I finished the construction of the new tracker to the point where I could test it under a suburban night sky.
I mounted a piece of angle iron onto the RA shaft and mounted two camera ball heads on it; one for the imaging DSLR and one for the webcam autoguider.
To align the mount I use a green laser pointer that is mounted on a bracket that sits directly on the RA shaft. This allows me to to align the mount very accurately to the SCP. I was very pleasantly surprised with the stability of this new mount. There is almost no vibration or oscillations in the mount, even when touching the mount or adjusting the settings on the camera. It is reasonably heavy but it will also be able to carry quite a payload. At this stage I have only tested it with a DSLR but the next step will be to load it up with an Orion ED 80mm to see how it performs. Maybe it will take a 8″ SCT optical tube as well …..
Due to the very light suburban conditions I only took a few photos to see how the tracking and autoguiding work on the new mount.
I am happy with the performance of the mount. The stars are mostly round. The stepper motor has a nice quiet hum and the worm and worm gear seems to hit it off quite well without binding. It all works quite smoothly. I must also mention that the autoguiding software from Stark Labs; PHD Guiding (http://www.stark-labs.com/phdguiding.html) works beautifully and I could focus on the imaging and let the software and webcam look after the tracking.
I guess the next step is to take this new setup out to a dark spot under a clear sky and see what it can do. I can’t wait!