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Meridian flip right before totality in Texas - how to deal

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#1 xonefs

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Posted 12 November 2023 - 12:51 AM

So I just checked and there is a meridian flip 7-8 minutes before totality in Texas.

 

This is not ideal for obvious reasons, especially since I am looking to timelapse the entire thing and possibly even live stream it, so any interruption and having to wait to flip would really mess that up. 

 

I was planning to use a ZWO AM5 with a hutech hinode guider.    I guess I could try alt az mode on the AM5 but then there is field rotation, and I'm not sure how tracking and guiding would work during the day and if the hinode even works in alt az mode. 

 

edit: on an indoors test it looks like I may be able to start tracking well beyond limits on the wrong side and not have to flip and have clearance, but I will have to test this


Edited by xonefs, 12 November 2023 - 02:33 AM.

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#2 R Botero

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Posted 12 November 2023 - 04:50 AM

The only shots that really matter are those during totality. Does your AM5 flip on its own if it reaches the meridian? That is, without a go-to command? If so, you’ll need to disable that setting if possible. If not, you may have to tell it it’s a different time of the day to avoid flipping. 
Most mounts will happily keep tracking past the meridian unless a go-to instruction tells them to flip or if there’s a user setting to induce it. Others just stop tracking upon hitting a mechanical limit. 
You appear to be doing plenty of testing which is good practice :waytogo:

 

I do all my imaging using equatorial mounts but for next year I’m using Alt-Az and worrying about aligning my images pre, during and post totality when I get back home!

 

Roberto


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#3 SkipW

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Posted 12 November 2023 - 01:18 PM

So I just checked and there is a meridian flip 7-8 minutes before totality in Texas.

 

This is not ideal for obvious reasons, especially since I am looking to timelapse the entire thing and possibly even live stream it, so any interruption and having to wait to flip would really mess that up. 

 

I was planning to use a ZWO AM5 with a hutech hinode guider.    I guess I could try alt az mode on the AM5 but then there is field rotation, and I'm not sure how tracking and guiding would work during the day and if the hinode even works in alt az mode. 

 

edit: on an indoors test it looks like I may be able to start tracking well beyond limits on the wrong side and not have to flip and have clearance, but I will have to test this

 

By "a meridian flip 7-8 minutes before totality", do you mean that the sun crosses the meridian at that time? Since you say this is in Texas, I presume that's what you mean.

 

Does your mount stop tracking at the meridian, or can it be set up to track up to some hour angle (angle measured relative to the meridian) past it? Does it do an automatic flip when it reaches its limit? If the documentation doesn't answer those questions, set it up and try it! In fact, even if the docs do say something, try it anyway - it's best to find out any misunderstanding or error now rather than closer to showtime! 

 

Be sure to set the mount to the latitude you expect to observe from, and use the declination for the sun on that date (+7°35') when checking for mechanical clearances.

 

Many mounts can track a significant distance beyond the meridian as long as your equipment doesn't conflict with something like a tripod leg or part of the mount. With those GEMs that impose a software limit on how far beyond the meridian they can go, there may be ways to fool them into going further if you can be sure that doing so won't cause a physical clash!

 

If the sun's meridian crossing is 8 minutes before totality at your location, and the time between beginning of totality is and end of eclipse is about 1h23m, that means that at the end of eclipse the sun will be around 1h31m past the meridian (hour angle 1h31m, or 22.5° and a dab west of the meridian). Can your mount and equipment track that far west before stopping or running into trouble, flipping, or whatever? That is the critical question.

 

The only shots that really matter are those during totality. 

Sezhoo? The OP wants a time-lapse of the whole event.


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#4 xonefs

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Posted 12 November 2023 - 02:11 PM

By "a meridian flip 7-8 minutes before totality", do you mean that the sun crosses the meridian at that time? Since you say this is in Texas, I presume that's what you mean.

Does your mount stop tracking at the meridian, or can it be set up to track up to some hour angle (angle measured relative to the meridian) past it? Does it do an automatic flip when it reaches its limit? If the documentation doesn't answer those questions, set it up and try it! In fact, even if the docs do say something, try it anyway - it's best to find out any misunderstanding or error now rather than closer to showtime!

Be sure to set the mount to the latitude you expect to observe from, and use the declination for the sun on that date (+7°35') when checking for mechanical clearances.

Many mounts can track a significant distance beyond the meridian as long as your equipment doesn't conflict with something like a tripod leg or part of the mount. With those GEMs that impose a software limit on how far beyond the meridian they can go, there may be ways to fool them into going further if you can be sure that doing so won't cause a physical clash!

