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smolloy

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About smolloy

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    Star Forming

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    Southern Sweden
  1. Nice tips Thanks! I bet with a bit of work, I could hack a simple system together that would control the speed via a computer, and using the view of a star through a webcam to set the right speed.... Could be an interesting project...
  2. It actually cleared up later in the evening, so I got the chance to go out and play with the potentiometer. This worked well, although it takes some patience since each movement of the dial has to be very very small, which makes it very easy to overshoot. I found it was easiest to do the adjustments by listening to the pitch of the motor, since this gave a more sensitive indication of the size of the change than the feeling of how far I had turned the dial. After this, I had my first experience of watching a perfectly still moon through a telescope, and it was mind-blowing. Such a crystal clear, sharp, image, that I didn't have to continually adjust every minute or so. Well worth the expense of the platform.
  3. I emailed the owner (David) about the drifting issue (before I started this thread), and his advice was identical to your themos. Adjust the speed of the motor. Unfortunately (but predictably), the weather here rules out any star-tests tonight, so it will have to wait for another night. I'll post back here with the results when I try. Thanks all.
  4. Hi all, I haven't been posting so much because the bright summer nights here in the south of Sweden means that amateur astronomy isn't the most useful hobby Now that the darker nights are returning, I've started dusting off my kit to get ready for the new season, and (to inspire me a little), I decided to spend a bit of cash on an equatorial platform for my 10" Dob. I ordered the platform a week ago from Equatorial Platforms UK, and the goodies arrived today, so I came here to treat you all to the unboxing, and to give some first impressions. First I would like to comment on my initial dealings with David, the owner of Equatorial Platforms, UK. I first got in contact with him back in March/April of this year to ask for a quote. After he replied, I had lost interest due to the bright nights of the Swedish summer, and neglected to get back to him. But to his credit, he didn't pester me for a follow up email, and I have to say that his "hassle-free" style of doing business is very much appreciated. When I got back in touch with him, he was very quick to reply to my many emails, and always answered my questions with as much info as I needed. I found him very friendly and informative, which gave me some confidence when wiring the cash to his UK account. Here you can see how it looks when you open the box. Well-packed for international shipping, and with the top plate of the platform clearly visible. The platform comes with a set of instructions for the Celestron motor, for the platform itself, and a personalised letter from the owner of the company noting that they have set the scope for the latitude that I requested when I ordered it. A spirit level and a compass are included to help setting up. This shows the underside of the top plate, and you can clearly see the three curves that define the axis and angle of rotation for the platform. Underneath that is the base plate. You can clearly see the various sets of rollers for bearing the weight of the top plate + scope, as well as the motor drive. The motor drive is assembled with a limit switch to prevent accidents if you should forget to reset it before it reaches the end of its travel. A close-up view of the motor itself. Note that it is set to the "south" position, not because I am absent-minded, but rather because it is installed in a sense opposite to that normally used for tripod mounts. A nice touch was that it comes with its own LR9 9V battery installed -- no "batteries not included" here!! The manual claims that this will last for ~40 hours, which I find surprisingly long, but time will tell. These three images show a few closeups of the bearings, and the feet of the base-plate. You should be able to see the black rubber "stop" that is used as the starting position -- i.e. the top-plate is set so that one of the arcs is sitting right up against this. It is the feet of the base-plate that should be adjusted if you are observing from a different latitude. Assembly took all of 3 minutes! Really! Very very simple. Use the compass to get the platform pointing in the right direction, set the top-plate on the south-facing bearings, and then lower the north facing end gently onto the motor bearing with the left-hand rocker resting against the starting position. Doesn't get simpler than that, does it! I'm aware of the fact that my not-so-flat deck is probably not the best place to set it, but it will do for these initial checks. Here is a view showing how the top plate rests against the left-hand limit when in the starting position. And here's the other point of view to show how the south-facing bearings sit together when everything is installed. Most importantly, here is the scope sitting in pride of place! (Ignore my clumsy light-shade -- I live right under the glare of a streetlight ) You can also see the maximum angle that the scope will have when using this platform, and you should agree that it doesn't look all that risky at all. (My camera was at a bit of an angle when I took that picture, so it looks slightly worse than it is.) First light Being unable to see Polaris directly, I pointed the scope at the brightest star I could see (Vega), put in my shortest focal length EP (6mm), and checked how it looked with and without the motor running. The effect is very visible, in that the slow drift that takes the star out of the FOV within a minute or so is almost completely eliminated. There was some residual motion with the motor running, but it took almost 10 minutes for Vega to drift to the edge of the FOV, which is a vast improvement. I noticed that it was drifting in the same direction with the motor on as it does when it is off, so I guess that this is a residual effect from the latitude not being absolutely precisely right, and should be a simple matter to fix by resetting the feet. The weather isn't quite right tonight for an extended observing session, but I am very pleased with my purchase so far, and am looking forward to having a chance to stare at some of the more beautiful sights in the sky without having to nudge the Dob mount every minute! Thanks for reading, Steve
