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Eyepiece Tray cover prototyping;
iPhone Imaging: Moon, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn

Posted: 20 May 2016

Following the previous cloud-shortened session, cloudy skies continued on Wednesday, 18 May 2016. Thursday, 19 May, dawned clear with a forecast of clear skies for Thursday night, but a few clouds began appearing mid-morning.

In my review of the Pier-Tech 1 Pier and Eyepiece Tray I mentioned that I was considering making a cover for the Eyepiece Tray. Thursday morning I went to the observatory to prototype top and bottom covers using thin cardboard. Based on the prototyping I determined the following:

Top and bottom covers and sides could be made using thin pieces of wood.
Top and bottom covers would be 12"x12", matching the dimensions of the tray.

Top cover would have to slide off, and so it would be open on one side (allowing dust and pollen to enter).
Sides for the top cover would be about 4" tall in order to fit under the pier top plate. But my tallest eyepiece, the Explore Scientific 2" 9mm 100°, would not fit as it is 4.5".

Bottom cover sides would be 2" tall and would work for all my eyepieces.
Would need a large cutout at the rear of the bottom cover for the Eyepiece Tray mounting block.
Mounting the bottom cover to the tray would be an issue and require several eyepiece holes to be used up for mounting brackets unless holes were drilled in the tray (not desirable).

The biggest issue I determined from the prototyping was that my knees would too easily hit the bottom cover when I would sit at the telescope. That's a showstopper.

I have shelved the concept for now.

Open: Thursday, 19 May 2016, 1852 MST
Temperature: 89°F
Session: 964
Conditions: Mostly clear, breezy

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
Wireless AutoStar II handset
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 8-24mm zoom eyepiece
2" 30mm eyepiece
1.25" 9mm eyepiece
2" 2X PowerMate

D7200 DSLR
iPhone 6s Plus

As I was opening the observatory the almost Full Moon was rising over the hill to the east. This is a D7200 DSLR photo, f/8, 1/1000sec, ISO 400, FL 140mm, cropped from the full-frame image:


SYNCed the observatory clock to WWV. Then prepared some equipment for imaging later.

1919 MST: spotted Jupiter with the naked eye. 1921 MST: sunset. The breezes had calmed down now. LX600 ON, StarLock OFF. 1925 MST: viewed Jupiter, 102X. Three moons were visible. Switched to a 8-24 zoom eyepiece and viewed Jupiter, 305X (8mm). Pretty good view. One moon was approaching Jupiter's limb and based on the size of the visible disk I decided the Moon was Ganymede. I confirmed this with an iPhone app. Ganymede would begin its transit of Jupiter soon, but its shadow would not start transiting until after midnight. I then watched Ganymede begin its transit, 305X. 1953 MST: ended Jupiter viewing.

GOTO the star Arcturus and SYNCed the AutoStar II on it. Then did a GOTO the Moon and viewed it at 102X. Using a 2" 30mm eyepiece took this handheld iPhone 6s Plus afocal 81X photo:


Switched back to the zoom eyepiece and did some lunar observing, 305X. The crater Pythagoras on the terminator looked interesting. Mounted the iPhone on the LX600 using the SteadyPix adapter. This is an afocal 271X photo of Pythagoras:


Added the 2X PowerMate for this afocal 542X photo:


2030 MST: viewed the globular clusters M53 and M3, 102X. Next, viewed the open star clusters M44, M35, and M67, 102X.

2043 MST: Mars was now visible over the hill to the southeast. Took a quick look at Mars, 102X, but it was too low and still in the tree so the view was not good.

2050 MST: viewed the globular cluster M92, 102X. Did some diagonal and visual back visual and photographic tests (with the DSLR) using M92. The visual back length had no effect on quality but the view was brighter using the Meade 2" diagonal vs the OPT 2" diagonal. Stayed with the Meade diagonal for the remainder of the session.

2132 MST: Saturn was now visible over the hill to the southeast. 2152-2207 MST: took a short break from the observatory. 2210 MST: viewed Jupiter, 305X. Ganymede in transit was visible as a dark dot. Seeing was not good however. Decided to try iPhone imaging anyway. This is a stack of 2494 slo-mo (240 fps) video frames, afocal 542X:

Mouseover or tap on image
Mouseover or tap on image for pointer to Ganymede

The best view of Ganymede was at 203X, but the disk was visible even at 102X.

2232 MST: began Mars observing, 305X. Seeing was not very good but some surface features were visible, especially Syrtis Major. Some clouds were visible. Added one of the 2" Variable Polarizing Filter filters to reduce the brightness of the planet, which made viewing a little better. 2256 MST: viewed Saturn, 305X; the moons Titan, Dione, Tethys, and Rhea were visible.

2304 MST: returned to Mars for iPhone imaging. Seeing was really bad; Mars was moving around a lot on the iPhone screen during video recordings. This is a stack of 2493 slo-mo video frames, 542X + filter:


Then did some video recordings (30 fps) of Saturn, afocal 542X (no filter). This is a stack of 165 frames:


2339 MST: ended imaging. Did some more Mars observing, 305X. I felt that Mars was not quite as crisp a view as it should have been even with the poor seeing this night. Went to Vega and did a collimation check. The collimation was not perfect; will recollimate the 12" telescope on the next session.

2357 MST: took a quick look at M57 (Ring Nebula), 102X. Nice view even though the sky was brightly lit by the Moon.

Close: Friday, 20 May 2016, 0010 MST
Temperature: 65°F
Session Length: 5h 18m
Conditions: Clear, some breezes

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