Other accessories and odds and sods

FLI PDF focuser

I bought this so that when I am imaging I can set up a rough focus on the telescope and then with the aid of the FLI focuser I can sit at the laptop and get a more accurate focus. It only has a focusing range of 0.5 inches but it can do this in 7,000 steps which gives some idea of it's accuracy. As yet I haven't tried it out properly due to time constraints and waiting for brackets, adapters, etc so the setup can be more permanent.

FLI PDF focuser

Telegizmos 365 day cover

I sometimes leave the telescope set up outside for days at a time if the weather is looking promising and the Telegizmos cover ensures that no nasty weather causes problems to the equipment. I can thoroughly recommend this accessory, it has protected the scopes and mount from rain, snow, frost and wind and not the slightest bit of moisture or condensation has managed to get to the equipment. They can be got through Widescreen Centre in London.

Mountain Equipment Annapurna Down Jacket

Sometimes we spend so much time getting the best system together and everything is working fine so you find yourself settling down for a long night of imaging on a cold frosty clear night and after a short period of time you are sat there shivering on the verge of hypothermia. I know because I have been there so I went to my local outdoor specialist shop and after some discussion and trying on a few jackets I settled on the Mountain Equipment Annapurna, this is a jacket filled with down and is one of the few jackets available off the shelf that is worn for mountain and polar expeditions so it should see off anything that the British weather can throw at it. I have had the pleasure of using this jacket for a few sessions of imaging now and on the last occasion the sky was crystal clear from 10pm till 6am the following morning, it was sub zero and all the roads and cars were iced up the following morning but I was as warm as toast and spent the entire evening sat with my feet up in the shed. Needless to say it is highly recommended.

LVI Smartguider

I got this just over a week ago and tried it out for the first time over the weekend May 30th, it is exceptionally easy to use but to make things easier it is important to first find a suitable guidestar visually using the eyepiece provided, centre it in the middle of the eyepiece of the guide scope using the guide ring adjusters to help with this then replace the eyepiece with the guide camera, switch it on and then there are only 3 presses of a button and it is away guiding, the only other adjustment is to alter the aggressiveness of the guiding. From switching on to guiding takes about 5 minutes, nothing could be simpler. Although it doesn't offer all the complexities that the likes of Maxim DL have to offer, it is great when time is of the essence especially when the nights are short or weather is an issue.

To give an idea how easy it is to use, you just use the parfocal eyepiece to focus the guidescope and I find it easier as well if you use this  to centre a suitable star for guiding. Then change it for the guiding camera, connect the camera to the smartguider hand control and also connect this to the ST4/guiding input on  your mount, connect the hand control to the power supply and switch on.

When prompted press the ok button and the hand control says it is searching for a star, when the star is found it goes to the focus screen and you can just click on ok as the star should already be in focus. The smartguider now callibrates the mount and it is important here that you don't touch the mount or the handcontrol as this may disturb the process. The hand control then says it is ready to start guiding at which point you have the option of adjusting the aggressiveness of the guiding corrections, again this is very easy and straight forward, I set it to medium.

All you have to do now is press ok and it starts guiding, this whole process takes about 5 minutes. Initial impressions are that it does a very good job. The only down side is that the maximum exposure time is 2 seconds and it may have difficulty in picking up a suitably bright star for guiding, you can always get around this by moving the guide scope using the guide ring adjusters but this is fiddly. I have got an Orion X-Y guide adjuster on to help with this.

So far I have taken 4, 10 and 20 minute exposures using the smart guider and the results were very good with only some slight evidence of drift in the smaller stars with the 20 minute exposures (this I put down to the fact that there were some strong gusts of wind that night which any autoguiding would have difficulty in resolving), all other images have shown pin sharp round stars across the whole image.