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Orry Observatory, astro-micro-robotics in action ~ 54.1778°N, 4.4735°W

INSTRUMENTS IN USE


Below are photos and narratives in relation to the various instruments and other equipment I use for astronomical observation. These have been acquired over a periof of years, mostly sourced with care through ebay's Telescopes and Binoculars section, sometimes privately, occasionally via UK Astronomy Buy & Sell, and one particularly fortuitous purchase via Sky at Night Magazine online classifieds forum. That particular purchase included the ETX-125EC and the mySKYTM unit, along with a second set of Meade® 4000 series eyepieces in an aluminium case.

Telescopes:

Binoculars:

Other equipment:

  • Meade® mySKYTM GPS personal planetarium
  • ScopeTeknix Binoflex ST50 mirror mount
  • B&Q sunlounger
  • Not photographed, are a number of imaging devices, which include:
    • a Meade® DSI (Deep Sky Imager)
    • a Celestron® Neximage®
    • 2x Meade® LPI (Lunar Planetary Imager) webcams
    • 2x Meade® electronic eyepieces
    • an adapter to attach a Fuji Finepix s602z camera afocally
    • a Meade® 216XT CCD used for guiding as opposed to imaging
  • Also not photographed are: two complete cased sets of Meade® plossl eyepieces; star diagonals; an 8-24 zoom eyepiece; illuminated reticle eyepiece; filter wheels and filters (colour, Moon, IR, polarised); Bahtinov masks; anti-dew heater bands and controllers; and various adapters and gadgets that long ago achieved critial mass! Lastly, a V-Power 063VP 45Ah car battery, and assorted 12v connectors, meet standalone power requirements.

Telescopes


Meade® LX50 EMC (8" SCT)

LX50EMC ~ Click to enlarge

I bought this SCT on ebay in 2010, guessing it to be 10+ years of age. The seller's photographs of the 'scope looked stunning, the reality proving the same, and the optics were pristine. It came complete with the LX200 field tripod, the Meade® Equatorial Wedge, a Meade® 26mm plössl eyepiece, a Meade® #1401 tube balance and weights for 8" SCT, and a ScopeSaver BB200 observing table.

Since acquisition, I have further added:

  • a JMI electric focuser unit
  • a pair of Astro Engineering AC503 lightweight asymmetric mounting rings
  • an 80mm Astro Engineering StarLight 80 (now billed as a Star-Chaser 80) guidescope from scopes'n'skies.com
  • an Astro Engineering AC410 joystick for CCD and webcam imaging
  • Bob's Knobs collimation thumbscrews for Meade® 8” f/10 with 3-Screw Secondary
  • a Meade® 216XT CCD imager/guider for guiding.
  • a Meade® Series 4000 f/3.3 CCD focal reducer
  • an Antares f/6.3 focal reducer

All of the above together would have been fairly high-end back at the turn of the century, but by today's standards, it is fairly modest kit obtained at a similarly modest cost. To acquire all the component parts above has taken me some two years plus, simply by being prepared to bide my time, but acting swiftly as the opportunity of a good deal arose.

PDF documents:

Non-manufacturer support: Yahoo Groups: Meade LX50


GSO GSD 200C (200mm Dobsonian)

GSD 200C ~ Click to enlarge

My dobby (ebay sourced in 2006), was my second telescope. Nowadays, reference to "My Dobby" conjures up in most minds a certain house elf belonging to one Harry Potter. Hence the picture adorning the side of my 'scope! John Dobson, the creator of the mount that carries his name, won't have had this in mind all those years ago.

Dobsonians somehow lend themselves to DIY mods. Other telescope types tend to be viewed by many as "finished products", suitable for accessorising only rather than modding. So, here are my mods / additions that I have undertaken.

PDF documents:


Sky-Watcher® Evostar-120 (120mm refractor on Celestron® CG5 RA driven mount)

Evostar-120 ~ Click to enlarge

This setup comprises two separate ebay purchases, beginning with the CG5 mount complete with RA drive. When it arrived, I found the latitude bolts were absent, so I fashioned new ones using high quality stainless steel bolts, cut to length and ground round on the ends that make contact with the latitude bar. Suitable handles were attached to the bolts. A lucky purchase on the UK arm of astrobuysell.com secured a Sky-Watcher® polarscope to complete work on the mount.

Early in 2012, About four months after acquiring the mount, I finally spotted on ebay a Sky-Watcher® Evostar 120 OTA, which fitted my requirements admirably. Winning this was another lucky break, for I expected the OTA, tube rings and dovetail bar, to go for £30 more than I had as my maximum bid.

Only a few additions to the OTA have been made, as follows:

  • Replaced existing dovetail mounting bolts with stainless steel ones
  • Added a 21cm dovetail bar atop of tube rings
  • Attached to this dovetail bar, the Astro Engineering AC695 Tripod and combined laser mount for Meade® mySKYTM
  • Added a 50mW green laser to the above laser mount

The use of the AC695 unit mounted on the 'scope is with a view to achieving an approximation to collimation between the mySKYTM and the EvoStar 120. This is likely to be rather less than precise, serving as a rough guide only, but has the potential to prove useful at star parties and the like.

