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About this blog

The trials and tribulations of the world's most cackhanded astronomer

Entries in this blog


Three months ago I remounted the EQ8 in the observatory after my friend Chris made me a pier extension to raise the mount 15 cm. Unfortunately, a combination of cloudy nights, holidays, it not getting dark until early in the morning, and my lovely wife being ill has meant that it took until tonight to get the EQ8 re-polar aligned.

SharpCap's polar alignment tool makes this pretty easy.  I used my Lodestar x2 mounted on a 60 mm finder/guider.


I'll aim to try to see if I can get this even closer with full drift alignment on another night, but my guess that'll be close enough for now.



The new combined 12v power hub/focus controller/USB hub is now installed on the mount head and all wired up.  I'm pleased as a really really pleased thing with it.  

A billion thanks to my friend Dave Lloyd for all his help.

The wiring to and from the mount now consists of just 4 cables.

  • 12v power to the EQ8
  • USB to the EQ8 (EQDIR cable)
  • 12v to the new power hub mounted on the mount head
  • USB to the USB hub on the mount head


ount body and a 12v power and a USB cable to the mount head


Before Christmas I decided to swap my perfectly good HitecAstro DC focus controller for an Ardunio-based system.  This would give me the flexibility to swap over to stepper motor-based focus motors at a later date.  

I also wanted to bring my 12v power distribution up from the pier to sit in the middle of the dual mounting bar with my two refractors on one side and my SCT on the other.  This new arrangement should  lead to a significant reduction in the cable spaghetti I seem to constantly wrestle with.

I have all the eye-to-hand co-ordination a dyspraxic slug, so for me, soldering usually lots of yelling and high car parking fees (for the car park at my local A&E department).  With a promise nothing particular at all, I managed to persuade my good friend Dave that his life was really empty and unfulfilled and what he really needed was to fill his days building me a custom-built box of tricks containing a Ardunio DC focus controller with optional hand controller (Thanks to Rob Brown - https://sourceforge.net/projects/mydcfocuserrelativedcfocuser/) and a 6-output fused 12v power distribution box.

Last week Dave delivered the finished article to me and this evening, I've just finished testing it all.

The last jobs will be to label up each output and switch; mount the 7 port USB hub on the lid; cut all the existing 12v power leads to just the right length and put RCA plugs on them; and finally mount it all on the dual mounting bar.







My new EQ8 mount is now back from my mate Chris.  :icon_biggrin:

Chris made a 15cm high pier extension to raise the whole kit and caboodle so that the observatory walls don't get in the way so much.

Because the whole mount + cameras/filter wheel/focal reducer + counterweights weighs in at an estimated 82 kg, the pier extension is made from a solid block of 19cm diameter alumunium! With this concentration of mass, gravitational lensing will now swamp the punny effects of 9.25" mirror on the C9.25".

One the subject of counterweights, Chris got hold of a Celestron CGEM 7.7kg counterweight and bored out the central hole to 1.25"so that I can use it as a third counterweight on the EQ8. This allows me to push the two original 10 kg weights far higher up the counterweight bar.




Since first posting details of my new set up on the Blogstronomy blog I've been literally inundated by an e mail from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales.  Mrs Trellis writes

"Dear so-called Top Gear.  When are we going to get that lovely Ginger person back on Gardeners' Question Time?  P.S. Show us some pictures of your new mount, scope and camera."

Who am I to disappoint my fan base?






Following an inheritance, I've taken the decision to carry out a major upgrade of the set up in my observatory.

Gone is my venerable Meade 8" LX200 and in has come a Skywatcher EQ8 mount carrying a 2nd hand C9.25 and my 80ED and my 66mm ED simultaneously.  This is all held together using around 40,000 tonnes of ADM Losmandy dovetails and clamps.   Added to this is an Atik 460EX Mono CCD camera + a ZWO 8 position filter wheel with a full set of Baader RGB and narrowband filters and I am one very happy bunny. :icon_biggrin:

Now comes the hard work.  It's going take a LONG time and a lot of work to set this all up properly and to learn how to use it all.  I've decided that I'm going to try really hard to spend at least 90% of observing/imaging time in 2017 just setting it up and getting to know how to use all this new stuff.  I already seem to have spent an equivalent to the combined national debts of Greece and Spain on adaptors, rotating adaptors and spacers.

Because I really haven't got enough to do already, I'm also taking the opportunity to switch over from PHD to PHD2, to build an Arduino-based focus controller, to learn how to use Sequence Generator Pro and to install a new 12v power supply in the observatory.

Happy Days 



A couple of months ago a trip to my local tip to drop off some old batteries resulted in me 'liberating' an old mini beer fridge from the clutches of the 'Used Electrical items' skip.  Bringing it home I found out that it worked perfectly, apart from a broken door catch. After a lot of research (links below) I've ripped out the electricals and heat sink and have started constructing a DSLR cooler for my Canon 1100D.  I'll keep you posted on progress.






After what feels like decades of cloud cover, last night the gods finally forgave me for whatever it was I did to displease them and I had a clear night! I decided to concentrate this rare opportunity on gathering some photons on Comet Catalina. I managed to get 17 x 120 sec guided subs at ISO 1600 (+ flats and darks) with my Canon 1100D shooting through my Orion 80ED.


The forecast for tonight looks good again. I think I'll take the opportunity to finally getting around to playing with Plate solving with APT 3.0


This in the first in an undoubtedly infrequent series of ramblings from Michael Morris, unsuccessful amateur astronomer and prog rock fan.

I thought I start off with a success story of sorts (lap it up now as there won't be many of these!).

A couple of years ago my youngest daughter upgraded her old Windows Vista (spit) laptop to a Macbook. The old laptop sat around nontionently being a laptop for a few months before, in a desparate attempt to stop having to run Windows Vista, decided to start overheating and turning off after five minutes of running. And for three years it sat at on shelf in the study doing a really good impersonation of a somewhat odd-shaped paperweight.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I decided I could do with a second computer in the observatory for running the all sky camera.

I decided that, in my own mind being a minor deity, I would attempt try a Lazarus-like reanimation of the Vista paperweight.

Remarkably, I managed to diagnose the problem as a non-functioning fan.

After toying with various ideas,including strapping a fan on the outside or throwing it under a train, I decided to go the whole hog and replace the fan. Looking on Youtube I discovered to do this I would have to dismantle the entire laptop! In a fit of uncharacteristic electronic confidence I spent last night dismantling the laptop and fitting a new cooling fan.

Putting it back together didn't go entirely to plan as I have four very small screws left over!

Then came the moment of truth ...

... it only went and worked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've tested every function and socket and all seems okay.

So now I have a working second laptop with all my astro programs loaded. Success? Well, NO.

I made the mistake of sharing my surprise success with the gorgeous Ilona, my wife of 30 years and mother to my three children, Being the kind, thoughtful and generous sort that she is, her reaction to my good news was "Well done, that's great. Eliza (the older of my two daughters) needs a new laptop as her old one has died. She's a bit broke at the moment so you could give her the one you've just fixed."

Drats, foiled again.

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