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CGE Pro - First run tonight!


Ad Astra
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Hi Folks,

The sky was very hazy, but my favorite weather site said "clearing after dark" - so we decided to set up the CGE pro on the patio and give it a first run. The Mrs. & I look on this mount as a long-term investment - committing to a piece of equipment this big isn't something to do lightly - but the rewards are amazing! We look on set up and take down to be a physical skill - improved by thinking before you grab, making checklists, and practicing the movements so you can do it with some grace and safety in the dark. Hefting the EQ head means lifting 55 lbs of awkward iron up well over head-high, and then placing it delicately on the saddle. Dropping it - especially on oneself (or your spouse! :) ) would ruin your whole day!

We decide to break down the entire mount and set it up from scratch - literally 15 ft away - on the front patio. We start before dark to do this for the first time in the light. Dissassembly of the mount in the living room takes 15 minutes, carefully removing cables (and four clutch knobs! :( ) from the EQ head so we can lay it safely on its side while breaking down. We put a piece of carpet on a chest in the entry and put the head on that - not having to lift it from ground level is important and saves back strain! Off comes the electronics pier and saddle, then the tripod can be moved outdoors. Tripod is no lightweight, but very rigid and well balanced and moves easily. Setting up on the tile patio and getting level takes a few minutes. We are trying to keep metal tripod feet nice, and not to scratch the patio tile floor, either. Normally, this will be just wheeling in the dolly - but we don't have a clear space in the garage yet - so we for-go the wheels tonight!

With tripod level - out comes the pier - easily bolts on (have to change to knobs later!), then the EQ head. Up she goes! Team lift with Mrs. Astra spotting me on the last bit. It goes in easily when done right and all the correct fittings properly loose. Re-attaching the head securely and setting latitude takes just a few minutes. Now on with the dove tail plate and rings. Even 6-inches lower than before (no wheels!), the dovetail and ring clamps are too high in the air for Mrs. Astra to reach easily. We must really abandon the 'over the top' mounting style and practice and perfect mounting it from the side. This will be a project for the weekend, I expect!

Once the scope is secure, balancing in RA and then Dec is easy - the scope moves weightlessly and balances without any clutch tension at any attitude we choose. This mount is really lovely mechanically! A little clutch tension, and you can easily use the mount manually without any power and it will track perfectly when you put just a bit more tension on Dec than RA - very nice! (I don't always use the computer!)

We have set up the tripod and mount with our compass rose and eyeballed the latitude by sighting through the rings! We did not attempt a full alignment - just asked the mount to 'accept last align' which it did without problems. We slew to Capella in Auriga for 'first light' with the 27mm Edge-on eyepiece. Clean image - perfect Apomax views! - excellent diffraction rings pre and post focus. We try the hand control out at rate 5 - first thing to note is that there is NO slop or backlash in this mount. response is immediate - and effortless, and the scope stops on a dime. The Apomax - all 7 feet of it - was too much for both a Losmandy G11 and a Celstron CGEM. Slewing the scope on these mounts was like watching a drunk in an old jalopy with bad springs and bald tires. :) The scope was all over the place and centering a target was often a matter of patience an luck. Not so for the Pro - highly precise, no problems. The software compensates digitally to take backlash out of the system - I must say I am very impressed with it.

Saturn is amazing!!! My report on that is HERE - tracking is really wonderful considering the casual way I set up - no problems and rock solid for over an hour until the clouds came in again.

We'll have another go later in the week! :)

For you photo fans, two shots below of the Apomax in the gloaming waiting for darkness. You'll notice that in spite of the monsterous size of the mount (as you've seen in previous photos) the Apomax looks perfectly in proportion. :D

Dan

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Edited by Ad Astra
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