  5. Sadly, yes, this is what happened. I am the proud owner of dozens of photographs of the reflection of my secondary mirror
  6. In my opinion, a lot of it is down to experience. It took me *ages* to find any (with my 10" in not-so-dark skies), but once I did, I found I was able to locate so many more. M81/82 are good choices to begin with since they're relatively bright, but don't expect to see them in the finder-scope. The first time I found them, I star hopped to the right place using just my 10x50 binos. This allowed me to learn the stars in region, so it was really easy to star hop using the finderscope. After that I switched to my widest FOV EP (25 mm), and began trying to correlate the brightest stars in the FOV with those in Stellarium. A few minutes later, I had a definite galaxy in the FOV, and began moving to narrower angle EPs Now that I've done that, I've found that it's actually not so hard to find others, and I actually managed to find 25 in two nights a week or so ago! I think there were two problems I overcame the first time: 1/ Figuring out how to properly star hop with a combination of binos, finder-scope, and the wide FOV EP. 2/ Learning what to expect to see. Some of these are super-faint, barely visible, smudges, that can only be seen with averted vision & when the scope is vibrating a little. Others are clear with direct vision, but you will only ever see faint smudges. Forget the photos you've seen online -- observational astronomy will only let you see these as faint-fuzzies. Kinda like the mark left behind if you gently rub a chalky finger on a black-board. Good luck! Let us know how you get on!
  7. Thanks. I just wanted to see what can be done with my current equipment -- i.e. without buying an adaptor, and without destroying the new camera. I'll let you know how it goes.
  8. Hi all, My wife just got a new point+shoot digital camera, and by sheer chance, the end of the lens fits nice and snugly into the 1.25" EP holder of my telescope, so I'd like to experiment with imaging. The problem is that I can't take the lens out of the camera (cos my wide would kill me for wrecking a brand new camera), but I don't have an adaptor to allow simultaneous use of an EP and the camera, so I would like to try afocal imaging, but with no EP in the telescope. In this situation, the light entering the camera will appear to be coming from a plane just in front of it (the plane that the primary mirror focuses to), so I will have to set up the camera's optics to focus on a point very close to it. In other words, instead of the usual advice to focus at infinity, I will be focusing in "close-up" (macro) mode. Does this sound feasible? (I'll be giving it a try whenever the fog clears, but I'd like to hear your thoughts anyway.) Thanks, Steve
  9. Thanks guys. I'll have a look into those options. My list contains all sorts of objects -- galaxies, nebulae, carbon stars, double stars, etc. -- so I need a pretty thorough catalog. Also, there are enough of them that I don't want to have to enter them by hand into a search form -- I'd much rather use some scripting language (Python?) to extract the data for each of them automagically. This Cartes du Ciel link looks promising... I'll let you know what I figure out.
  10. Hi all, I have a longish list (~100 or so) of objects that I would like to get coordinates, magnitude, etc., data for, but the list is a little too long to do by hand. Is there a way to do this automatically? I have some coding experience, so I don't mind writing some code that interfaces with stellarium/CDC/etc. Thanks, Steve
  11. Thanks guys. I'm afraid that an NEQ6, and even the HEQ5, is a little out of reach for me at the moment. The equatorial platform is very intriguing though. Very close to my price range...
  12. Thanks for all the replies and advice. I didn't realise that an equatorial platform was the standard way of solving this problem these days. One worry I have about such a solution is that my latitude if 56N, and I think this is right at the limit for these platforms. I like the idea of being able to rotate the OTA in its supporting rings. That could fix the problem for me. Would I be able to get away with an EQ5, or do I really need to push it to EQ6? Thanks, Steve
  13. Hi all, I'm planning future purchases (don't tell my wife!), and I was hoping for some advice on putting my 10" Newt (see my signature) onto an EQ mount. I have read that using Newtonians on EQ mounts can be tricky, since the rotation of the tube means that the EP can end up in a place that requires the skills of a circus contortionist to view through. Is this correct? Will I end up with a region of the sky that is back-breakingly hard to view? Also, my Skywatcher is a big heavy OTA, so I guess I would need a pretty heavy-duty mount to support it properly. Can I get some advice on that? I'm also thinking about Dobson platforms that would allow me to follow the earth's rotation, but I'd rather look into a more conventional mount first. Thanks, Steve
  14. This left me speechless. So many stars. Incredible. (You really should click on the high-res image by the way.) Thanks for uploading this.
  15. Great thread. I went through a similar period of doubt, and was genuinely feeling like I had made a mistake spending all the money I had. I was spending my observing time jumping between the same 10 objects that I had already observed a dozen times, and was feeling very bored with the experience. After searching around for others with similar experiences, I found the Astronomical League and their urban programs for double stars and DSOs. Since finding this, and branching out into various other programs, I have got all my excitement back! Check out some of my recent observing reports where I list the cool and surprising objects that I have found. I can't make decisions for you, but I'm not sure if you really need new equipment. Perhaps you just need a dose of excitement from finding some object you never thought you'd see? Google for different double stars (waaaaay more exciting than they sound! -- try to point your scope at gamma Andromeda to see what I mean), bright DSOs (some of the globular clusters in the Messier list might be good targets), try out the Lunar100 (not my cup of tea, but I can understand why others love it so much). You have a great scope, and the opportunity and ability to see some objects that most people will never even know exist, never mind have the chance to look at. You will be able to see light from thousands or millions of years ago, directly observe weather on another planet, or look at the light-years wide expanding shell of gas from a star that exploded. This stuff is *cool*! Enjoy it!
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