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A Grab&Go DSO AstroVideo setup - ready in 3min!

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#1 core

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 12:50 AM

For sometime I've been wondering about the possibilities of an easy to setup and use AstroVideo - the main push has been my involvement with astronomy outreach and High School programs. There's often a tight time constraints on my part (get to the field, setup, and have less than an hour of time to show some sights), and I usually like to setup 2 scopes, one video and one visual, to this end the video setup had to be:

1) Minimal pieces to pack and carry
2) Minimal setup time
3) Reasonable DSO use - at least the Messier's
4) Reasonably low cost

So anyways, there's nothing new here, just a mix and match of existing components; the final item I received this week, a 'vintage' Celestron 100mm f/5 spotting scope. I've previously tried 66mm and 80mm refractors, but the image scale could do with a little bump - I had considered a 120mm f/5 OTA, but it would probably be over the mount's reasonable limit. So anyways, here's the list:

* Mount - Sky Prodigy
* OTA - 100mm f/5 Achro (RDF is redundant)
* 0.5x focal reducer
* UV/IR cut filter
* SCD-435 with IR window removed
* 7" portable LCD monitor

I put it all together this evening, and the all up weight minus battery is right at 20lb! Further more, because the mount aligns itself, there is no need to extend the legs of the tripod (for easy visual sighting) - power is via a small 7Ah SLA that sits on the shelf, or better yet a LiPo pack (I only have 2.1Ah packs for now), it's amazingly easy to just carry out the back door with lots of clearance for narrow spaces. For transportation it should just breakdown into 2 pieces. I had it out for about an hour tonight, M42 and all the usual open clusters East of meridian were easy targets, and even with the near-full-moon, M81/82 framed nicely in one screen, there was just a hint of spirals from M51, and M1 and M97 were faint but distinct enough - galaxies in the Leo region were too close to the moon though. Sorry, it was visual-video only, no screen grabs/captures/pictures :D

Estimated FOV (using the moon) is about 1°x0.75° - matches nicely with mid-power visual (eg, about the same FOV as an 8" Dob with 1.25" 24mm Plossl eyepiece)

It's quite amazing to carry the rig out, plop it down level, power on the camera, LCD, and mount, hit the align button, and come back 3min later - and the whole setup is ready to go! I'll probably try a late-season Messier Marathon with my local OKC astroclub, this time with a mini DVR on hand to take screen grabs. Will try a MC-Extreme later this summer.

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#2 core

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 01:01 AM

I will probably spend the next week+ routing new power/av cables and make it so that I only need to have a single power cable to the setup, where it's distributed to the mount, camera, and LCD.

On a future note, after putting it together, I'm quite convinced that mfgs. can easily come out with a all-in-one video astronomy telescope if they see a market for it and choose to do so. The 4" achro with low-end video (I was at 4 sec integration most of the time) can easily match the visuals I can get from a 8" Dob, and more (okay, on second thot, it's way lower in resolution, but for dim fuzzies it's a marked improvement from adverted vision and in LP skies) - imo consider this setup as the entry level 6/8" dob equivalent.

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#3 nytecam

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 04:04 AM

Interesting - if you had access to larger aperture [say 6" CAT] scope for the mount and fast focal reducer you should capture more Messiers or in greater detail. Good luck ;)

#4 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 07:31 AM

Looks like a great setup. Do you have any sample images from it?

#5 dragonslayer1

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 07:50 AM

Awaiting the arrival of a CG-5, have a VSS+, a good Sony 9" 3-4 hr battery life, and for now a Orion 80 to mount for same thing. Star Parties, outreach, and camping :jump:.. The 9.25 CPC Wedge was a little much for packing :p..
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#6 Dragon Man

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 08:20 AM

Excellent set-up Peter!

I tried something similar only 2 weeks ago at our Astro camp.
I set up myEQ6 (bit heavy but it's what I've got), an ED80, the Mallincam Xtreme, and a laptop.

I also connected a Projector to the laptop and projected the live images onto the Astro Clubroom outside wall.

I was testing to see if it is feasible as a portable outreach setup.

My final decision was 'no' because the Mount is too heavy for a quick set up in schools and shopping centres.

I will try it with the Clubs EQ5 and see if that helps.

Well done Peter.

#7 wcstarguy

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 01:13 PM

I'm getting ready to use almost the same setup. I will be using my 120st on the skyprodigy mount, it seems to be okay with the weight since I replaced the metal legs on the tripod with a set of wooden legs. I will be using an scb-2000 camera with the ir filter removed, a .5 fr, and an Orion ir block/luminance filter. I also have a st80 go scope to try with the camera for a really wide field of view. I'm just waiting on good weather and I am making a simple wired remote for the camera. WC

#8 StarStuff1

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 01:54 PM

My 130 f/5 with SLT Go To mount and 7-in monitor has worked well for the last 3 years. The camera is also a Sammy model now discontinued I think. Oak legs really helped stabilize the mount. Also, I had to modify the focuser a little. All in all, a really good solution for outreach, especially with kids.

