Packing and Traveling a Large Mount
Posted 20 July 2014 - 08:17 PM
I have a case for the battery and then my power distribution system is in a self-contained case as well. This is easier to pack and much easier to manage in the field as opposed to having a bunch of wires and cables going everywhere. The power distribution system has separate fusing and can handle separate circuits. It is set up so I can power different types of systems (drive motors, cameras, dew heating) without causing problems between them.
Wade's comment about working gear is spot on, too. The better you case and organize equipment and minimize free wiring, cables, and hardware, the easier it is to maintain and troubleshoot in the field.
It also addresses my number 1 rule about astronomy equipment: You have to be able to use it in the dark with your eyes closed. If it requires a flashlight, it is no good to me.
That rule affects my casing, my connectors, my controllers, my hardware, my use of velcro (next best thing to duct tape!), what watch I wear, how I set up and take down, how I sketch, how I use my maps, the tables and chairs I use, and some of the oddest things that you might not even consider otherwise.
Posted 20 July 2014 - 09:13 PM
After traveling with my LX850 several times I think you can see now why I opted to go with a lighter and more portable system.
For about 22 years it was just the LX200 for me. I am still convinced the 10" is big enough to travel with very good views, but still easy enough to travel with and set up - not too big. Set up the tripod (with super wedge already on it), put Fork/OTA combo on, plug in everything, align and you are good for the night.
I love the LX850, but I got very lazy with it. It was effectively semi-permanently set up for the last 235 days. Sometimes I swap OTAs, but otherwise once set up the steps were: take off cover, turn on, calibrate and I was good for the night. Set up and tear down…too many steps, too many parts, too epic which seems the norm for a GEM. The LX850 has great load capacity, but to handle the great load capacity it is a big beast.
The LXD75 clearly has more setup steps than the LX200, but it is light enough that I truly do not need any help. The 14" OTA on the LX850 - I need help. The LXD75 has become my true easy load and go rig for the road.
Where I see the LX850 working is a long term camping adventure of 1-2 weeks at one site (like Chaco Canyon) and a permanent/semi-permanent set up at home. Going back and forth to different 1 or 2 day events is a poor use for such a big system. Once physically set up, it is very easy to get it aligned, calibrated and going. The issue is the physical set up - and the tear down. BTW, this is why I am looking at the 10" f/8 ACF for bigger aperture on the road with the LXD75. If I had to get a new mount, the best alternatives seems like either the AVX on the low end or the Mach1GTO and the 10Micron1000 in the high ticket category, but the latter two still might be heavier and have too many piece parts than I want for the easy transport department. To be honest on the "large, advanced" easy to rig setup seems to be the 10" LX600.
The LX80 is NOT a light weight set-up and it has a lower payload capacity of the LXD75.
Whichwayisnorth - if the LX850 was your only large system for 1-3 day events viewing nights, then I would agree with your decision, especially if you cannot keep multiple mounts and telescopes. I love my LX850, but it was parked in my courtyard all the time. If I had to set it up repeatedly and often then that would get tiring really fast, but that would be true of most large systems.
Posted 20 July 2014 - 11:49 PM
...and a power distribution and management panel with a solid connection system (I'm also a Ham operator, so I use Anderson power poles, which means I can use the same power stations for radio use, too. Other advantage of power poles is that they are easy to connect and manage in the dark).
Anderson powerpoles are awesome! I've replaced every DC connection on all of my astro equipment with powerpoles. I've set up my imaging rig so that it's all DC - no AC/DC power supplies and no inverters required. I can run it from a well regulated, adjustable DC converter, or I can run it from deep cycle 12 volt batteries. On my imaging setup, I use RigRunners for power distribution with the powerpoles.
After changing to these, I would never go back to cigarette lighter style power connectors.
Posted 29 July 2014 - 10:45 AM
Some updates on the portability front.
* Thank God I went with the LXD75/130mm ED APO combo. This seems to be optimal for portability and use, but light enough to use. Still, I need to cut down on the piece parts.
* I had three great observing sessions at Oregon Observatory (GREAT PLACE! GREAT STAFF). One thing that stood out - cool down was instant in the 130mm refractor compared to the other telescopes (Dobs & SCTs) and views of Saturn were fantastic.
* The other mount/tripod, my Manfrotto kit, has proven to be the ultimate grab and go for astrophotography.
Still, with this "light" astro travel kit I am loaded up with camping gear and items for the Small Satellite Conference. I cannot imagine traveling with a heavier load of astro gear - unless I had an RV.
One last item of note - the Canon 60Da out shined the MallinCam X2. Yes, different class of cameras and different uses, but the MallinCam was frustrating in that every time a setting was changed I had to wait 3 minutes for it to warm up. We were losing our audience fast. I then went to the Canon 60Da, snapped 10-30 sec exposures of DSOs for the audience and got some great pictures - and loads of oohs and aaaahhhhs. No fuss, no muss. Next public tour I will leave the MallinCam at home. Less gear to tote.
Side note - the LXD75 is proving to be a very impressive travel mount. I was getting up to 90 second unguided images again using only the built in polar scope. No drift alignment. No PE Training. The LXD75 also seems to handle the 130mm ED AP and gear without any problems. Lastly, it seems to handle the travel beating quite well. Gotos were nearly spot on after "Easy Align". This mount was not tweaked, was not fixed out of the box, nor was it hyper tuned. It just works. I think Meade made a huge blunder discontinuing this mount.
Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:53 PM
Agreed . My LXD75s have always been impressive right out of the box .
Dropping that affordable line was a big mistake by Meade.
For travel , I built two wooden crates for mine with internal supports .
The head stays on the tripod for a real easy set up and tear down .
Only the counter weight shaft with the weight in place gets removed .
This eliminates the need to re balance the system every time .
Loosen the leg spreader , collapse the legs and the entire mount goes in the crate .
Simple , easy , quick and precise .
Pictures of my home made crates reside somewhere on this site .
At least they did at one time . Maybe under a home built case thread .
Also built crates for the OTAs using the original poly packing from the original cartons .
Maybe 200 bucks total material cost for the four crates that hold two LXD75 mounts ,
the AR5 OTA and the SN8 OTA .
That's wood , screws , paint , felt , stain and clearcoat .
A little labor of love of course .
Edited by Starrancher II, 07 August 2014 - 04:54 PM.
Posted 14 September 2014 - 01:52 PM
That sounds really cool starrancherII !
I wish I could find the photos .