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Everything posted by Chiz

  1. Hi, I have just purchased a SW Evostar 80ED and want to start using it for astrophotography. The general advice seems to be that the must-have accessory is the SW .85x Reducer/Flattener, which I hope to get once they become available again (which may be a few weeks/months away). In the meantime I'd like to get started with some AP, so that I can gain some experience. However I am a little confused as to what additional equipment I need / want, and how it all slots together. I have a Canon 550D DSLR, with a T-ring adapter, and a 1.25" T mount camera adapter. These are straightforward enough and there is only one way to put them together. I have used these with my 150PL by using this combination in place of an eyepiece. I have also used the DSLR ring directly on the focuser of the 150PL as that has a T adapter. Now I have the 80ED I am a little lost. This also came with a T adapter - which appears to be a short extension (male one end, female the other). My understanding is that I should not use the diagonal, but I don't know what goes between the DSLR and the scope. I believe that I will need some sort of extension tube to make sure the camera's CCD is in the right place, but how long and what fittings it should it have? I have looked at the usual suppliers' websites, but they seem to assume you know what you want and what to do with it. They talk about T rings, M48 adapters, prime focus camera adapters, T-2 spacers, M48 to T2 adapters, and various other tubes. Do I need any/all of these? If so which? How do they fit together and to the scope? Once I get the SW .85x Reducer/Flattener, how does that fit into the light path? Will I still need extension tube(s)? There is also the FLO Adapter for Skywatcher Focal Reducers - do I need one of these as well? I'm happy to spend money if I need to, but I also don't want to waste money on something that I don't need. It should be clear that I'm confused by the range of connector standards that seem to be involved (T, T-2, M48, etc.) and the basics of how the components fit together. The supplier websites have a great range of components and between them I'm sure they solve almost any problem for someone who knows what they want, but there seems to be very little information for n00bs like me. Perhaps there is a dummies guide to this stuff, but I haven't found it yet. I do have a copy of Making Every Photon Count, and that is an excellent book which will help me considerably with AP, but I couldn't find the information I'm currently looking for in there. Thanks, Chiz
  2. Thank-you everyone for your help and advice. Evostar 80 ED ordered. Looking forward to some clear skies.
  3. I have recently bought an HEQ5 Pro mount and was planning to get a SW Evostar 80ED to sit upon it so that I can learn the basics of astrophotography. I've read here and elsewhere that this really requires the SW .85x reducer/flattener to get any decent results, and that all seems to make sense to me. Unfortunately there are none of these flatteners to be had in the UK, so I have postponed my purchase. I do have a SW Explorer 150PL, which has been a lot of fun for the last few years and I plan to rest it on the HEQ5 as soon as those clouds move away, but I don't see it as a great tool for DSO AP (although I will be trying some lunar pictures). Is there and alternative to the 80ED that would be suitable for a beginner for DSO AP? I'm lucky that my budget can be reasonably flexible (in as much as I have considered the Equinox 80ED), but I don't want to throw money at something that would be wasted on a beginner. But my impatience to get started means I'd rather not have to wait a couple of months for SW to send some more flatteners to these shores. I have a Canon 550D DSLR and a Phillips ToUcam PRO II webcam. [Hmmm. Impatience - yes, I know that is not a good trait for AP.] TIA,
  4. For the last year or so I've been making do with a pair of Lidl £15 binoculars. Excellent value for money, but it's time I upgraded to something a bit better. My eyes are just over 50 years old (like the rest of me) and my right has always been stronger than my left. I wear glasses which do a good job of correcting my vision, 12 months ago moving to varifocals. My short-sightred vision isn't that bad - I can just about pass the driving test without glasses (though I never drive without them). When using my telescope I often take off my glasses to look through the eyepiece. The cheap equipment has served me reasonably well, but I've always had a bit of trouble getting things properly focussed for both eyes - either with or without glasses. Earlier today I read the very useful "Re-setting the Right Eyepiece Dipotre", which might help but I think better optics are the way ahead for me. I'm considering the Pentax PCF WP II and the William Optics 10x50 and would like some advice, especially given my particular eyes. The reviews of both seem very good and have long relief (18mm & 20mm) which should suit me with or without glasses. If my eyes were equal then I'd almost certainly go straight for the Pentax option, but the independent focussing of the William Optics makes me wonder if it would give me better results. I'd be grateful for any advice, opinions or recommendations. Thanks, Chiz
