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DobStuff Completes My ES12" DSC Mods

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#1 RLK1

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Posted 04 July 2020 - 09:00 PM

Adding DSCs to an ES truss dob can be a challenge, especially when it comes to the addition and placement of the altitude encoder. Even the removal of the azimuth bolt can be a bit dicey. I had contacted Explore Scientific in the past but they didn't have DSCs for their truss dobs and as far as I know, they still don't. A supplier in Australia has an encoder kit that involves the application of a magnetic strip by means of an adhesive for the altitude encoder but I was a bit apprehensive of this because if I somehow misapplied the strip per its specs, I wasn't sure how easy or difficult it might be to redo it or return it if there was a problem. I preferred to have the encoders installed locally in SoCal, if possible, so I contacted Dennis Steele at DobStuff and I transported the scope to him last week, via a 2.5 hour drive from my home. The 10,000 tic encoders are now installed and I'll pick up the scope in a few days. Additionally, Dennis added some plastic supports on the mirror cell as a few had fallen off so he replaced all of them. As you can see by his handiwork, the hardware and encoders are installed and ready for connection of the cables:

http://dobstuff.blog...scientific.html

It's been a pleasure working with Dennis as he is very responsive with communications and updates on his work. I enjoyed chatting with him while discussing scopes and ham radios. He really does nice work in a timely manner.


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#2 junomike

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Posted 05 July 2020 - 04:30 PM

Nice option(s) when you can drive within a reasonable distance to have the work done professionally.



#3 Starman1

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Posted 06 July 2020 - 05:24 PM

The magnetic encoders are well over 300K resolution, and do not work with other brands of DSC than Nexus DSC.

so unless you are adding a Nexus DSC, the AstroDevices Aussie kit wouldn't have worked anyway.

However, installation is pretty simple--it's really not hard to install.

Sounds like you're ready for the field anyway.

Drop me a line if you have any issues with use--I've owned 5 different DSC boxes.



#4 RLK1

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 12:28 AM

The magnetic encoders are well over 300K resolution, and do not work with other brands of DSC than Nexus DSC.

so unless you are adding a Nexus DSC, the AstroDevices Aussie kit wouldn't have worked anyway.

However, installation is pretty simple--it's really not hard to install.

Sounds like you're ready for the field anyway.

Drop me a line if you have any issues with use--I've owned 5 different DSC boxes.

Thanks for the offer of help with the DSC boxes. 

I'm aware of the compatibility issues with the magnetic encoders you've noted above. With the various discussions of encoders occurring here and elsewhere on the forums, I find it a comfort to know that my 4000 tic altitude encoder and 2,187 tic or thereabouts azimuth encoder on my 16" astrosystems dob enable me to locate virtually any object I want to view in my eyepiece from the sky commander database. And that's been with a lot of wear and tear with vigorous use in the field. 

Now, I'll have an updated sky commander with flash capability and 10,000 tic encoders for use in the 12" ES truss dob. Can't wait to try 'em out...



#5 Starman1

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 01:09 AM

Remember, for the encoder ticks to get counted correctly at 10K ticks with the Sky Commander, you have to power the box externally--the inside battery is not enough.


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#6 RLK1

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 10:01 AM

Remember, for the encoder ticks to get counted correctly at 10K ticks with the Sky Commander, you have to power the box externally--the inside battery is not enough.

Taking it from another pro who uses the internal battery with the 10,000 tic encoders, there's no problem in doing so and the accuracy is fine.



#7 Starman1

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 11:31 AM

It must depend on the generation of Sky Commander.

Mine (~2012) recommended in the instructions that I use an external power source for:

--keeping the screen warm at night so the LCD doesn't fade out

--using 10K tick encoders (which are described as the maximum usable)

 

It would not surprise me that he has changed this in later versions.

If it doesn't mention it in the owner's manual, you probably have a version that works with 10K encoders without an external power source.

Mine said that moving the scope would lose tick counts with 10K unless powered externally.

