Tag Archives: adelaide

“First Light” for EQ6-R

I used the new laser alignment tool last night and it took me about 2 minutes to achieve polar alignment for the EQ6-R. I then used a 1-star alignment to get the mount setup.

To test, I used my trusty Canon 600D (modified) with a Sigma APO 120-400mm at 400mm and f/5.6 for a single 3 minute exposure. This is not a lens that I would normally use for astrophotography but I wanted a long focal length to test the alignment and tracking.

Well, let’s say that I was not disappointed with the result.The following image of the Carina Nebula is an unguided 3 minutes exposure at 400mm and there is not a trace of star trials, even when zoomed in. Take a look….

Carina Nebula - Test Image

Carina Nebula – Test Image

De-Forking a Meade 8″ SCT OTA

This sound a bit obscene but I promise that no animals, people or telescopes were harmed in the process.

The Meade SCT in question is an 8″  2080 model that I purchased around 1992. I used it quite a bit for a number of years until my interest turned to astrophotography. The specific model do not have a dec motor and the RA motor is running off 240VAC.

img_2775Over time I build an invertor that could work from AC or 12VDC and allowed me to vary the frequency  around the nominal 50Hz and I could therefore do some manual guiding in RA with a set of buttons and with the existing fine controls on the DEC. It worked a treat for a while but anybody that has guided long exposures manually will know that its a very tedious exercise with unpredictable results.

Well, now everything has changed. The new Skywatcher EQ6-R can easily carry the 8″ OTA (Optical Tube Assembly) as well as my ED 80mm and new opportunities becomes available.

I had to de-fork the OTA out of the Meade fork mount to allow me to fit a Losmandy plate to allow for the OTA to be fitted to the EQ6-R. There are a lot of guidance on the web for how to do this but I used the following site:

http://uncle-rods.blogspot.com.au/search?q=getting+deforked

Its remarkable easy and took no time at all.

Loosen two bolts on one of the arms first.

img_2778

Then remove three small bolts from each side of the tube. Take care to work on a soft surface and have someone assist you to make sure you don’t scratch the tube surface.img_2779

And its off!img_2780

Now to mount the Losmandy DM8 kit into the existing holes on the OTA.img_2783

10 minutes later…img_2784 img_2785 img_2786

And now the amazing Meade 8″ OTA can be used on a very capable and accurate mount. A big change for me and there should be some new images soon.

img_2788With my luck it will probably be cloudy and rainy for a month now ….

Unpacking the SkyWatcher EQ6-R mount

The EQ6-R has arrived on Thursday and I unpacked it that night. No surprises there….

Here are some photos of the process:

img_2751 img_2753 img_2754 img_2755img_2756 img_2757 img_2758The handle makes it easy to lift the mount head with one hand.img_2759 img_2762The adjustments bolts look quite solid, at least 15mm on the main altitude bolt and 12mm on the other three.img_2766 img_2767Saddle takes Vixen and Losmandy.img_2768 Probably not many changes visible here on the cable panel except for the power connector that is now a solid screw on type.img_2769 img_2770Synscan loaded with version 04.37.03.

img_2772 img_2773 img_2774Waiting for the weekend now and a mounting plate for my Orion ED 80mm EON and also a Losmandy DM8  dovetail plate for my Meade 8″ SCT.

SkyWatcher EQ6-R mount

Well, I have finally surrendered to the temptation of getting myself a heavy mount.

Initially I was looking at the Skywatcher NEQ6 Pro but then discovered that the brand new Skywatcher EQ6-R mount is available on a limited product release from an Aussie supplier. Major changes are the belt driven system with zero backlash, PPEC support, newer motor drive with lower periodic error, improved tracking accuracy, 20kg payload capacity and a carrying handle!

skywatcher_eq6r

Basic specs are as follows:

eq6-r-specs

Will be delivered next week so expect more feedback here soon ……

Carina Nebula from under a streetlamp

I had to test my new tracker with autoguiding and could not get away to a dark site so I decided to test it in the front garden where I could reach further south towards Carina Nebula. Unfortunately I have a bright streetlamp in front of my house. I tried to shield the light from falling on the camera and lens to avoid the worst effects of the light conditions. I use a modified Canon 350D and got 29 light frames of 30 seconds each, 7 dark frames and 18 bias frames at f/5.6, ISO 800 with a 250mm focal length.  Ideally you would try to get longer exposures than 30 seconds but the sky was so bright that I had to limit the exposure time for each frame.

Picture saved with settings applied.

Testing the new tracker mount with autoguider

I finished the construction of the new tracker to the point where I could test it under a suburban night sky.

New Tracker-8990 New Tracker-8988

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.

New Tracker-8991  New Tracker-8994

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.

New Tracker-9001 Wide field view of the Southern Cross overhead taken with Canon 600D with a Tokina lens at 16mm and a single 4 minute exposure at f/3.5 and ISO-100.

New Tracker-9046 The same Canon DSLR with a Canon 60mm lens and a single 90 second exposure at f/3.2 and ISO-400.

New Tracker-9005  The same Canon DSLR with a Canon EFS 55-250mm lens at 250mm and a single 2 minute exposure at f/5.6 and ISO-400. This is the Omega Centauri globular cluster.

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.

New Tracker-8982

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!