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iOptron AZ Pro

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#1 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 03:19 AM

Just 2 weeks ago I purchased an iOptron AZ Pro (only the mount with no tripod or pier) specifically to use with a lightweight (8 lb. naked... 11 lbs. with rings, dovetail, diagonal and laser pointer) Orion Short Tube 120mm refractor.  I was warned in other posts here, that it probably would be insufficient for my TEC 140 when loaded with rings, finder, pointer and diagonal, primarily because of the length (moment of angle) when mounted.  I made a plate for attaching it to a portable pier that I built a few years ago and then made two 6 lb. SS weights for the counterweight arm that pulls out of the mount.  iOptron specs rate the AZ Pro at 33 lbs. for the scope, plus another 20+ for an additional scope or counter weights.  

 

Last week I was in New Mexico for some dark sky observing with friends and after I figured out the collimation process, used it continually for 4 nights.  After leveling the mount, collimation is actually more simple than I had imagined... turn it on and let it dance about with the scope until it stops (about 1.5 minutes to acquire GPS readings and figure out where it is).  Then it goes to a bright target automatically (named on the hand controller) and all I have to do is then use the azimuth/side to side arrows to line it up.  I thought I'd be able to use the up/down arrows too, but no dice.  I loosen the clutch and direct the scope to the bright target manually for altitude.  When the target is in the center of FoV, press the button and voila, enter and go to any target in the hand controllers 214,000 item library.  Dang simple.  

 

The ST 120 with my NV eyepiece was directed from one target to another without failure; and it always seemed to be in the middle of the FoV.  I left it running on a target for almost 2 hours one night while I was letting another observer use the NV eyepiece in his 20" Dob.  When I returned the target was still in the center of FoV... I was impressed!  

 

Vibration with the ST 120 was a non-issue.  I really had to rap the scope to see movement at all; focusing added zero vibration.  Granted, this is at a low 23x with my NV eyepiece which has a 26mm focal length. But rigidity was quite good.

 

So on the last night at City of Rocks, I loaded my TEC 140, put on the counter weights and turned it on.  Away it went and I was moving from one to another target all evening.  Again, I was at low power, 37x, but there was no vibration when focusing and even a hard rap on the focuser resulted in vibrations that settled in about 2 seconds.  My guess is that the 5" diameter column of the pier provides sufficient torsional rigidity to prevent much of the vibration that some users have reported, especially when using the tripod with a short pier extension. 

 

After years of using my shop made, manual alt/az mount, the convenience of a goto, tracking mount is pretty sweet.  I plan to use it primarily for DSO observing with my NV eyepiece (Mod 3C) so even with a 2x barlow, I'll still only be at 48-74x depending which scope I use.  I get along quite nicely on my manual mount with high magnification for planetary and close doubles.  If your interested, I posted about the trip and it includes NV Phonetography lol.gif images of some heavenly bodies including the Eagle Nebula (with the Pillars of Creation) and the Bubble Nebula.  They are not bad photos for a phone... thanks to the Mod 3C night vision eyepiece. You can see the post here:  

https://www.cloudyni...o-with-friends/

 

Here's a photo of the AZ Pro on my portable pier with the TEC 140 and the two SS weights I made.  It's compact, light weight and ran at least 9 hrs. in two days with a single charge of the built-in Li-ion battery... it was still going when I charged it from a 12v battery I carry for other camping purposes.  If it continues to perform the way it has, I'd give it a very high rating.  Time will tell, after all, it is an electronic device.  

 

Sorry, this photo was loaded upright, but didn't get posted that way. 

IMG_1168.JPG

 

IMG_1167.JPG


Edited by GeezerGazer, 24 May 2018 - 03:25 AM.

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#2 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 03:41 AM

I do have one niggle about the AZ Pro.  iOptron provides a little plastic holder that is screwed to one side of the mount to hold the hand controller.  I do not remove the mount from my pier, so the first time I picked it up and moved it, the plastic holder broke.  I removed it and used sticky velcro on the side of the mount and back of the controller.  It was an easy effective fix, but why would they build such a nice mount and then hang this flimsy plastic holder on it? 

 

The other thing I forgot to mention is that I made some special cups that stack and level the pier by placing one or more under the foot of one or two of the pier legs, changing the leg height by 1/8" for precise leveling.  It's a very quick process... perhaps 2 minutes.  I checked it each day on the built-in bubble level and found it very convenient to adjust if needed.  This method of leveling adjustment allowed a very firm connection between the top plate on the pier, eliminating the need for the star screws they include with their tripod or pier for leveling the mount.  


