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Friends, I am back with a tutorial video on how to modify your Sky Watcher HEQ5-PRO mount or its American twin, the Orion Sirius EQ-G into a belt driven mount.
The benefits of converting to a belt drive is that you don't have to worry about Backlash. The procedure took me about an hour to complete.
Link is below
I have recently had my passion for astrophotography reignited. I can't help but think it might be something to do with being locked in the house for the last three months, but whatever the reason I'm happy to have new challenges.
The last time I did it was ten years ago and through the help of the good people on this forum, I managed to get a decent Orion's Nebula and Andromeda. At the time, I was doing everything wrong. No polar alignment, no guiding, using a Newt with no comma corrector and way over my mount's carrying capacity. It's a miracle I managed to shoot anything at all!
On my return, I decided I'd stop doing it wrong and hoping for a result and instead, put my hand in my pocket and stop cutting corners. I left the big Newt in the cupboard and instead dusted of the C80 ED-R and added a .8 reducer/flattener, a guide scope package and an LPF.
I had ordered the guidescope package last month (Altair Astro Starwave 50 and GPCAM) so I had at least messed around with PHD2. My results were not great. Mostly (completely) down to me being inexperienced. My guiding graph was all over the place. It looked like seismic readings for the San Francisco earthquake! I realised after some research that my issues were mostly down to a) my ageing CG5 mount with more backlash than an ill-thought comment on Twitter, b) the fact I didn't have the guidecam aligned with the mount's axis and c) an unbalanced OTA due to the limitations of the standard C80 tube holder, a DSLR, reducer and guidescope all pushing the CofG to somewhere near Leeds.
I needed a rethink and redesign. I junked the standard OTA holder and instead went for tube rings and a dovetail bar. This made a huge difference and I could now easily balance the setup with an east bias. I stripped down my mount and tried to eliminate as much backlash as I could reasonably achieve. Aligned the guidecam. Purchased ASCOM cablesfor the mount and then waited to see if my endeavors would reward me with a result. I had to wait a while. Eventually, the sky offered me some testing time on the longest day of the year -_-. Oh well. Testing is testing. Did my work make things hugely better? Did I get 10 minute exposures with rounded stars? Nope. It was marginally better though. I shot some random star fields and and I got some random star fields. (I was actually trying to get the Veil, but don't tell anyone).
I'd done everything I could reasonably do to the mount and it still wasn't performing. I made the decision. I'd replace it with the Skywatcher EQ6-R. Once I'd made that decision, I figured I might as well replace the DSLR too and once I started rolling down the hill of spending, my wallet gained momentum. After I'd added everything up, I realised it was going to cost me over £3k and I would essentially be replacing everything, including the OTA for a Explorer Scientific 102mm APO. Now I'm not super-rich. These acquisitions will have to be done in parts. I had to decide in which order to split off the main outlays. Which bits would benefit me quicker while I wait for the other bits?
I opted to go for image train improvements first, then the mount then in two months I'll get the OTA. So with that being said, I purchased a Tri-band filter, iPolar polar finder and an Altair Astro 183 Pro TEC.
Of course, as soon as these items were delivered last week, the storms rolled in over the UK. Sorry about that. However, fortune favours the brave and on the evening they arrived, a window of clear skies miraculously appeared over Yorkshire and I knew I had to at least have a go at setting it all up for the first time.
So with all that preamble out of the way, I received and setup the bits I've got so far and realised in one epiphany type moment that all my mount troubles had been down to poor initial setup. The iPolar camera gave me a flawless polar alignment which had the immediate effect of excellent guiding. I pulled off a 9 minute exposure with round stars!
As mentioned somewhere above, on my first forays into the summer sky I'd been looking for The Veil Nebula. It was my summer goal, but I have to admit, I'm not familiar with the summer sky at all. I'd always been a winter sky watcher. So I was just blind shooting really. The night I got the new gear setup however, I decided to use plate-solving in APT. I had no idea if it was even going to work, but I tried a plate-solving goto move and after a few minutes, it said it had been a success. I had to trust it. I fired off a 4 minute sub and I was almost convinced that I could see a faint outline of structure, but I wasn't sure if it was just wishful thinking. It was 12:00 am at this point and I was mindful of the fact that I had to be up early and deliver a training course to an Italian company in the morning. I decided to fire off 10x 2 mins exposures. It would suffice as a test of the gear, the guiding, the gain settings and whatever else I'd been messing with.
I finally got packed up at 12:45 am and didn't even get a chance to stretch an image to see if I'd got any useful data. I had to go to bed not knowing and work through the morning without knowing. At lunch time, sandwich in hand. I stacked what I had in DSS. No darks, no flats, no bias. I just needed to see. As I did my first stretch in PS I almost cried out with joy. I realise that it it by no means a great shot, but for a moron with brand new gear, I'm pretty pleased with it for just 20 mins of data.
In 2024, when the skies will be clear again, I'll add some tri-band data and some more broadband data and see if I can't fill it out a little. I also need to calm down on the gain on the 183 and I'll no doubt be asking a lot of question here again.
Anyway, it's great to be back in the hobby and back on the forum and I look forward to looking at all your inspirational images over the coming months.
Without further ado, my first attempt at the East Veil.
Thanks for reading.
Hi everyone! So I’ve been lurking on this forum for a couple of months and thought it was about time I made an account as I’ve been back and forth deciding on which scope to purchase.
I only got into Astro a couple of months ago when I took my first photo of the moon on the night of the ‘flower moon’, with my Canon 700D. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to try and photograph it, but I think lockdown prompted me to look around and notice the sky a bit more!
Since then I’ve been trying to get photos of the stars whenever there’s been a clear night (rare in Manchester anyway, plus my garden is Bortle 8 on pollution). I’ve succeeded in a few nice snaps but it’s time I invested in this hobby now I think.
Having never owned a scope I’m completely new to this so trying to pick something that isn’t massive (for storage purposes), that I can get a good view of the planets but mostly something where I can see and hopefully photograph deep sky objects from my garden if possible.
I’ve recently been looking at the SkyWatcher Explorer 130PDS or 150PDS, and want to spend £400 max. I’m leaning more towards the 130PDS due to cost, and based on some photos I’ve seen on here, although I imagine the 150PDS would be better, although appears to need a mount purchasing separately. I nearly went for the William Optics SpaceCat 51 at one point, then realised I was probably trying to run before I could walk!
Any help at all would be fantastic.
Here's a quick shot of last night's moon.
I've broken the crayford on my SkyWatcher 130pds so had to hold the focuser tube to get it sharp. Not ideal but I'm pleased with the result.
Àny ideas how I can add more colour without affecting the detail?