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Ioptron Smart EQ Pro - my first GEM - questions

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#1 lakeorion

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:01 AM

The UPS truck dropped off a box yesterday - in the middle of a 100 yard visibility snow squall...

So my first questions are about the Declination axis. With the clutch screws loosened it does not turn nearly as easily as the RA axis.

Is this normal? Balancing in this axis is nearly impossible.

Next, it appears that there are two redundant Declination clutch screws, mine has another screw at the front of the dovetail (directly above the polar scope hole in the zero position). This second screw does not appear in the manual.

I'm sure more questions will follow, but for now thanks for your experience and help, and sorry for causing the cloudy weather in SE Michigan...

#2 PGW Steve

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:44 AM

I've got one of these and have made some changes to it. The best way to balance DEC is to loosen off the two screws and remove the dovetail head completely. Next place your scope/camera/whatever combo into the clamp. Set the whole assembly into a round dowel or something with the dowel through the centerline of the DEC shaft. Balance it static like a teeter totter, then place it back on the shaft and tighten the screws.

#3 lakeorion

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 08:12 AM

Thanks. I didn't realize I could pull the entire head off. Now that I have - I see that it's not a miracle of finish machining so no wonder it doesn't rotate easily.

#4 lakeorion

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 08:16 AM

Next simple question:
When entering the current time into the controller, do I enter Local Time or UT?

The manual's section title is 'Local Time Set' but it makes more sense to me to enter UT, minutes behind/ahead, and GPS Lat/Long. That should be enough to fix things. And for that matter why does the controller need the minutes behind/ahead UT? Seems redundant with location known.

#5 Astronewb

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 11:59 AM

Hi,

Enter your local time, but in 24 hr format, ie; 2:00pm = 1400.

The controller is set to UT time, if you don't enter your offset (in time) from the UT basic, your star positions will aways be off by several degrees.

As far as the Dec balance, due to the design of the mount, with most of the weight concentrated in the head, dec balance is not critical. Find the balance point of your ota by placing it on a pencil on a hard surface. Put that balance point in the middle of the saddle and you'll be fine.

The little screw on the front of the saddle is to take the vertical 'slop' out of the dec axis, I found that out when I received one of the first mounts, which had no small screw..:( It was drilled and tapped for one, but not supplied. All current mounts have the small knob now.

Have fun with the little mount.

Clear skies,

Paul

#6 Astronewb

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 01:39 PM

Oh..while you're at it...have a look here for some easy mods on the SmartEQs:

http://www.flickr.co...57632518747500/

Best,

Paul

#7 lakeorion

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 09:38 PM

Thanks for the mod tips - but with a few more kit pieces - that whole tripod is due to be replaced by 'Old Yeller'

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#8 Astronewb

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 10:25 AM

Thanks for the mod tips - but with a few more kit pieces - that whole tripod is due to be replaced by 'Old Yeller'


Very nice, and very solid, good choice. I would do the same, but the mount modded is very stable, I can do 4 minutes unguided with it, and the complete mount on the tripod fits nicely in a Hakube 37" tripod bag. I just don't want to compromise the supreme portability of the mount.

Good luck..

Paul

#9 lakeorion

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:06 PM

I've got one of these and have made some changes to it. The best way to balance DEC is to loosen off the two screws and remove the dovetail head completely. Next place your scope/camera/whatever combo into the clamp. Set the whole assembly into a round dowel or something with the dowel through the centerline of the DEC shaft. Balance it static like a teeter totter, then place it back on the shaft and tighten the screws.


Good idea. I fashioned a Dec balance unit out of a deep well socket and a piece of plywood.

But I like your modded head even more! Wish I had the ability to do something like that. I'm envisioning eventually a side-by-side DSLR and 50 mm finderscope.