  5. Hello, About 18 months ago I bought my first scope - a Skywatcher 150PL on EQ3-2. At the same time I bought a dual axis motor which has worked just fine - until now. On Friday night I was having fun trying to image Saturn and all was well. The I noticed it had stopped tracking and the red light was permanently on (it is normally green when no buttons are pressed and the RA is tracking). I tried all four buttons - they all clicked as normal and none of them seemed to be stuck. The one page set of instructions says that the LED should flash if it thinks the batteries are on the way out. I checked them with a digital voltmeter and that said they were putting out around 5.9V. Last night I tried again with 4 new batteries (voltmeter said they were just over 6V) and the problem still persists. I tried it without the scope & counterweights to see if that made any difference, unplugging the connectors to the motors etc., but nothing has helped. If I press any of the buttons then these have no effect - all I have is the solid red light and no tracking As I said, I've had the scope & motors since around Nov 2009, but due to a number of reasons I have not used it anywhere near as much as I would have liked. Each time I have used it things have worked fine. In total it has probably had less than 24 hours usage. It is all stored indoors in a dry environment (not in a cold damp shed) and everything looks as good as it did when it was new. I'm sure I'm not the first person to have encountered this problem and I hope someone out there knows what is wrong, and more importantly, how to fix it. Help, suggestions etc. welcomed Thanks in advance, []kywatcher - Dual-Axis D.C. Motor Drive for EQ3-2
  6. I found Martin's Primer - planetary imaging with a Toucam a very useful starting point. I have recently acquired a TouCam, but I think the principles described will apply to any webcam. It will certainly give you some things to try. HTH,
  7. My first go at imaging with a webcam and scope. Taken about half an hour before sunset, with the moon quite low in the sky. Philips ToUcam PRO II, SW 150PL on EQ-2/3 with dual-axis motors. No barlow. Captured using K3CCD then processed with RegiStax - trying to follow the instructions in Martin's excellent primer. 90 seconds at 10 frames/second. Theophilus and Mare Nectaris top left, Santbech dead centre. I used Fracastorius B & Santbech C (according to the Full Moon Atlas) as the alignment area. A little bit of tweaking using GIMP to set the levels and convert to greyscale. I captured in colour hoping to include the pale blue sky - but that part failed. I'm reasonably happy with the result - my goal was just to go through the process and see how it all fits together. Focussing was my main problem - the mount is not very rigid and the standard SW focuser is not that great for fine tuning (well, not in my clumsy hands). Clearly something I need to practice. I had a couple more goes, but the results were not as good - partly I think because I didn't get the focus any better, the moon was hovering just over my neighbour's (warm) roof, and I think I was going the wrong way with the settings in k3ccd. The third image was using a SW 2x barlow - which only emphasises my poor focussing. I got the webcam just over a week ago and this was my first opportunity to use it. I would like to have ago at Jupiter later tonight, but it looks like the clouds are rolling in again . I welcome any comments, good or bad, but preferably constructive.
  8. Even a dead, cold, dark star would continue to rotate. In fact as it collapsed it would rotate faster & faster to conserve the angular momentum.
  9. I've been using iTunes U since I stumbled across it a couple of months ago. But if you like your science in small doses, a couple of years ago the University of Nottingham brought out a series of bite sized videos on the elements of the periodic table - fantastic stuff. More recently they have added the Sixty Symbols website - brief explanations and discussions about 60 of the symbols commonly used in science - many of them related to astronomy. If you haven't seen any of these then I strongly recommend taking a dip. No iPod required - just the web browser you are using right now.
