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Observing Season is here!
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

I just got back from my latest trip to Golden. I live and work in Florida, and work for Bisque remotely. Occasionally though, it is useful to pay a visit to the "home base" and do some planning, and just have a few meals together with everyone. Lots of exciting stuff going down! For one, in Florida, we amateur astronomers have another name for Winter: Observing Season. My scopes sit in my shed most of the summer. Between the oppressive humidity, giant bugs, oppressive humidity, soaking dew, oppressive humidity, poor seeing, and did I mention oppressive humidity? Winter is another matter. Cool and sometimes even cold at night, the air is dry and stable. Sub arc second seeing is the planetary and lunar observers paradise. It's also great for astrophotography. I've taken a lot of pictures of the moon in the past. My favorite instrument for this was an 8" Meade Newtonian that they don't make anymore (StarFinder). I've tried taking pictures through my LX200 SCT, but I've had very poor results on the moon with it. Last Winter Star party, I made a tragic and costly mistake in the hobby. On the last day the vendors were trying to get rid of stuff and I picked up an 80mm F/12 "Guide Scope". My first "real" refractor (or so I thought at the time). Refractor lovers know where this is going....  I took it home and turned it on Saturn. Saturn was gorgeous compared to the view through my 8" SCT. The beginning of a slippery slope. I took some lunar images through it and was delighted. A couple of months later, I bought a used 6" Celestron refractor from a friend at NEAF. I was ecstatic, and took it to my first star party two weeks later. Hands down better than my LX200 I thought (view wise). Jupiter, Omega Centauri... spectacular. I had no further need of my 8" SCT, and gave it to my son. I took some lunar images through it... Hmm... pesky color aberration near the limb... but I could live with it, after all other than that it was still a superior view to what I was used to.

Then, recently I spoke at the Mid Atlantic Star Party, and there was a young man there trying to sell his fathers telescope equipment. He had recently passed away, and his son just wasn't into the hobby. He had a small refractor there. It was a Takahashi, FC-76. (This is the part where Darth Vader says, "And now your failure is complete..."). I bargained with him, offered half what it was worth, told him he could get twice what I was offering if he was patient, but it was all I could do, and I promised it would not be on e-bay or astromart the next week. I took it home.

You know those allergy commercials where there are children dancing in the field of flowers? All looks well until they peel this imaginary film away and you see "clearly". Well that's what it was like when I looked though my Takahashi the first time. All my other telescopes were instantly turned to garbage (incidentally, the same thing happened the first time I looked through a Naegler eye piece!). I have always been a big time lunar and planetary observer mostly, and the moon through my Takahashi... there is no substitute. I have named her Vera. She will be on ebay, after you've pried her from my cold dead fingers... um... where was I? Oh yes, well I've been taking pictures of the moon through Vera, and I must say I don't think I'll ever take pictures through anything else I have. I have actually done a comparison between all three scopes. It's like comparing my Canon DSLR to one of those disposable cameras you buy at 7-11 that's preloaded with film. Yeah, it's that good. Only my Naeglars are worthy of Vera, and my cheapo barlow will now have to go too.

What does all this have to do with what's going on at Bisque? Well, I'm getting pretty decent at lunar photography and now I'm actually going to try some deep sky stuff. Tom Bisque is of course the master of this, and on my trip he showed me how to use T-Point, and the ropes for polar aligning a Paramount. I don't have a Paramount of course, but I am getting one of the new smaller mounts, which will be ready soon. I got to tour the machine shop and see how they are being made, and they are coming along nicely. Prototype will be ready soon, and I'm going to be the "Poster Boy" for beginner deep sky astrophotographers. I have a DSLR, a decent scope, and soon a brand new mount from Bisque. And, I'm going to do everything on my MacBook pro, and only using software from Bisque (well, maybe Photoshop)... and no, not running Windows. While there, Tom was futzing trying to get a blue tooth adapter on Windows to work with a Paramount. I just used the BlueTooth adapter in my Mac (using the yet to be released TheSkyX Pro for the Mac), connected to the Paramount, and started slewing. First try. Yeah, I'm the Bisque Mac Fan Boy too ;-)  Tom is getting there.

