Matt's Web Log
I've just added a new section to my website showing the progress of my Observatory.
Updated My Equipment page.
Finished pouring the cement foundations for the observatory.
Built a lightbox for my C11 OTA.
Purchased a cleaning kit for fluorite optics from Texas Nautical and cleaned the primary lens on my FSQ106 (well overdue).
Spent 3 nights at the South Pacific Star Party (19th, 20th & 21st). The seeing was fantastic each night however the clouds and some fog caused a few problems. I managed to grab plenty of sub-frames of the following objects - Tarantula Nebula (NGC2070), NGC2014 in the LMC, Eagle Nebula (M16) and the Eta Carinae Nebula.
I have decided to get a metal pier manufactured (hopefully will be completed in a couple of days). My reasoning is that I'm going to be waiting for a while yet before my observatory is up and running so I'll make a temporary observing area in my back yard where I can bolt the pier down and then re-use it when the obs is ready. To this effect, I dug a hole today (700 x 700 x 700) which I will fill with concrete and use as my temporary pier base :-)
Well, here I am back on our yearly Christmas holidays in Bermagui on the south coast of NSW. It's a good time to update my blog with what's been going on recently in my world of astronomy. For a number of reasons, I've done very little astronomy over the past 8 months. First, I was laid up for a solid 3 months from June to August due to an operation on my Achilles tendon. Then in August we moved house which has put a complete stop to any astrophotography plans I might have had.
We've moved onto acres just north of Sydney and it's proving to be a massive job just to do my daily chores and I'm finding it difficult to find time to even think about astronomy, let alone doing some!!! I'm hoping very much that this won't last too much longer though as one of my motivations for moving onto acres was to have enough space to be able to build my own observatory. It's still in the planning phase however hopefully in a few months I'll be up and running.
Sold my ED80 focuser which I replaced with a new Moonlite focuser a few months ago.
Problems with the QHY9. I tried reloading drivers a dozen times but in the end it turned out to be an electronics problem with the main board of the camera. I sent it off to Theo at Gamma Electronics who replaced it free of charge (thanks Theo).
Sold my DSI II Pro.
Purchased CCD Inspector which I plan to use to collimate my C11 OTA.
Purchased a Lodestar Guidecam as a replacement for my good old Meade DSI II Pro.
Purchased a Motorised Moonlite focuser for my ED80. I have a really high regard for these focusers. They seem to work really well and I can drive them from my Arduino based focus controller.
Purchased a 2nd hand ED80 from Ebay. It appears to be in excellent condition. I plan to use it as my mew Guidescope (replacing my ST80).
I added several photos that I have taken over the past 3-4 months.
Last night I tried using the C11 mounted on my Titan. I quickly remembered how more difficult imaging is at long focal lengths. I mounted my ST80 on top of the C11 for guiding (I can just reach it when it's mounted on the pier) and roughly aligned the scopes to match. I performed a rough collimation on the C11 using my DFK21AU04 (I need to work out the best method for fine collimation). I finally managed to image the Sculptor Galaxy. Poor to average results at best. It was a no moon night but the images were very noisy.
The weather over the last couple of months has been very ordinary & I've had limited time to do any imaging. I've used what clear nights there were to fine tune things. I'm now guiding with the ST80 and DSI Pro II which seems to do a pretty reasonable job. I've also been working on getting the auto focus up & running. I am using the MaximDL autofocus routines which appear to be working well.
I picked up an old Orion ST80 from a guy in Perth along with a DSBS mounting system. It came with a modded Phillips SPC9000 webcam and a set of adjustable tube rings. I also picked up some more solid mounting rings for the FSQ106.
Acquired myself a QHY9 CCD camera with colour filer wheel LRGB filter set. At 2 arc secs / pixel this should be a very good match for the FSQ106.
Tonight I focused on using Pempro to align the Titan. After a couple of hours fiddling about, I seem to have gotten it pretty close indeed.
