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Poor man travel rig v2

Equipment DIY Astrophotography
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#1 acas1111

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 12:02 PM

After a few years try to play with wide field imaging on the cheap by buying hardware on shopgoodwill.com, getting a barn door tracker, and making an OpenAstroTracker, I have decided to invest a little and make myself a proper travel rig.

My job allows me to travel to many random locations (could be a Bortle 9 city, or could be dark skies lost on top of a mountain), and often, jet lag allows me to be awake and contemplate the local night skies and wish I had my OpenAstroTracker with me. However, that thing won't travel well and is a bit difficult to polar align. I think it's time to break my piggy bank on a budget of ~$2,000

 

I found this post: https://www.cloudyni...hy-rig-and-why/ and quite like what I read.

My rig would have to easily fit on an airplane and not impede too much on my professional travel. Separating the valuables/fragiles between carry-on/checked-in (I don't think most tripod/counterweight would do well on a carry-on).

Based on this, I think:

SkyWatcher - Star Adventurer GTi with tripod   680
Astro-Tech AT70ED 2.8" f/6 ED Refractor OTA 300
ASTRO-TECH 0.8X REDUCER/FIELD FLATTENER    150
ZWO ASIAIR Mini Astronomy WiFi Smart Device  180
SV165 Mini Guider Scope 30mm/120mm F4 38
ASI 120 Guide Cam  135
ASI 585MC Camera    360
ZWO IR Cut Filter  20
Optolong L-Pro 2" 200

 

Which brings us to a total of $2068.

I'm also considering the Anker Prime Power Bank, 27,650mAh as a versatile battery that is TSA approved. It's 99.5 Wh and I found some USB-C to 12V cables.

 

My questions are:

- What am I missing? / What are the weak points?

- I see that the Star Adventurer isn't the biggest mount around in terms of payload capacity, however, weight wise, it seems like it would travel well. Agreed?

- Would the AT70ED be a good match for this rig?

- I have never used an ASI Air, would the mini be enough?

- Obviously, the camera is a budget-conscious choice, would this non-cooled option still give me results?

 

Any insight is appreciated.



#2 BucketDave

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 01:12 PM

You're broadly similar to where i am with my mk.2 travel system.

I have an HEM15 mount supporting a 65PHQ+ASI533 and a mini guidescope/cam. I run that lot using two 6 A.hr 12V batteries and a small NUC mini-PC. I get about 6 hrs imaging before the batteries give up. I control the NUC using a laptop and a bit of ethernet cable - avoids the need for a travel router (less kit, no power drain).

On an aeroplane, the mount, tripod, cables, tools and mini guidescope will go in my hold baggage. The refractor, NUC, filters, batteries and laptop travel with me in a cabin bag.

Dave

PS. I have also used a Star Adventurer 2i but it takes an extra 20 minutes to plate-solve my way to the target. I also found i lose 1/3 of my NB images at 180mm, due to drift in DEC.

So with also wanting the longest FL for travel, i bought the 65phq and the HEM15. My trips to dark skies are rare enough that i want to make the most of those opportunities.

#3 Sacred Heart

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 01:12 PM

After a few years try to play with wide field imaging on the cheap by buying hardware on shopgoodwill.com, getting a barn door tracker, and making an OpenAstroTracker, I have decided to invest a little and make myself a proper travel rig.

My job allows me to travel to many random locations (could be a Bortle 9 city, or could be dark skies lost on top of a mountain), and often, jet lag allows me to be awake and contemplate the local night skies and wish I had my OpenAstroTracker with me. However, that thing won't travel well and is a bit difficult to polar align. I think it's time to break my piggy bank on a budget of ~$2,000

 

I found this post: https://www.cloudyni...hy-rig-and-why/ and quite like what I read.

My rig would have to easily fit on an airplane and not impede too much on my professional travel. Separating the valuables/fragiles between carry-on/checked-in (I don't think most tripod/counterweight would do well on a carry-on).

Based on this, I think:

SkyWatcher - Star Adventurer GTi with tripod   680
Astro-Tech AT70ED 2.8" f/6 ED Refractor OTA 300
ASTRO-TECH 0.8X REDUCER/FIELD FLATTENER    150
ZWO ASIAIR Mini Astronomy WiFi Smart Device  180
SV165 Mini Guider Scope 30mm/120mm F4 38
ASI 120 Guide Cam  135
ASI 585MC Camera    360
ZWO IR Cut Filter  20
Optolong L-Pro 2" 200

 

Which brings us to a total of $2068.

I'm also considering the Anker Prime Power Bank, 27,650mAh as a versatile battery that is TSA approved. It's 99.5 Wh and I found some USB-C to 12V cables.

 

My questions are:

- What am I missing? / What are the weak points?

- I see that the Star Adventurer isn't the biggest mount around in terms of payload capacity, however, weight wise, it seems like it would travel well. Agreed?