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#9 dragonslayer1

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 02:23 PM

what kind of power supply is that with 2 12V plugs on it?? And cute little dog, bet kids like that more than viewing LOL

#10 StarStuff1

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 02:51 PM

That is a power supply unit sold at Target 10 years or so ago in the camping section. 7 amp hr I believe. I have had it long enough to have to replace the battery once. It also has outputs for 9v, 5v and 3v. Very handy. It will also power my Super Polaris mount.

This whole set up is fairly light and not really expensive, less than $500 for everything. Kids and adults all can see a video screen usually much easier than looking through an eyepiece.

"Missy", a minature schnauzer (sp?) actually belonged to my step-daughter but we kept her often and she was frequently my "observing partner". A really sweet dog. Sadly she was run over and killed last summer but she was pretty old and had several serious health problems that were costing quite a bit. The whole family misses her.

#11 jgraham

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 06:43 PM

Cool setups!

#12 core

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 12:52 AM

Thanks all for the kind words and comments! The other AstroVideo setups I have are a C6 and C8 OTA on either an SE mount or (much better) Vixen SXW, but I was looking to simplify further the setup process and time (Those take about ~15min from opening the back of the vehicle to unpack, to getting first images).

StarStuff1, you know maybe I shouldn't discount the SLT130 OTA (I have one, mainly for visual) - I've dabbled with it and did not like the bounciness of the setup, with the Samsung CCTV hanging off the OTA (with its single mounting block) - I'd even gotten a pair of rings, but by then it's starting to get quite heavy for my intended purpose. The one thing that has made me put it aside for now is that I'm aiming for a f/ratio of less than f/5 - I've found the difference enough to eek out some of the harder DSO's (eg, Veil Neb with C6 at f/3.3) - after that it's a matter of image scale. What mods did you have to do to the focuser for the Samsung to work? With a 0.5X FR, I will need quite a bit more in-focus, and can't readily move the primary of the SLT up the tube. In fact, it was this limitation of bringing down the f/ratio of a SLT130 in mind that I sought out the f/5 100mm Achro. btw, same battery pack ;) I got my from Wal-Mart about 13+ years ago, already changed out the 7Ah SLA three times!

I'm afraid no DSO pics from the actual setup for now; it's going to be clouded out the next week, and I'll be busy :( There's another observation session later next week with the high school astronomy class, if weather's good and I can make it, I will get some snaps.

In the meantime, this is my other setup, C8 with Meade f/3.3 FR on SXW (which has been converted to NexSXD control board with Celestron HC).

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#13 nytecam

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 03:59 AM

Thanks Peter for the update - you've clearly got the various scope options covered ;-)

I admire your video outreach program. Have to admit when I show my latest DSO pics at our monthly meetings with an informed membership - the WOWs stop after the main half-dozen Messier lollypops eg M42/M45/M57/M27/M51/M33 - the remainder, like big gxys M81/82/100/101 etc are just unknown and as for other planetary nebs forget it - sad really. The London LP has a lot to answer for and most members have not progressed beyond rarely used binoculars. :o

#14 StarStuff1

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 08:50 AM

Hey Core1, The oak legs cut the bounciness to less than half the normal time. The other mod was to simply allow the scope to point to zenith. This scope is rarely used except for outreach and it does a good job at that. The Moon and brighter DSOs are pretty easy objects. I like this small scope.

I have a small lathe and machined a PVC adapter for the scope for a camera to reach focus.

It would not be too difficult to move the primary up an inch or so to take advantage of the use of a camera or a focal reducer.

A 130mm f/5 used at an even faster speed can be an awesome tool for outreach or personal viewing.

#15 core

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 12:20 AM

StarStuff1, thanks much for the info on the mods you did to your 130SLT - I'll definitely re-visit it sometime in the coming months.

I've had some problems with my portable video capture device recently, so I've resorted to taking screen captures off the LCD monitor with my cellphone camera. Note that in the following shots:

* cellphone camera shot, LCD slightly cropped out
* taken from my orange/red-zoned backyard
* low end 7" LCD with 240 line resolution and low contrast
* no post processing other than resize pics

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#16 core

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 12:40 AM

nytecam,

The outreach gets a little more interesting with the high school astronomy class - I volunteer with a very dedicated astronomy teacher at the local high school that not only does class work with her students, there's weekly in-the-field observing session that cover everything from constellation recognition to hands-on use of telescopes, light pollution awareness, actual radio telescope time on GAVRT, trips to the local club's dark-sky observatory and Okie-Tex star party, etc.

For example, when covering stellar evolution (Mid-November), M42 is low in the East, but it'll show it's color easy (and students get to correlate color to chemical elements), at the other end of a star's life there's M27 and M57 on the West, Veil is a hard target for the SDC-435, M1 is easy.

