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Modifying the Orion AstroView EQ-3

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#1 Glassthrower

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 11:42 AM

I just acquired an Orion AstroView EQ3 mount as an "upgrade" to my previous EQ-2. For the record, this "new" mount is in near-mint condition, and was only setup and used once or twice before I bought it.

:rant:

Anyone who owns this mount, knows that the tripod STINKS. There is no nicer way to say it... ;)

Hollow, light-weight, thin-wall, aluminum is NOT an acceptable material for tripod legs - especially a tripod designed for astronomical observation. For birdwatching or photography, where one must carry around the mount and move it from place to place, then lightweight hollow aluminum might be a good thing. For a telescope used for high power astronomical observing ..... no. No. NO.

Who at Orion thought this was a good idea? Or, who at Orion in charge of buying caved-in when the salesman from the manufacturer offered these legs via conference call while discussing the AstroView mount?

Orion claims this mount can hold a 5" tube. HA! Very unlikely. I have a 4" short tube mounted on it and it shakes terribly whenever I touch the focuser. In fact, my old Towa EQ-2 from the 1980's had better stability. This was surprising to me. Mostly, this was due to the thick wooden legs that came with the Towa. While the Orion has a beefier head, the Towa tripod wins hands down.

Also, there are two varieties of AstroView mount - the "old" where the rings bolt directly to the head (bad), or the "new" which accepts an Orion dovetail bar similar to the SkyView Pro mount (I assume better) ... I have the newer version, but currently lack the dovetail. Bolting the rings to the mount head does not inspire confidence - two very small bolts go through two UNTHREADED holes in the mount head and through the rings and is held in a place with lock washer and a single nut. The entire bolt-washer-nut arrangement looks TERRIBLY UNDERSIZED for the job of holding my 4" tube (less yet a 5" like Orion says!) ... 6 pounds of OTA plus another 2.5 - 3 pounds of accessories, is almost 10 pounds hanging off of two tiny bolts, the type you would expect to see in a child's toy erector set. And it's not so much the weight - the unthreaded holes introduce the possibility of *slop* if either of the nuts comes loose in the slightest degree. All vibration in the mounting system is channeled via those two bolts (the only connection point between the mount head and the OTA) back and forth between OTA/mount/tripod/ground/observer. It's a terrible mounting arrangement, and I am disappointed a major vendor would offer this as a mounting solution for a 5" scope - shame on them. When I focus my scope, I don't want the view bouncing around.

If I sound harsh, it's not for the sake of being harsh. It's because potential buyers should be made aware that this mount is not what Orion markets it to be. It is not acceptable for a 4" short tube, and certainly not acceptable for a 5" tube.

So, now I am wondering - should I try to improve this AstroView mounting system with some custom tweaks, or should I ditch this subpar mount and upgrade (again) to something heavier? The SkyView Pro looks heavier, but I am reluctant to buy another Orion mount after this experience. I'm sure the Atlas is a good mount, but I don't have $800-$1000 to drop on a mount for a $199 OTA. The SkyView just looks like a slightly beefier version of the AstroView. Slightly is not going to cut it in my book.

--> I have a set of custom-made wood (Ash) legs being made for me, and I know these would be a major improvement over the Orion thin/hollow aluminum legs, which BTW, the chincy plastic spreader is worthless as a stabilizer or brace.

--> I'm thinking of reaming out the ring holes in the mount head to accept a much larger bolt and then bolting down a heavy dovetail bar (no lightweight alum) to the head. Then, bolt the rings to that dovetail using heavier bolts.

--> Insert rubber washers between every metal-to-metal joint that can be opened up.

---> ????

So, am I trying to polish a rust-bucket here, so to speak, or will the above-mentioned tweaks make a noticeable difference? Has anyone else attempted to improve this mount?

(the bubble level on the mount head has a bubble in it that is too large and it renders the level useless)

(the RA circle has slop in it as well - which I had previously read about in a review here on CN)

:rant:

MikeG

#2 KWB

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 12:05 PM

If you've got a wooden tripod coming,it will make a big
difference. The SVP mount has steel legs and is beefy
enough to hold my 14 pound and 45" ota with a fair degree
of steadiness. I'ts not the Rock of Gibraltar but will
hold a 600mm FL refractor with flying colors. An EQ3 mount
with a solid heavy duty tripod probably can properly
support a 5 refractor as demonstrated to me by Jon Issacs.

Kenny

#3 LTZ

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 01:40 PM

You could fill the hollow lower legs with expandable foam or lead weights. Either will help dampen vibrations.

You could also order wood legs for the EQ3 hub HERE.

