Solar Scope

Next year is solar eclipse year in Oz, so I thought Id make a start at Solar observing. Down to the local ‘scope shop, Bintel and home with a 60 mm Solarmax II see SolarMax II. Its strange but for the first time in Astronomy I can’t wait for daylight. I’ll let you know how the scope goes.

Autofocusing

Autofocusing is new to me. The starlight insturments gear looked very promising, so I invested, waitied for 24 days (3 days of travel and 21 in Oz customs) and behold I had a sensible focuser.

I brought the Feather Touch Micro (my first mistake) for the LX200. It fitted really easily, the instructions were again clear, and it was easy to attach to the scope. This gear is built with attention to detail by guys who must use it. I attached the MicroTouch to the Feather Touch Micro and I had movement! It worked first time with MaximDL. By this time I was getting suspicious, nothing works this well for me.

The first clear night I tried using the buttons on the MicroTouch for focusing and it worked brilliantly. I tried focusing with MaximDL – again just moving the In and Out buttons – everything worked great. The stars focused pretty quickly and looked nice and round. I even took some test shots.

The next night I was feeling brave, so I followed the Maxim instructions, configured the paramaters and was ready to go. I pushed the magic button and waited, I got … nothing. I tried many times getting grumpier I went to bed, no photos that night.

Same process the next evening and the next. Now I should say that the LX200 is new to me, I still haven’t figured out why it rattles when I move it. It sounds like a lose spring to me. Perhaps the spring is the cause of my problems? Still working on this one.

I decided to test and measure, so set up the scope, got scientific and tried changing parameters and watching the image, while recording the changes in 1/2 FT. It never focused once. I did notice that when the microtouch went back to the position at which it was closest to focus the star was miles out of focus, but only occasionally. Frustration took over and I gave up and went back to the web to look for answers.

The gurus seem to declare that the only real solution to this is to fix the mirror, and use a Crayford to rock back and forth. Back to the Starlight Instruments site and purchase the applicable crayford. Im waiting for delivery as we speak.

Cloudy Skies

I know clouds are lovely but I’m over them at night. I’ve spent some time and used an Arduino to create a cloud detector. It has an IR sensor that measures the sky temperature. Supposedly it has a light dependent resistor which is currently defunct. When the red diff line is below the purple line its clear. Its quite reliable at night but shocking during the day. See Russel’s Sky

Gear

I’ve been playing with telescopes for a while. Initially I decided that making a telescope was the go, so in the 90′s I ground an 8 inch mirror (which was finished off by my supervisor) and built a 8 inch dob. My frustration with the device was immediately apparent but I did manage to find M104, boy it took a while.

Next was an LXD55 which was a little better but the tracking was crap. Eventually I gave up and brought a losmandy G11 and Takahashi FS102 NSV. A beaut combination. I’ve since added a William Optics Megrez 88 along with a QSI 583 and Orion autoguider.

Finally suffering from aperture envy I’ve invested in an 12″ LX200ACF. A lovely scope. I’ve just added a Feather Touch focuser and a Micro Touch automated focus device. Attempting to get it to work is a whole other post.

Everything is set up in my backyard observatory which my long suffering wife let replace her clothes line.