PDF documents:

Non-manufacturer support:


Meade® ETX-125EC UHTC (5" Mak)

ETX-125EC UHTC ~ Click to enlarge

The sole purpose of this 'scope is to become my remote control observatory. As can be seen from the adjacent photograph, it has had the finderscope removed, a Meade® #1247 electric focuser added, as well as a Kendrick anti-dew heater band.

When inside the micro-observatory, the 'scope will be mounted upon a heavy gauge steel Astro Engineering AC021 wedge shown in picture alongside. No longer available, this was a lucky find heavily discounted for it came sans the tabletop adjuster legs. The wedge has been locked to my latitude using a digital inclinometer which measures down to a tenth of a degree. When mounted in the observatory, simply ensuring that the base of the wedge is truly level, again using the digital inclinometer, should ensure latitude accuracy. This will leave only the rotation of the wedge to point directly at true north, affording me an absolutely spot-on perfect alignment. OK... I can dream... for of course, the theory of all this will be complicated by the truth of reality I am sure!

The intended micro-observatory to house this, will be mounted on the south facing corner of my house at first floor level. The galvanised steel support framework for this is already in place. It is a concept that I have not seen used elsewhere, but I find it difficult to believe that no one else has ever attempted this. Why have I done it? That is quite simply down to the limitations of my garden. I certainly did not want to lose the many trees that I planted some 20 years ago, and although I could just about get a small roll-off roof observatory in a corner of the garden, there would be little free space left. The trees seriously limit the available sky from there, so hence the idea of going "up", and using my house as "the pier".

When completed, the whole setup will be controlled from a computer in my garage, and in turn controllable from other computers on my home network. Ultimately, I hope to offer control of the telescope over the internet.

PDF documents:

Non-manufacturer support:


Meade® ETX-105PE UHTC (4.1" Mak)

ETX-105PE ~ Click to enlarge

This is my "grab and go" telescope, a role originally fulfilled by an ETX-90EC model, my very first 'scope. Upgrading to a PE version, the aperture choices available were 90mm, 105mm, or 125mm. After due consideration, I plumped for the 105 as the the best compromise, for the following reasons:

  • The 105 has an increased light grasp over the 90, though obviously somewhat less than the 125.
  • Meade®'s #1244 electric focuser that fits both the 90 and the 105 is still readily available, whereas the #1247 focuser for the 125 no longer is.
  • The 105 employs similar if not quite the same drive train assemblies of the 125, rather than the lesser drives of the 90.
  • As a "grab and go", the 105 still qualifies, whereas for me at any rate, I feel that the 125 falls just the other side of that description.

Additions to the 'scope, are as follows:

  • A Meade® #1244 electric focuser.
  • A circular aluminium support plate, manufactured for me by local marine engineers Bottomline, sits between the 'scope base and tripod mount. Upon this are mounted three bubble levels, each between a pair of a tripod legs, mounted via three protruding calibration bolts. Easy adjustment of individual tripod leg height is thus facilitated with minimal parallax errors during the levelling process.
  • Mounted below the plate is a supporting bracket for a botsky.com GPAS device. This is an interface unit that sits between a Garmin eTrex® hand-held GPS, and the telescope, providing time and global positioning information directly to the 'scope.
  • The plate also serves as a 0° reference point for an attached digital inclinometer, employed when mounting the 'scope equatorially to local latitude.

PDF documents:

Non-manufacturer support:


Antares 1.25" binoviewer head

1.25'' binoviewer head ~ Click to enlarge

I bought this with the primary purpose of using it with my 8" dobby. As lunar observation is a favourite for me, the fact that the incoming light is split and therefore halved matters little given the brightness of the Moon. The binoviewer affords a more relaxed viewing experience, because one eye is not scrunched up.

In order for this to work with my dobby, I had to purchase an Astro Engineering AC555 Magni-Max 1.6x thread-on Barlow lens in order to reach focus. Additionally, the weight of the binoviewer and two eyepieces required a balancing exercise, which resulted in a Heath Robinson adjustable affair involving Velcro® webbing and a scaffolding joiner as the balance weight.

Since purchasing the binoviewer, I have acquired the 8" LX50, and the ETX-105PE. The binoviewer works perfectly with these instruments without the need for the aforementioned screw-in barlow.

Last two pictures courtesy of scopesnskies.com (Link to original webpage:
here)

Binoculars


Opticron Observation 11x80

Observation 11x80 ~ Click to enlarge

A pair of "giant" binoculars, these currently get little use. At some future time, I have intentions of constructing a suitable mount for these that will permit comfortable viewing without getting a crick in the neck. I see no reason why any aspect of observing should be uncomfortable, and look forward to the time when I can employ these as I desire. Until then, the sunlounger is the best option for observing with these.

