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I finally succumbed to the seductive lure of GOTO

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#1 magic612

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 09:52 PM

I found a pretty nice deal on a Meade DS-2114ATS-TC go-to scope last week, and it arrived today. Of course, it was still cloudy when I got it, but by the time I had it together and collimated, the impossible happened: The clouds cleared!

So I nearly ran outside with the whole mess, having just barely gotten far enough in the manual to figure out how to do an "easy" star align and a sky tour. I wasted no time! Set it up, star aligned, and... oops, messed up the first time. Tried again, and hey - success! Objects were never QUITE in the field of view, but I imagine if I did the more advanced star-align, it might be a bit better, too. And it wasn't hard to find the objects by doing the "auto spiral" that the computer will do automatically with a touch of the "GOTO" button.

Being a 'by the chart' kind of guy for the last 15 years or so, I was surprised at seeing about 6 Messier objects in the amount of time I'd normally see, at most, two. Now, first off, I don't care for the OTA itself - it's one of those "short tube" reflectors that has the corrector lens in it. But I have a re-aluminized 114mm f/8 mirror with an appropriate sized tube that ought to be a simple "drop in" replacement on the mount, that should be a MUCH improved view. And I'm not sure the tripod is something I care for - I'll probably build something a bit sturdier.

But wow - this is a cool little toy, and if nothing else, I'm REALLY looking forward to using it to find numerous variable stars so I can make regular estimates to the AAVSO. I've always resisted these 'goto' mounts, having the attitude that "It's better to KNOW the sky and FIND it on your own." Well, I still think that's a good thing to know the sky, and I'll still need to for my other, larger scopes. But for quick grab-n-go, or camping, or "hey, where approximately IS that in the sky" to then apply to a larger scope, I now find myself asking:

Why didn't I do this sooner? :confused: :foreheadslap: :lol:

#2 Jaxdialation

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:15 PM

LOL you're ruined now! Congrats on making the move from searching to observing :)

#3 David Pavlich

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:16 PM

Yep...I'm hooked! It's also really nice if you have someone visting or you're doing an outreach event. Many people are amazed by the mechanical side. You get a lot of oooohs and aaaaahs when you slew from one object to the next.

What's really cool is one of our club members always brings his 16" Nightsky dob that goto equipped. When that thing swings from one side of the meridian to the other, it drops a lot of jaws! :jawdrop:

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#4 magic612

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 06:46 PM

Well, I swapped out the Jones-Bird style reflector that comes with this set up for a 114mm f/8 scope for which I had the mirror re-aluminized. The mount seems to work just fine even with the additional weight (the Jones-Bird only weighs 4.5 pounds, and the longer one is about 7), though I will need to be careful when slewing since it has a lot more scope hanging down in the way of tripod legs at near-zenith altitudes.

My Clear Sky Chart is showing clouds rolling in just about the time it's supposed to get dark, but tomorrow is looking very promising. So if it all checks out okay, I think I'll wind up selling the little short-tube OTA.

And I added all the variable stars to the hand-controller that I plan on estimating, so finding/estimating should become a LOT faster exercise each time I bring the scope out. At this rate, this set up may be my "go-to" grab-n-go scope (pun intended!). :grin:

#5 Al Canarelli

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 08:04 PM

But for quick grab-n-go, or camping, or "hey, where approximately IS that in the sky" to then apply to a larger scope, I now find myself asking:

Why didn't I do this sooner?
============================================================
Now you need to turn your attention to your next car. It's time to try automatic transmissions, power brakes, power steering and air conditioning. Don't you love technology?:-)

#6 Skylook123

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 10:39 PM

Sweet. Messier Marathon time coming up; time to warp drive through the catalog!

#7 magic612

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 10:50 PM

Now you need to turn your attention to your next car. It's time to try automatic transmissions, power brakes, power steering and air conditioning. Don't you love technology?:-)


Well, yes - overall, I do tend to embrace technology. I think I've resisted it in the past because I always wanted to be able to find the objects on my own. That way, when someone asks me "How do you know where that is in the sky?" I can star-hop them there, and point out where "that" is so they can do it too.

But MAN oh man, this GOTO mount is pretty cool. I think when I bring out the larger scopes, I'm likely to haul out this one too and set them up side-by-side. Then I can find the "faint object" in the GOTO, and subsequently jump over to the larger scope and star hop to the same star field. And I have no doubt that when we have neighborhood bonfires this spring and summer, this little wonder will be a real hit.

I think I'm going to like this.... :jump: :smirk:

Sweet. Messier Marathon time coming up; time to warp drive through the catalog!


Yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking too! :grin:

#8 astroN00B

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 12:49 AM

Glad you like your DS mount. Here's a few tips from the experience I had with mine:

1. Tracking is much better if the mount is level. I remove the motorized assembly (top portion) from the base and use a cheap bubble level, then put the motorized assembly back.

2. A RDF will make star alignment much easier... no more rotational slewing.

3. Wood legs will dampen better, mine also added some height. Got them from Hands On Optics. Had to drill the holes bigger on the base to fit the mounting bolts, was easy.