#10 lakeorion

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:49 AM

So last night was my first attempt at actually using the mount. (1st uncloudy night – but of course with a full moon…)

I dutifully checked the collimation of the polar scope. Way off. After an unreasonable time of attempting to get it lined up I pulled it out and took it apart. The reticle wasn’t being held by the three screws, it was crooked by about 20°. That explained why pushing and pulling on the three screws was not having any positive effect…

So I got the polar scope in reasonable alignment, put Polaris where it should be, locked Altitude/Azimuth, verified local time, time after UT, daylight savings time, GPS, balance.

Then I told the mount to go to zero position, then unlocked RA and Dec clutches then realigned the marks, then locked RA and Dec clutches.

Then I tried to do a one star alignment. I chose Altinak (third star on the left – right over there) and the scope started slewing. It didn’t stop until it was pointed about 10° down to the ground.

What am I doing wrong?

Thanks in advance for your experience and help.

#11 lakeorion

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:53 AM

Also, am I alone in thinking that the polar scope illuminator is more of a 'washout-inator' than anything else? Is it possible to tone it down a bit? The lowest setting is still too much.

#12 Astronewb

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:56 PM

Then I tried to do a one star alignment. I chose Altinak (third star on the left – right over there) and the scope started slewing. It didn’t stop until it was pointed about 10° down to the ground.


And that's where you went wrong. Level the mount as best you can with the bubble level. Line up the RA and DEC marks on the mount and lock it down (not too tight..just snug up the RA lock very lightly.)

Find Polaris in the fov of the polar scope...and center it in the 4 arc minute circle in the center, using your lat and az adjusters. Now go to your OTA and center Polaris side to side in your FOV of your EP (or camera live view). You have now reduced cone error as much as you can without an adjustable saddle.

Now for the fun, get the Polaris readout from the hand controller and using the lat and az adjusters, position Polaris at the correct time and radius (ie; for me it's about 42 degrees) Basically just put Polaris where the HC picture shows it's supposed to be.

Now, shut the mount off...and then power it back on...you have just established your 'zero position'.

Now do a One Star Align to a bright star, when prompted, center the star in your ota FOV. Hit enter and then 'return to zero'.

This will put most targets on both sides of the meridian in the FOV of a camera sensor or 30mm EP, first try, every time.

To fine tune for better pointing accuracy, or for imaging, after returning to the zero position, do a couple of iterations of the 2 star align, adjusting the polar offset as directed by the HC after the 2d star has been centered.

If you can get to 01-03 in either axes..you can take unguided images for 4 minutes (done it).

I have been using the iOtpron Polar Scope app from iTunes with the iPad/iPhone as well...it's great, auto loads your time/location/etc from the iPad gps and puts a nice Green x in the polar scope gui so you know exactly where to put Polaris. https://itunes.apple...d564078961?mt=8

the polar scope illuminator is more of a 'washout-inator'


Lol..yep. Take off the front cover and the 4 screws holding the board down...at that point, you can apply several coats of your wife's fingernail polish on the led to dim it down (pinks are nice) or simply flip the led over by removing the 2 screws holding it on the board so it shines outward.

Hope you find this helpful..have a ton 'a fun while you're at it.

Paul

#13 lakeorion

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:31 AM

4 minutes may not be realistic around my house. Below is a one minute test shot.

FujiFilm IS Pro - Nikon 35mm f1.8 prime @ f3.5, 60 sec, ISO 800, Hutech IDAS UV/IR blocking filter. Full moon looking south into a white zone.

If you look close in the glare, a popular constellation is hidden...

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#14 lakeorion

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:32 AM

I'll give your procedure a try the next time it's clear outside (probably next full moon) - weather forecast is not looking happy for the next few days.

Thanks.

#15 Astronewb

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 02:49 PM

Lol..that's a great daytime shot...too bad it was taken at night. The Orion Nebula looks great way out there in the distance!

Oh, you may have problems getting that gradient out of your final....:) Take a whole bunch of flats, and add two more LP filters, and you might get close...? ;)

Clear outside...what's that?

