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Hi from North Yorkshire (UK)


Demon
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Hi All,

 

I’ve been intending to introduce myself on here for a while but been struggling a little with my enthusiasm for AP.

Some of you know of me from a different forum, but also will be great to talk to new faces (not quite but you know what I mean).

I’ve been on and off Astro for around 15 years starting off in a local society just under the North Yorkshire Moors, in my time I've helped install domes with them, star parties, the usual, etc, then eventually had a break to get married and kids but now got my own obsy up and running-ish.

 

I am an Engineer who likes big boys toys/projects and while I enjoy Astronomy, I do have to say I enjoy the challenges of astrophotography (of which there are plenty - technically Bortle 4 but in my experience most of the time fighting seeing now the technical challenges are moving).
I started off years ago with what turned out to be a really nice little 4” refractor on a EQ3/2 mount with clock drive and it has been great fun for what it cost. I later got a second hand 12” Dob light bucket which was a great contrast. I also have a 5” Maksutov with cheap goto mount and although I haven’t been that impressed with it, it has taught me a great deal.


Since these I managed to get hold of a crazy monster large equatorial fork mount (26" between forks!!!) (clearly made by an mechanical genius – think its some prototype but never been able to find out who or where is was made, sadly the electrics left a lot to be desired – however that’s my bag). I’ve not only been getting that working and guiding but also now have a mini system applied to the EQ3/2 which I use to develop it further gradually adding new features.

 

Been more recently using a 80ED to take a step back from the larger heavier closer in stuff that viewing effect more - and moved to the somewhat more forgiving wider field DSOs. However now just going back to Newt.

Below are more details on my Equipment and comments – with a few photos.

Observatory - DIY Roll Away Shed approx. 6’x4’x5’

I designed and knocked it up specifically for the mount and its likely payloads, it works great allowing me to get up and running quickly without any major polar alignment.
Bolted aluminium base frame post-creted into ground – forms running beams and securing structure for top. Large very heavy reinforced concrete slab from old coal bunker positioned inside frame providing base for mount – bedded on compacted sand and levelled. Industrial lino and gaffa tape sealing between aluminium and concrete bases – providing moisture barrier. Timber frame and log lap clad shed with heavy duty castors and removable access wall.

 

Mount (The Beast) – Push To and Motorised Guided Equatorial Fork Mount

 

I got this second hand from someone who didn’t have the time or sadly the skills to get it back up and running - was sadly sat out in the middle of a forest for a couple of years with very little of what was a tarp over it, but thankfully most of its aluminium and the bearings survived just. There are no manufacturers marks on this and after countless internet searches I still can’t find anything that matches it. I believe it is a prototype likely made by a business that didn’t ever get off the ground or did not produce any more of this specific model. I was more used to typical equatorial mounts and Dobsonians and it took me some time to understand its design and how it is supposed to operate. This is an amazing hybrid with quality mechanics although sadly the electronics did not do it justice so I’m replacing gradually. The mechanics include large cast aluminium base and fork structure, large taper roller bearings and shafts and large worm gears (17”) with secondary gearboxes and big stepper motors. But the most confusing bits that took me some time to understand are the friction clutches pretty well hidden in the design between the worm drives and each axis shaft! It turned out that the gear ratios are so high that the stepper motors even running at the highest possible speeds took approx. 40 minutes to rotate through 90 degrees. I was thinking I would have to change them to high speed servos until I stripped each down fully and realised the friction clutches allowed the operator to push to the approximate region and that absolute sensors could be coupled on the axis shafts a/r. The previous electronics was a simple RA clock driver with basic ADC digital RA readout from presumably sadly only a simple analogue pot and not put together anywhere nearly as nicely as the mechanics. I will probably be working on the electronics for years to come but for now I have two Arduino Megas precisely commanding microstepping drivers for the motors (the RA Arduino controller also providing a precision clock drive) and I have a third Arduino as a master initially reading an analogue joystick to move the view, then recently reading digital inputs from a USB to ST4 converter that is connected to PHD2 to allow auto guiding. I was in due course going to add high precision absolute sensors on each axis to help me implement semi-automated goto but thankfully I’m going for the easy to get targets initially and now looking at plate solving with some lower accuracy sensors to tell it roughly where it is pointing so not blind. While this looks like an amazing mount it is an absolute nightmare to polar align and balance (still working on easier adjustment of counterweights). On the other hand it is carrying a very heavy DIY truss 12” refractor, the large aluminium packers to span between the forks down to the 12” truss (crazy but it could actually take up to around a 24” truss subject to length). I also have a 4” refractor bolted on and some heavy balance weights – all of which it is handling in its stride (it could likely carry me also). Fully loaded the whole lot would need at least 4 strong people to lift, however any knocks hardly have any effect on it and are damped very quickly, plus no induced vibration from steppers, initially I was tracking to less than 1 arc second and I’ve just found a bug in my Arduino code so have fingers crossed for next outing.

