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Observatory Upgrades Update;
600mm Lens Imaging: Moon, Saturn, & Jupiter

Posted: 11 February 2016

After "decommissioning" the 8" LX200-ACF telescope on Sunday, 7 February 2016, I cleaned it and several 8" accessories. Monday, 8 February, I boxed it all up using their original boxes and placed everything in my SUV. Early Tuesday morning, 9 February, I left home for the 6.5 hour drive to OPT in Oceanside, California. Here I am outside the store:


I had a great time there, spending about three hours in the store, before driving back home to Arizona (which took over 8 hours due to heavy traffic north of San Diego). Eric was superb in answering all my questions, as were others on the OPT Team. I even got to meet a bunch of Meade reps who were at the store. It was sort of a "mutual admiration society" as they knew me from my work with "Weasner's Mighty ETX Site". I was able to get almost everything I wanted while at OPT. One item was on backorder and will be shipped. We were able to get almost everything I picked up in my SUV. The Meade 12" LX600 box was a tight fit but we got it, the Meade X-Wedge, and all the smaller accessories loaded. The LX600 tripod will be shipped to me and should arrive by the end of the week.

There were two items that I did not get that had been planned: a piggyback camera adapter for the LX600 and the Pier Tech 2 Electro-Mechanical Telescope Pier.

Due to the mounting positions of the Starlock refractor telescope and the 8x50 finderscope on the 12" LX600 Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) there is no room to mount a piggyback adapter (even using Losmandy rails). So I won't be doing piggyback imaging using the LX600. That's not a big drawback for me as I can use my old LXD55 tripod for tracked sky astrophotography, which I have done in the past. The bigger drawback is that I won't be able to piggyback the PST (H-Alpha solar telescope). I might get a Vixen Polarie sometime in the future.

Not getting the Pier Tech 2 pier was unexpected. It turns out that this adjustable height pier is not quite sturdy enough for the 12" LX600 with the pier at the upper heights. I briefly considered the very sturdy Pier Tech 3 adjustable pier but it cost almost as much as the telescope. After discussing options with Eric I decided to go with a fixed height pier. I will have to determine the optimum height of the pier once I have started using the LX600 inside the observatory. Consequently, the pier is going to be delayed a little longer.

Since I don't have the LX600 tripod yet I can not set up the telescope for its initial checkout. I'll do that once the tripod arrives. But since I didn't have the tripod I was able to use the time for a thorough read of the LX600 manual (PDF version on my iPad). (Yes, I read manuals.)

One additional item that I purchased at OPT was a sturdy photographic tripod. My older tripod worked fine with my DSLR and 70-300mm lens, but it was not guite sufficient when using my new large 150-600mm lens. Whenever I would point the camera at elevations of 60° or higher with the lens at 600mm the tripod head would not lock tight enough to keep the camera pointed that high. After speaking with one of the OPT camera experts and trying different tripod heads with my camera and long lens, I decided to go with his recommendation of the Barska Professional photographic tripod:



The tripod has independently adjustable tilt legs (45° to 175°) for use on uneven surfaces. It also comes with a nice cloth bag.

This is the sunset sky over Cassiopeia Observatory (at left) Wednesday evening, 10 February 2016, taken with an iPhone 6s Plus:


I used the new tripod and the Tamron 150-600mm lens on my Nikon D7200 DSLR to photograph the crescent Moon (upper left):


This f/8, 1/160sec, ISO 640 exposure, cropped from the full-frame image, shows the crescent Moon:


This f/8, 1/2sec, ISO 1600 exposure, cropped from the full-frame image, shows the crescent Moon and Earthshine through thin clouds:


Before sunrise on Thursday, 11 February, I used the new tripod and 600mm lens to photograph Saturn and Jupiter (full-frame with magnified inserts):

Saturn, f.8, 1/200sec, ISO 1000

Jupiter and four Galilean Moons, f.8, 1/15sec, ISO 1000

I am definitely liking this new photographic tripod.

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