O.K. so last night I put a friend’s Sky 90 in place of the Sky 90 that continues to defy all my attempts at collimation and unbelievably it was clear at 9:00 p.m. Brilliant, too early to start imaging, but just right to go out and get the Paramount homed and then set to a bright star ready to begin work. Except that by midnight I hadn’t managed to home the mount 🙁 🙁 Worked out that it was a hardware problem rather than software so looking into things had to wait until this morning. The sensor that was giving me problems was on the declination drive, so the first thing to find out is where the declination sensor is hidden. Quick visit to the Software Bisque site and there is actually an article on sensor replacement – great! Except, not so great, is it really hidden that deeply in the bowels of the Paramount – oh no 🙁 🙁 Nothing to do really apart from bite the bullet and start pulling apart the declination drive. Now in dismantling this unit I find that the engineering is not as brilliant as one might expect from the outside finish. In fact to release the rear part of the containing box it is clear that the designers had nearly made the classic error of drawing something that couldn’t be assembled (or disassembled) – you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever been mental enough to take your Paramount declination drive apart. Anyway – I finally get to the block that holds the optical sensor (it is in fact one of those plastic slot sensors I’ve used before to trigger flash units) and I take a good look at the emitter and detector faces – all looks clear to me. Take a brief look at the 4-cable ribbon cable that feeds the sensor and there is a deep depression across the cable where it was clearly pinched up against the metal through-hole in the Paramount frame. Hmm, could be the source of an intermittent short that decided to finally call it quits last night. So I put insulating tape across the ribbon cable (the other two cables by the way that came through the same hole BOTH had a protective plastic mesh sheaf around them to prevent pinching/chaffing damage – so why not the sensor ribbon cable??) and also thoroughly cleaned the emitter and sensor faces using lens cleaning solution. Put the whole thing back together and fired up the Sky 6. Homed the mount and it went to home from its park position smoothly and quickly (something it hasn’t done for months). So for the moment the thing seems to work.
In all the projects I have undertaken I have never encountered one that has fought back so long, hard, and furiously as this mini-WASP array. It has taken my patience to the limit and well beyond. Still what it has taught me is this. If you are going to multiply up the number of imaging scopes, cameras, and the computers needed to drive them, then your potential problems are going to increase by a similar number and the chances of SOMETHING going wrong are also increased by a similar number. On the other hand, if you lose one imager, you can still image with the other 2 or 3 – so I guess it comes down to swings and roundabouts in the end. You also need to think about the increase in set-up time before you actually begin imaging, you need to check the focus and collimation of each scope/camera before you kick off with a night’s imaging. There’s a lot more to think about when running a parallel imaging rig, and when it’s late, dark, and freezing cold outside, and all your brain is interested in is trying to keep the stupid creature that owns it from dying of hypothermia – you really don’t want to have to think about troubleshooting system problems.