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More PZT work, Wireless AutoStar II repair attempt;
Sunspot AR2529

Posted: 12 April 2016

I did more work on the PZT on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 3-6 April 2016. The PZT is nearing completion. However, after two days of construction work on the table I was too pooped and too sore to take advantage of the clear sky on Sunday. My priorities are to install the PZT and pier as soon as possible, so I may have to forgo some sessions in the observatory to get everything done as quickly as possible. Monday night was cloudy, but I was applying a 3rd coat of varnish to one side of the PZT table anyway that night. Cloudy skies continued through Friday, 8 April, with some rain.

The telescope pier arrived on Wednesday, 6 April:


The PZT table is seen in the background. I completed the table work and what work could be done at the observatory before the rains arrived.

Saturday, 9 April, was mostly clear. During the day a potential SkyShed POD owner came by to check out the observatory. That night the Oracle Dark Skies Committee supported International Dark Sky Week at Oracle State Park, an "International Dark Sky Park". Dr. John Barentine gave a talk on "The Lost Constellations", discussing some constellations mentioned in his book.

Clouds returned late Saturday night, 9 April. I missed out on the occultation of Aldebaran on Sunday, 10 April, due to thunderstorms. On Monday, 11 April, I made an initial attempt to repair the Meade Wireless AutoStar II handcontroller, purchased in October 2010 just before it was discontinued:

photo photo

The handcontroller keys had become rather unreliable over the past few months. Dust and pollen are frequent problems here in southern Arizona and so my first attempt was to just blow off any dust/pollen using canned air. I removed the four small screws from their holes (visible in the righthand photo above). I then carefully spread the two halves of the handcontroller apart, using caution so as to not disconnect or break the ribbon cable (visible at the right):


This blowup of small sections of the above photo shows the rubber buttons (bottom) and electrical contacts (above) from one of the keys on the keypad:


I directed the air at the rubber keypads, both inside and outside, and the electrical contacts. When I reassembly the handcontroller and turned it on I discovered that the ribbon cable was not properly positioned and covered part of the display:


I disassembled the case again and carefully pushed the cable into its opening, which can be seen to the left of the white paper on the right in the photo showing the opened handcontroller. That solved that problem. Did my attempt at a repair work? That would have to wait until a session in the observatory.

I did the next to final PZT installation step at the observatory on Tuesday, 12 April. I hope to install the table later this week.

After receiving a total of nearly 1" of rain during this period, the sky was partly cloudy on Tuesday afternoon. I decided to get a photograph of the large sunspot AR2529. I used my Nikon D7200 DSLR and Tamron 150-600mm lens for this photo, f/6.3, 1/800sec, ISO 400, FL 600mm, with a Thousand Oaks ETX-90 solar filter:


AR2529 is on the left, with much smaller AR2530 on the right. Seeing was not very good as clouds were passing in front of the Sun. This cropped portion of the above photo shows AR2529:


Here is an excellent astrophotography blog: Photographing Space. I recommend signing up for their free newsletter.

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