Regards,

Paul

PS: It's okay to post your first name at the end of your posts........:)

#16 lakeorion

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 10:36 AM

I'm just in training so I'll know what to do when I'm in the real dark and not waste the moment. Future plan is to add a Hutech IDAS LPS and/or Lumicon Night Sky Hydrogen - Alpha. Both are available in sizes to fit over the front of a group of camera lenses I intend to get proficient with. My goal is to master 35mm - 300 mm focal lengths before upgrading everything to handle a 'real' scope. Or maybe I won't, there's a ton of interesting and beautiful things to image in those FOV's.

But the CFA holds it down to $100 a month - the current plan goes out two years before things get expensive...

Thanks again for the advice,

Dana

P.S. I was tempted to just put "your first name" ;)

#17 lakeorion

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 01:19 AM

Actually, there was a little salvageable stuff there. Shame I only took three frames.
Full moon - looking back into a white zone (there's a shopping mall 1 mile in that direction) - no filters - three subs - not knowing how to run the mount? I'll take it.

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#18 Astronewb

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 07:52 AM

no filters - three subs - not knowing how to run the mount? I'll take it.

Under those conditions, me too. The more you use it, skies permitting, the more you're going to appreciate the quick setups ease of transporting the mount. Nicely done...

Regards,

Paul

#19 Raginar

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 11:08 AM

Lakeorion,

I'm really thinking about getting one of these as a portable rig too. They seem 'perfect' as a grab and go. I think you grabbed a great picture.

#20 ghataa

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 11:16 AM

I have one, just need some time under the stars to play with it. I became overly obsessed with balance when adding an autoguider like the SSAG.

George

#21 lakeorion

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 10:05 PM

Lakeorion,

I'm really thinking about getting one of these as a portable rig too. They seem 'perfect' as a grab and go. I think you grabbed a great picture.

Thanks but I won't be happy until I can see all there is there to see - Barnard's Loop, flame, horsehead, running man...
I think at 35mm focal length this is the appropriate mount overkill I'll need.
In about a week the kit parts will be complete, then I'll post some pictures.
Then, I just have to get it out under the sky and practice.

#22 lakeorion

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 09:52 AM

GoTo's are still insane. I try to do a one star align, pick Sirius, and the camera points to my neighbors porch with Sirius no where in sight. With a 35mm lens that's a fairly wide target to go to, is this normal?

Polar alignment is fair - I tried 40 x 1 minute exposures and DSS says there's a max 2.55 pixel drift (DSLR picture size 4256x2848 pixels) - sounds close to me.

A second question, why do you not have to put altitude in as part of your location? Or have I completely missed that?

#23 Astronewb

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 11:59 AM

GoTo's are still insane. I try to do a one star align, pick Sirius, and the camera points to my neighbors porch with Sirius no where in sight. With a 35mm lens that's a fairly wide target to go to, is this normal?


Nope, not normal. It sounds like what my SmartEQ did when the handset battery went low and the time and date didn't hold.

When you power up the mount..check the date especially..you might be pointing to Sirius in 2001...?

Altitude is not necessary on most hand controllers..the lat and long entry will get you on target with a level mount and a good polar align. It's included with planetarium programs for the most exact location readouts short of plate solving.

Best,

Paul

#24 lakeorion

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 09:11 PM

Time is spot on and GPS is what I entered. GPS coords from handheld Tom-Tom and double checked on internet.

#25 Astronewb

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 11:03 PM

Time is spot on and GPS is what I entered. GPS coords from handheld Tom-Tom and double checked on internet.



Okay, but it's what you're not telling us that's the most important data is...what year? If the year is 2013..and not 2012 or 2010, then the only thing that can cause a go-to that far off is a mount that doesn't have a correct 'zero position set'.

At the least, after leveling the mount...pointed north..place Polaris in the correct latitude ring and at the correct time.

Then, with all the mount alignment marks (lines) lined up, shut the mount off, and back on again..that sets the initial zero point.

Then do a one-star align to a bright visible star..if it still slews to a neighbors porch, check the firmware version of the HC and RA and DEC boards and forward that info to iOptron tech support. A firmware update may be in order?

Good luck and clear skies,

Paul






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