (flat side up). Install 3 more #6 flat washers and then the other pin bracket. Screw bracket into place. 
The tray support bracket should be nice and snug between the brackets now and there will be no slop for it to slide around on the pin. 
Repeat for other legs. 

Picture 5:
 

So now the tripod should almost be done, take the mount hub and install the new 1/4” x 3 1/2” bolt.
At a minimum you should have a flat washer under the bolt head and one under the wing nut.
Check the gaps between the legs and hub to make sure they are in full contact with each other. 
If there are gaps between the legs and hub use 1 or 2 appropriate thickness washers to fill the gap.
Plastic report covers can be cut to make washers if the gap is small.
You want the legs parallel but not squeezed to the point you cannot adjust the center leg smoothly.
Use a 1/4” x 1” flat washer and then your choice of either a wing nut or nylock to tighten things up.

Tighten until the leg is stiff but can swing without fighting it. 
Repeat for the other legs. 
You should now have a complete tripod minus the tray. 

Final step is to install the tripod tray using 2- 3/16” x 1” bolts and 4 flat washers for each leg. 
I use one washer on top of the tray and one underneath the bracket so you can tighten these up very well with the wing nuts or nylocks. 

Picture 6:
 

You should now be the proud owner of a very stiff aluminium tripod that no longer has a bad case of slop/ shakes when you put your scope on it. 
 

Gabby76

Gabby76

 

Jocular: a preview

I've been mainly working on the stack inspector this week. The idea is to be able to quickly inspect the entire stack, rejecting bad subs (this also applies to calibration frames, though fuller support for calibration is the main task for next week). The stack inspector also allows animation of the subs and/or stack, making it easy to diagnose tracking issues etc. There's the option to restack based on an arbitrary sub in case the keyframe chosen isn't too good. One thing I'm finding a great surprise when going back through some of my old captures is the proportion of 'bad' subs that nevertheless get stacked into something reasonable.

Martin Meredith

Martin Meredith

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