James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tonite the fun begins

It's here!!! The FedEx driver came by this morning at about 10:45 AM with his little van and I greeted him in the driveway. He greeted me with 3 boxes. When I told him it was a telescope, he told me that he had one as well, also a computerized Meade. We talked astronomy for a bit, I talked to him about shipping the OTA of the Cave and it's doable. I packed it all in the door and began to unpack the mount, carefully. It all looked pretty straightforward, but I had read the manual about 4 times before it even got here, and it all went together in under an hour. I had to take it outside to see how it would work on the pad that I had made yesterday for it. I built a completely leveled pad to minimize errors in tracking and finding objects. I hadn't even plugged it in yet, took a picture and shared it with my friends on Cloudy Nights.

After I plugged it in, at first nothing lit up. I tested the battery pack and was not getting any voltage, so I removed all of the batteries one at time, tested them, replaced them, and tested the voltage, this time I was lucky. I know I put those batteries in right, so that was unusual, but now it's fine. I plugged in the Autostar and the battery and fired it up. Beautiful.

Rob in the forum mentioned about being "seasoned" and remebering when setting circles and atlases were king. You know, that's not such a bad thing either, but when you have the ability to just slew without physically touching the scope, and letting the motors guide all telescope control, even that would have been nice back in the Cave days of astronomy. We used to dream of having full control of telescopes, with ideas to build digital setting circles (homemade encoders) hooked to a Commodore 64 using power window motors to slew to the co-ordinates, buying CCD chips to image with remotely, and the like. In our wildest dreams we could not imagine things like autoguiding, that was so much further down the road, and here it is, on an amateur level instrument, and affordable to the world.

As a bonus, they actually program the celestial co-ordinates of a few million objects into a palm sized controller today, you push a few buttons and you're there for the ride. Yet this scope has the complete feel of a classic from the way you can lock the shafts to the counterweight. At heart, it's still a telescope.

The LXD75 is a nice mount. I am going to wait a few months before I sell my Cave and ship the OTA down here since it is manageable. I have a strange feeling this mount will handle it, and if it does I will have the combination of the outstanding optics of a hand made telescope combined with the electronics of a modern mount. And if it doesn't, well I will have a Cave on a Dobsonian mount, and that's not a bad thing either.

Weather permitting, tonite I will evaluate the OTA. I am hoping the Schmidt Newt performs exactly as I expect it, and if it does, then I have made an excellent purchase. I feel I know it's limits well enough, but the real prize will be the camera work I want to do with it after I get my share of viewing in again.

Tonite the fun begins!!!

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