 

However, it is always too cold where I observe to use the LCD screen without an internal heater, which, I think, still requires an external power source.

Is that your understanding, RLK?



#8 RLK1

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 11:51 AM

It must depend on the generation of Sky Commander.

Mine (~2012) recommended in the instructions that I use an external power source for:

--keeping the screen warm at night so the LCD doesn't fade out

--using 10K tick encoders (which are described as the maximum usable)

 

It would not surprise me that he has changed this in later versions.

If it doesn't mention it in the owner's manual, you probably have a version that works with 10K encoders without an external power source.

Mine said that moving the scope would lose tick counts with 10K unless powered externally.

 

However, it is always too cold where I observe to use the LCD screen without an internal heater, which, I think, still requires an external power source.

Is that your understanding, RLK?

I have a newer version for the ES12" so I don't anticipate a power issue with with the internal battery. When I pick up my scope tomorrow, Dennis at DobStuff will set the sky commander for the proper tic resolutions and test the unit. He doesn't anticipate any issues with the internal battery. 

I've always used my much older sky commander with the internal battery and I didn't notice any problems with the screen although I have it set to its lowest setting (ie dimmest) for night time use.

I'm looking forward to using the newer version with its greater database and flash update capability. I'm also glad to see it works with a mac...



#9 Starman1

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Posted 07 July 2020 - 12:36 PM

Yeah, my screen would fade out to blank when it got below 40°, which it almost always does where I observe.

The disadvantage of an LCD screen.

One interesting note: I found the screen still obnoxiously bright on minimum brightness.  Per a note from another CNer, I inserted a piece of dark blue cellophane

between the screen and window and it not only dimmed it nicely, but also made the lettering sharper.  It was still too bright, but at least usable at a dark site.



#10 RLK1

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 12:35 PM

Update on my scope/sky commander:

First on the sky commander itself, with regards to the power requirements. As per an inquiry to sky engineering for the reported need for an external power source and 10,000 tic encoders:

"No, that's not correct. However, if move the scope fast, and have a problem with the encoders losing position, then you may need to enable Encoder Fast Track. When you do this, the encoders are powered on continuously and that will drain the internal battery quickly. See page 4 of the manual. In that case you will need external power. Use either a 12V battery, or well regulated 12VDC source." 

I've never had an issue with the internal battery in my older sky commander or with the screen being too bright and it's functioned well at cold temperatures, down to around my personal limit of 18F.

Second on the scope itself, while the installation of the DSCs by Dobstuff is first-rate, I haven't been able to test the unit under the stars yet because, somewhere along the way, I lost one of the knobs that attaches a pole to the upper assembly. I contacted Explore Scientific and asked them to include one in an order that I had previously placed for a counterweight/shroud in the beginning of July. While I have a confirmation number for my order, I didn't receive a tracking number which concerns me and I called them about it. The order was supposed be shipped on July 10th but still no tracking number... 

PS: I'd think there would a bit more demand for DSCs since the 12" has just sold out at ES in Az.


Edited by RLK1, 11 July 2020 - 01:31 PM.


#11 Starman1

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 02:44 PM

Whether you find the screen too bright depends on how dark your site is. I found the minimum brightness setting almost painfully bright (definitely damaged night vision) at a dark site, but it's ok here in LA.
And the LCD screen disappeared every time I used it until I started using external power.

#12 RLK1

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 03:01 PM

Whether you find the screen too bright depends on how dark your site is. I found the minimum brightness setting almost painfully bright (definitely damaged night vision) at a dark site, but it's ok here in LA.
And the LCD screen disappeared every time I used it until I started using external power.

Hmm, I haven't noticed it being a problem with my older sky commander unit up at Mt Pinos but, as you noted in a prior post above, a simple quick fix would be cellophane tape in the screen.

Right now, I'm a bit more concerned about getting that replacement knob for the upper assembly so I can actually use the scope. The gosh darn knob disappeared on me...