#4 RA-DEC

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 04:03 PM

Mike, I had the Astroview mount with a 120mm mounted on it and I can say it was severely undermounted, however, the addition of a set of GTO legs from www.handsonoptics.com made a huge difference in dampning time. I would have continued to use the mount but a SVP mount virtually dropped into my lap. Filling the aluminum legs with expanded foam was very little help because the vibrations come from flex and twist in the aluminum not form resonance. While the wooden legs help in terms of dampning and improve the stability of the tripod they do not fix what IMO is the real weak link and that is the Dec axis. I think at some point Orion became aware of this and that is why they switched that refractor (120mm) to the SVP mount. The SVP mount is more than adequate and completely different than the Astroview mount. You may be ok as far as the Dec axis is concerned since you have a short tube 100mm. That refractor places the weight closer to the center of gravity and should prevent premature wear on the Dec axis. I can give you some other tips for tightening up that mount but it would be easier over the phone (did that for user AndyEnglish and we got his pretty tight). If you'd like to do that or want to know the suggestions PM me your ph # and I'll call you to help you!

Trace

#5 Glassthrower

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 04:04 PM

LTZ, those wood legs are interesting. That might be a short-term option until my custom legs are finished - which may take a while yet (the turnaround time is well worth the wait though!) ...

Ultimately, I want some legs that are about twice the dimensions as those shown in the link you posted. Picture something like the legs of surveyor tripod, unextended. More like thick SLATS or SLABS rather than legs. I'll attach custom feet to the bottom of the legs (heavy ball joint casters I found in my father-in-law's garage) ... should be rock solid.

In fairness, there are a couple of things I do like about the AstroView mount -

1) It looks nice. Cosmetically it's an attractive mount.

2) The motions are smooth.

3) I like the option of moving the slo-mo controls to either side of the head - something my old mount did not have.

4) The Altitude adjustment is positive and does not have a tendency to slip when the tension is released like older designs.

5) It can be easily upgraded using standard Orion accessories - drive motors, polar align scope, etc.

But, the real test of any mount is in the stability and performance. The AstroView fails miserably on the first count with my 100mm F/6 tube.

...


Let me ask the group something here - am I being too unrealistic? When I barely touch the micro-focuser at 150x, the whole image should not shake and require 2-4 seconds to stop? Right? What is it going to take to get a rock SOLID view - an Atlas?

Regards,

MikeG

#6 Glassthrower

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 04:12 PM

Trace -

At this point, I leaning towards another wholesale upgrade. I really don't think this mount is worth the trouble of tweaking - it's an uphill climb... ;)

Something else I just thought I would mention -

I had read somewhere that one can increase the stability of the stock aluminum tripod by leaving it almost full retracted and not extending the legs much at all. I tried this last night - I did not extend the legs at all and had everything tightened down TIGHT. (I can get away with this with a short tube, or else my diagonal would have been touching the turf) ...

The result - it did NOT increase the stability. The view still shakes horribly even with the legs fully retracted. I cannot imagine how terrible this mount would be with the legs fully extended out like little pencil-thin spindles!

Really....shame on Orion. This mount retails for $219 plus ship, probably $250 after shipping charges. For that kind of money, it should be a lot sturdier. Or they should be more realistic in their claims and recommend nothing heavier/bigger than an 80mm short tube for this mount. And even an 80mm might be pushing it!

Regards and clear STABLE skies,

MikeG

#7 nighty

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 04:41 PM

Mike Here are legs made from Lowe's 1" sq oak dowels. They are shown on an Astro 3 mount but I just put they on an astroview mount. It seems to hold my 127mm refractor well. Total cost was around $30 but it is too cold to paint and that might add to the price. If your scope set up is way out of balance that might cause more shake. Terry

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#8 Jim7728

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 10:48 PM

Let me ask the group something here - am I being too unrealistic? When I barely touch the micro-focuser at 150x, the whole image should not shake and require 2-4 seconds to stop? Right? What is it going to take to get a rock SOLID view - an Atlas?




Hi Mike

IMHO, 2-4 seconds at 150x is not too bad. Like the others have said, an upgrade in the tripod legs will improve the dampening.
Other options are anti-vibration pads and an electronic focuser such as the Rigel Systems nFOCUS Motor and Controller, though the cost may not be appealing. I'am not sure how you currently have the tube rings attached to the mount head but maybe using a dovetail bar will also improve the stability.

Don't know if you read this, but Ed Kessler wrote an article on AM which described some improvements he did to his Astroview mount. FWIW ;)

http://www.astromart...p?article_id=62

Clear Skies

#9 Glassthrower

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 08:57 AM

HI Jim,

Thanks for the link to Ed's article. Very interesting. The thought of filling the hollow mount head had occured to me, but I immediately wrote off the notion as bad - since the gears are internal and any filler might seep into the area where the gears are seated and interfere with their workings.