  10. Last November I treated myself to a Skywatcher 150PL. It has given me many frozen nights of fun observing, but now the nights are so short I need some brighter targets to keep me occupied. The moon is good, and available a lot of the time, but I really want to see what the sun has to offer. I've got the scope and a couple of extra EPs, but what else do I need? OK, so I know the first thing I need is the knowledge that the sun is very bright, and mightily powerful and I need to be VERY careful. If not then there's a good chance I'll set fire to the scope and blind myself. Some Baader AstroSolar Safety Film looks like a good buy. But how to attach it to the open end of the scope (safely, securely and easily)? When that problem is solved, what about filters? Should I just start with no filters and see what I can see, or is there a "must have" that I need to start with? Any advice, tips and recommendations welcomed.
  11. I too had my first view of Saturn just a couple of nights ago. Wow! I'd agree with all the comments above - that view and feeling of excitement will stay with me for a very long time. Starting with a 25mm EP I worked up in steps to a 10mm + 2x Barlow, which gave the best view. Stunning. I was also very pleased that the motor on the EQ2-3 mount did a great job of keeping Saturn centred (once I'd connected up the RA & DEC round the right way ). It let me know that I'd done a reasonable job of aligning with Polaris without a polar scope or any other aids. It was also my first chance to use the Lidl bins I bought last week - very impressed with what you get for £14.
  12. Well they didn't have them stacked up on the shelf - they were locked away in the store room! There are plenty more expensive & smaller items in the open shop, but I guess binoculars are seen as more valuable items and attractive to shoplifters. Anyway, I was unable to test the bins in the shop but they did say if there was any problem then I could take them back. So I took a risk and bought a pair regardless. And to be honest in the rain / sleet / snow that was pelting down outside I probably wouldn't have been able to do much in the way of an accurate test. If they are off kilter then I might treat it as an exercise in "how to collimate binoculars" (which probably is a good thing to learn), or discover first hand how efficient the customer service and 5 year guarantee really is (and from what I've read in SGL it should be ok). Thanks for all the advice - it is very much appreciated.
  13. Brilliant! That's exactly the sort of advice I was looking for. I'm not sure they'll let me take anything out of the shop before paying for it, but I'll be armed with a few tests before parting with my money. I know these are only cheap, but with so many people saying how good they can be for the money I really ought to give them a try. Many thanks to everyone for the advice.
  14. First thing Monday morning I'll be joining the queue at Lidl to pick up a pair of their budget binoculars. These are widely reported as being excellent value for money, as long a you pick a pair which are properly collimated. As a first time buyer of binoculars I have no idea how to check the collimation. What quick and simple tests can I do in the middle of Lidl to make sure I get a good pair? There must be some things that even my untrained eyes could do. Should I just try and focus them on the till operative at the other end of the store and make sure I can get sharp, correctly merged images? Or is there some test I can do by holding them up to the light? On a secondary note: I have a very cheap camera tripod from 7dayshop. Is this likely to be useful for the binoculars, or just too wobbly? It's ok for camera use, but might the bins be a bit too heavy? If not then do I need a large or small tripod adaptor?
  15. I took delivery of my first telescope - a Skywatcher Explorer 150PL Newtonian reflector with EQ3-2 mount - about 10 days ago. Never having owned a real scope before it was a little daunting, but also quite exciting. It was all safely packaged - two large boxes, each with a snugly fitting box inside. The longer box contained the OTA, suspended by three rings of expanded polystyrene and fully assembled (although I had to detach the tube rings to remove the sheet of tissue paper protecting the main tube). The other box contained lots of smaller boxes, neatly sized to completely fill the available space. One large box had the tripod while others contained the mount, counter-balance weights, eyepieces and finder scope. I was somewhat apprehensive about putting all this expensive equipment together (ok, so it's an order of magnitude less dear than many scope, but for me it was a significant price to pay). But I needn't have worried. Assembly was remarkably straightforward even though the instruction book didn't explain everything (yes, I know, men aren't supposed to read instructions, but I wasn't taking any chances). Unfortunately, as you are all well aware, the weather in the UK has not been very kind to us recently and it was a couple of days before I managed to get something to point it at. I had set up the finder scope during the day, using the furthest object I could easily see and identify - the top of a tree some 100 yards away (my garden is surrounded by short trees), but this proved accurate enough for location objects a few million miles further away. On Sunday the 13th I had a very brief opportunity to peek through a couple of gaps in the clouds. I only had time to look using the lowest magnification (x48) although