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Telescope Pier Measurements;
12" LX600 First DSO Imaging, New Accessories Tests

Posted: 25 February 2016

Unforecasted clouds moved in during the day on Tuesday, 23 February 2016. I was able to get in some solar observing and resolve the previously reported Wi-Fi connection issue in the afternoon. I did not open the observatory that night. Wednesday, 24 February, dawned clear and windy, but again, unforecasted clouds began appearing mid-morning. Fortunately, the sky cleared early afternoon. The forecast for Wednesday night was for clear skies.

Open: Wednesday, 24 February 2016, 1808
Temperature: 83°F
Session: 925
Conditions: Clear

This session had two specific tests planned for the new 12" LX600: try out a new focusing mask and do some DSO imaging with a new focal reducer.

But first I did some more measurements to finalize the pier height and location. I have decided that a pier height of 28" (floor to top of mounting plate) will be ideal. The Meade LX600 tripod is 30" floor to the top. Later in the session I used the star Canopus, which was just above the southern horizon, to determine if the telescope would be able to "look over" the POD wall with this height pier. Lowering the OTA by 2" from the tripod height will still allow viewing near the horizon. As to location, the pier will be centered in the POD east-west and offset 4" to the south of center. Ideally, a pier should be offset 9-10" to the south of POD center, but due to the size of the 12" LX600 and X-Wedge that would eliminate too much clear space between the south wall (door) and the south part of the wedge. An offset of 4" will allow 22" of clearance on the south side, which is sufficient for walking around the telescope. Since I will be adding a POD Zenith Table (PZT) as part of the observatory upgrades, the smaller offset will be compensated for by sliding the dome off the POD to the north, allowing access to objects at the zenith.

1841 MST: powered on the LX600. I would be using the Wireless AutoStar II this night. I did a GOTO Sirius, but the sky might have been too bright for the StarLock to lock onto the star. It was initially centered in the 24mm eyepiece but when the StarLock finished its slewing Sirius was placed outside of the eyepiece field-of-view (FOV). I recentered the star manually, SYNCed the AutoStar, and then did a GOTO M42 (Orion Nebula). When the StarLock finished, M42 was nearly centered in the eyepiece. A GOTO Sirius centered the star in the eyepiece this time. (I have not yet made any adjustments to the StarLock centering or guiding settings. I was planning to wait to do those when the pier is installed.)

1922 MST: the Zodiacal Light was shining brightly in the western sky.

I then began tests of two new accessories: the Astrozap AstroCap Focusing Mask and the Optec Lepus 0.62X Telecompressor Lens (focal reducer). Once I finish with more tests I will write up reviews of both accessories. As teasers here are M42 and NGC869 (part of the Double Cluster) with the Lepus focal reducer and the Nikon D7200 DSLR, 30 seconds, ISO 3200:



The final DSO photographed with my 8" LX200-ACF was M42 so it was appropriate that M42 would be the first DSO imaged with the new 12" LX600.

I had some issues during the initial tests, mostly with StarLock guiding. Apparently I will have to adjust some of the StarLock settings before installing the pier. 2021 MST: the eastern sky began brightening due to the rising waning gibbous Moon. I ended DSO imaging but continued tests of the focusing mask, which I completed at 2055 MST.

2117 MST: the Moon was above the hill to the east. Some wind was now blowing. I turned the StarLock OFF and did a GOTO Jupiter. Viewed Jupiter, 271X, but seeing was lousy. The Great Red Spot (or rather, the little pink spot) was visible near the central meridian. I then turned High Precision OFF in the Telescope, which also turned it OFF in the StarLock settings menu.

Next, I did a test of the Wi-Fi connection. On the previous session I had determined that the Wireless AutoStar II interferred with the Wi-Fi connection. Using the wired AutoStar there was no interference. This session I confirmed that indeed using the Wireless AutoStar II with the LX600 will prevent a Wi-Fi connection from working. Whenever I want to use SkySafari 5 Pro or ScopeBoss to control the LX600 I will have to swap the AutoStar handcontroller before powering on the telescope. Inconvenient.

2140 MST: viewed the Moon, 102X. Its low altitude in the sky and the poor seeing made for a lousy view. This is a prime focus image, 1/400sec, ISO 400:


2150 MST: finished operations for the night and began closing up.

Close: Wednesday, 24 February 2016, 2208 MST
Temperature: 53°F
Session Length: 4h 00m
Conditions: Clear, breezy

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