So let me ask you this - these guys that have the 4" or 5" premium APO scopes sitting on those big, beefy Losmandy and AP mounts - does the view shake in such a setup? At all? I would expect the view to be rock SOLID.......or is that a false assumption on my part?

I want a rig so dang solid that a linebacker could run full speed into it and he'd bounce off backwards and land on his tail...!.....Ok, I'm exaggerating a bit there, but not much. When I touch the focus wheels to adjust the focus, I want ZERO image vibration/oscillation/shake. "Rock solid" to me is not just a phrase to be thrown around lightly to vaguely describe a type of setup. I mean something so heavy and robust that a human hand touching it will not disturb the view visually.

I am relatively young and healthy (knock on wood), and I do most of my observing 15 feet away from my backdoor. So I don't mind carrying something HEAVY - so 50-75 pounds. I can handle it.

I think I am going to PM Ed and see what exactly he used to fill that head. Perhaps a mount head filled with LEAD, and wooden legs with the thickness of baseball bats - I might be on my way... ;) That, and a heavy dovetail bar, bolted down properly, and not with the children's hardware (tiny bolts, nuts, and washers) that comes with the Orion stock setup.

Truly, I can't say enough harsh things about this mount. It really really STINKS. I want to warn as many potential buyers as possible to stay away from this thing if you want stability in your view - cause this mount isn't giving it.

Well, today is Mardi Gras day and I'm off, so I think I will tinker with this mount.

Thanks for the feedback folks!

Regards and clear skies,

MikeG

#10 DCS

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 06:33 AM

Wow Mike, you are really down on the EQ-3. Sorry to hear you're experiences are so bad.

So let me ask you this - these guys that have the 4" or 5" premium APO scopes sitting on those big, beefy Losmandy and AP mounts - does the view shake in such a setup? At all? I would expect the view to be rock SOLID.......or is that a false assumption on my part?


I don't have a large APO, but I do have two equitorial mounts - an EQ-3 and a Losmandy GM-8. I've never thought the EQ-3 was that bad for its price. I've actually been impressed with the value you get for your $200. I've mounted both a C80ED and a 120ST on it (not at the same time) - done photography with both a DSLR and a web cam. It's not ideal, but it came through and the tracking is decent (although the polar scope is worthless). FWIW - I always leave the legs all the way in and clamped tight. I agree that the tripod would be too flimsy otherwise. If the accessory tray is bolted in place - this improves the situation as well.

Now - the GM-8 predictably blows it away in every conceivable category. It's rock solid, I mount my C8 + "stuff" on it as well as the two beforementioned scopes. It's super steady, accurate, and the build quality is in a completely different category. But - the GM-8 cost about 8X the EQ-3 - and - setting up the GM-8 is a commitment for the evening. I can carry out the EQ-3, observe, and head back in the time I'm still setting up the GM-8. The EQ-3 gets at least as much use as the GM-8 for that sole reason.

-Pete

#11 Glassthrower

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 10:05 AM

Hi Pete,

I know I sound pretty hard on the AstroView. But, the AstroView mount itself is not the true culprit - it's the Orion marketing people.

When I was trying to select a good mount (at a price within my range), I read on the Orion site that the AstroView is good up to a 5" scope. I'm thinking to myself - "Well, if it can hold a 5" scope, then 4" short-tube should a good match for the mount." ..... wrong.

I'm sure the AV is a great mount for an 80mm short tube. Honestly, I cannot imagine someone mounting a 120mm tube on this thing and finding it acceptable. Even with the tripod fully retracted, it's still unacceptably shaky. I've seen drunks at the end of Mardi Gras with more stability! ;)

At this point, I am stuck with this mount for the near future - until I can make room in my budget again for another "upgrade", which will NOT be another Orion mount. Unless I get a deal too good to refuse on an Atlas. Again, I just don't see the SkyView Pro (SVP) being much better - it's cut from the same mold (or at least it appears that way) and although the metal legs are thicker, they are still metal - and it has the Orion label on it, which I am leary of now, despite the fact that my 100mm scope has that label on it (which I am not in love with either, but that is another story!) ...

You mention that the polar scope is "worthless" - why is that? I have not attempted to use mine yet, because my house blocks Polaris (and most of the northern sky) ... (What I am looking for here is a good reason to yank it out the mount and sell it) ... ;)

I had a brief discussion with CN'er Ed Kessler via PM, and he gave me some good ideas about how to BEEF UP this mount.