this was enough to glimpse Jupiter which had thoughtfully placed itself directly behind the hole in the clouds. I couldn't make out any significant detail, but I was delighted to see four bright dots in a line - something that I'm sure brings excitement to anyone who has observed the Jovian giant. That was all I had time for before the gap closed and I felt once more that I had been transported to Krikkit. It was another week before I was able to get another chance to use the scope in anger, but it was well worth the wait. The afternoon of the 20th December was clear and crisp, and there was no sign of the evening clouds that had marred many of the preceding evenings. I started early and set the scope up as soon as the sun went down. hoping to get some views of the waxing moon. I wasn't to be disappointed. As it was still quite light it was easy enough to set things up. Placing the tripod (unextended) on the hard snow and using an old compass which I'd used when hiking across Dartmoor in my youth (the darkest skies I've ever seen in England), I pointed the "N" leg as close to North as I could. The small bubble level built into the tripod helped me to get things on an even keel. I'd already set the altitude adjustment to approximately 51 degrees (although once it got dark I fine tuned it to line up with Polaris a little better). Pointing the scope at the moon (it takes a few moments to get used to swinging the tube around on an equatorial mount) I was rewarded ith a magnificent sight. Although the sky was still quite light I got a great view of the thin crescent of illuminated lunar surface, with fantastic detail along the terminator. At x48 the disc seemed to fill the eyepiece. I had bought a Meade ND96 moon filter, but this was not necessary as the comparative brightness was not that great and it was too early for any night vision to be affected. This was a great opportunity for me to try out the other eyepieces for the first time, so first I added in the x2 Barlow, had another "wow" moment, next the 10mm EP on its own ("whoo") and finally added the Barlow again (x240 - "gasp"). I called my 13 year old out to have a look and he was suitably impressed. Even my cynical wife seemed to think I had actually got something that works for the 200 or so notes I'd shelled out for the scope. Although it still seemed quite light, I could just make out the small bright dot of Jupiter, 20 degrees or so to the South of the Moon. Time to peer further into the solar system. A few seconds later I had the gas giant in my sights (easily located using the red-dot finder I'd acquired a couple of weeks earlier on eBay, following a couple of recommendations). Given how light it still was, and how low Jupiter was in the sky, and that the scope had been outside for less than 20 minutes, I was surprised how good a view rewarded me. Even to my untrained eye some banding was clearly visible across the planet and two of the four main moons were clearly in view (Io and Ganymede according to StarmapPro). To the novice (me) it was surprising how quickly Jupiter moved across the field of view (and out of it). I have also bought dual-axis motors for the scope - this are going to be fitted very soon. It was then time to eat, so I left the 150PL in the garden to continue cooling while I went inside to warm up and have a hot meal. An hour later, with woolly hat, thick coat and lots of enthusiasm, I ventured outside again. The EP had fogged over, but after a careful wipe this was cleared and I could start viewing again. I spent the next few hours finding my way around the December sky, trying to view things of interest. M42 in Orion was the obvious first target, then Betelguese, Rigel and Bellatrix, admiring the different colours of these stars. I tried (but failed) to locate the Triangulum galaxy, M33 (more eye and brain training required) but had a magnificent view of the Pleiades. I also took in what I think was the Hyades and several of the brighter objects in the sky. Despite the cold I was getting used to swinging the scope around the mount and using the RDF to locate things. I frequently found myself loosening the tube rings to rotate the eyepiece to a more comfortable and practical position. I was becoming more and more aware of the ice that was building up on the outside of the main tube. By midnight Mars was high enough over the trees to get a good view, and by then I was nearly as cold as my scope. A little wary of what best to do with it, I went back inside take the instrument with me. Looking down the tube I could see that the main mirror was completely misted over - I'm not sure if this had happened whilst outside, or was a consequence of binging it indoors. I left removed the EPs and rotated the tube so that it was horizontal - the ice on the outside had quickly melted, and I didn't want any melting ice on the inside to foul the mirror. I left everything uncovered until the morning - with the tube and focuser open to the air, and left the protective caps off the eyepieces. I hope this was the right thing to do, although all looked fine afterwards. All in all it was a great first session. I've learned quite a bit about my scope and learned that I still have a lot more to learn. Celestial navigation is going to be a steep learning curve, but with Turn Left at Orion on my Christmas list I'm hoping to have a good guide to help me. Thank-you to everyone who recommended the 150PL, and to those who suggested the alternatives. I can see I'm going to be spending many more cold evenings in wonderment.