If the sun's meridian crossing is 8 minutes before totality at your location, and the time between beginning of totality is and end of eclipse is about 1h23m, that means that at the end of eclipse the sun will be around 1h31m past the meridian (hour angle 1h31m, or 22.5° and a dab west of the meridian). Can your mount and equipment track that far west before stopping or running into trouble, flipping, or whatever? That is the critical question.

Sezhoo? The OP wants a time-lapse of the whole event.


Yes spot on to all of those. This is close to what I determined after I posted this last night. It appears I have maybe 30* past the meridian I have clearance. I am not certain the behavior of the am5 and if it will stop tracking yet- I was hoping to just run it from the phone app with a solar guider giving pulses.

I was testing starting it on the wrong side (counterweight angled up) and looks like I have about 30* of room without hitting anything. The scope(s) will be in an awkward starting position then.

I am not sure how the am5 behaves at the meridian yet but would need to test that. If both work then not sure would be better starting normally and tracking past the meridian, or starting on the opposite side with scope angled way down. The beginning half and totality is most important to not have interruptions.

I plan to have 2-3 scopes piggybacked and there are some concerns about leverage in that position even with the am5 counterweight

#5 Tech Hiker

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Posted 12 November 2023 - 03:41 PM

 

edit: on an indoors test it looks like I may be able to start tracking well beyond limits on the wrong side and not have to flip and have clearance, but I will have to test this

This is exactly what I did in 2017.  Worked great.  I shot the whole eclipse C1 to C4 that way.  No flip.


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#6 dcaponeii

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Posted 12 November 2023 - 09:03 PM

Get a fork mount!!
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#7 xonefs

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Posted 13 November 2023 - 12:01 AM

I looked and apparently the am5 can now track 1 hr past meridian in ascom only without app/asiair support yet which still stops at meridian (no good I need app support, and 1 hr still not quite enough)

https://bbs.astronom...5-meridian-flip

I’ll have to check tomorrow if it will work the other way starting pointed down and track angled down

Edited by xonefs, 13 November 2023 - 12:03 AM.


#8 SkipW

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Posted 13 November 2023 - 03:10 PM

I would suggest setting up so you're "looking east" then let it track past the meridian. This allows you to do your setup, focus, and coalignment of all the optics well before eclipse time. If you set up to start on the "wrong" side of the meridian, doing those things when the sun is low in the east may be more difficult, if they're possible at all.

 

You might be able to fool the mount into thinking the meridian is west of where it really is. Whether or not that's possible (or practical) depends on the design of the system, and may come down to a matter of testing to see if it could work. Last ditch, can you lean the tripod to the west enough - probably about 10° - or to the east - about 6° - to get you there, without it being at risk of toppling over? 


Edited by SkipW, 13 November 2023 - 03:11 PM.

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#9 JethroXP

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Posted 13 January 2024 - 08:00 PM

Just found this thread after I made plans to fly my family to Dallas with a bunch of gear for the eclipse.  Currently planning to bring an AM3, Star Adeventurer GTi, and a SolarQuest.  The SQ is Alt/Az and has built in sun tracking so it will be fine, its the GEMS I'm worried about.  In experimenting with the AM3 today using an ASIAIR Plus, I found that it will only do meridian flips in AutoRun and Plan mode, both of which expect to do a plate solve and recenter afterward, and both of which of course fail during the day.  In any other mode it just stops tracking at some point close to the meridian.  I suspect for this event I may have to use a PC with something like NINA to control it via ASCOM rather than the ASIAIR.



#10 SkipW

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Posted 13 January 2024 - 10:01 PM

I'd say you want to avoid a meridian flip. At all if possible, and especially right before totality.

 

Do you even need ASIAIR at all? I'm not sure it brings much to this party - many of its abilities have no use here (you don't need go-to and plate solving to find the sun), and seem to be more of a detriment. Can't the mount(s) simply track if you aren't using ASIAIR? Do you know how far past the meridian it (they) can go before tracking actually stops?

 

"Automation. It can make easy things easier." The unstated corollary is "... and makes nearly everything else harder."


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#11 JethroXP

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Posted 14 January 2024 - 12:58 AM

I've only had the AM3 mount for about two weeks, more experimenting is needed.  I might just put it into Alt/Az mode.  Just updated to Firmware 1.4.2 today, but the last firmware they mention is 1.3.7 from July 2023.  No idea what changed, though reading through the forums people were asking for the ability to track past their meridian.