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#3 aneeg

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 04:20 AM

That is a great review. I have had the same mount for almost two years and it still impresses me. Sturdy, quiet and precise. I have now mounted it on a concrete pier, used the MiniPier for this and it takes care of my scopes with almost no vibration.

My holder for the handbox is in metal, I had to bend the arms inwards to keep the HBX firmly in place.

 

Bottom line: a very solid mount.

 

Arn,e


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#4 ThomasLight

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 04:41 AM

Greetings, It was a delight to read your post as the past months I have been searching for someone with this mount as I have the same. I actually joined three different Astro Clubs here in southern Connecticut for some tech help, and went to NEAF. I am a 76 year old newbe. May I post some questions to you? And, how do I attach photos of my setups? I have have good results with the mount, but I do not know if I am doing the setups correctly. 

 

Thank you, Tom


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#5 Bean614

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 05:04 AM

"...collimation is actually more simple"...????

 

Not sure I understand.  Did you mean Go-To 'Alignment'.  



#6 Muleskinner115

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 09:10 AM

I would say "alignment" as well.  As I recall having once owned the mount, I don't think you loosen any clutches to center the recommended bright object. I remember this being an issue that the manual seemed to cover poorly.



#7 contrailmaker

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:02 AM

I wonder if this mount would attach to my Twilight II pier extension.

 

CM



#8 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 01:08 PM

That is a great review. I have had the same mount for almost two years and it still impresses me. Sturdy, quiet and precise. I have now mounted it on a concrete pier, used the MiniPier for this and it takes care of my scopes with almost no vibration.

My holder for the handbox is in metal, I had to bend the arms inwards to keep the HBX firmly in place.

 

Bottom line: a very solid mount.

 

Arn,e

I quite agree Arne.  I think the more solid its foundation, the better it performs.  



#9 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 01:12 PM

Greetings, It was a delight to read your post as the past months I have been searching for someone with this mount as I have the same. I actually joined three different Astro Clubs here in southern Connecticut for some tech help, and went to NEAF. I am a 76 year old newbe. May I post some questions to you? And, how do I attach photos of my setups? I have have good results with the mount, but I do not know if I am doing the setups correctly. 

 

Thank you, Tom

Tom,

I'll respond when I get home.  Feel free to post questions about the mount here.  PM me if you would like step by step instructions for posting a photo. 

Ray



#10 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 01:15 PM

"...collimation is actually more simple"...????

 

Not sure I understand.  Did you mean Go-To 'Alignment'.  

Yes; probably used wrong terminology, but you guessed right.  There just isn't much to it.  It's quite impressive and fast.



#11 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 01:18 PM

I would say "alignment" as well.  As I recall having once owned the mount, I don't think you loosen any clutches to center the recommended bright object. I remember this being an issue that the manual seemed to cover poorly.

Well, you are right about the manual.  But when it is in alignment mode, the altitude direction arrows do not function... only the azimuth arrows work for aligning on the bright object.  So there is no choice but to loosen the clutch and adjust the scope for altitude... unless I'm doing something else incorrectly that locks out the altitude arrow function.



#12 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 01:23 PM

I wonder if this mount would attach to my Twilight II pier extension.

 

CM

I don't know. Perhaps someone else can chime in here.  But the AZ Pro requires at least a 6" diameter plate to sit upon.  So, like me, you might have to make something to attach it.  I did not really want the star screws, for a couple of reasons, but they probably work fine for most people as long as the center bolt is tightened properly.  If you do not have access to the inside of your pier via a hole in the side of it, you probably can't tighten the center bolt as needed after using the star screws for leveling.  Thus I decided on my leveling "cups."  There are always tradeoffs.


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#13 biz

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 02:03 PM

Well, you are right about the manual.  But when it is in alignment mode, the altitude direction arrows do not function... only the azimuth arrows work for aligning on the bright object.  So there is no choice but to loosen the clutch and adjust the scope for altitude... unless I'm doing something else incorrectly that locks out the altitude arrow function.

Hi, 

I would like to point out , if I may , about your mention of  " there is no choice but to loosen the cluch etc etc" to adjust for altitude... this is not really correct .. if you had moved on to the second stage this would have come to light for you so I will explain how this happens....

