Archive for the “Equipment” Category

This image shows a prototype illumination rig I have just built using 18 ultra-bright white-light LEDs and powered by a computer PSU.  The idea is to create a compact, high-power, flicker-free light source for photographic applications.  This prototype array (I estimate) kicks out the equivalent of a 200W light bulb, yet it consumes only 20W.  A useful photographic studio array would therefore need around 100 LEDs in a 10 x 10 array and would supply the equivalent of a 1000W thermal light source.  There is a CPU fan behind the LED array providing some forced-air cooling.  In a short while I will be testing the array out with Tony Allen to see how it performs in high-speed video applications.  I will almost certainly put a “snoot” reflector over this array, and Tony will being down a Fresnel lens to go over the front of the snoot.  Should be an interesting experiment 🙂

Comments 2 Comments »

After a completely overcast day the cloud began to break up around 5:00 p.m. and now (9:00 p.m.) it looks like we might actually have a reasonably clear night.  Whooppeeeeeeeeee – I’m off over the forest with the AstroTrac Canon 5D and 15mm fish eye lens to grab some Perseids 🙂 🙂   There was just too much light pollution from the street lights in my back garden to do a proper job with this setup, so I’m going in a nice large flat field right next to our allotments to hopefully get some dark sky imaging.  I’ll report on the outcome of this evening’s efforts tomorrow – provided it stays clear long enough to get started.

Comments No Comments »

Why is there so much cloud at night recently when it’s been relatively clear through most of the day?  Well I have the AstroTrac ready and set up with the new Canon 5D MkII and the Canon 15mm fish-eye lens so that I can take some whole-sky pictures (the 5D and 15mm fish-eye gives me a full 180 degree field of view so I can get horizon-to-horizon shots).  So that’s why it’s cloudy 🙁  Don’t forget we are also in Perseid season (that’s the main reason I’m ready with the AstroTrac), and although we won’t be getting any Moon problems at the height of the shower, we can’t guarantee clear skies on the main nights, so it’s fingers-crossed time again, as usual.


Comments No Comments »

There’s plenty of clouds at the moment 🙁 but I’m hoping for just a few gaps in the cloud tonight.  No Moon – and it should be the peak in the Geminid meteor shower (13th – 14th December 2009).  Went out for a bit of practice last night with the 40D piggy-backed on the C11 – just as well really as every picture was out of focus!  I know how to sort that particular problem out tonight – if it decides to clear.  Rather than squinting at the little dim LCD on the back of the 40D I shall hook up the laptop in “Remote Shooting” mode and use the Remote Liveview plus the magnifier to carefully focus (also through the laptop so no fumbly paws trying to do the job) the 40D.  When satisfied with the focus flick the switch from autofocus to manual (so things don’t change) and trigger the remote timer to take the frames.  It’s as much of a pallava as doing “real” deep-sky imaging with the main scope.  Please let’s have at least a couple of clear hours and plenty of meteors tonight – pretty please 🙂

Comments No Comments »

Great day today (no – not the weather!) – put the side panels on the mini-WASP array, and Brian May sent me a copy of his new book “A Village Lost & Found”.  This is a beautiful publication and you can see the attention to detail that has gone into every part of creating this book.  Wonderful job Brian – well done – would make the Thesis look like an almost trivial exercise by comparison 🙂

With the side panels now on, it’s a matter of getting the second observatory built and buying the cameras for the two Sky 90s and the guide scope.

Comments No Comments »

I bolted the mini-WASP telescope frame to the Paramount versa-plate to get a feel what the finished system will look like.  The funny-looking device sticking out the front of the frame is a counterbalance arm for the weight of all the equipment that will sit on the back of the telescopes.  I have left the two side panels off in this photo.  I have also left out the 2 Sky 90s from the bottom pair of holes as I need to remove the Robofocus units from them before fitting to the frame – I might do this tomorrow and update the photos.  The two holes at the top are for 2 x FSQ106 telescopes to be bought at some future (unknown) date, and these will be used for narrowband imaging.

This is going to be some beast to set up prior to an imaging run and I’m glad I didn’t make provision for any more telescopes as I don’t think it would be viable to get them all sorted without losing a lot of good imaging time per session.

Comments No Comments »

I have just spent the WHOLE of today resurrecting an old computer which will be the main computer for the mini-WASP array.  Lots of silly little things have fought back hard and it’s only just started to give in now at 9:30 p.m.  It’s only a 1.12GHz Athlon with 1GB of memory, but it has XP Pro, 2 serial ports, a parallel port, and a load of USB ports on the back.  The Robofocus wants a serial port, the mount wants a serial (or USB) port, and the Starlight Xpress cameras which use a USB port don’t want to see anything on any of the other USB ports – so it will end up being one computer per imaging camera.  Unfortunately as each camera (on each of the 4 imaging scopes) will also need a serial port (for the Robofocus) it will mean 4 PCs altogether as laptops don’t seem to come with serial ports nowadays.  So it’s going to be quite a pain (computer-wise) to get the whole mini-WASP array working together as a single system.  I also only want one keyboard, mouse and screen of course due to the space limitations in the observatory.  So I might end up connecting the 4 PCs together via the LAN ports (and a hub) and using the main computer that I’ve resurrected today to “remote desktop” the three satellite computers – unless anyone out there has a better/more efficient way of doing this.

Comments 2 Comments »

I have just unpacked the beast – it is the most solid piece of engineering I’ve come across in the field of astronomy – I just hope I can put it to full use.  I think a fully-loaded mini-WASP head will come in around 80 or 90 pounds, which is well within the capabilities of this mount and should hopefully ensure long life – provided I balance it all up nicely.  And therein lies a mod to the refractor mounting frame, I’ll be adding a counterweight bar (and weights) to the front of the frame to balance out all the equipment that will be hanging off the back.  Next job is to get the frame into the workshop for the mods.

Comments 2 Comments »

UPS have just delivered the Paramount 🙂  Will now unpack – taking piccies as I go.  It’s come all the way from Germany!!

Comments No Comments »

Well it wasn’t a two week wait to see what happened – I crumbled just a few days after the last mini-WASP report and ordered up a Paramount ME from Kieron at SCS Astro – it is due to be with me early next week 🙂  Well I’ve really “bin and gone and dunnit” now haven’t I?  As I’ve purchased the “heart” of the mini-WASP array, all that remains now is to integrate all the various bits of the system and get imaging with the thing.  Estimated first light timescale is June/July 2010 if I don’t get another dome to house the array, and a bit earlier in the year if I do need to get a second dome.  It’s all systems go for the mini-WASP at the New Forest Observatory – we are about to enter a new era of amateur deep-sky imaging!!!

Comments No Comments »