Astronomy and CCD'S or ‘A Brief History of Time’
I became aware in October, 1957 at the ripe old age of 15. Always a sci-fi flick fan.... this was real..
I rushed out to buy my first telescope.... an Edmund Scientific 3” f/10 reflector purchased for the royal sum of $29.95 and came with an “equatorial mount” (a bolt through an angled cutoff shaft) and a Kellner eyepiece. It was a piece of junk but with it I could examine the craters on the moon, sunspots (projected on the ceiling of course), Orion’s nebula and other faint fuzzies. Years later I graduated to a 10” f/6 Newtonian home built DOB using all Meade off the shelf parts except for the tube, diagonal, and focuser. The DOB lasted about as long as I could stand not trying to capture stuff on film like I saw in Sky and Telescope so I broke down and bought their “Research Grade” German Equatorial Mount. Well to make a long story short it ain’t “research grade” unless all the research was going to go into why it wouldn’t track worth a damn. To boot it weighed a ton and a hernia was a real possibility when setting it up. It began to collect dust. More years went by and the advent of CCD imaging arrived with Richard Berry’s Cookbook Camera…a do it yourself electronic imaging system that would negate the crappy mount by allowing short images to be stacked (added).
So I built one.
On April 4, 1997 it achieved First Light.
I realized after several imaging attempts that it REALLY needed to be housed somewhere permanently to avoid the aforementioned setup hassles (and the hernia).
So I built the Dogpatch Observatory…in the woods. I mean REALLY in the woods.
So began my love affair with CCD imaging. But alas it was sort of one sided since I was ignorant of proper imaging techniques and processing. With kids, a house to maintain, working, community involvement, and so on I really didn’t have the time to learn it properly. I tried but it just didn’t sink in. Then again… maybe it’s the “man thing” about not needing or reading directions.
Then we decided to really screw our lives up by building a custom home. So now with a less than two year old observatory (in the woods no less) I’m about to embark on a two year foray into the joys of finding a proper plan we can both agree on, a good builder, an excellent piece of land, and the jungle of bureaucratic permits, inspections, and just plain bad luck that attends to any large project. Edsal Murphy loves large projects. He has written a huge set of laws regarding things. He has become world famous for these laws. He states “anything that can go wrong will” and “if everything is going smoothly you have obviously overlooked something”. Edsal, you were never so right…unfortunately.
In 1998 I found 3.5 acres of former soybean field in a very nice community. There is NOT a tree on it. There is NOT a single tree leaf on it. The nearest tree is 300 feet away. The lot is isolated from the main part of the development and only has six lots in our section. We found a plan that worked for our pending retirement about five years down the road. We found a builder that was recommended by my daughter-in–law. We signed the contracts. We purchased the lot. Construction began the following spring.
We fired our builder that summer for incompetence.
I won’t go into the gory details except to say an 18-week building schedule became an 18-month ordeal to find our own subcontractors, undo the screw-ups our “builder” caused, do a lot of the work on our own to keep within budget, get through the mandatory inspections, and get an occupancy permit. Do you realize that if one plumber roughs in your pipes, getting a different plumber to finish the work is damn near impossible? Like pulling teeth without Novocain. We succeeded on all fronts despite Edsal Murphy and his laws. So…
I built another observatory…the Dogpatch II.
I installed my 10” Newt and “Research Grade” mount in it.
I tried taking more images.
I purchased two Byers gear sets to try to alleviate the “Research Grade” mount problems.
I found that you cannot turn a sows ear into a silk purse no matter how many diamonds you put on it.
I decided to get out of the rut of home built scope stuff and crappy mounts.
I’ve had enough!
I bought a Celestron Nex$tar 11 GP$ $CT and $hort Tube 80 refractor.
I bought my $BIG $T-8XE CCD Camera, CFW-8 Filter Wheel, and ROBOFOCU$ motorized focus system.
I bought a WHOLE LOT of new eyepiece$ and acce$$orie$.
I joined all these e-groups and read all these pro and con comments about the very equipment I had just purchased.
I read about the difficulties in using my new CCD camera.
I READ the directions!
I felt sick. What have I just blown all my hard earned money on?
You know, astronomy is very similar to boating which is often called “a hole in the water you pour money into” except in this case it’s not on the water and for the most part it’s stationary. It does however share the exorbitant costs with boating, which unfortunately (or fortunately) is another of my hobbies. But that’s another $tory.
I have adapted. But did I stop there? No. After 14 years of dealing witth the quirks of the NexStar11, I dismounted the 11" OTA in 2016, sold the fork mount and APT wedge, add purchased a HDX110 GEM mount with direct drive microstepped stepper motors. It apparently has it's own design flaws but now I'm into the world of GEM flips and all the things I didn't have to deal with when using the fork mount.
Having read this discourse this far I suppose you are interested in seeing what all this is about so below are the links to the various stuff mentioned above.
Last updated: Sunday, May 22, 2016