Flintstone Stargazing

January 26, 2008

A match made in …

Filed under: astronomy, Equipment, Observation Journal — Tags: — Ed @ 5:57 pm


My Telescope Rig – 1/26/08

About two weeks ago, I walked into Wal-Mart and there in front of me was exactly what every web site on astronomy says not to buy. A department store telescope. The telescope was a Meade 70AZ-A with an included USB camera. FOR $25!!!! I could not pass it up. As it turns out, the tripod is terrible – it’s made of aluminum foil and paper clips. The eyepieces are made from plastic. I knew that this would be the case. So why did I buy it? Three reasons: I wanted a refractor, I wanted a USB webcam that could fit on my scope and did I mention it was $25 (normally $100)?

Refractors, telescopes that use a lens instead of a mirror (like my other scopes), are generally considered best for planetary and lunar viewing and I’d wanted to get one for a while. The refractors I’d really like to get are very expensive and so I wasn’t planning on upgrading any time soon, but did I mention the thing was on sale? For doing some wide-field imaging with the DSLR camera using the main telescope for autoguiding, I thought this would be a great, inexpensive, option.

Why did I need a new camera for my telescope? The cameras that I currently have are a Nikon D50, Meade DSI and Meade DSI II. The D50 is a DSLR which has high resolution and takes great wide-field images. It’s very hard to focus and interact with and is best for taking long exposures. The Meade DSI cameras are fantastic cameras for low light, but they are CCD cameras which means that while I can take very short or long images, I can’t take movies or capture hundreds of frames in a few seconds with them because they don’t react fast enough – they’re just good at other things. There are a number of programs that allow you to use a webcam to gather a couple hundred frames (15 a second or so) of the moon or planets and then software (like RegiStax) goes through and finds the best individual images and stacks them. This is how I’ve taken my best pictures of Mars so far. Basically, if the scope was $25 then the camera was free (or vice-versa). Either way, it was a good deal.

So, after getting the scope rings (from Orion) yesterday, I attached the scope to my rig this afternoon and made sure it was aligned with the main scope. I then did some maintenance work on my mount (I replaced some set screws, trained the motors and aligned the axes). I had done some other work on it the other day and when I aligned the scope the other night after my Autostar alignment procedure, it told me that it was less than 5′ from the pole, which was a message I had never seen before. If I can consistently align the scope that well, I should be able to take some very long exposures without movement of the scope. I’m also getting the Hypertune DVD this week from ScopeStuff.com and hope to completely take apart my mount and put it back together again much better than before. I’ll post images and commentary as I do that.

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2 Comments »

  1. I just picked up one of these scopes at Wally World. I’m considering mounting it on my Celestron C8. I’m wondering what mounting rings you got from Orion to do the job.

    Thanks.

    Comment by Tom Albrecht — January 30, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  2. I got these: http://www.telescope.com/control/product/~category_id=mount_accessories/~pcategory=accessories/~product_id=07381

    I had to replace the screws (at Lowe’s) because they didn’t quite reach the smaller telescope, but I knew I’d have to do that. I wanted to get rings that could accommodate a bigger scope in the future. After all, who doesn’t have aperture fever?

    Comment by Ed — January 30, 2008 @ 4:04 pm


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