#12 JethroXP

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Posted 15 January 2024 - 10:05 PM

I did some experimenting with the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi this weekend and determined that it's mechanical stops are about 1-hour before and past the meridian, and that I can I position it counter-weight up to start tracking about an hour prior to totality to have to just continue without having to fuss with it.  That means I'd miss about the first 12-minutes of the eclipse, but because I plan to bring multiple mounts I can assign a purpose to this one that doesn't require it to track for the full eclipse, like having a camera on it than records video, so that the only fussing about during totality is just removing and then replacing solar filters.

Next I need to test the AM3.  I updated the firmware this weekend from 1.3.9 to 1.4.2 but can't find any description of what changed anywhere.



#13 JethroXP

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Posted 18 January 2024 - 09:37 AM

I verified with some testing that the AM3 can be positioned in counter weight up position (even if you don’t have a counter weight) using the ASI Mount App and it will track through the meridian without a flip.  Unlike the SW SA GTi there is no mechanical stop so how far prior to the meridian you can position it will depend on your setup.  I’m using a RedCat51 with an ASI2600MC camera, and no pier, the mount directly attached to the tripod, and I have plenty of clearance to start well more than a hour prior to the meridian, definitely enough to capture a full Timelapse of the entire eclipse.

 

Now my issue is figuring out how to use the ASIAIR to capture images.  The only way to specify start and end times for sequences is to use a Plan, and that requires a target be specified with results in an attempt to plate solve when the plan starts.  For solar that will fail and the plan will never execute.  If however I use Autorun, it’s a dumb fire and forget sequence that I have little control over, so I can’t do things like setting specific times for different exposure length images.



#14 SkipW

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Posted 18 January 2024 - 01:16 PM

I verified with some testing that the AM3 can be positioned in counter weight up position (even if you don’t have a counter weight) using the ASI Mount App and it will track through the meridian without a flip.  Unlike the SW SA GTi there is no mechanical stop so how far prior to the meridian you can position it will depend on your setup.  I’m using a RedCat51 with an ASI2600MC camera, and no pier, the mount directly attached to the tripod, and I have plenty of clearance to start well more than a hour prior to the meridian, definitely enough to capture a full Timelapse of the entire eclipse.

 

Now my issue is figuring out how to use the ASIAIR to capture images.  The only way to specify start and end times for sequences is to use a Plan, and that requires a target be specified with results in an attempt to plate solve when the plan starts.  For solar that will fail and the plan will never execute.  If however I use Autorun, it’s a dumb fire and forget sequence that I have little control over, so I can’t do things like setting specific times for different exposure length images.

Good deal that you can start in a "west looking" position well before reaching the meridian. That sounds like it may solve your problem.

 

I recommend setting your rig(s) up like you intend to use (including setting the PA latitude for your intended location) and practicing using it (them) that way, including dress rehearsals where you go through the entire timeline (including setup and focusing, etc. all of them) and track through what will the actual physical tracking range at the intended location. Do this starting several weeks before the eclipse and as many times as needed. This will help immensely when you have one chance to get it right, and may reveal unexpected "oops - I didn't think of that!" situations with time to devise solutions and test those solutions. Executing the actual timeline will also give you the best possible idea how much storage you will need for your images - you can delete the test captures afterward since they are probably of no actual interest beyond confirming they can all be captured as intended.

 

Can't you use something like SharpCap to capture your images instead of ASIAIR? This is an example of the downside of appliances - they can compromise the ability to do things beyond the range of things they are explicitly designed to do, making them suboptimal, very difficult, or impossible.


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#15 JethroXP

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Posted 18 January 2024 - 04:18 PM

Good deal that you can start in a "west looking" position well before reaching the meridian. That sounds like it may solve your problem.

 

I recommend setting your rig(s) up like you intend to use (including setting the PA latitude for your intended location) and practicing using it (them) that way, including dress rehearsals where you go through the entire timeline (including setup and focusing, etc. all of them) and track through what will the actual physical tracking range at the intended location. Do this starting several weeks before the eclipse and as many times as needed. This will help immensely when you have one chance to get it right, and may reveal unexpected "oops - I didn't think of that!" situations with time to devise solutions and test those solutions. Executing the actual timeline will also give you the best possible idea how much storage you will need for your images - you can delete the test captures afterward since they are probably of no actual interest beyond confirming they can all be captured as intended.

 

Can't you use something like SharpCap to capture your images instead of ASIAIR? This is an example of the downside of appliances - they can compromise the ability to do things beyond the range of things they are explicitly designed to do, making them suboptimal, very difficult, or impossible.