The mount uses a built in electronic compass to determine the north. Even with magnetic declination compensation the pointing accuracy of south could still be off. So when doing the star calibration the first step (left/right) is only to correct the south pointy error. The second step (north, south, east,west) are for the real star calibration.

I hope this explanation will clear this up for you.

cheers

Graham


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#14 Skymind

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 03:09 PM

Graham was absolutely right; no need to loosen the alt clutch during auto alignment, the next step is your turn to adjust in all directions. 



#15 biz

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 06:44 PM

I do have one niggle about the AZ Pro.  iOptron provides a little plastic holder that is screwed to one side of the mount to hold the hand controller.  I do not remove the mount from my pier, so the first time I picked it up and moved it, the plastic holder broke.  I removed it and used sticky velcro on the side of the mount and back of the controller.  It was an easy effective fix, but why would they build such a nice mount and then hang this flimsy plastic holder on it? 

 

The other thing I forgot to mention is that I made some special cups that stack and level the pier by placing one or more under the foot of one or two of the pier legs, changing the leg height by 1/8" for precise leveling.  It's a very quick process... perhaps 2 minutes.  I checked it each day on the built-in bubble level and found it very convenient to adjust if needed.  This method of leveling adjustment allowed a very firm connection between the top plate on the pier, eliminating the need for the star screws they include with their tripod or pier for leveling the mount.  

Hi, 

I agree, the little plastic controller holder is on the flimsy side so i made my own design from alloy as the enclosed photo shows, this allows the controller to sit there at the angle I like so as I can operate it while its in this position.

complete AZ mount pro head 001a.jpg

 

cheers

Graham


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#16 biz

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 07:02 PM

I like your tri-pier . Did you build this yourself?

Im going to enclose photo of the complete tripod/ extension/ spreaders and adjustable feet I built up for my own AZpro.  I purchased the mount only as I needed a project to keep me occupied for a few weeks. This assembly is very sturdy and compares very well against any tri-pier . I agree with Arne in that a permanent concrete in ground pier is the way to go but of course its not very portable ..

Showing is the adjustable feet, which, with some variations you could probably built and fit to you tri-pier. Just a few seconds is needed to get the unit level if on uneven ground. 

cheers

Graham

new tripod 042a.jpg

new tripod 051a.jpg


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#17 Muleskinner115

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 08:33 PM

I asked IOptron if there was an update coming for how to properly align the mount.  Obviously it hasn't happened yet.  I would think they would have recognized the issue at hand and fixed it.  I would say they don't care.  Money talks and it is cheaper to let people bumble through the process and not pay for a manual update.  

Perhaps someone could get them to post an electronic update on their home page so owners could at least print it.

Tim



#18 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 08:55 PM

Hi, 

I agree, the little plastic controller holder is on the flimsy side so i made my own design from alloy as the enclosed photo shows, this allows the controller to sit there at the angle I like so as I can operate it while its in this position.

attachicon.gif complete AZ mount pro head 001a.jpg

 

cheers

Graham

Graham, thanks so much.  I'll give that a try.  The instructions you cite follow the quick start guide.  But in New Mexico, the mount's original bright object alignment was so far off (west and south of Jupiter), that I could not even see Jupiter in my eyepiece... even after adjusting the azimuth to where the telescope was approximately aligned, the scope was well below the object.  I really felt that I had no choice but to loosen the clutch to raise the objective to where I could actually see Jupiter within the FoV to get it centered L to R.  While I had the clutch loose, I simply centered Jupiter in the FoV before tightening the clutch.  It did work as I pressed enter twice. 

 

I guess the key is that alignment is a two step process IF I am able to see the object to center it L to R in the FoV... then centering it up/down within the FoV is performed with the arrow keys.  If I cannot see the object in the FoV, should I push the back button to find a new object or just get it "approximately aligned with the scope in order to go to step two where I can then use all four arrow keys for perfect alignment?  My eyepiece was a 26mm FL, but with a 40 degree AFoV.  Perhaps next time, I'll use a 30mm w/70 degree FoV.  

 

Your alloy bracket for the controller is very nice and I like that it holds at an angle.  I plan to make a metal holder but the velcro does work well for now.  Perhaps I'll use both, since I applied the velcro to another side of the mount.  The velcro I used is 2"x4" and is a stronger, more industrial type than normal hook and loop.  I probed the screw holes for the bracket and found nothing directly against that part of the case, so I may re-drill and increase the screw size to 5mm for the controller hanger.  The screws used by iOptron are really small. 

