Last updated: 27 April 2003
Had some friends over for a movie and dinner. After sunset I took the LXD55 8"SC outside to show them Saturn and Jupiter. They were suitably impressed. They even got to see a Jovian moon shadow on the planet. That impressed them even more. Nice night; even if seeing wasn't perfect.
30 March 2003
In nearly 4 years of using the Autostar I have never had such as frustrating night as tonight. I have been using an Autostar on my LXD55 8"SC since it arrived in November 2002. It was upgraded to 2.6Ec some months back (and I retrained) and it has been performing acceptably. Until tonight. Every Easy Align either failed or subsequent GOTOs were 5-10 degrees off. I tried several stars and no matter the alignments stars chosen, if the alignment didn't fail then GOTOs were really horrible. So, following the advice I've given numerous times I reTRAINed the drives. I used Polaris but that didn't seem to help; alignments still failed or GOTOs were lousy. So I decided to RESET, CALIBRATE, and then TRAIN using a terrestrial object. Didn't help; alignments continued to fail or had lousy GOTOs. 2 hours later I decided to try a One Star polar alignment. No more alignment failures but again GOTOs were still off by 5-10 degrees (and no, DST was NOT set). I checked everything I tell others to check (date, year, time, telescope model, etc) and all was correct. Finally I gave up in frustration.
Now I know the feeling that others have when the Autostar just won't perform correctly. I'll try again tomorrow night; maybe it just didn't like 30 March 2003.
31 March 2003
Updated the Autostar to version 2.6Ed (from 2.6Ec) using Virtual PC 6 (running Windows 2000) on a PowerBook G4/500 running Mac OS X with a Keyspan USB-Serial adapter. All went well but I ran out of time to check it out tonight.
2 April 2003
Tonight was clear but very breezy; did a CALIBRATE and TRAIN. Things are definitely better than they were Sunday night (which was a tremendous deterioration of GOTOs from months of observing with the LXD55). Still not quite as good as they were before the deterioration so it sounds like it will be necessary to "go inside" and check the drives. But ran out of time tonight for that. Hopefully this weekend.
4 April 2003
Gave a talk at the South Bay Astronomical Society; the topic was "Tricks and Tips for GOTO Telescopes". I used the LXD55 8"SC to demonstrate some of the techniques. The talk seemed to be well received. Following the talk I set up the LXD55 on the sidewalk and several members got a chance to look at Jupiter. Seeing was not too good (with an occasional cloud zooming by; it was very breezy) but there were brief moments where the Great Red Spot was visible. One jogger came by and asked what we were doing. She looked through the telescope at Jupiter and was totally "wow-ed". I think it was the first time she had ever looked through a telescope.
Fortunately, during the talk and afterwards outside, the Autostar performed well. The alignment was rough due to the sky brightness at the sidewalk location (lots of streetlights and city lights) but the alignments stars and GOTO Jupiter was acceptable (in the finderscope) and tracking was excellent. I'll have to do some more tests to see if I really need to make any adjustments on the drives. That may be a few days from now as my new Apple PowerBook 17" just arrived.
19 April 2003
I set up the LXD55-8"SC outside before sunset so that I would be ready to observe Mercury as soon as it became visible. I did a "fake alignment" (pointed generally to Polaris and accepted the two alignment stars as centered). I then did a GOTO to Mercury and waited until the sky darkened enough to finally see Mercury. I was about 10 degrees off in my initial polar pointing so I picked up the tripod and physically rotated it until Mercury was nearly centered in the finderscope. I slewed using the Autostar to center it. In the 26mm eyepiece, Mercury appeared as a nice, but unsteady, half-phase. Increasing the magnification just increased the atmospheric turbulence that was a result of two factors: some high thin clouds along the western horizon and the low altitude of Mercury. But it was still fun to observe Mercury during this favorable elongation.
I then did a GOTO to Jupiter; the telescope slewed to Jupiter and put it at the edge of the finderscope FOV (afterall, this WAS a rough alignment). I then began slewing to center it in the finderscope and once that was done I looked into the 26mm eyepiece. Jupiter was slightly offcenter so I slewed it, or rather tried to slew it to the center. Declination slewing was fine but Right Ascension slewing was a NO-GO. The motor and gear would run but the telescope would not slew in RA. I checked the axis lock and it was fully engaged (but not overly tight; AND I had just been slewing in RA). I then attempted to re-align using One Star but the telescope would not move in RA. Guess it is really time to "go inside" the mount and check the gears. I'll report on that when I've done it.
During the daytime I connected up my Apple PowerBook 17" to the LXD55 (and also to the ETX-125EC) and tried out some software to control the telescope. You can read my reports at:
Here's a nighttime photo of the PowerBook 17" at the LXD55. And for those who don't know, yes, this Apple PowerBook 17" has a light sensor that dims the screen and backlights the keys on the keyboard. Very nice for use at the telescope!
27 April 2003
As I reported last time (above), my RA drive failed following a GOTO to Jupiter. The telescope slewed from Mercury to Jupiter OK and but then I could not slew in RA to center Jupiter in the eyepiece.
On Saturday, the 26th, I went "inside" the GEM head to see what caused the RA drive to stop slewing. My full report is available (with photos) at "Fixing a slipped RA gear". I am happy to say that the fix was easy and all is well again.
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March 2003 observations
February 2003 observations
November, December 2002 and January 2003 observations
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