Last picture courtesy of opticron.co.uk (Link to original webpage:
here)

Adler Wildnis 9x63 (on bino-mirror)

Wildnis 9x63 ~ Click to enlarge

I bought these (the only pair I bought from new) as the largest practical binoculars that could be used with my bino mirror mount. In order to use 63mm binos, they had to be of the roof prism variety, for 50mm is the largest porro prism type that can be accommodated.

On the bino mirror mount, and with a pseudo photographer's drape over my head to exclude extraneous light, these binoculars give a fabulous immersive experience of the night sky. The view is of course, a mirror image.

Last three pictures courtesy of pulsar-optical.co.uk (Link to original webpage:
here)

Bresser® Travelview 10x50

Travelview 10x50 ~ Click to enlarge

This was one of my earliest acquisitions, a pair of basic 10x50 binoculars. They have standard centre focusing and an adjustable dioptre right eyepiece. The eyecups screw up and down, as opposed to being the fold-over type.

Last three pictures courtesy of scopesnskies.com (Link to original webpage:
here)

Bushnell® Waterproof / Floating 7x50

Waterproof / Floating 7x50 ~ Click to enlarge

In terms of binoculars, these were possibly my best value for money purchase. With individually adjustable eyepieces, fold down rubber eyecups, and offer a wide field of view, they are excellent for general daytime use too, and go with me when out walking. The internal compass, accurate in degree increments when read both horizontal and level, is easily readable during hours of daylight, and via push-button illumination when light levels require.

Last picture courtesy of nauticexpo.com (Link to original webpage:
here)
(The model I have is identical, but for the addition of the name Bushnell® above "Waterproof / Floating")

ScopeTeknix SolarZoom 8-24x50

SolarZoom 8-24x50 ~ Click to enlarge

These are actually Bresser® Hunter 8-24x50 zoom binoculars, with permanently attached solar energy rejection filters over the objective lenses. Useful for that quick glance at the sun, before deciding whether to pull out the more advanced observing kit. I use the zoom out to locate the sun, then zoom in once it is in view.

I only ever use these in the privacy of my back garden, for being seen in public looking at the sun with binoculars is not a good idea! There will always be someone who thinks that they can do so with ordinary binoculars.

Last four pictures courtesy of scopesnskies.com (Link to original webpage:
here)

Other equipment


Meade® mySKYTM GPS personal planetarium

mySKY ~ Click to enlarge

This is an excellent piece of kit, standalone in its own right, or teamed up with a telescope. The mySKYTM can be connected to my previously-setup ETX-105PE, and then used to accurately direct the 'scope to that part of the heavens the mySKYTM is pointed towards.

Attached to my Evostar-120 is a mounting bracket that holds both the mySKYTM and a laser pointer. This, although not accurately collimated for the mySKYTM, offers a reasonable approximation to where the telescope is pointing, useful at public events.

Last three pictures courtesy of scopesnskies.com (Link to original webpage:
here)

MySkyTM instruction manual. MySKYTM video.

ScopeTeknix Binoflex ST50 mirror mount employing Adler Wildnis 9x63 binoculars

Binoflex ST50 ~ Click to enlarge

A great way to observe in comfort with a hot drink to hand! This setup is a simple turntable with the Binoflex mounted on top. A small lazy susan separates two chopping boards, the top one from TK MAX, the other from Tesco. Stiction is provided by folded hook and loop Velcro® strips. The ground board has three adjustable level feet, and the circular base board some adornments in the form of a digital clock, a thermometer, a compass, a bubble level, and a small locking bolt secures the turntable when not in use.

Other than that, I have fashioned a rudimentary mounting device by employing square tube and several L-sections, all aluminium, that readily slides on and off the right hand corner of the ST50. The inner sliding faces are covered in loop Velcro® to prevent scratching of the Binoviewer. Upon this is a laser mounting bracket. When the laser is collimated with the binoculars, locating objects in the sky is a breeze.

Last three pictures courtesy of scopesnskies.com (Link to original webpage:
here)

B&Q Sunlounger

Sunlounger ~ Click to enlarge

The original intention of a sun lounger is of course to lie out under just one star, our daytime sun. I've never really been convinced of the merits of exposing my largely naked body to the ravages of a nuclear furnace, even at 93 million miles away, and so avoid the original single star intention. Instead, my primary use of the sun lounger is to lie out under thousands of suns, all at a decidedly safer distance from my skin!

Telescopes and binoculars are excellent enhancements for observing in detail, but the very best widefield view is getting back to relaxed naked eye appreciation of the whole night sky, and takes a deal of beating. Well wrapped up against the cold to avoid any distraction, after twenty minutes outside with fully dark-adapted vision on my "star" lounger, I simply lose myself in the beauty of the night sky.