 

Graham, have you suggested to iOptron that the controller bracket/hanger should be metal?  BTW, part of my decision to purchase this mount was based on your comments here on CN.  Thank you.  I was looking for something very compact and light weight that would track so that I could take a few short exposure photos (as in my NV link above).  The mount has exceeded my expectations thus far, mainly because it does perform well with my TEC 140.  



#19 Spikey131

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 08:57 PM

There is nothing wrong with aligning the mount.  

 

You turn the mount on and it does a self calibration. 

 

Then it points near a celestial object.  

 

Your first step is to use the hand controller to center the object with regard to azimuth only.  You only have to get close.  Then you press the center button.

 

Now you can center the object in both directions and press the center button again.  

 

Presto!  The mount is aligned.  

 

The manual may not be clear on this, but the instructions given on the handset tell you what to do.


Edited by Spikey131, 24 May 2018 - 08:59 PM.

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#20 biz

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:31 PM

There is nothing wrong with aligning the mount.  

 

You turn the mount on and it does a self calibration. 

 

Then it points near a celestial object.  

 

Your first step is to use the hand controller to center the object with regard to azimuth only.  You only have to get close.  Then you press the center button.

 

Now you can center the object in both directions and press the center button again.  

 

Presto!  The mount is aligned.  

 

The manual may not be clear on this, but the instructions given on the handset tell you what to do.

You are correct Spikey... the hand controller prompts will get you there.

Personally I never use the auto thingy... too slow .  I just manually align the mount. Cannot be bothered waiting for it to do it's dance so to speak.

I guess I'm just one of the old school but the mount certainly performs and I would say it's about equal to my modified mini tower that I wrote up about on here.

Glad you are enjoying your mount.

cheers

Graham



#21 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:33 PM

I like your tri-pier . Did you build this yourself?

Im going to enclose photo of the complete tripod/ extension/ spreaders and adjustable feet I built up for my own AZpro.  I purchased the mount only as I needed a project to keep me occupied for a few weeks. This assembly is very sturdy and compares very well against any tri-pier . I agree with Arne in that a permanent concrete in ground pier is the way to go but of course its not very portable ..

Showing is the adjustable feet, which, with some variations you could probably built and fit to you tri-pier. Just a few seconds is needed to get the unit level if on uneven ground. 

cheers

Graham

attachicon.gif new tripod 042a.jpg

attachicon.gif new tripod 051a.jpg

Beautiful work Graham; you are an accomplished builder and machinist.  I can turn metal, but it's done on my heaviest wood lathe with a cross-slide tool holder.  Very old school.  I have no trouble with aluminum... SS can be problematic for me, so I only do simple things like the counter weights for the AZ Pro.  Your design gives me an idea... adjustable SS jack screws would be an easy addition to my portable pier.  

 

Yes, I built three of these piers a few years back.  They are based on a design that was invented by engineers at a company called Tech 2000 in the US.  They made lots of different items, but someone in their company was also an amateur astronomer and they trademarked the name QuickDraw mount... it was never patented.  You can Google Tech 2000 QuickDraw and it should come up.  It was lighter and smaller than mine and it used plastic parts for assembly, but I liked the design concept, so designed and built my own heavy duty version specifically for a TEC 140.  It weighs 18 lbs., deploys in seconds with one cam lever on the upper sliding collar.  About a year after I built mine, AP came out with the Eagle pier... but it is a much stouter pier, with larger diameter column and shorter overall height.  Now, there are other versions because no-one can patent the design.  My pier uses a 5" column of 1/8" thick aluminum, aluminum legs and aluminum collar, TIG welded where necessary with stainless hardware throughout.  I had them powder coated white to see them at night.  They have served me well... I drive to my observing site, so weight and ease of setup is important to me. And I wanted something with excellent rigidity that did not transmit or create vibrations.  I built an alt/az mount as an integral part of the pier, but now I use this pier for the AZ Pro.  I cut 4" off the top of the column to make the height of the AZ Pro more friendly to me.  

 

Yep, a concrete pier would be nice... if it was just easily transportable.  



#22 GeezerGazer

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:44 PM

There is nothing wrong with aligning the mount.  

 

You turn the mount on and it does a self calibration. 

 

Then it points near a celestial object.  

