Catching up

Well it's been some time since this blog was updated. Years in fact. I've been inactive on the astro front for most of that time due to stiction issues with a mount that I was never able to resolve. Unfortunate, but it happens in this field when you try to make do on a budget. In January last year I decided to bite the bullet and get a brand new Skywatcher EQ6-R mount so I could get back on the horse. As you can imagine the pandemic threw that through a loop shortly after and I didn't end up re
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6 min read

Shutter shock

I've been largely happy with my NexDome since setting it up at the start of this year. It's not perfect but all the issues it can present are generally quite manageable and at the end of the day it sells at a price point that can't be beat. One of said issues is securing it against wind. I only have the dome part of the NexDome rather than the full observatory so can't make use of their wind lock. Instead my own solution has been to tie it down to the observatory structure using multiple coiled
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3 min read

Cable Crisis: How to make your own DB9-RJ12 cable for Synscan Handcontrollers

After finishing the observatory and starting to shift my scope and gear into it, I very quickly found that all my essential cables were not where I thought they were... USB cables for my cameras, rj12 to db9 and usb to serial cables for connecting the handcontroller to my laptop, even the RA and Dec motor cables essential to control the mount - all missing. After turning the house upside down searching for them without result, I've had no choice but to replace them. The usb cables are no trouble
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7 min read

Final prep for Dome & Observatory

With the dome finally in place, the hard part of the project was complete. Getting the observatory to a usable state still required a little more work though. First up was the weatherproofing. The NexDome is one of the cheapest astro domes out there but like everything in astro, it's not actually 'cheap'. That's why the first instinct after installing the damn thing is to make sure it isn't gonna blow away. When assembling the dome I made sure to secure a few flat metal braces (although I did n
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7 min read

NexDome online

After returning from a 3 month hiatus in Australia to a spell of fine weather, the Dome is finally up and in place. There's still a little bit to be done before the observatory will be fully functional but the hard part is done. It certainly wasn't without it's challenges though and there may be a few more to come. The final resultThe first step was removing the temporary plywood roof. To our bemusement we found the boards wouldn't budge even after unscrewing them. Turns out some of the sealant
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5 min read

Pier is ready

So the pier is now complete and I'm happy with the final result. Pretty much everything is to specification (with the exception of one minor niggle) and it's extremely sturdy, which is something I was concerned about initially considering how tall it is. It passed its first test which was to slot the base over the bolts in the central pillar. I was a bit worried about this as we did have to force down the wooden template a little when we put that together and with steel you don't really get t
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3 min read

Finish line in sight

After just over 1 year the observatory is finally nearing completion! All that remains is to install the dome and pier and it will be ready for observing. The Nexdome finally arrived many months after ordering. The box came a bit banged up (it came all the way from Canada via Australia!) but everything inside appears to be intact and undamaged. It seems to have come short of a few nuts/bolts but this shouldn't pose a major obstacle even if it is a bit annoying. The instructions are also somew
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3 min read

Back in action

After a long hiatus through the winter I'm back in action on the astronomy front. We've resumed work on the observatory installing the windows and door. Next step is to put the roof on - the Colorsteel should be here in about a week. I plan to power the building with solar so recently I've been investigating solutions on that front. I've already got a couple of 75w panels lined up that I can get for free. Later this week I'll be checking out a friends off-grid home setup and after that I'll loc
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2 min read

Building an observatory.. with no telescope to put in it

After a long period with no new content I figure it's about time for an update. Unfortunately ongoing tracking issues with my mount has put a stop to all astrophotography activity in recent months. After many weeks of troubleshooting without resolution I took the scope and mount back to the store. They've evaluated it and haven't been able to find any obvious issue apart from an under-lubricated gear. I'm doubtful this is the cause of the issue but I've retrieved all my equipment and will be tes
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4 min read

Seeking balance

Part of the setup process when using a German Equatorial mount is getting both it's right ascension and declination axes in balance. Failure to balance properly will put additional strain on the mounts motors and gears at certain points, potentially leading to poor guiding and excess wear and tear. In practice a slight balance offset can actually be quite useful as it can help keep the gear train pushing against the teeth of the gear instead of floating about in the backlash. The mileage of thi
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4 min read

The story so far Part 2: Polar alignment

Polar alignment (PA) is basically the alignment of a telescopes rotational axis with that of the earth's. The mounts motor system can drive the telescope at a rate that keeps it in sync with the earth's rotation, but if the mount isn't pointing directly at the celestial pole then over time the target object will drift in the scopes field of view. This type of drift is known as field rotation and the less accurate PA is, the more pronounced it becomes. A bad PA is highly detrimental to astrophoto
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5 min read

The story so far Part 1: The beginning

My whole life I've always had a keen interest in astronomy and owning a proper telescope has always been a desire of mine. Living under the harsh, light polluted skies of Auckland city would prove to be a strong dissuading factor whenever the thought would enter to my mind to commit to a purchase - make no mention of the exorbitant price tags that prevail in the realm of high quality optics. Moving back to the Northland earlier this year finally presented a prime opportunity to follow through as
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1 min read