Alternatively, when the course covers star cluster evolution (last month), a great sequential lineup that I use:

M42 - stellar nursery
M45 - remnants of the materials blown away
M35-38 - typical open cluster, but stars aren't gravitation-ally bound
Hyades cluster - older cluster with stars moving apart

In this case a wide-field setup like the one above does great (except for Hyades!). With galaxies a larger image scale helps a whole lot more to at least give a sense of their shape (spiral, edge-on, elliptical, etc) imo nothing beats actual visual observation since their are out in the field, so there's also usually a 4-12" visual scope that either myself or another club member sets up.

Another specific case for a short-focal length video setup, is to get obtain these galactic pairings pictured above and below.

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#17 core

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 12:46 AM

M51 for scale comparison.

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#18 core

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 12:49 AM

M97 Owl ... with a 6" or 8" and darker skies, it's definitely much better than a ghost of a blob.

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#19 core

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 03:30 PM

... a year later, here are a couple of updates since - I've gone (almost) wireless!

* Battery pack is 12V LiPo sold as a bicycle lighting power supply. <$30 with charger from ebay. It states ~6.8Ah, but I have my doubts. I have a watt meter hooked up to it, and the whole rig pull around 0.5A. I've never had an issue using it 5hrs at a time. Add power Y-split to power other on-scope items.

* Wireless video transmitter (~$15)- this is sold for vehicle backup camera to eliminate the need to hardwire it to the front. Has bare power lead in, and a power plug out to power the camera (so you only need one power lead).

The other items I'm adding next:

* SkyQ Link - tried it and it works, but it disables the Sky Prodigy's complete auto alignment procedure. Will be using SkyFi next

* 4:3, 3"LCD mounted on the arm for on-scope display of output (alignment issues, camera settings).

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#20 core

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 03:30 PM

Pic of other side. At home I have the receiver end hooked up to the living room TV - although I know I'm not getting the full resolution from the camera, it still works great! In field use, it helps to eliminate tripping over any wires to a larger screen/projector!

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#21 core

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 03:49 PM

I've also added an even smaller setup - Objective is Borg 50mm f/5. Mount is Celestron GT, and I use the wireless video option as well. I'm waiting on a 60mm Borg object that bumps up the focal length from 250mm to 325mm.

What's really nice is that with the 250mm focal length, all I need is the RDF to get any alignment stars in the camera's FOV (and to be honest, aligning this setup is even faster than the Sky Prodigy setup!).

Unfortunately it looks like the GT mount won't work with SkyQ or any other wireless controller (replacing the hand controller).

I've also gotten an even smaller mount, the LCM to play around with (this one's suppose to be wireless compatible - my end goal is to setup a back-pack-able, goto astro video setup that will give me the same visual DSO as an 8" dob or larger :D)

Speaking of which, the performance of the Borg/MCµ is surprising very good - I routinely get performance that beats visual 8" dob in suburban skies - FOV is liken to a wide field 2" ~30mm eyepiece.

Consider this my Rich-Field G&G AstroVid :grin:

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#22 A. Viegas

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 06:53 PM

Can you post a link to,your wireless transmitter. Does it have a receiver at the other end?

Al

#23 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 07:07 PM

Wow, this is cool stuff. very nice for grab n go easy video. Makes it look very easy.

#24 core

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 10:35 PM

Here's the amazon store link for the 2.4Ghz video transmitter pair. Comes with both TX and RX. The transmitter has a switched power pass-thru plug, ie, when you apply power to the TX, the same 12V is switched on to another plug that you power a CCTV camera with. I measuered the current draw for box TX and RX to be around .12A

One interesting point, threre are a couple of LCD's meant for CCTV/FPV applications which have 2.4GHz video RX built in, along with DVR recording. eg, Search ebay for "8 channels wireless receiver 5" DVR".

This link is for a 3.5" LCD monitor on amazon store for $18 which I intended to add to my setups.

On ebay, do a search for 12V LiPo CCTV and you'll get a ton of options available. On a side note, I am still a little weary with regards to some of these LiPo batteries and their quality and keep an eye on them when recharging. Was one of the early adopters almost a decade ago when we first used it for R/C planes, and quite a few fires were inadvertently started.

I was hoping to do a Messier Marathon this year with the Borg setup, which should be quite easy, but will be running another astro video at the club's scope for the event.

#25 core

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 02:14 AM

Another update. The MiniBorg 50 @250mm makes it pretty easy to frame closely grouped DSO's such as Leo triplet and M81/82 (as with my previous setup using 4" achro with reducer); should get interesting in the Sagittarius region once it gets up high enough for me. For a slightly better image scale, I've swapped out the objective for a Borg 60n (325mm f/5.4 achro, Pentax origin iirc). M97 is a ghostly hint in my orange/red zone backyard, but I'm pleased that M82 does show a little color. Globs are great! Pics show M13 and M82 on LCD screen.

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