  16. Thanks for all the friendly welcomes. I've not been posting much, but reading tons and tons of useful information, advice and opinions on SGL over the last two months or so. I finally received my scope yesterday (many thanks to James @ FLO ) and got it assembled this morning. Waking to a thick fog, followed by total cloud cover , I didn't think I'd get a chance to use it in anger for a day or two, but in the last half an hour the skies have cleared - with the few remaining wisps heading for the west at top speed. I've been waiting a lifetime to catch my first glimpse of Jupiter through my own 'scope and in just a handful of hours it looks like my dream will come true. I just hope that the sky will stay clear until later and I can get to grips with the intricacies of the equatorial mount, eyepieces, focussing, RA, etc. before the Jovian giant dips too low in the sky. Excited anticipation? You bet! If it doesn't work out then I'll be back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next ... [edit - I spoke too soon, those darned clouds have come rolling back over again, although Metcheck thinks it might clear later.]
  17. Thanks for the advice. I give these a miss and wait to see what they offer in the spring. Since posting this morning my shiny new scope has been delivered so that ought to keep my eyes busy for a while.
  18. The Lidl website shows that my local shop will be selling £14.99 binoculars from 17th December. I guess they will be available from many of their other shops too (you need to select a shop before they show you what's going to be on special off there). What I would like to know is: are these the same as the Bressars that are often talked about on this forum? I do appreciate these are not going to be the best binos in the world by a long way, and that it's worth going through the pile in the shop to find a pair with reasonable collimation, but for fifteen quid it might give me some better views of the night sky (clouds permitting ) while I'm waiting for my order from FLO. Perhaps someone who has a pair of the Bressars (or can at least positively identify them) could take a look at Lidl's website and confirm if these look to be the same thing? They are listed under "Special Offers", "Gadgets Galore from 17.12.2009". I can't easily post a direct link as the site insists that you select your local shop before it'll show the offers. TIA.
  19. You've tried rebooting? And also a power cycle (shut down, power off for more than 20 seconds, then reboot). It could be a keyboard fault - is there another keyboard you can try? Even if it's a notepad/ laptop it would be worth connecting a USB keyboard and trying that. If you still get problems then it's likely to be a strange software error. Is this just in one application or does it do it for everything (if so how did you post your request ... ?). What system are you running (M$-XP, Vista, MAC, Ubuntu etc.)? Have you asked Mr.Google?
  20. A really useful, helpful and friendly forum - one of those that makes the Internet a good place to be. I have found most of the answers I was looking for simply by searching the threads and hence not posted many questions myself. One of the great things is that posters are very clear about whether they are stating fact or expressing a personal opinion - very useful for us newcomers about to leap into the unknown. I agree with AlexF that a glossary full of terms, abbreviations and TLAs would be very useful to us newcomers who don't know about DSOs, OTAs and POWs (or should that be PsOW?) without having to go off to Google or Wikipedia to find out. I have used a couple of technical forums (e.g ControlBooth) where the system automatically creates hyperlinks when a post contains any keyword in the glossary (on phpBB using a plug-in). If vBulletin has a similar feature or plugin available then I think this would be a very useful addition for beginners.
  21. Definitely. While the concept of there being life out there is an incredible concept, the thought that we are alone in this vast universe in inconceivable. As for discovering evidence of life beyond the solar system, I'm not sure whether the SETI or the WETI approach is the best.
  22. Hi, After years of staring at the night skies with my eyes I thought it was time to upgrade and give them a bit of assistance. Judging by the posts in SGL I'm sure I'll be able to get lots of advice as I make the next step.
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