Projects

Recently I’ve noticed I’m becoming increasingly frustrated and de-motivated with our weather and the general lack of imaging time, so to keep me going, I’m looking at related projects.

First up is running everything from outside without leaving the laptop out there. “Have you heard of the ZWO ASIAir?” I hear you ask. Yes I have. But it’s almost as much as a new mount (depending what you buy and where from) so that’s not happening anytime soon!

So what’s the alternative? Raspberry Pi seems to be the way to go. Far cheaper, and with free open source software it’s almost a no,-brainer. Managed to pick up a Pi3 intact, so I’m going to be installing Astroberry and associated software and seeing if I can get away from a) using a laptop outside, and b) using a hub outside (it comes with 4 USB ports.) Second part of that may be an issue as the Pi is only a total of 2.5amps and I already know from using my previous hub that’s underpowered. Hopefully with running less from it though, this may offset the loss of power.

This is what Miranda looks like at the moment. Not yet loaded Astroberry onto the the Pi but I have everything in situ. May swap out the ties for velcro though.

One issue I have is running the EQDIR cable from the mount to either the hub or the Pi. But in all honesty I think this is a case of just having to bite the bullet and accept that not everything can go the way I want. I could always run it directly to a spare USB2 port on the laptop, but that kinda negates the whole idea of not needing a laptop outside in the first place.

Having reassembled the rig, it appears at first power up to be doing exactly what it should be doing with the exception of the auto focuser. I suspect it suffered some damage from where I tossed the whole assembly a few days ago (don’t ask, I told you I was feeling massively de-motivated!) This means I’ll have to disconnect the focus motor and go manual for the time being until such time as I can either get the motor unit repaired or replaced.

First power up
Excuse the mad camera angle. First live run in a new configuration.

With a couple of clear hours I figured I might as well test the rig in its new setup. So far guiding is going well with 2 minute subs in gusty conditions. Everything seems well balanced and has so far been running flawlessly with the exception of ASTAP for platesolving, which doesn’t seem to want to know Messier 51. M101 nearby is absolutely fine but it’s struggling with M51, even using 30 second test shots for the platesolving.

As it turned out, the wind got up too much and guiding went to hell. Sadly, as soon as the wind dropped, the clouds rolled in. Nevertheless though, I’m pretty happy with how the rig performed. This coming weekend has potential so in the meantime I’m going to make some repairs to the plastic casing of the RA motor, get hold of a 32gb micro SD card, and get Astroberry installed on the Pi.

I’ve also upgraded the hub anyway until I can get it all running under Astroberry, and have to say that my old one was definitely underpowered. The new 5amp one seems to be throwing out far less in the way of bad, what I call, “interference” frames. I’ll be doing a specific post, tracking my progress with Astroberry so keep your eyes open for that.

Any other little projects that I undertake I’ll also do under this new “Projects” tab. There’s several things I’d like to do such as fit some form of carry handle and sort some kind of guiding solution that I can simply unplug from the main scope for ease of transportation, as well as getting my old EQ5 Pro back together and in some species of working order. As you’re probably becoming aware, us astronomers and astrophotographers love to tinker!

For now, thanks for reading and clear skies all.

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