Grab yourself a coffee and a sandwich, this is going to take a while….
About 18 months ago we had a run of clear nights for a week. I mention this because a) that in itself is quite rare in the UK, and b) I never got to do any imaging during that week, because my mount ended up down the garden…about 30 feet down the garden.
I discovered, quite by accident, that astro gear hangs in the air in much the same way that bricks don’t. Unfortunately this is what happens when you setup on decking, and fail to account for the slight down angle to allow for drainage. Lesson learned: make sure it’s secure!
For the majority of the time since then I’ve been reliant on the portable mount (the Star Adventurer) for any kind of astrophotography. This has brought its own frustrations but finally the mount was replaced with another EQ5 Pro, which is doing wonders at this point for my imaging.
But the old one was left somewhat destitute and forlorn at the bottom of storage, despite being gifted some replacement parts for it. Now though, I’ve decided it’s time to rebuild it.
Already the first part of that has gone quite well. Complete strip, degrease and regreasing of anything I could get to. Okay, I’ve used white lithium grease which I’ve heard isn’t ideal, but for the time being I’ll make do.
The first power up test went smoothly, bar the anticipated binding on the RA and DEC motors, but that was solved soon enough and I’m happy that it now appears to slew at max rate and also track indoors. The next test is to see if it holds tracking at lunar rate followed by sidereal and then onto guiding. The reason I’m doing it that way round is lunar is just so much easier to deal with in my opinion. I’ll be able to see immediately what’s going on and I can also do this during the day, which means I don’t lose out on any valuable imaging time.
First Live Field Test
The first part of the test went flawlessly. I loaded the mount heavy, far heavier than it’s rated for (thanks to my son Sam for the huge assistance.) The EQ5 Pro wasn’t built to have a 200 PDS on it. But I went with some lunar imaging and it held perfectly. So good in fact that three of the kids had chance to do some lunar imaging. For my autistic 11 year old, Ben, it was his first time trying any astrophotography and he was absolutely ecstatic!
The second part of the test involved guiding. Because we have an almost full moon I’ve gone on the opposite side of the sky and getting some more time in on AGC 2218, a galaxy cluster in Draco some 3 billion light years away, and the Cygnus Wall.
I’m shooting 3 minute subs and the guide graph, as you can see, is almost perfect. In fact I don’t recall seeing it this good, even with the other EQ5 Pro. Based on this, it would appear I’m spoiled for choice on which rig to use when imaging.
To say that I’m incredibly happy with this would be a gross understatement. I genuinely felt I would never get this mount running again, let alone performing this well. On top of that, the 200 PDS which was on the mount when it tried to fly also performed brilliantly, although I do need to lock down the focuser. But if that’s all then, again, I’m VERY happy. In fact it would probably be an opportune time to swap out its stock Crayford for the Moonlight focuser that’s been sat in storage for the past 2 years.
All in all, this gives me more options when it comes to imaging now, which is a place I didn’t think I’d ever be a couple of months ago. I love when things actually go right, and at this point in time, they’re going more right than I dreamed of.
I’m going to get back to AGC 2218 and the Cygnus Wall. Thank you for reading, and clear skies all.