Great advice!  I've already started doing "unit testing" (each individual rig) and plan to evolve to full setup testing.  That's how I've learned about the limitations of the ASIAIR.  I've got the same question about getting it to sequence images without plate solving in a couple other forums, and if it turns out "you can't get there from here" then what I'll do is use the ASIAIR for powering the mount and camera, but I'll route the USB to a miniPC or Laptop and use NINA or SharpCap to control the sequence.

The current plan, and I expect this will evolve as testing reveals limitations, is to bring these four rigs:

RedCat51, ASI2600MC Pro, AM3, ASIAIR - Still images at 375mm, hopfully getting a lot of the corona and some background stars
Lunt LS40Tha, Neptune-M (IMX178), iOpton Sky Guider Pro, MiniPC running SharpCap - Lucky imaging in Ha of the full solar disk
Nikon Z6 with 500mm lens, Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi, MiniPC running SharpCap or NINA - Still images at 500mm, meant to be redundant with the RedCat, just a slightly tighter FOV
Nikon P1000 at 1000mm, Sky-Watcher SolarQuest, no control PC needed - Capturing 4K video of the event

I'll have a laptop that I'll use to manage the two MiniPCs over Windows RDP, so the Laptop running SharpCap or NINA may become the device to manage the sequence on the RedCat51 if the ASIAIR proves unable to handle that job.



#16 dan_hm

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Posted 22 January 2024 - 12:45 PM

I too am just discovering this now.  What about just using an alt-az mount?  I'll be bringing my RST-135 which can be easily converted to run in alt-az.



#17 JethroXP

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Posted 22 January 2024 - 01:45 PM

I too am just discovering this now.  What about just using an alt-az mount?  I'll be bringing my RST-135 which can be easily converted to run in alt-az.

For sure that's an option, and one of the mounts I'm bringing to Texas is Alt/Az.  The only downsides to Alt/Az are tracking accuracy and field rotation.  Both relatively minor if you are only capturing images in the few minutes prior to, during, and after Totality.  The limitations of Alt/Az really only manifest if you are trying to capture something like a Time Lapse of the entire three-hour event.


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#18 T~Stew

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Posted 04 February 2024 - 02:05 AM

Just found this thread after I made plans to fly my family to Dallas with a bunch of gear for the eclipse.  Currently planning to bring an AM3, Star Adeventurer GTi, and a SolarQuest.  The SQ is Alt/Az and has built in sun tracking so it will be fine, its the GEMS I'm worried about.  In experimenting with the AM3 today using an ASIAIR Plus, I found that it will only do meridian flips in AutoRun and Plan mode, both of which expect to do a plate solve and recenter afterward, and both of which of course fail during the day.  In any other mode it just stops tracking at some point close to the meridian.  I suspect for this event I may have to use a PC with something like NINA to control it via ASCOM rather than the ASIAIR.

Meridian flip is just a setting that can be turned on and off in autorun, you don't have to flip at all (unless there is something in the mount that forces it, I don't have an AM3). Maybe plan mode as well, I forget, but I don't think plan mode will work for daytime anyhow. However it may be difficult trying to get all the capture settings correct in ASIair autorun. You can experiment with it now and determine proper setting to get the sun, that should work all the way until the diamond ring phase, which im not sure how to determine ahead of time. I've heard totality is perhaps similar to a sliver of a crescent moon? Maybe you could get a chance to figure that out too. You'd then add your three plans in sequence, perhaps copying 1 and 2 into 4 and 5 as well if you want to catch the diamond ring on the flipside, and partial eclipse again. You'd have to figure out the timing exactly though, and kick it off at the right time (demo it against a clock and make sure it works as expected). Maybe there is an easier way, but just wanted to say that meridian flip can be unchecked in the autorun mode.



#19 JethroXP

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Posted 04 February 2024 - 10:58 AM

Meridian flip is just a setting that can be turned on and off in autorun, you don't have to flip at all (unless there is something in the mount that forces it, I don't have an AM3). Maybe plan mode as well, I forget, but I don't think plan mode will work for daytime anyhow. However it may be difficult trying to get all the capture settings correct in ASIair autorun. You can experiment with it now and determine proper setting to get the sun, that should work all the way until the diamond ring phase, which im not sure how to determine ahead of time. I've heard totality is perhaps similar to a sliver of a crescent moon? Maybe you could get a chance to figure that out too. You'd then add your three plans in sequence, perhaps copying 1 and 2 into 4 and 5 as well if you want to catch the diamond ring on the flipside, and partial eclipse again. You'd have to figure out the timing exactly though, and kick it off at the right time (demo it against a clock and make sure it works as expected). Maybe there is an easier way, but just wanted to say that meridian flip can be unchecked in the autorun mode.

