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My Astrotrac Advenuture

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My Astrotrac Advenuture was created by manic_dave

http://www.flickr.com/photos/79136331@N07/11236546755/After many months of deliberation and driving several members of MAC crazy, i took the plunge this week and bought myself an Astrotrac.
I have decided to do a bit of a blog on how I get on with it over the next few months.

To start with I went for the Holiday Special which I ordered from Stephen in K-Tec Telescopes.

I went for this package as i also wanted a good tripod and ball head for my other Photography work. So all that justified the 1175 euro price tag, or thats how i managed to convince my better half of it anyway.

My DSLR set up is as follows.

Canon 60d.
Sigma 10-20mm F4.5-5.6
Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro
Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
I also intend to borrow a good L series lens for this blog, but more on that later (Michael you have been warned)

Astrotrac Holiday Pack contains

Astrotrac TT320X-AG
Astrotrac Polarscope
Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod
Manfrotto 496 RC2 Ball Head
Manfrotto 410 JuniorGeared Head
Astrotrac 8xAA Battery Holder & Lead

First Night.

After doing the real man thing and disregarding the instructions i headed out to the garden. Typically half the street had their garden lights on. One man leaves 3 on for his dogs. so after several text messages i had some darkness.

I put the Sigma 10-20mm on the camera and set up everything as it looks in the picture on Astrotrac website.

So after shooting several shots and seeing stars trailing I headed back inside and read the manual.

That was Wednesday 4th Dec. Next entry - getting some fist shots - My Polar Alignment Adventure !


www.flickr.com/photos/79136331@N07/11236546755/
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Last edit: 8 years 11 months ago by manic_dave.
8 years 11 months ago #99491

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Thursday 5th December

After reading the Instructions and doing a lot of reading on line about setting up the Polar scope on the Astrotrac I set everything up again.
I was not expecting to have a clear sky but the great thing with this set up is it takes about 5 mins from picking it up in the spare room and taking that first shot in the garden.

Polar alignment has been a struggle for me. I had a loan of an EQ5-ED80 set up for the last few months and i really struggled to get it aligned. After getting some advice I did manage to do it and got some good shots. However I did feel that the set up was taking a log time, not to mention the weight of carrying it in and out of the house. As an imaging platform it was very good and Im sure anyone with a place outside the house to store it, be that a shed or an obsey would find it very rewarding. This however was a five min process.

So pointing the rig north i put the polar scope into its holder and turned it on. a quick twist moved the constellations around until the matched what i could see in the sky, and i used the slow motion controls on the gear-head to bring Polaris into the correct position. There is a further step to bring another two stars into play in the scope but in my light flooded estate i found these hard to see. So i left it at the rough alignment.

Attaching the Camera at this point was simple on the ball head, and i attached my Sigma 10-20mm lens opened out to f4 @ 10mm. ISO was set to 400 and using a wireless trigger (Gigga T Pro, highly recommend these, Amazon do them) i set the exposure to 4.5 mins

www.flickr.com/photos/79136331@N07/11236546615/
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Last edit: 8 years 11 months ago by manic_dave.
8 years 11 months ago #99493

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Replied by dave_lillis on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Hi,
Looking at the later pic, I'd say the adventure was worth it :-)
Dave L. on facebook , See my images in flickr
Chairman. Shannonside Astronomy Club (Limerick)

Carrying around my 20" obsession is going to kill me,
but what a way to go. :)
+ 12"LX200, MK67, Meade2045, 4"refractor
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8 years 11 months ago #99494

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Thanks Dave, Im having problems getting images onto this site, and Flickr makes a mess of my images. Ill try another site later on and post some pics.

I also took some stacked shots of M45 and the Orion Nebula which ill upload.
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8 years 11 months ago #99495

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Replied by Keith g on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

That's the way Dave, I have ben using my astrotrac for a few years now, you will find it dead handy to polar align in no time :) :)

Keith.
If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson
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8 years 11 months ago #99496

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Replied by StephenK on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Super stuff Dave.

Great to see progress.

Cant wait til you pull out some great pics :-)
Stephen Kershaw
Ktec Telescopes Ltd
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8 years 11 months ago #99497

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Kieth, what focal length are you using on yours?

do you manage to align all 3 stars in the scope?
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8 years 11 months ago #99498

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Replied by Keith g on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Yes Dave I can align the three stars very well. I can easily get 3-4minutes of exposure using my 200mm lens which is really 320mm on my canon 40d. Using any wide field lens is as inch, I can get 8 minutes with my 24mm :)
If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson
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8 years 11 months ago #99499

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

This is 12 x 15 second shots, 12 dark frames stacked in DSS
Canon 60d, Canon 70-300 lens @ 280mm ISO 800
Very light processing in Lightroom

M45

It may not be the best picture, but Im delighted i got "some" of the nebulousness around the stars.

www.astrobin.com/67209/
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Last edit: 8 years 11 months ago by manic_dave.
8 years 11 months ago #99500

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Replied by Keith g on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

That's a cool shot Dave, 15secs is no problem how about trying a 2 min sub with careful polar alignment?