#13 RLK1

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Posted 16 July 2020 - 05:26 PM

Just a note on my ongoing experience in dealing direct with Explore Scientific... after contacting ES in regards to my order/replacement part over the course of a couple of weeks and four phone calls asking for tracking numbers that I hadn't received until just recently, I received one order today with the wrong item in the box. I ordered a shroud for my 12" ES and got a 16" instead even though the packing list in the box states 10"/12" shroud while the actual plastic bag the shroud comes in clearly states in bold print:  "16". So, I'll have to put in another call to ES when they open on Thursday, sort out the problem, and hopefully receive the correct item ASAP. I hope the replacement part I'm supposed to receive separately, that being a knob that connects the upper assembly with a truss pole is actually the correct one. Frustrating...



#14 RLK1

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Posted 17 July 2020 - 07:24 PM

Just a note on my ongoing experience in dealing direct with Explore Scientific... after contacting ES in regards to my order/replacement part over the course of a couple of weeks and four phone calls asking for tracking numbers that I hadn't received until just recently, I received one order today with the wrong item in the box. I ordered a shroud for my 12" ES and got a 16" instead even though the packing list in the box states 10"/12" shroud while the actual plastic bag the shroud comes in clearly states in bold print:  "16". So, I'll have to put in another call to ES when they open on Thursday, sort out the problem, and hopefully receive the correct item ASAP. I hope the replacement part I'm supposed to receive separately, that being a knob that connects the upper assembly with a truss pole is actually the correct one. Frustrating...

Sent the incorrect 16" shroud back today and have a new tracking number for what should be the correct item. I haven't received my separate-order replacement knob that connects the upper assembly to the truss pole so I checked the tracking number for that one and although a shipping label was created, it never shipped! 

I've got to call ES in Arizona again on Monday and find out what the heck is going on over there...



#15 RLK1

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Posted 25 July 2020 - 01:43 PM

Finally received replacement knob and correct shroud this past week. Had first light last night in front of my home with mixed results. I'll cut to the chase and it now appears my new sky commander is in need of either repair or replacement. In a two hour observing session, the unit shut down on me completely, necessitating multiple restart/alignment procedures. I experienced four or five of these before calling it a night. I did get a chance to do an alignment on an object mode setting, and I was able to use the DSCs to bring m57, m27 and a planetary in Aquila into the field of view of a 9mm ES eyepiece. I contacted Victor at Sky Engineering and he asked me to return the unit to him so it's now at an UPS store awaiting pickup...

A couple of additional comments: first, in regards to Don's concern about the led read-out being too bright on the sky commander, I think you can forget about it. The unit has a relatively thick red screen and I actually had to turn the unit to up to the high setting to see the readouts. In a dark sky environment, I'm sure a lessor setting would be adequate and I can't see it compromising night vision.

I've reviewed the ES 12" another website in the past. Suffice it to say, the optics on my particular sample are good, as seen thru a barlowed ronchi eyepiece, and with no evidence of stig which is my personal bugaboo of aberrations. While I can certainly see the difference in performance between my 16" and the 12", the views of M27 and NGC 6781, a 11.5 magnitude planetary in Aquila, were quite respectable. I've viewed Jupiter before and the detailing in th belts and bands was good. 

My main issue with my 12" ES truss dob, and it may seem like a minor one at first glance, is actually quite significant. That being the red dot finder. My hat's off to you if you can align it with the optical/mechanical axis of the scope. I've read a semi-pro review of the ES 16" and the authors had the same problem. Good luck trying to get a one star or two star alignment with it prior to using your DSCs. You can't even find the alignment stars to get them into your eyepiece and if you do, it's probably sheer luck. I should note, however, dobstuff has solved that problem with their scopes because the red dot finder sits atop a swivel plate, making it easy to adjust and align it to the primary scope. In my case, I'm going to ditch the red dot and replace it with a lightweight inexpensive straight-thru 6 x 30 finder from surplus shed along with a multiple prong ac/dc adapter for use with a talent cell to power either the fans or the sky commander. 