 

As it’s a pain to work on I’ve just duplicated the electronics and added steppers to the EQ3/2 so I have a development rig (helped me find the not insignificant bug).

 

 

Telescopes

4” F10 Refractor with 2” Focuser – I originally used this with the DSLR and mount simply clock driven with better initial results than I’d ever hoped. My intention was to use this for a guide scope although while I thought zooming in would make guiding more accurate it also makes it a real pain to get on stars, have since got a little 0.5 barlow to help but still need to make it more adjustable.
12” F5 Reflector with 2” Focuser – Great light bucket but needs recoating, although just cleaned it and giving it another go, now that mount working better and I know a little more what I’m doing.
5” F12 Maksutov – Lovely but not massively impressed with it – more for planetary.

80mm F7.5 Doublet Refractor with 2” Crayford Focuser – very nice.

Various camera lenses to play with - used for very wide field and polar alignment.

Cameras

Canon 50D DSLR (Imaging Camera but not modified yet)
ZWO ASI120MM Mini (Guide Scope and for Polar Alignment, also about to try it for Lucky Imaging)

Bresser Mikrokular Full HD 1.25” USB Camera (used previously as Guide Camera) – Cheap but only just worked for guiding, more for planetary.

RPI HQ Camera (A work in progress - cheap stacked back illuminated 12MP albeit but with small sensor size & small ArcSec/Pixel)

RPI V2 Camera NOIR (Another work in progress)

Software

PHD2 (for autoguiding)
Connected to the mount electronics via a ZWO USB to ST4 Interface.
Astro Photography Tool (for DSLR camera control etc.)

Sharpcap Pro for polar alignment and about to try plate solving to hopefully apply a Fine Goto Function when close to target.
Note: All running on a little windows 10 miniPC with Teamviewer over WIFI so when its all up and running I can remote in from laptop in comfort of lounge. But still for sat outside for a little with display, keyboard and mouse until get focus.
Deep Sky Stacker & Gimp for stacking and processing.

 
Hopefully here’s a few photos that I hope you’ll find interesting, its been a lot of work getting this far and much more to do with the Beast to hopefully one day get the same amazing results that many of yourselves have produced.

Roll Away Shed Closed Up – Even though this is pretty close to my home it has a pretty unobstructed south east through to north view only missing out the north east and east.

With the Newt fitted and with the smaller scopes fitted and closed up.

 

IMG_0390.thumb.jpg.9cb5005b2066d092009ab1a97877528a.jpg20200720_192341.thumb.jpg.f7623afdbeaeaea0567c7cb7c54df5b4.jpg20200720_192437.thumb.jpg.54b32866303b7e05d2a3d53ff2f18d09.jpg20200720_192527.thumb.jpg.c0fd1bd2d5792875669d31fd8d6f281c.jpg1125531390_ObservatoryClosed256kb.jpg.d3d93840a11392ba092e0a2653ea00c6.jpg20200716_173636.thumb.jpg.bea06f675702ef25f44ad4bca62ba12d.jpg20200716_173603.thumb.jpg.75c6c39cc4cf2bc66c2680eb237ef7b6.jpg20200206_162854.thumb.jpg.ee4d327be866c69843cc1a797035af8e.jpg20190627_210513.thumb.jpg.17424564a2a35473e86119c538b3d88e.jpg

My best photo so far through the 80ED tracking and stacked

1745005938_OrionandRunningManNebulas.thumb.jpg.8f9758b8690109c268e76f9d4fa09e3e.jpg 

 

Generally what stops me is the difficulty in staying up late enough without affecting work and family.

So the eventual aim is to fully automate everything and obsy so it opens/closes itself and gets on with the job without me.

 

However my other problem that I mentioned at the top is seeing, there seam to be so few nights with good seeing up here i.e. the other reason why I need to automate.

So I am gearing up next for lucky imaging to try and help - short exposure with ASI120mm through big newt - taking thousand of shots - throwing a way a lot and stacking the rest - albeit with only a small view so it will show whether it has a chance or not very quick...fingers crossed...

 
Comments always greatly appreciated.
Clear skies to all.

Cheers,

Nick

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Hi Nick welcome to the forum. I have changed your font from black to a lighter blue as it appeared black (and therefore invisible) on the BYA theme as seen at the bottom of the page Theme>Backyard Astronomy Space

Not your fault but a bug in the forum software that seems to affect initial posts only.

 

Nice to have you onboard.

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