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Crowmium

Portable Astrophotography Rig for Travelling Abroad?

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Hi all,

I'm currently lucky enough living somewhere in Europe which has incredibly dark and clear skies just a short drive away (most of the time). I want to take advantage of these skies while i'm here, but my main astrophotography rig (NEQ6 + 80ED Refractor + Canon 100D) back in the UK is far too heavy and bulky to get on the plane over. As such, i'm looking into buying and bringing over a portable astrophotography rig that I can use whilst i'm here. Here's my current plan:

 

- Mount: Skywatcher Star Adventurer

- Tripod: Star Adventurer Tripod

- Imaging Scope: William Optics Zenithstar 61 Refractor

- Camera: Canon 100D DSLR (from my main rig)

 

My only real concerns are 1) bringing this over on a plane and 2) making my home rig redundant. My plan for getting this all on a plane would be to carry the mount, camera and scope as hand luggage and then put the tripod/counter-weights/ball head/equatorial wedge with my checked luggage. Would there be any reason why that would be a problem, and does anyone have any recommendations for a soft case / cover for the WO 61?

 

In order to save a bit of money, I was thinking of also using the WO ZS 61 as a guidescope piggy backed onto my 80ED when i'm using my main rig, as I don't yet have an autoguider set up (I would have to buy a guidecamera also). Would this be overkill, because it feels like both scopes are pretty similar in spec? Would the guide camera having a shorter focal length than the imaging scope also be a problem in practice?

 

If anyone has any experience with those bits of kit or has any thoughts please let me know! :)

 

Cheers,

Crowmium

 

 

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You will want (need!) to get a flattener for the ZS61.

3 hours ago, Crowmium said:

Would the guide camera having a shorter focal length than the imaging scope also be a problem in practice?

It shouldn't ... a lot of people use a "finder guider" which usually has a shorter focal length than the imaging scope. Obviously, you can push that to extremes and create a problem, but ...

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6 hours ago, Crowmium said:

making my home rig redundant.

I lived in UK for  a while and due to constant cloudy conditions was able to do hardly any imaging.

Quick impulse thought... Take your eq6 over to the European site and keep the star adventurer in UK? Or with the cost of the new stuff, you're most of the way to a heq5 anyway- a proper mount in both locations. You then need transport only the refractor and camera- walk on stuff. Even Ryanair would allow it!

HTH

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Carrying the kit over should not be a problem. I recently took a 4" frac, alt az mount and eyepieces etc to the US and there were no questions asked going through security.

Any suitably sized case or rucksack will do I guess. I bought a Think tank Airport Accelerator as it seemed to maximise the space available whilst giving excellent protection. I put the tripod in checked in baggage.

Good luck :)

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What about buying an HEQ5 at your abroad location and have it delivered straight there?

Alternatively RayD of this forum takes heavy kit on a plane, try contacting him to ask how he does it.  I think he has some sort of higher grade seat.

Carole 

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I don't do AP, but in hand luggage this year to France, Arizona and Ireland  have carried a TS72 refractor, Nexus DSC and cables, 2 EPs, a Sony RX camera, a pair of 8x42 bins, tablet and 2 phones all in a Brompton C bag. Security only wanted the phones and tablets out except in Phoenix AZ and Dublin where they just put the whole bag through removing nothing. Not a word said about the scope or other items. I pack the tripod and mount into checked luggage, the mount being a single fork Tecnosky which can be taken apart and laid down flat. The metal RDF I also took the rail off so it looked less like a small handgun! Thing to remember is any Allen keys or tools put them into checked luggage as well. Some people take the manuals for any obscure items to show security staff just in case.

One thing to consider though is some airlines will often select passengers at the gate to check in luggage if the flight is rammed. This should not happen if you have already checked a bag in, the reason for mentioning it is because people get caught out with a bag that is maybe unsuitable for travel in the hold or one that you cannot lock. Not good if full of expensive kit. Good luck.

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Thanks very much for all the responses!

 

I hadn't considered a field flattener for the ZS61, so i'll definitely look into getting one. Speaking of which, are there any other lightweight scopes suitable for astrophotography other than the ZS61? Looking on a budget of max around ~£400 or so. I could use my 80ED, but it weighs about 9kg which would mean I wouldn't be able to take much else as hand luggage (ie laptop, camera etc).

 

Buying a HEQ6 or using my EQ6 over here is a good idea but I forgot to mention that i'm only here for a year or so, so i'd rather not risk or pay for having to transport it over here. Still, good idea!

 

Thanks again, all!

Edited by Crowmium

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4 hours ago, Crowmium said:

I hadn't considered a field flattener for the ZS61, so i'll definitely look into getting one. Speaking of which, are there any other lightweight scopes suitable for astrophotography other than the ZS61?

The ZS61 is a good lightwieght scope (I used to own a ZS71), but without a flattener, you will lose a large proportion of your field due to star distortion, which rather defeats the object of imaging with a scope like this. If you were to go for the ED80, you would still need a flattener. You can get small refractors that don't, or more precisely that have them built in, like the WO Star71, but that would be way out of your price range (closer to £1200 than £400).

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From personal experience the ZS61 + flattener + Canon DSLR combo gives good results on the star adventurer mount; it can be made to balance correctly without having the counterweight all the way to the end; I add an extra piece of metal to allow the mounting point to be more towards the camera or it will be a bit bottom-heavy in dec but it's not the end of the world without this refinement. 

The ZS61 is a very well-made scope with exellent optics but a bit expensive for a 60mm. I believe there are now some ZS61 clones out there which might be a bit cheaper. 

As already stated, you need the flattener to make use of an APSC-size sensor but also the focal length is reduced (to 245mm from memory?) which helps mask the guiding errors.

A very worthwhile addition is a red-dot finder which clips on to the hotshoe on top of the camera.  I didn't realise these thinks existed until I got feedback on the review; since the ZS61 has no finder option it's worth it's weight in gold for centering targets quickly. 

Regards to all, RL

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