4. I use 8 Energizer 2500mAh rechargeable batteries, which last through my observing sessions of a couple hours. Could last longer. Much more convenient than wiring in an external battery or power tank, and no wrapped wires.

Hope that helps.

#9 CounterWeight

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 01:46 AM

Welcome to the 'goto' club! my mount has a 'tour' feature which I think I will never wear out...

#10 magic612

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 10:29 AM

Glad you like your DS mount. Here's a few tips from the experience I had with mine:

1. Tracking is much better if the mount is level. I remove the motorized assembly (top portion) from the base and use a cheap bubble level, then put the motorized assembly back.


I did have better success with it when I took the time to carefully align it to Polaris first, then "level" it to "zero." I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to level it perpendicular to that too. I'll keep that in mind, as I typically didn't quite get most objects centered on the first try last night, even after setting it to the "high precision alignment" mode.


2. A RDF will make star alignment much easier... no more rotational slewing.


Not to ask a dumb question, but what's a "RDF"?


3. Wood legs will dampen better, mine also added some height. Got them from Hands On Optics. Had to drill the holes bigger on the base to fit the mounting bolts, was easy.


I can easily make new wood legs for it - in fact, because the tube I put on it is longer than the "shorty" that came with it, I was thinking of making a short "pier on a tripod" so that I can allow for 360 degree zenith slewing without bumping into tripod legs. That's a project for later this spring, no doubt.


4. I use 8 Energizer 2500mAh rechargeable batteries, which last through my observing sessions of a couple hours. Could last longer. Much more convenient than wiring in an external battery or power tank, and no wrapped wires.


I have those kind of batteries, but the problem with them is that NiMh batteries have lower voltage than alkalines. So eight of them really only equals about 10 volts. That might explain your shorter observing sessions.

Since one of my other hobbies is R/C airplanes, I have Lithium Polymer batteries and chargers that are of the 11.1V variety - they pack more voltage/current into a smaller space, and although rated to 11.1V, they actually deliver more like 12 to 12.6 volts. In a low-current drain situation like this, I'm sure I can find small packs that will fit into that space and have sufficient amp/hour capacity for many hours of observing.

Thanks for the tips - much appreciated!!

#11 wsuriano

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 10:50 AM

RDF = Red Dot Finder.

#12 astroN00B

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 11:47 AM

All sounds good and welcome to GOTO land. My 2 hour sessions are about as along as I typically stay out. The batteries are still running at that point. You're right about them being of lower voltage, specifically 1.2V. Doesn't seen to effect things though and it sounds like you have a solution already. I did wire up an external battery and decided it was too much trouble after having the power cord wrapped around the legs every session. My DS-2000 doesn't have an external power plug, so I wired into the battery compartment MacGyver style. I understand some of the Celestron mounts have a plug for external power and don't have the same problem.

Yea, RDF = Red Dot Finder

Take care and Clear Skies!

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#13 magic612

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 11:56 AM

Red dot finder - got it. Sorry, I hadn't seen that acronym before to know what it meant. Thanks!

Mine doesn't have an external plug either, but some of those LiPo battery packs are so small, I know I can find one that will fit in the battery compartment area. I'll just have to wire up an adapter for the two different connectors, but that's a quick soldering job.

#14 MtnGoat

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 07:24 PM

Welcome to the dark side!

I did things old school for 3 decades myself. Experience that served me well and still does. It's great to be able to grab any old scope or even a pair of binos for the brighter ones, and find my old favs by memory, to this day.

I was never really interested in GOTO at all other than peripherally as a cool techno trick, but then I'd never seen it in person, either. I plugged along happily with my old Coulter mirrored 8" for decades, then a Z12 dob which brought me into the minor major leagues.

Then I would up with an ETX60AT for my birthday last year.

Popped some batteries in it, read the manual, alt az two star align..bingo, saw a nights worth of M treats in 10% of the time. Now I can actually examine something for as long as I danged well feel like it knowing the next target will along the instant I want it.

That it makes cool noises and I could run it from my laptop, even better. Then of course I decided I needed to try imaging, so I picked up an old DSI-C.

Now my wife wonders what she unleashed with that ETX, hundreds of night hours, three more GOTO mounts, three piers, four OTA's, hundreds of night hours, and only a year later! Well, what she unleashed was the long simmering superastrobug, and combined with Craigslist and the Cloudy Nights classifieds, it is very virulent indeed!

GOTO rocks, but isn't a replacement for knowing the sky. However, when used with a legal power GLP operated in a conscientous manner mounted on a GOTO scope, and a 497 handset with it's extensive library, it is also a spectacular adjunct to a big dob. Dial in obscure object with the GOTO, follow the laser with the nearby big dob...bingo, there's your faint fuzzy.

Don't miss Weasner's mighty ETX site, it is ETX-centric but also has loads of DS applicable info.

Didn't need GOTO for this of course, but the SN8 was one of my aquisitions following the astrobug flare up, along with the LXD75 it's mounted on.

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#15 astroN00B

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 12:27 AM

I think we're on the same path. Small scopes with GOTO are great and serve their purpose, but I see a dob in my future :grin:

Clear Skies!






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