 

Your first step is to use the hand controller to center the object with regard to azimuth only.  You only have to get close.  Then you press the center button.

 

Now you can center the object in both directions and press the center button again.  

 

Presto!  The mount is aligned.  

 

The manual may not be clear on this, but the instructions given on the handset tell you what to do.

 

Maybe iOptron should hire you for step by step instructions!  wink.gif  Much more clear than the manual.

 

OK, so the first alignment step for azimuth only needs to be approximate.  That makes it much easier.  When the manual said centered, I took it literally.  Thanks. 



#23 walle

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:45 PM

80A6D06D-1413-4642-A7E9-5C188F0E4A38.jpeg  Here is a pic of my AZ Pro with APM 100/45 APO binos weighing in at 17 lbs with eyepieces and L bracket. Just level and turn on, center one star and good for the nite. smile.gif  At 61x it centers object every time! Much nicer here in the NW where clear sky’s are limited in number to be able to look at objects rather than look for objects!


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#24 biz

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:46 PM

Graham, thanks so much.  I'll give that a try.  The instructions you cite follow the quick start guide.  But in New Mexico, the mount's original bright object alignment was so far off (west and south of Jupiter), that I could not even see Jupiter in my eyepiece... even after adjusting the azimuth to where the telescope was approximately aligned, the scope was well below the object.  I really felt that I had no choice but to loosen the clutch to raise the objective to where I could actually see Jupiter within the FoV to get it centered L to R.  While I had the clutch loose, I simply centered Jupiter in the FoV before tightening the clutch.  It did work as I pressed enter twice. 

 

I guess the key is that alignment is a two step process IF I am able to see the object to center it L to R in the FoV... then centering it up/down within the FoV is performed with the arrow keys.  If I cannot see the object in the FoV, should I push the back button to find a new object or just get it "approximately aligned with the scope in order to go to step two where I can then use all four arrow keys for perfect alignment?  My eyepiece was a 26mm FL, but with a 40 degree AFoV.  Perhaps next time, I'll use a 30mm w/70 degree FoV.  

 

Your alloy bracket for the controller is very nice and I like that it holds at an angle.  I plan to make a metal holder but the velcro does work well for now.  Perhaps I'll use both, since I applied the velcro to another side of the mount.  The velcro I used is 2"x4" and is a stronger, more industrial type than normal hook and loop.  I probed the screw holes for the bracket and found nothing directly against that part of the case, so I may re-drill and increase the screw size to 5mm for the controller hanger.  The screws used by iOptron are really small. 

 

Graham, have you suggested to iOptron that the controller bracket/hanger should be metal?  BTW, part of my decision to purchase this mount was based on your comments here on CN.  Thank you.  I was looking for something very compact and light weight that would track so that I could take a few short exposure photos (as in my NV link above).  The mount has exceeded my expectations thus far, mainly because it does perform well with my TEC 140.  

I don't see why you need to look for another target, just Drive the one you have over until it's somewhere centre then press enter and onto the next where you can finally align. With both this mount and my mini tower I only use a 20mm for aligning and have no problems at all.

What I have found is that when doing the full auto thingy and if you , as you have , found it to be way off the target then switch off , turn on again and put the mount into manual mode , go to the set up menu and do a set zero position. Then turn off again and then restart up to do its auto thing.

As far as the hanger screws I still use the same thread size but with a button head socket . As you can see from the photo I drilled a hole the same size as the screw head diameter and slotted it up . This way I can remove the holder with out removing the screws . Just slide it up and off and the reverse to fit it back on.

For the dec clutch posts I just ran some up on my lathe and then trimmed a small section of foam from the case and now the mount fits back in with out removing the posts.

Because of the tight fit of the mount in the case ( which can make it awkward to remove)  I made up a hook and loop (Velcro) strap which goes in first and folds over the mount giving me something to pull on to remove the mount next time.  It works really well.

Have fun with your mount

cheers

Graham


Edited by biz, 24 May 2018 - 11:01 PM.

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#25 aneeg

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Posted 25 May 2018 - 03:10 AM

Because of restricted view to the east I have found this method for allignment:

1) Level the mount

2) Switch on the mount, skip the automatic allignment process

3) Slew the mount to a known object, Venus, the Sun, the Moon etc

4) Do a sync on that object

5) Check with another target from the Hand box

 

Ready to go!

 

Arne


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CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


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