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I recently decided trying to improve my Atlas EQG guiding performance by installing the Rowan's belt kit modification. It was a bit of a challenge to me as I had never opened my mount before. I felt that the Astro Baby guide (https://web.archive.org/web/20160812062551/http://www.astro-baby.com:80/EQ6 rebuild guide/EQ6 Strip Down Home.htm) was an amazingly well written auxiliary guide to install the kit, together with Rowan's own instructions. I would like to report on my results, since there may be others deciding whether or not to take the plunge and go for the mod. I can say that disassembling the mount was the most difficult part because of two problems I faced: The first was that one of the bearings stuck to the RA main spindle requiring a bit of force to be removed (fearing some kind of damage to the bearing I decided to replace all of the SKF 6008 bearings - 3 for each axis). The advice here is to take your time to slowly remove the worm gear (with the upper and bottom bearings in place), taking great care to avoid tilting the bearing in the process. If you do this slowly, and the bearing gets stuck on the spindle, it will require only tilting a small amount in the opposite direction to release it again. Do not apply force as this may result in the bearing sticking on the RA main spindle in a more permanent way. The other, more difficult problem was to remove the motor gear set screws using an allen key. After breaking 2 allen keys I needed professional assistance to solder the set screws in order to remove them. Apart from these two unanticipated problems the mod went smoothly. After the modification, I noticed a much better guiding performance of the mount. Before the mod I had a problem that my mount would only guide using "north" or "south" in PhD, but not using "auto" since it resulted invariably in a large and irrecoverable DEC incursion. The attached graph shows my first guiding session after the modification. The focal lenght of the guiding scope is 400 mm. I think the belt is a worthwhile alternative to improve the guiding accuracy of these mounts.
By Costas Soler
I have about 4 hours worth of data from M51. I captured my subframes with my 8" Orion Newtonian Astrograph and my Nikon D3200. About two hours of data are from 30 second exposures (some at ISO800 and others at ISO100). The rest are 4 minute exposures at ISO800 (these were captured after I bought my Orion Starshoot SSAG). In order for DSS to align these frames, I need to have different star detection thresholds for the 30 second subs and the 4minute subs. I tried doing this by using batch Stacking, but it still uses the same detection threshold for all the file lists (or so I think, since at 20% it stacks almost all the 4 minutes, but at 6-7% it only stacks one of the 30 second frames). And fyi, when stacking only the 30 second frames, there is no problem making an image. Stacking only the 4 minute subs also shows no problems. Let me know any ways you can think of to resolve this. I appreciate it!
By Costas Soler
I finished what was for me the most difficult image so far - M81 and M82. I made this with 75X 4 minute exposures at ISO 800. I shot it from my site in Berkeley, so I had to deal with heavy light pollution that made catching the spiral arms the biggest challenge I've faced with imaging yet. Overall, I am pretty happy wit this image. I'm not sure if my camera (a nikon D3200) can do better given my conditions and setup (8" Orion Newtonian Astrograph, Orion SSAG, and an Orion Atlas mount). If you can think of any ways to improve let me know! Enjoy!