I'm going to try his suggestions, put a custom set of THICK wooden legs on it, and see what happens. If I still get image vibration while trying to focus, after all of this tweaking and effort, then I am going to take it out into the driveway, smash it into tiny pieces with an 8-pound sledgehammer, write Orion a very candid letter expressing my disappointment, and then BUILD MYSELF a decent mount using ATM parts - where *I* can control the quality of the components and the stability of the finished product.

Ooops...this turned into another rant! :mrevil:

Heck, I might end up with a GM-8 before it's all over with - just to mount my 4" $200 tube!!!!

Regards and clear skies,

MikeG

#12 RA-DEC

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 04:41 PM

Mike,
As faras your being worried that the SVP and Astroview are cut from the same mold I can assure you that is not the case. They are very very different. The body of the mount itself is far bigger, beefier, and stronger. The tripod system is completely different as well and is pretty much the same as the one used on the Atlas and Sirius mounts. The legs are stainless steel (no flex there) and the spreader puts pressure up and out on the legs as opposed to the Astroview which reall just uses the spreader to keep the legs from moving further outward and still doesn't keep them 100% still. I used two spreaders on my Astroview (the original and the one that came with the wooden legs) for additional stability. For the money the Astroview is a fine mount, you won't find many new at that price. The additional $150.00 for the SVP is worth it though if thats in your price range and you could probably find a used one for the price of the Astroview new...that would be a no brainer! ;)

#13 DCS

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 11:06 PM

You mention that the polar scope is "worthless" - why is that? I have not attempted to use mine yet, because my house blocks Polaris (and most of the northern sky) ... (What I am looking for here is a good reason to yank it out the mount and sell it) ...


Well - it's very dim and difficult to locate Polaris at all - much less line it up. This may be because of a narrow FOV, a tiny aperture, or suspect optics - I don't know which is the biggest contributor.

Other frustrations with the EQ-3 polar scope - the cover falls of it if you so much as look at it, the setting circles (which you need to use to calculate where to put the "spacer" for Polaris) are loose/wobbly by about .5 degrees, and the reticle is black (you know - like the sky it is against) and not backlit - so it's impossible to see.

All in all - it just doesn't seem like they put much thought / effort into that part of the mount. It's frustrating to use.

-Pete

#14 ................

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 11:23 PM

Hi Mike, I don't normally reply on these threads as there is already plenty of info, but in this case I would like to add my 2 cents worth.

I just received my brand new "old-style" AstroView mount from Orion tonight and just finished setting it up. For visual use, I find it to be incredibly solid and well built. Perhaps you got a lemon. I do agree w/ others here regarding the tripod. As I mentioned in another thread on the EQ-2, get the GTO tripod legs from Hands-on-Optics; at $60, they're WELL WORTH it. That combined w/ vibration damper pads/coasters will cut vibrations immensely.

As mentioned, I got the older style, where the rings bolt directly to the mount head. And with a 6inch spacing between rings I find this very sturdy and adequate for the scope. I've also been to the local Orion dealer (Clark Planetarium) and seen the ST120 too, and it appears to hold the weight of that scope well enough.

Sorry, just wanted to add my 2 cents as I find it's a good mount to upgrade for a first scope refractor or small reflector. I do agree that if I had a larger instrument such as a long f/l 5inch I would want the SkyView Pro (or Sirius if my interest were imaging). However, I find this mount very solid and well worth it's price for it's purpose.

Sorry if this is bad news for you.

BTW - I don't notice any signs of the normal sticky glue/grease Orion's supplier normally uses. The mount moves easily without the "crackling" sound I was used to w/ the EQ-2. Time will tell, but at least I didn't have to strip it apart to clean and fine-tune the build before assembly tonight. Now if only I can get the weather to cooperate; that must have something to do w/ the T6's I purchased a couple weeks back.

#15 Dan Dabson

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 06:59 AM

First, about the black reticle thing: use a red LED or flashlight and shine it a cross or slightly into the frong recessed area of the polar alignment scope. This will illuminate the reticle. Second, setting circle issues: I found using the setting circles and making the calculations for polar alignment a little cumbersome. Try this link: http://24.237.160.4/...nder/index.html This small program will give you a visual representation of where the little circle needs to go.

#16 Glassthrower

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 01:01 PM

Steve said :

Hi Mike, I don't normally reply on these threads as there is already plenty of info, but in this case I would like to add my 2 cents worth.

