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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

LXD75 Camera Mount - Part 1

I ordered a couple of pieces of equipment as a preliminary step to using my LXD75 mount with my camera alone. I purchased an Astro Tech 7 inch Vixen style dovetail from Astronomics and the Orion EQ1 1/4-20 adapter for the EQ1. The two pieces couple together very well, and will allow me to place either my camera or my ST-80 on the LXD75 mount for a nifty and simple grab and go usage. I plan on supplementing this piece with a tandem bar, and mounting the EQ1 adapter on one side and the tube rings for the ST-80 on the other side so I can use them both at the same time. The mount will handle this configuration just fine, and will allow me to use the ST-80 with an autoguider and the camera with a longer focal length prime lens or something like a 66ED refractor/field flattener combo for some easy to do astrophotography.

What amazes me is how deep you have to dig to find parts to assemble to make something this simple, and how much they actually wind up costing in the end. There is certainly room for improvement in this marketplace.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Plagued By Glitches

On Saturday April 10th, I took my star machine on the road to a dark sky site, namely Barren Fork Campground. I had intentions of shooting images to make a short video and doing some visual astronomy.

My camper is a 130 watt solar panel equipped portable observatory designed to allow for overnight outings with plenty of amenities including adequite electricity and the convenience of a place to warm up during sessions. It's dual deep cycles batteries and power inverter allows me to run a number of accessories in remote locations.

At the start of the season, I had a dead battery, which apparently was caused by a shorted cell. After replacing it, I discovered that the radio/CD player has been breached with moisture and damaged as well. My water pump had somehow packed it in over the winter too. After replacing these parts, me and my girlfriend Lisa hit the road with mount, optics and cameras.

After setting up, in a matter of minutes I discovered that the SD card in my camera also had issues so no images were taken, but we did manage to get some viewing in before the evening was a complete waste. Better luck next time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Change in Quantum Leaps

As a young amateur back in the mid 70's, I could never imagine a time when telescopes would be available to us on an individual level that has not been seen since the times of the Herschel's. To even imagine using a telescope of 4 foot diameter could not be contemplated. In those days, a 12 inch mirror was considered a monster, and the mounts to hold them were not considered portable in any way.

Orion Telescopes has changed all of that recently with the introduction of their monster line of Dobsonian mounted telescopes, with aperture's up to 50 inches available. I can only imagine the views through a mirror that is roughly 4 feet in diameter, which on a scale of comparison will deliver 16 times more light gathering power than the largest amateur instruments of those days. That is serious equipment.

As if one release isn't enough, Orion has also released a new line of telescopes that will really change the complexion of the telescope world, their GoTo line of Dobsonian mounted telescopes. The electronics revolution has changed the hobby greatly over the years, and this technology in particular will lead a great many away from possibly purchasing that SCT and jumping up to a larger Newtonian configuration for the same money. I remember when the SCT was the king of telescopes but I think with Orion's 1-2 punch those days may be coming to a close.

It's a great time to be an amateur, we are living in the best of times without doubt.