Tonight I began the process of fine polar alignment. I decided that it would be easiest to use my good old Meade DSI II Pro with the FSQ106 to do the aligning. I started out by trying to use WCS however after some time, it seemed to be making my polar alignment worse. I assume it's me and not the software. As I also have a copy of Pempro, I decided to give it a go. It seemed to work much better with this setup but I ended up running out of time. Will try again tomorrow.
I constructed a serial cable to allow me to attached the Gemini to my laptop. I installed the new Gemini.Net driver and all looks to be working ok.
I attached a cheap 15mm eyepiece to the FSQ106 and found that there was not enough back focus to reach focus, even with the 2" Takahashi diagonal. I ended up inserting a 2x Televue barlow which allowed it to work.
I then attached my camera to see if there would be any backfocus problems. All looks to be ok here.
I received my Titan Mount today. What a beast! As soon as I got home from work I set it up on the tripod inside. Everything appeared to be in order so I decided to relocate it to my permanent pier in my backyard. Once it had all been put together, I levelled the pier head as much as possible, attached the FSQ106, did a very rough polar alignment and balance and powered it up.
I found the Gemini system to be very different to the LX200GPS controls. This will take some getting used to.
Purchased a Meade Giant Field Tripod. Unfortunately it was broken during shipment so I had to get it repaired locally (Brookvale aluminium). The cast aluminium head had snapped off where the legs joined. They did a good repair job at a reasonable price.
I purchased a 2nd hand FSQ106 scope. It's an old unit (from the original release) but I'm sure it will be a good performer.
I sold my DIY wedge today. Need further funds to purchase new Scope.
I placed an order for a Losmandy Titan Mount. ETA is 3 months. Not sure how I'll go without a telescope for 3 months though!!!!
Sold my LX200GPS. Now I can order the Titan.
I sold my Focal Reducer. Need to build up as much funds as possible to buy my new mount.
Have sold a number of parts over the past couple of weeks. DMK21 camera, JMI EV1CM focuser, Robofocus, finder scopes, books + other misc bits & pieces.
Sold my QHY8 today. It's the first in a number of parts I will be selling to fund a new setup.
General Website Cleanup.
I have had a bit of a garage sale recently and have offloaded some of my equipment to fund a future upgrade to my imaging kit. I have sold the following items:
SBIG ST237, Meade EyePiece set, EOS400D Power Supply, 8" LX90 / LX200 piggyback guidescope mount, 80mm Guide Rings.
I have also picked up a copy of Pempro which I have used to program the Periodic Error out of the LX200. You can see the results under the tutorials section.
Over the past month I have sold my LPI & ST80 which has funded the purchase of a JMI EV1CM focuser.
I've been using the ST237 mentioned below as an autoguider and it works like a dream! It's bulky but it really does a good job using MaximDL.
I have taken some longer exposure images (DSO's) which I have posted under the images section.
I've also managed to successfully train the PEC (RA) of my LX200 which has helped with autoguiding.
Finally, I have mounted my guidescope (ED80) using a marine ply mounting bracket. Will post images of it shortly.
Picked up 2 used cameras (Meade DSI II Pro w/ filters & SBIG ST237 w/ filter wheel).
Finally managed to finish paving my raised pier area. Lots of blood, sweat & tears but it's all worth it.
Added LX90 - LX200 comparison to the Tutorials section on the website.
Spent the afternoon working on 3D balancing the LX200 on my wedge. I think that I have finally done it. I have mounted 2.5kg on the Losmandy counterweight bar & ~ 500g on the left hand fork arm. Still waiting for clear weather to try it out.
I completed the retaining walls for my backyard pier today. Now I have only to fill & pave the pier area and I'll be up & running.
I installed the replacement RA gears today. Still bad weather so no chance to test the upgrade out yet.
I installed replacement DEC gears (Peterson Eng). The LX200 came with plastic drive gears and had a heap of backlash. After replacing the gears with stainless steel ones provided in the kit, it looks like much of the backlash has been removed. I'll run it through its paces ASAP. Will also perform the RA gear upgrade time permitting.
Received the Peterson Eng gear upgrade for my LX200 as well as my Telegizmos 365 scope cover (I plan to leave the scope out for 2-3 days at a time).
