Jump to content

Walking on the Moon

New scope - ST102


Recommended Posts

Yesterday morning, I purchased a very clean, second hand Skywatcher Startravel 102 (tube, rings and dovetail) with an Altair 2" diagonal and an LN300 camera for just under £150. This time last week, I received an AmazonBasics Tripod with Pistol Grip and a cheap monopod, intended primarily for the 15x70s. Upon discovering two threaded holes in the underside of the dovetail, I attached one of the quick release camera plates and mounted it on the pistol grip and tripod. I put my 30mm Vixen NPL in the diagonal, covered it over in anticipation of first light and cracked open a bottle of Cava.

I'd also picked up a couple of PS3 Eye cameras in the afternoon for £1.50 each, so before heading out for the night and while supping a double Baileys, I fitted an M12 to 1.25" webcam adaptor to one of them. The casing was right pain to take apart and then discovered the lens was glued into the M12 mount. I used a hairdryer to warm the lens and lens mount, clamped the base into the vise and carefully unscrewed the lens with a pair of mole grips. The hairdryer was also used to dry the crotch of my only clean pair of trousers, having sponged off as much of the Baileys as I could. I screwed the camera back together over a can of lager, popped it into a zip lock bag, threw the leftover bits in the bin and headed to the pub.

I have no doubt that astronomy "came up" in conversation a few times, though none of the folk I was with are that into it. Presumably, I stopped banging on about it at some point - at the very least for the countdown on TV which started buffering at 4 seconds to midnight. Plenty ale, cava and Kraken to see in the New Year with friends.

Returning home sometime around 3am this morning, significantly worse for wear, I got my first views of the Pleiades, Hyades, Orion, M31, the Double Cluster and a few arbitrary rich fields along the milky way. I was well chuffed! Tight stars, a FOV more comparable with my binos than my 8.5" f/7.6 dob, but having to support the diagonal in my hand at altitudes above 40 degrees or so. Thankfully, the scope was returned safely inside and I passed out on the couch just after 4am. I stole into bed at half six when the baby woke, the window wide open... just in case.

Bacon, eggs and garlic buttered mushrooms on toast and a litre of Irn Bru got me through the late morning, having categorically refused several requests between the hours of 7 and 10 to get out of bed and change a nappy, watch the kids or help with lunch. Had a nice lunch with 11 folk round the table, restraining myself from talking about anything astro so as not to annoy my wife or the folk I was in the pub with the night before.

With the dishes done, I popped out to see what I could see towards the only wee stretch of horizon visible from the garden. I spent a short time watching the sheep milling about and tried out my 6mm EP on set of swings in the garden of a house five miles away - couldn't complain. The pistol grip mount can make the scope a bit floppy when moving around but it served the purpose well enough.

Kids in front of a film (and me having stopped drinking by this point), I had a chance to take a look at the LN300 camera. It has a C mount thread and the only thing I had to fit was a zoom lens from an old CCTV camera I picked up at a car boot sale years ago. My wife has insisted that the portable DVD I took from the cupboard goes back in the cupboard and doesn't end up lost in the garage with all of the other things that go missing from the house and never return. I used a small computer power supply for 12V and the plug and cable from an old baby monitor charger to power the camera. I had an image on screen but there's no focal adjustment so I quickly flicked through the OSD menus, tore it down and vacated the kitchen. 

A while later and purely by chance, I popped outside and saw what was hanging in the sky to the south. I immediately lifted the scope back out for beautiful views of Venus and the crescent moon. With the 6mm EP, the phase of Venus was obvious and the FOV only just larger than the lunar disc. I couldn't stay out for long, because my "extra" fours hours in bed this morning meant I was on bedtime routines. I knew that they'd both have fallen below the rooftops before I got back out but thrilled with the first views and optimistic about lunar video astronomy for the kids.

With the young ones asleep and the eldest still up for another hour, I mounted the camera directly into the 2" diagonal and got first light through it of some star in Ursa Major. I had a quick play with sensup, noise reduction, gamma settings and what not but a pistol grip mount is not ideal, so tore that lot down and back into zip locks, contented simply with having seen my first ever non-visual star. The DVD player is currently sitting in the garage.

Eldest in bed, I accepted the loan of a 17mm plossl from a mate and took the scope out back again for some more visual on M42. The pistol grip is rubbish for a scope, no question, so I used my bicycle work stand instead (which also doubles as the stand for my bino parallelogram). I could see more in and around M42 than I ever have before, which was pleasing. I'm perhaps also more familiar with it now than I ever have been having studied several images of it recently, which aided the observation a little. Very cold on the hands, I don't suppose I was out more than 10 minutes before returning the scope inside. But happy, and looking forward to the 35mm Aero (thankyou, Grumpy Martian!) and whatever else I get for it, as and when.


That's pretty much it for day one - I've got my first frac and no decent mount. Thankfully all kit has survived the last 36 hours unscathed, Whether the focus ends up on the frac or the newt, my next objective is to have goto and tracking from an old smartphone and then a larger screen for the camera.



Happy New Year to all!



  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 minutes ago, Charic said:

Nice one, If that's only Day One, your going to be kept busy for quite a long time.
Maybe this will become a series?

The day I pulled my dob from storage last month, I was told by my wife that the last thing I needed was another project. I know fine well I need to finish the bathroom and entertain the rest of my todo list before too much more astro.

There's only so many times I can claim that I'm doing it for the kids... ;)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.