Well, observing season is here, I'll soon have one of the new mounts to try out, TheSkyX Pro is in late late development, and if it weren't cloudy right now... Vera and I would be spending some more "quality time" together...

Richard

 


Posted 11-28-2009 5:47 PM by Richard Wright

Comments

Russell Archer wrote re: Observing Season is here!
on 11-29-2009 1:36 PM

Very nice post. I'm sure I speak for lots of people when I say I'm very interested to see how you get on with doing all your astro work on a MacBook Pro. I'd love to be able to ditch the WIn XP Bootcamp partition on my own MacBook Pro and go all-Mac :-)

Also can't wait to hear more details on SkyX Pro - any chance we might get it as a Christmas present?!?! I know, I know ... I develop software for a living too and it's always best to be a little cautious on mentioning release dates :-)

Russell

trimil wrote re: Observing Season is here!
on 01-23-2010 12:55 PM

That new Tak must be sweet. People who've never viewed through a small, high-quality apo don't know what they're missing. I use a TV85 at our club's annual Messier marathon because IMO it better matches what Messier had to work with. Folks with larger apertures are routinely surprised at how this scope can show the various Ms, and all in a package that sets up in five minutes tops.

Last October I was at AIC and heard that SKYX-PAE would be out "in a few months". One of the comments was the Mac version might have limited functionality with peripheral devices until a "translator" software module was finished to convert commands from Windows to Mac protocols. My present imaging setup uses several USB devices (all Windows ) and I'm wondering if SB plans to offer any incentives to third party developers or to write specific software drivers in-house so that OS X users will have the ability to actually control and use devices other than the PME?

One possibility that occurred to me is a small "black box" device with a system-on-a-chip PC  inside that would run embedded Windows/DOS and connect to the external peripherals. It would act as the interface between all the legacy and ASCOM stuff and communicate with SKYX  for commands and data transfers. Not as elegant as a 100% software solution, but it would possibly allow many more peripherals to work under SKYX and OS X.

ThomasGLAllen wrote re: Observing Season is here!
on 02-17-2010 12:51 PM

Great blog by Mr. Wright.  He mentioned a smaller Paramount mount to be released.  Is there any news on price and the load, and I'm assuming it will be a scaled down version of the original Paramount mount.  Thanks.  Also, I have a Tak 150B (just purchasesd it last month after saving up for sometime).  He's right, it's the difference in night and day in comparison to a SCT and other refractors (or even an RC).  I live in Xenia, OHIO, and I just built my observatory last year (explora-dome).  I've partially automated my observatory, but plan to automate it completely so that I can do most of my work inside the house as opposed to in the observatory.  I'm sure Mr. Wright has thought of that, but thought I'd mention it anyway.  I have an LX200, but plan to switch off to my EM400 for better automation.  

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Observing Season is here!
on 02-18-2010 6:22 AM

Here's a post with a bit more information about the new "smaller" Paramount mount:

www.bisque.com/.../32646.aspx

In short, the new mount has all of the nice features you expect from the Paramount ME, only in a slightly smaller (designed in Solid Works) body.  Our star tests indicate this mount will have excellent tracking and pointing performance (similar to the Paramount ME).

We're also concurrently finalizing TheSkyX Professional Edition (Mac/Windows) and improving the tight integration between software and hardware.

I can't wait to release them.   The goal is to have both TheSkyX Pro and the new not-so-mini ME at NEAF in April.  As I keep saying, time will tell.

walrock10 wrote re: Observing Season is here!
on 06-05-2010 4:57 PM

Would like to hear about how you feel working remotely for Bisque is turning out. In terms of productivity and daily issues you need to overcome.

Steve Sanacore wrote re: Observing Season is here!
on 07-17-2010 3:58 PM

Hi, great story. I've been there too.

I would love to know how to use my MacBookPro with my scope mounts. Temma, LX200 etc.... thanks.

   

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