Tracking Tricks that Work

On March 9th, my father and I brought the telescope out to test its tracking capabilities. We aligned it to two stars and pointed it at Jupiter. After applying some tricks, we checked back and saw that it had not moved from its position. My father was impressed by that, and we declared that “we are back on track.”

The reason why it worked is because, earlier, I read this forum post about tracking issues. It talked about how commercial grade telescopes are manufactured using spur gears rather than worm gears, which means the teeth of the gears have some space in between them. This can lead to significant drifting before the teeth mesh. The solution, according to the forum post is to slew the telescope to the right, and depending on its position, up or down (down is pre-meridian, up if post-meridian, adjust as necessary). I did that and it worked. =D

Jupiter stood straight in the center of the eyepiece, and it was beautiful. We tested it further by putting Jupiter near the edge of the eyepiece, and after a while, it didn’t move at all.

After all that testing, we decided to pack up the telescope. I didn’t take any pictures because the clouds were rolling in. It was a successful night, with tracking actually working. I’m thankful that it is actually working and I can say with certainty that I’m back in business! 😀


Clear Night of Winter

There are rarely any clear nights during the Canadian winter. That’s why this night of clarity was not to be missed. On December 7, 2014, after bundling myself in two layers of jackets, and a scarf, I went outside, with my telescope, to image Orion.

After assembling, and aligning my telescope to the Full Moon, I was ready to explore the night sky.

The whole time I was there, I experienced problem after problem, and I was able to conquer them all though. For example, I found Orion, but it was a very dim gas cloud from my eyepiece. I needed to image it, but my father’s camera had no liveview. I had to use the internal viewfinder, which couldn’t see Orion, which means I couldn’t focus properly. I could see Jupiter, though.

I slewed to Jupiter and focused the camera. After a few images, I slewed to M42 and started imaging it. Each image turned out bad, because of significant trailing from the telescope. Tracking is still a major issue. I soon decided to image the Moon out of frustration.

I tried imaging M45, but trailing was too great to get a good image. Looking closely at the eyepiece, I realize that there was a one second delay from my command to its response. I tested it by going to M42, and imaging it. The results are here, and they confirm what I feared.

I soon packed up and went back inside, because my battery died. This session was quite productive. I saw M42, and Jupiter, and found a problem to correct on my telescope.

Surprising Discovery In Sudbury

On Thursday, November 14, 2014, I went to Sudbury with my father, and the second day we were there, it was a gorgeous day. My father suggested I take the telescope out to observe the sun, and I did that.

The batteries had died, therefore I got the DC adapter, and plugged it into the car. I looked at the sun, and there were a few minor sunspots on the right side of the Sun. My father, and my aunt, saw the sun, and they were impressed. When my father needed help with some repairs, I centered the sun in the telescope’s eyepiece and, I went to help him leaving the telescope and car running.

My experience with tracking this past year was horrible. It never stayed in the center long enough to take any good photos. That is why it was a surprise to find that the telescope actually stayed in the center. Tracking worked because it was connected to a DC power source. When I stayed in Sudbury during the summer, I connected my telescope to an AC outlet, and it didn’t work as well as I wanted it to. Maybe it has to be connected into a DC plug to power the telescope efficiently.

Whatever happened, we need to do more research on this. If this is the case, then my problem is solved, and I can do all the imaging that I would like to do. I hope that is the case.


UPDATE: A few weeks ago, I tested my telescope’s tracking capabilities using my Pontiac G6 as its power source. Tracking did all right, but not as expected. I had the idea of imaging the Pleiades, but the clouds came in and quickly blocked the night sky. Therefore, I centered my telescope on Sirius. I timed the tracking, and Sirius reached the edge of the Eyepiece’s Field of View in less than 5 minutes. I think that might be the acceptable limit that my friend was talking about, nevertheless, I needed to do more testing. Good Night!

Fishing for Dim Objects

August 26, 2014 was a good night to observe the skies.Not only were the skies clear, the Moon was at its new phase. That meant the sky would be extra dark that night.

Taking advantage of that, my dad and I went to a dark area to observe it. That dark area was all right. The western sky is completely blocked with light pollution, but the eastern sky was perfect. There were various insects flying around, making noise, and biting us. In the distance, we could hear howling of an unknown animal; probably a dog. Despite all those distractions, we decided to park there, and do astronomy.

This time, since all the major planets were setting and the Moon was below the horizon, I decided to align my telescope using its skyalign feature of my telescope. Since it uses three anchor points to align the telescope with the sky, it should be more accurate than the Solar System align, which uses only one anchor point. I aligned my telescope, with expert precision, and we began looking for our first target, Comet Jacque.

Comet Jacque is located North West of the constellation Cassiopeia. I read online that, if you start from the center star, and move North-West of that, you will find Comet Jacque. I followed the instructions, like they said. Looking at the sky, I found what looked like a star north west of the star. It was more north, than west, but it might’ve been the comet. I slewed my telescope to the bright star. Then my dad and I took many long exposure images of the picture, using various exposure times. When we did that, we got a variety of images, but not only was the object not a comet, the images were displaying star trails. This meant that the tracking feature of my telescope was not fixed. This was a major problem for my dad and me, because all the hard work we put into fixing it did not pay off. We were disappointed.

We kept looking for a while more, but to no avail. We moved on and began looking for Uranus. We had trouble finding it as well. One reason is that we disagreed that both of our Skyview apps were showing different positions of the planets. Later on, my dad found out his phone thought they were in Italy. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find Uranus.

We decided to pack it in and go back home. Before we packed up our equipment, we spent some time looking at the constellation of the night sky. My dad talked about how he would find Cassiopeia using the Big Dipper and Polaris. It was an interesting way to find Polaris. We then found the constellation, Boötes. It was interesting to be able to find and see that constellation. It’s not an ecliptic, nor a northern constellation, which is why it was cool for me to see it. Hopefully, I can find more constellations in the near future.

After that, we packed up and went back home. It wasn’t a completely successful night of astronomy, but we did learn some more about the telescope and the night sky. Tracking isn’t working at all, therefore we need to fix it; comets and dim planets are harder to find than normal, but we saw the constellation Boötes, Cassiopeia, Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper. Hopefully we can fix these problems, and come back to do better astronomy in the future.