I just received my brand new "old-style" AstroView mount from Orion tonight and just finished setting it up. For visual use, I find it to be incredibly solid and well built. Perhaps you got a lemon. I do agree w/ others here regarding the tripod. As I mentioned in another thread on the EQ-2, get the GTO tripod legs from Hands-on-Optics; at $60, they're WELL WORTH it. That combined w/ vibration damper pads/coasters will cut vibrations immensely.

As mentioned, I got the older style, where the rings bolt directly to the mount head. And with a 6inch spacing between rings I find this very sturdy and adequate for the scope. I've also been to the local Orion dealer (Clark Planetarium) and seen the ST120 too, and it appears to hold the weight of that scope well enough.

Sorry, just wanted to add my 2 cents as I find it's a good mount to upgrade for a first scope refractor or small reflector. I do agree that if I had a larger instrument such as a long f/l 5inch I would want the SkyView Pro (or Sirius if my interest were imaging). However, I find this mount very solid and well worth it's price for it's purpose.

Sorry if this is bad news for you.

BTW - I don't notice any signs of the normal sticky glue/grease Orion's supplier normally uses. The mount moves easily without the "crackling" sound I was used to w/ the EQ-2. Time will tell, but at least I didn't have to strip it apart to clean and fine-tune the build before assembly tonight. Now if only I can get the weather to cooperate; that must have something to do w/ the T6's I purchased a couple weeks back.


Hi Steve,

No, your response is not "bad news", it's GOOD NEWS...! I was hoping somebody would chime in with a positive experience regarding this mount. Honestly, in a few months, this mount will be gone and it will be replaced with something much beefier. But in the meantime, I have to make do the best I can with what I have. And I intend on tweaking this little mount and squeezing the best performance I can from it. Your experience, and some others that have been shared with me via PM and in this thread, gives me some hope that this mount is saveable.

I think the source of my frustration with has been two-fold : my own inflated expectations and the vendor sales pitch. Both were overly optimistic. I was expecting something more robust and Orion was implying that fact. Now that I know what I have to work with, I think I can salvage an adequate mount from it.

In fact, I am on my way out to the garage/workshop now!

(is there a "mad scientist" graemlin?)

Also, my mount has no sign of the infamous occidental sticky grease. One thing I cannot complain about is the smoothness. And I am going to wait on upgrading the legs. I have a custom set on order which will prove to be thicker and sturdier than the GTO aftermarket set. Either one would be a big improvement I am sure, but it would seem a little redundant to order the ones from Hands On Optics at this point...

Clear dark skies,

MikeG

PS - if you don't mind, could you post a pic of the top of your mount head where the rings attach? I'm curious to compare it against mine.

#17 Glassthrower

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 03:03 PM

First, about the black reticle thing: use a red LED or flashlight and shine it a cross or slightly into the frong recessed area of the polar alignment scope. This will illuminate the reticle. Second, setting circle issues: I found using the setting circles and making the calculations for polar alignment a little cumbersome. Try this link: http://24.237.160.4/...nder/index.html This small program will give you a visual representation of where the little circle needs to go.


Hi Dan,

95% of the time I am observing from my backyard where I cannot see most of the northern sky. I cannot see Polaris.

Luckily, at my geographic location, there is not much deviation between magnetic north and celestial north. Simply pointing the mount north and then nudging it just a tiny bit "in the direction of Polaris relative to north" yields an alignment that is more than adequate for visual use.

But, I am going to leave the polar alignment scope in place. It adds to the resale value of the mount slightly and it adds a tiny amount of weight to an otherwise-hollow mount head. It's not hurting anything by being in there.

It's interesting to note however - if the counterweight shaft is completely threaded in, the tip of threaded part of the shaft will vignette the view of the polar scope.

Regards and clear skies,

MikeG

#18 DCS

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 09:34 PM

First, about the black reticle thing: use a red LED or flashlight and shine it a cross or slightly into the frong recessed area of the polar alignment scope. This will illuminate the reticle. Second, setting circle issues: I found using the setting circles and making the calculations for polar alignment a little cumbersome. Try this link: http://24.237.160.4/...nder/index.html This small program will give you a visual representation of where the little circle needs to go.

The red flashlight suggestion is in the manual - but adjusting the alt-az on the EQ-3 needs two hands (two bolts on each axis). Adjusting those while holding the light with your imaginary third hand isn't very fun.

I've used a program like the one you mentioned before - I just don't always have my laptop with me when I'm observing.

I know - with me it's complain complain...

The thing is - if this type of stuff was thought through a bit better, it'd be loads easier to use. The reticle on the polar scope on my GM-8 has a pattern that takes three stars into account (and two constellations) so you don't have to use setting circles or computer programs - just line them up. It's real easy and accurate and didn't add any cost to the mount - just a better design.

-Pete


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