- Would the AT70ED be a good match for this rig?

- I have never used an ASI Air, would the mini be enough?

- Obviously, the camera is a budget-conscious choice, would this non-cooled option still give me results?

 

Any insight is appreciated.

acas1111,

 

Being you are traveling, airplanes and such, I cannot speak much on the mount, however get the best tracking mount you can..I realize space is a premium. There's the GTi, Gti2, check them all out. It is your most important thing in this set up.

 

The scope, how about the AT72EDII, and because the ZWO 585 has a small chip 11mm x 6mm, forget about the flattener.  I don't think the chip reaches the edge of the glass to see curvature.  I may be wrong about that I don't know.

 

Computer, any computer should do, ASI, mini, a laptop.  Your choice there, ZWO ASI may be confining to ZWO cameras.

 

Guide scope / guide camera,  again being you are traveling,  maybe skip the guide scope / guide camera and do EAA style imaging,  Sharpcap live stack, short exposures at high gain.  Just a thought, unless you will be at a dark site and can polar align and take long exposures, but your camera is not cooled.

 

I don't know too much about the Optolong filter and how much you would need to increase your exposure time, so guiding may be necessary.  How about the 1.25 filter??

 

Joe



#4 BucketDave

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 01:18 PM

I found an uncooled DSLR to be too noisy on warm summer nights - it ran 12 degs C above ambient (so the sensor was over 30 C). If the uncooled 585 runs below ambient (like my cooled 533 does), then i think the uncooled 585 is doable in spring, autumn and winter. Having several sets of darks will be more of a faff though.

#5 JF1960

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 01:19 PM

The mount and counterweight will still be a bit of a pain to travel with.  If you find yourself traveling a lot an AM3 would probably be the ultimate mount for you.  (Later when you save up some more!)

 

I would maybe hold off on the light pollution filter and swap the 585 for a 533MC-Pro.  You really want a cooled camera for best results.  Especially if your travel takes you to warmer climates.  Save up and get the light pollution filter later.  Plus the 585 sensor is about 2/3 the size of the already small 533.  

 

The difference between the Mini and the Plus on the ASIAir is the lack of USB 3.0 and additional power outlets.  USB 3.0 is probably the biggest thing you will miss out on.  Not sure it will impact your workflow that much as you can store images on internal storage.  Copying them to flash drive will be slow though.  But, the image size on 585 or 533 will not be so large.

 

The other thing you need to consider is good storage boxes for checking equipment on the plane.  The nice ones are really expensive!



#6 BucketDave

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 01:28 PM

I think you'll 'probably' need guiding at 400mm FL for broadband imaging (15-60" exposures). If you don't guide, you'll simply lose a few images here and there. You'll definitely need it for narrowband though (3-5 min exposures).

A cheap mini-guidescope should guide at about 1.0 to 1.5". That will be more than sufficient at 400mm FL.

#7 acas1111

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 05:20 PM

Great feedback! Thank you, based on this:

- I'll upgrade to a AT72EDII and forgo the flattener for now. I could always add it later.

- Upgrade to a ASI533MC, no light pollution filter.

 

I think I'll give a go to the ASI Air mini. I have messed with AstroBerry, and although I could try to make it work, I'd like something simple and robust for this rig.

 

Then I am now looking at:

SkyWatcher - Star Adventurer GTi with tripod                                                                    680
Astro-Tech AT72EDII Refractor OTA FPL-53 and Lanthanum f/6 Doublet                        467
ZWO ASI533MC PRO COOLED COLOR CMOS ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY CAMERA  719
ZWO ASI120MM Mini Monochrome CMOS Camera and Guide Camera                         134
ZWO ASIAIR Mini Astronomy WiFi Smart Device                                                             180
SV165 Mini Guider Scope 30mm/120mm F4                                                                      38
SVBony 1.25 UV IR Cut Filters                                                                                              7

 

For the cases, I was going to see if Harbor Freight had something. I have already bought a couple of cases from them for my lenses/eye pieces. It's probably not the lightest, but it's cost-effective.



#8 JF1960

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Posted 11 December 2023 - 09:48 PM

Nice.  The mini should work.  The only device you should try and plug power from it is the 533.  Power your mount separately.  Things you are going to want to get down the road are:

 

1). An electronic focuser.  You’ll need these if you want to run all night sessions.  As temperatures drop, your focus will drift.

2). AM3 or 5.  Ultimate portability

3). The light pollution filter.  If you can’t always travel to dark skies you will need one.  Probably can save and get a 1.25” instead of 2” version.

4). PixInsight license + Xterminator plugins..   Will make processing easier with better results.  But, not free.

 

PS.  The 533 has no UV/IR cut filter built in so always use your filter.  You also may need something to mount the filter to your image train.  Getting a filter drawer is a nice option as you can easily swap in and out filters.  




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