Received my new Sky Watcher ED80 from MyAstroShop.com.au today. Excellent service. Very good price.
Finally got the change to try out imaging with the LX200. The PE seems to be much reduced (at least on the RA axis) as compared with the LX90. When I get the chance, I'll run a PE graph showing before & after PEC.
I was able to capture 10 x 1 minute exposures of M42 before the clouds arrived.
Purchased a new Sky Watcher ED80 OTA from myAstroShop.com.au today. I plan to replace the ST80 and use the ED80 for both guiding & wide field imaging.
Purchased 2nd hand 10" LX200GPS from Melbourne. I headed off from Sydney with my father in law (Les) at midnight and arrived there at 9am. Half an hour of giving it the once over and we were headed back to Sydney. Arrived home at about 7pm.
Sold my 8" LX90. It was a great scope which gave me a lot of enjoyment and taught me heaps.
General website updates with recent photos and changes to my scope setup (now mounted in polar mode on new wedge). Also added some new photos on the home page.
Finally had the chance to try out the wedge on Saturday night (first clear night in a long time). I started out by spending about an hour trying to level it, align to true north and set the tilt plate altitude to 34 deg South. Finally go it pretty close. I also mounted some weights on the left hand fork arm to provide a better balance.
Jupiter was high above so I had a go at imaging it. It worked very well. Jupiter seemed to wander much less around the screen and was easy to correct using the hand controller.
Then I thought I' progress to some Deep Sky stuff with my DSLR. I setup and did some 20 sec images of the Lagoon Neb. I was very surprised to see big star training (more so than when I was imaging deep sky in Alt Az mode). I figured that I should train the PEC so I used my DSI with PHD and ran the training routine. I also ran 3 PEC updates. I am still getting considerable PE though. I'll post a message on the LX90 Yahoo group and see what other people are experiencing.
Updated DIY LX Wooden Wedge page with almost finished product.
Have been busy with various website updates over the past month.
Added new section under DIY showing my experiences in modding an old Logitech Quickcam 3000 to SC1.5.
I'm currently working on new DIY pages showing my DSLR power Supply & shutter release cable.
I've also been able to capture a few more images which I have added to the imaging section.
Work is continuing on the wooden LX wedge and I've started work on a set of guide scope rings.
Added new section on wooden LX wedge that I am currently making with the assistance of my father.
Rearranged imaging tabs and added GRAS (Global Rent-A-Scope) images.
I picked up my LX90 from Bintel in Sydney yesterday and I'm happy to say that it seems to have been fixed. Last night I had a 3 hour imaging session and there was no sign of the rattling / knocking sound (or corresponding image shake). According to Don at Bintel, the problem was resolved by replacing the declination motor / gearbox assembly. It had developed a fault most probably as a result of the large declination / alt worm gear being off centre with the worm drive. Instead of the worm gear sitting exactly on the top, centre of the worm drive, it was slightly off centre (towards the centre of the form arms). This also was resolved by inserting a couple of washers behind the dec gear mount.
Many thanks to all who offered advice in helping to resolve this issue and thanks to Don & the folks at Bintel for great service.
Made some minor updates to the web site. Added Meade f/6.3 field reducer documentation to the LX90 section & updates "my equipment" with some past additions.
Spoke with Don from BinTel today. The LX90 is ready to be picked up. Will update on cause and solution when I've had a chance to thoroughly test it out.
Scope now at BinTel. Will update when I hear something.
I have contacted Don at Bintel in Sydney who seems to think it's either a problem in the drive mechanism itself or in the motor controller. I'm going to take it into them tomorrow where hopefully they will figure out what's going on.
A problem seems to have recently developed in the declination drive of my 8" LX90 whereby I get a slight shudder in my sidereal tracking. Sometimes this occurs on a constant periodic basis (every 5-6 seconds) and sometimes it might happen once or twice a minute. It's not really noticeable when I have my 26mm Series 4000 eyepiece in but whenever I'm imaging or aligning using my 12mm reticle, it's very pronounced.