I’ve been doing a lot of testing and experimenting, and came to the conclusion that the ASIAIR is not suitable for this task, due to a number of limitations but mostly its inability to manage the rapid changes needed in exposure time to capture all the various phenomena during totality.

 

What I’m doing instead is using a combination of the ASI mount app and the hand controller to position the AM3 looking west in the counterweight up position, manually centered on the sun, in Solar track speed and then just letting it track without loading any plan.  In this configuration I have enough clearance to start tracking the sun well prior to C1 and it will then just continue without interruption through the meridian and totality and past C4.   I’m arriving on location two days prior so I’ll already have it polar aligned, and I’ll have Sunday to verify and dial in solar tracking prior to the eclipse on Monday.

 

For the capture sequence I’m using a MeLE Quieter 4 miniPC running SharpCap Pro.  The ASIAIR will remain connected to power the mount and camera, but the USB connection from the camera is routed to the MiniPC instead of the ASIAIR.  I’m using the sequencer in SharpCap to manage all of the precisely timed settings changes and image captures.  That has taken quite a bit of time to learn and test, including some back-and-forth in the SharpCap forums with Dr. Glover, the author of SharpCap, but I believe I’ve got it figured out now.

 

For my Nikon Z6 I’m using Eclipse Orchestrator to manage the sequence, and it will produce a detailed output of the specific timing for each capture based on your location and the camera settings, so I gave it the parameters of my RedCat51 and had it produce that detailed list of timings, along with the appropriate exposure length for the RedCat's f/4.9 focal ratio and at minimal gain (ISO 50 in EO) and I ported those timings and exposure lengths into the SharpCap script syntax.  It took a lot of testing to understand the capabilities and limitations of the system, and at least with indoor testing it all seems to be working.  Next step is to take this outside with solar filters on and do a full end-to-end test of starting it and letting it run just as it will on eclipse day.  The only thing I can’t test are the exposure values during totality, I have to go on faith that EO calculated them correctly, however in cross-referencing with other online tools to determine appropriate exposure lengths for the various Totality phenomena they seem to check out.


Edited by JethroXP, 04 February 2024 - 01:53 PM.

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#20 phobos2

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Posted 09 February 2024 - 09:16 PM

Just been thinking about this as well.... But I'll be using the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer... so, as a newbie... Will I need to do a flip with this gear as well?



#21 dan_hm

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Posted 09 February 2024 - 09:38 PM

Just been thinking about this as well.... But I'll be using the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer... so, as a newbie... Will I need to do a flip with this gear as well?


It’s an equatorial mount, so yes.

#22 CreatorsHand

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Posted 09 February 2024 - 10:05 PM

Just been thinking about this as well.... But I'll be using the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer... so, as a newbie... Will I need to do a flip with this gear as well?

It actually depends on where you will be. In Winchester, Indiana, the partial eclipse starts at an Azimuth of 185 degrees, or 5 degrees past the Meridian. Since most Equatorial mounts will allow some usage with the counterweight bar up, you would probably be okay if you are East of Indianapolis, where it will start about 2 1/2 degrees after the Meridian, depending on how much before the start of the eclipse you want to start tracking the Sun and how your mount handles the counterweight up position. The partial eclipse will start at the Meridian just South of Bloomington, Indiana, and the further South you will be from there the higher the chances are that you will have to deal with a Meridian flip.

 

Paul



#23 JethroXP

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Posted 10 February 2024 - 11:06 AM

Just been thinking about this as well.... But I'll be using the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer... so, as a newbie... Will I need to do a flip with this gear as well?

No, you should be able to start tracking pointing west with the counterweight up.  Depending on the mechanical limits of the mount and your observing location you may not be able to capture the entire eclipse from C1 to C4 but you should be able to get most of it and certainly Totality.



#24 JethroXP

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Posted 10 February 2024 - 11:09 AM

It’s an equatorial mount, so yes.

That not always true, many EQ mounts can start in a west facing, counterweight up position to allow them to track through the meridian.  How far east you can start will depend on the physical limits of the mount and your gear setup.


Edited by JethroXP, 10 February 2024 - 11:11 AM.

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#25 bunyon

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Posted 10 February 2024 - 11:20 AM

Mounts can also often track well west of the meridian with the weights up at the end.

If you’re concerned about this, do a practice run to see how far east of the meridian you can start and/or how far west you track after an east facing start.


If you have a mount that can’t start west facing when an object is east of the meridian and/or can’t track west of the meridian at all, use a different mount. Especially if totality is anywhere near the Meridian
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