I'm sure you will be pleased :)

Keith..
If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson
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8 years 11 months ago #99502

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Thats the plan Kieth, as soon as the clouds do one.
going to try 2 mins subs at ISO800 if i can get 20 of them ill be happy
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8 years 11 months ago #99503

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Replied by Keith g on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Hopefully it will clear soon, but looking at the weather, its a cloudy few night ahead... good luck

Keith..
If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson
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8 years 11 months ago #99506

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Got a few hours of clear skies last night.

Managed to polar align in pretty much 3 mins.

Again I have been sticking to my target of M45, really because its very easy to find :)

For me the weak point on this system is the ball head. I find it difficult to move it around and position the target.

Im thinking I might invest in the Astrotrac wedge and move the gear head into the ball head position. the slow motion controls will make things better I think.

I tried a 72mm William Optics APO on this set up also. And again the ball head let me down. It was slipping badly. In fairness I did expect this. But if I buy an expensive large L series lens i wonder if i would have issues.

Lastly, and this maybe just me, I freely admit that my knowledge of the night sky is not brilliant, I find myself missing GOTO.

I have compiled a list of 5 targets I would like to shoot over the next few months and feel I may waste a lot of time in looking for them. Not having a finder-scope is a loss I feel.

I have seen on TS website that you can get an adapter for the flash seat on a camera to fit the clamp type red dot finder. Its not expensive and might help me a lot.

Anyone experienced this kind of problem ?
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8 years 11 months ago #99507

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Astrotrac Wedge arrived. Its a very solid looking bit of kit. Less than 24 hours between ordering and delivery! Kudos Stephen! :)

Now if the sky would just clear.

Picture added. The wedge makes this set up very stable, and allows me to put the gear head under the camera.
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Last edit: 8 years 11 months ago by manic_dave.
8 years 11 months ago #99519
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Replied by martinus on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

I can't tell how well it works but I've seen a number of examples of relatively substantial loads being put on an Astrotrac:

www.hkastroforum.net/viewtopic.php?t=22460
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8 years 11 months ago #99526

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

wow, that is serious weight.

Looks like thats a different machine head than the Astrotrac one. Im not surprised. Its more expensive than the Wedge!
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8 years 11 months ago #99527

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Replied by martinus on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Aye, it's described here:
www.astrotrac.com/Default.aspx?p=head
8 years 11 months ago #99528

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Replied by Keith g on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Nice one Dave,

'But if I buy an expensive large L series lens i wonder if i would have issues'

I don't think so, I have a Canon 70-200mm L lens and it is quite heavy, I have never had a problem with slippage or balance yet, but I do agree that the ball head is not ideal

Keith..
If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson
8 years 11 months ago #99538

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Replied by TrevorDurity on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Howdy guys,

I've placed a Megrez 90 + 5d mkiii on mine with no great issues, apart from it being challenging to balance and align that is. That would be quite a bit heavier and longer than using the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS. Had to use a Giro II Mini in place of the ball head, which I believe is similar to the one from Astrotrac. Not sure I'd place any more weight on though.

But it can't handle even the slightest breeze at that load. Found it quite reasonable with a 7D and WO 66SD though!

Trev
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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

A 5d Mk iii, now thats a nice camera. !
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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

If the clouds would only clear !!
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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Cold evening spend out in the wilds shooting milky way.

Picture below is all i have processed so far, ill do some more over the next day or so.

Polar scope, humm im not a fan of it.

www.astrobin.com/69196/
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8 years 11 months ago #99591

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Got very little in the way of good skies over Christmas, but I did manage to get out for a few hours at least.

I have had some issues with my astrotrac, its the polar scope. First it was only turning on when it felt like it, and then while trying to get the alignment bang on i noticed how badly collimated it is. There are some very good articles on line about how to do this, but it voids the warranty, along with the other issue I contacted Ktech and Stephen is looking to get this replaced for me.

This image is 10 images of Cassiopeia stitched in CS6
1.5 mins exposures @ ISO 100

www.astrobin.com/70137/
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8 years 10 months ago #99652

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Replied by michaeloconnell on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

Your images are progressing well.
The stitching worked very well.
Seamless.

I am surprised that there are still issues with the polar scope of the astrotrac. This has been going on for some time now.
8 years 10 months ago #99655

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Replied by manic_dave on topic Re: My Astrotrac Advenuture

I knew there was issues. and in fairness to Astrotrac they have been trying to address them.
Maybe i was just unlucky
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