I hope to get the sky commander back in a couple of weeks, either repaired or replaced. Ah yes, the joys of consumer grade, massed produced electronics...



#16 Starman1

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Posted 25 July 2020 - 03:23 PM

A couple of additional comments: first, in regards to Don's concern about the led read-out being too bright on the sky commander, I think you can forget about it. The unit has a relatively thick red screen and I actually had to turn the unit to up to the high setting to see the readouts. In a dark sky environment, I'm sure a lesser setting would be adequate and I can't see it compromising night vision.

 

That doesn't describe the Sky Commander.

The readout is LCD, not LED, and the illuminated screen is a sort of pale yellow green not red.

Do you have an after market shield that fits over the screen?

See the picture on the site:

http://skyeng.com

 

This post and the ones following, with the link, describe how to modify the unit to had a red LED screen:

https://www.cloudyni...cons/?p=7481438

 

But, to my knowledge, it is a light yellow-green LCD screen with 3 brightness levels, the dimmest of which is still way too bright for a dark site

(though it works OK here in my Los Angeles backyard).



#17 RLK1

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Posted 25 July 2020 - 05:16 PM

That doesn't describe the Sky Commander.

The readout is LCD, not LED, and the illuminated screen is a sort of pale yellow green not red.

Do you have an after market shield that fits over the screen?

See the picture on the site:

http://skyeng.com

 

This post and the ones following, with the link, describe how to modify the unit to had a red LED screen:

https://www.cloudyni...cons/?p=7481438

 

But, to my knowledge, it is a light yellow-green LCD screen with 3 brightness levels, the dimmest of which is still way too bright for a dark site

(though it works OK here in my Los Angeles backyard).

It's an LCD, not LED, my mistake. The unit has a red screen that appears to be integral to the unit and not an add-on.



#18 Starman1

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Posted 25 July 2020 - 06:28 PM

It's an LCD, not LED, my mistake. The unit has a red screen that appears to be integral to the unit and not an add-on.

Is it brand new?  Did Victor switch to a red screen?

Did you buy the unit used?  If so, the previous owner may have added something under the screen cover.
I've never, ever, seen one with red letters or numbers.

Can you take a pic with it on?



#19 RLK1

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Posted 25 July 2020 - 07:02 PM

Is it brand new?  Did Victor switch to a red screen?

Did you buy the unit used?  If so, the previous owner may have added something under the screen cover.
I've never, ever, seen one with red letters or numbers.

Can you take a pic with it on?

I bought it new recently but it's already off via UPS to Victor for a fix. It looks like the one in the picture you've linked to at sky engineering and I don't see an indication, either in the picture or in the unit that there's some sort of add-on screen other than a red screen that is integral to the unit. When I get the unit back, I'll take another look at it but I'm not about to attempt to remove or pry off anything.



#20 Starman1

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Posted 25 July 2020 - 07:11 PM

No worries, but I've seen a hundred of these and all have had a green screen.

The picture in my link to the Sky Commander website shows a green screen.

The other link was to a post where someone was talking about changing the internal electronics to have a red screen.

I'll have to inquire whether Victor has changed to a red screen.


Edited by Starman1, 25 July 2020 - 07:13 PM.


#21 RLK1

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Posted 25 July 2020 - 07:37 PM

I took another look at the links again and the one for sky engineering does show a green screen although the one in mine appeared to me to be red last night. Either way, the background lettering/numerals were such that it required the high setting to be visualized clearly when used in front of my moderately light polluted home. I'm sure that wouldn't be the case in a dark sky site and a lower level setting would work well without being intrusive. The bottom line as I see it is the unit will not require additional modifications for the screen. My older unit on my 16" is significantly brighter and even the low setting is easily seen when used in front of my home but I haven't felt the need to attenuate it further for in a dark sky site. I have seen other types of DSCs, brands unknown to me, usually on refractors up at Pinos, that have been much brighter, almost to the point of being annoying.




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