sponsored by psychohistorian.org
Name: Dale Liebenberg
Location: Lovemore Heights, Port Elizabeth
Observatory: I have a permanent observatory built above my garage with a large skylight. It is now fully automated with a controller to open the roof and a pier to lift the scope to roof level. It is reasonably dark, and has a good all-round view, although I seldom need to drop below 30° for imaging.
Equipment: Telescope and Mount: I currently use a Takahashi FSQ106ED 106mm/F5 refractor on a Tak EM200 mount.
Focuser: Standard Tak focuser motorised with Robofocus temperature compensated controller
Camera: STL 11000M with Astrodon standard and narrowband filters
Guiding: STL remote guide head
I started off when my son was a teenager and we became interested in astronomy. We started off with a small 90mm Meade, but soon moved on to a 8" SCT. I soon wanted more than just visual observing and purchased a small un-cooled Meade astronomical camera as well as a DSLR. Later moved on to a ST2000 one shot colour camera (I still own) and ultimately to the full frame mono camera when I purchased the refractor.
Down this part of the world, I was on my own and learned all I know from text books, the internet and in particular the various on-line groups and magazines devoted to astronomy.
With my fast, wide-field optics I am generally restricted to imaging nebulae and clusters, but that is about to change, as I have just received my new Celestron EdgeHD 14" SCT. (The ASA mount to take the heavier scope due soon!!)
I suppose I am somewhat of gadget and software freak, but it really makes life easier if you can take the drudgery out of our hobby (Been there, done that with hauling the scope out to the back-yard, setting up, nursing the imaging to late in the night, or packing-up when the weather changes). So with MaximDL, PMax, Starry Night, cloud/weather monitor, ACP and ACP Scheduler, I can now monitor what is happening in my observatory from a laptop in my house and go to bed without worrying about my observatory.
My session typically starts with target selection, using text books and Starry Night and Sky-tools to find appropriate targets for my optics and camera. With SN and ACP planner, I determine the best time for the targets and set up the sequence of filter sub frames and targets for the night’s observing. This plan is then loaded into ACP, which fires up the equipment at the appropriate time. I have also recently purchased ACP Scheduler which you simply set some acquisition parameters, list your targets with their filter and exposure requirements and the software does the rest – prioritises the targets and runs the observatory.
My advice to someone starting out: If you are in a large centre, join a club. Join the many Yahoo groups out there and you can learn a lot. Start small like I did. I doesn’t have to be expensive. Use a standard DSLR and you can even build your own scope with information freely available on the Net.
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