Monday, January 25, 2010

Scope Buggy

The biggest pain about having a large telescope is hauling it outdoors to do your viewing.

So now I am considering building my very own scope buggy i.e. a platform with wheels to that I can easily push it out to the lawn and start viewing almost immediately.

My usual set up time can take up to 30 minutes and I do hope to reduce that by half.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Busy busy busy

I have not made any postings for almost 2 months now. My work has really taken up a lot of my time, reaching home between 7:00pm to 8:00pm daily, feeling tired on top of that. So no late night observations for me despite a couple of invitations sent out by Tommy.

Anyway the secondary mirror on my Newtonian is out of alignment. I have done some alignment manually but have not the opportunity to do the star test. Guess it will be some time before I can start observing again.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Star Atlas II

I was at Border's in Berjaya Times Sqaure last year. While browsing the astronomy section, I came across the ultimate star atlas. I have seen it on the Astronomy managzine a thousand times, secretly wishing I can own one of it. It was describes as the only atlas that you will ever need - the Sky Atlas 2000.0 Deluxe Edition! This atlas contains 26 super size charts (double A3 size) covering the whole sky and showing 81,312 single, multiple, and variable stars of magnitude 8.5 and brighter and 2,700 deep-sky objects

It was going for RM210 and there are only 2 copies left. After thinking about it for 2 seconds, I decided to buy it, with my credit card and figure a way to pay for it later. This is too rare an opportunity to miss.

It's definately much much better than my 20 year old, black and white atlas. Here's snapshot of Orion - it's double the size!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Star Atlas

Hey there, sorry for the very long silence. I have been very busy at work, trying to deliver and close a project with near impossible deadlines. Anyway, the main phase of project is almost done and now I have some room to get back to where I left off.

So back to the topic - Maps has always fascinated me. It’s a bird’s eye view of things and it gives me a sense of where I am and where I am heading. I had the map of the world on my room wall ever since I was 12 years old. My brother and I used to memorize names of cities and weird islands - like Disco Island off the coast of Greenland. (Bet you didn’t know that!) Naturally, we didn't have any problems with our geography. Besides scrutinizing at them, I'd love drawing maps and my drawings used to be the showcase for the entire class.

By the time I was 16, I was deep into astronomy already. So naturally, a star atlas was one of the first thing I went looking for. I checked out the school library, the national library as well as the local bookstore but could not find any – you have to remember that it was the mid 1980’s! The pre-Internet era.

Then one day I “discovered” a star atlas at the British Council library. The pages and colors were beautiful. But the atlas was classified as reference material and cannot be removed from the library and I desparately need one to navigate the skies. Then I noticed that there is a photocopier that can handle A3 size paper for only 20 cents a copy, there were 14 pages so that worked out to be RM2.80. Although it was black and white but it was worth having it! So I made a copy of it and had it bound.

Twenty three years later, I still have it. Check it out.

The cover of my very first star atlas.

The first 2 pages. List of objects on the left and the map (folded) on the right.

The right page unfolded. It didn't have lines to mark the constellations, so it's a bit diffifult to read and navigate.

No color? No problem, just add your own! A close up of Orion.

And of course, my journey did not end there. It was just the beginning. More coming ...

Friday, March 9, 2007

Meade Starfinder 826 with LXD-75

Thanks for the emails and since some of you guys requested a close up of the modified pier and here it is ....
This is the side view of the mount.

The bottom, inside view of the mount.

Bottom view with the Vixen pier removed.

The tube of the pier - the smaller holes closer to the top was for the old mount. There are 3 new holes drilled for the new mount.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


I have not the time to make any new post for the past 2 weeks. Work has really caught up with me and since the project deadline is looming, the whole team has been working late. We have gone up to 4 days with very little sleep and needless to say, I have absolutely no time to haul out my telescope to do some serious observing.

I look forward to the Lunar eclipse this March 4 but I seriously doubt that I have the time. The same goes for the Astronomy Convention 2007 on 9 March in USM, Penang. That will be a 4.5 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, tough luck. So if anyone of you out there who will be attending, tell me all about it OK?

In the meantime, if you are looking for a good astro community to join, check out Cloudy, a wonderful community about telescopes and telescope making, lot of great information and helpful people there.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My first telescope - Part III

The original clock drive on the Starfinder 826 was beyond salvation. So after some research, I decided to replace the mount with a newer, better one with "Go To" capability. Naturally, I looked up the Meade catalogue, trying to find the best solution. The LXD-55 mount works out to be OK, in theory at least, but the LXD-55 has been around since 2001 and persistent rumours of a newer mount coming out soon held me back for a while.

Finally the word was out - the LXD-55 will be replaced by the LXD-75. The best part is LXD-75 is miles better and comes complete with Autostar #497. With it you can point the telescope to any of the 30,223 celestial objects in the database automatically. So no more moving the telescope by hand and having to track the objects manually.

Autostar 497 controller Meade AutoStar #497 Controller

Again I went back and consulted Looi at Infinity Infocus, the Malaysian dealer for Meade to see if the 826 mount can be upgraded with an LXD-75 drive. I did not want to use a tripod because it will obstruct the counter weights. That' s because since my location is very close to the equator and the latitute adjustment has to be set very close to zero degrees. At that angle, the counter weight will hit the tripod at certain angles. The idea is to stick to the good sturdy old pier of the 826.

Meade Starfinder 826C Newtonian 8 inch f/6 telescope with LXD-75 mount

The new mount - note the distance between the counter weights and the black color pier. If it was a tripod, the counter weight bar will most certainly hit one of the tripod legs.

Sure enough, after much discussion and brainstorming, we've got a solution - remove the old mount, drill 3 separate holes on the tube of the pier to extend it with Vixen pier, the put the LXD-75 mount on top of it. The end result was very satisfying, by June 2005 my 20 year old telescope is back in action with some serious "Go To" capability!

Meade Starfinder 826C pier with LXD-75 mount

Meade LXD-75 mount with the Starfinder 826 pier - a unique combination.

Meade's Autostar is pretty cool. It is powered by a Motorola 68HC11, 8MHz procesor with 1MB flash memory. The 30,223 objects in the AutoStar database include :

  • 5,386 objects from the Index Catalog (IC); galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters of all types; the complete Index Catalog
  • 7,840 objects from the New General Catalog (NGC); additional galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters of all types; the complete New General Catalog
  • 109 objects from the Caldwell Catalog of the best objects for small telescopes 110 Messier (M) objects; the complete Messier catalog
  • 16,800 stars from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) catalog, including double stars, variable stars, and other stars of special note
  • 50 Earth-orbiting satellites
  • 26 asteroids, including all of the brightest asteroids
  • 15 periodic comets
  • 8 major planets from Mercury to Pluto

You can also program the AutoStar to include additional objects. Better yet, you can hook it up to your laptop and use the software to control the telescope. Just point on the desired object on the screen, say the Orion nebula M42, click and the telescope will slew and locate M42 for you.

Now all I need is an observatory to house all of that ....