I have also noticed that this tracking shudder is accompanied by a noise in my declination gears. When things are running ok, I can usually hear the drive turning if I put my ear up to the right hand fork (looking from behind the scope). When I start getting this image shudder however, it's accompanied by a rattling sound which is comparatively loud (I can hear it from 6 feet away).
I've opened up my fork arm cover and visually inspected the worm & worm gear and can't see anything wrong there. I'm really reluctant to open up the gear housing though. I've also installed the Peterson's clutch upgrade kit recently but this problem existed before then.
The history of this problem van be tracked on the LX90 Yahoo group at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/lx90/message/77682
Received my 400D today. Can't wait to try it out.
Took the plunge and bought (on Ebay) a new Canon EOS 400D with twin lens kit. I already have the EOS T-Ring and T Adapter.
Rain, rain, rain!!!!! Good opportunity to do some maintenance. Installed Bobs collimation knobs and Petersons clutch upgrade kit (I noticed in recent imaging sessions that the doc clutch was starting to slip. Hopefully this will have fixed the problem. I also gave the corrector plate a good clean as it was starting to get a bit dusty.
Took some photos during the Peterson's clutch installation which I have published on this web site (under LX90 Information).
I got fed up with trying to locate aluminium plate to be able to build my own wedge so I placed an order today with Bintel for a Meade Standard Wedge. Should be here in 2-3 weeks.
Added a few images (both to solar system & deep sky sections). Slowly becoming more familiar with the Meade DSI. After last night's imaging, it appears that at present, my maximum exposure time is ~45 secs. After that, the image starts to trail. Possible due to problems with drive mechanism?
Added Meade Manuals section. Updated "My Equipment" with GPINT-PT (parallel port ST4 guide port interface) which I bought 2nd hand through IIS.
Managed to get some more imaging in last night. I am starting to really enjoy the challenges to imaging with the Meade DSI. Even though it's a low end camera, I hope it will give me a good foundation and understanding of this craft. Updated website with new images and added details about DIY counter weight set.
Clear night with cool temperature for March. Imaged until 1.00am (Saturn, Mars & Eta Carinae nebula). Slowly learning the ropes with DSI and Envisage. Had a chance to test out the Motofocus. Works a treat! Makes controlling the setup from PC much easier. All in all, a great night.
I picked up a JMI Motofocus for my LX90
from a guy on IIS. I figured it would be an easy job to install it.
I finally got it all working but what an
exercise. I figured that the best way to increase the diameter of the
focus knob was to wrap some electrical tape around it. I decided to
remove the focus knob to make it easier. Sounds simple enough but when I
put the focus knob back on, there was massive play in the focus control
and my focus knob seemed to be slightly off axis when I turned it.
I,ve spent the last week teaching myself how to use CAD software in order to design the polar wedge that I've had in mind. I've finally managed to master it and have now published the design under the LX90 Information pages.
Took advantage of the clear(ish) weather last night. I tried my hand at imaging the Great Orion Nebula through the DSI. I have a long way to go. The image shows blown out stars and some field rotation. I thought that the Envisage software would stop this but I have obviously missed something. Oh well, I'll try again on the next clear night.
Due to the recent bad weather being experienced in Sydney, I have had very little opportunity go do any star gazing since returning from holidays. I did get the scope out on Friday 11th Jan when the seeing conditions weren't too bad. Managed to take a look at the Orion nebula (very impressive) & Mars. Didn't have time to setup for imaging though. Roll on winter.
Here in Bermagui with the family (South coast - NSW). I was thinking about bringing my scope with me but decided against it, mainly due to Bermagui being a coastal town which I am lead to believe does not lend itself to good telescope viewing conditions. However after spending time under the stars last night (before the moon made an appearance) I regret not having brought it along. The dark sky was spectacular. Absolutely full of stars!!! I'll just have to make do with naked eye seeing.
Wow, what a big birthday surprise!! My lovely wife Karen bought me a Meade LX90. What a fantastic toy! I haven't had a telescope for years but have always kept up with the hobby through reading the magazines. Now I get to enjoy this great instrument.