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This astro stuff…

14 Dec

I thought when I built my Barn Door tracker, it’d be an exercise in mental and after a few runs with it, I’d be off doing something else, something that ate less time and threw in less frustration…

Oddly, strangely, though I’ve got quite hooked with it, as when I’m done for a turn at work, especially if it’s been a grim one, setting up the rig and doing some bits really does help me clear off the head.

Sadly, at the moment, we’ve got an evening to morning curfew in place so unless I’m out and working I can’t get out somewhere nearby to set up so I’ve got view on certain things, like Andromeda for instance, so each of the shots I’ve done have been taken from a south facing balcony with only about 30º x 60º of view of the sky (which is challenging in itself) and also that means one other big thing… I’ve not been able to align it with Polaris and then on to North Celestial Pole. So it’s compass and inclinometer, which also leads to a problem as there’s a lot of metal work out the back, things like balcony rails (not just mine, but neighbours too), the structural steelwork of the building, the fold out washing line and a pair of hefty thermal radiators for the air-conditioning system. Plenty of fun with magnetic interference.

At the moment, a lot of the stuff I’m pointing the camera at, and learning about taking images is in the Orion constellation, or in the neighbourhood of, as it’s one of the few things that’s visible at reasonable hours for me, but there are plenty of targets in that area to keep me occupied and go learn things with.

Some things I’ve found with this tracker, with building it as I did using 200mm rods and flexible couplers (the idea behind that was to minimise motor vibration in the shaft) that after about an hour, it starts throwing periodic error in to the mix, and also the run time is limited to just under an hour and a half; so the project over Christmas is to up-gun the machine, change the motor guide rods for longer and stiffer, and also change the couplers on the motor system to rigid ones. With that, hopefully it should give me about 2 and a half hours on target with less periodic, so I can fire off more subs before having the machine go awry on me.

Whilst it may seem that Orion could get boring quite quickly, there’s so much up around it, that there are plenty of things to get on to. And hopefully before too long, things like the Rosetta Nebula, the Christmas Tree Cluster and that will be sliding across my field of view; instead of me having to scoot out and break some rules to get some shots.

Without more ado…

Constellation of Orion
Orion Nebula
A bit tighter in to the Orion Nebula
Flame Nebula / Horsehead Nebula
Witch Head Nebula and Rigel

All these were done on the barn door, all of them with one or another Nikon SLR and a 70-200 lens.

I do have some further runs planned over Christmas if I can get in without the moon cycle, and also have a few articles with more technical things (as a few people have asked in other places about the machine and code)…

And, I’m trying to fight the urge to start looking at G.E.M types, as I’m enjoying this too much, and also have odd urges to spend some cash. I’ve never really been one to drool over kit, but I’ve started doing so in the last few weeks.

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