Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cube problem solved!

I bought a RJ11 6P4C cable from a local store at $10 (i.e. around 1.3 USD), I've prepared to modify the pin layout cutting one end off, re-arranging the cables and by crimping another RJ11 there.

To my surprise, the cable has identical layout with the iOptron cable! Therefore, no hacking has to be done.

And on plugging in, everything work flawlessly, no more problem! Yeah! I saved a lot of money and a lot of trouble! Solar imaging could be resumed shortly.



The "GPS ON" sign on the LCD display disappeared, and the mount changed itself to EQ mode and cannot be changed back to alt-az mode. There will be an error message saying that the controller cannot communicate with the DEC motor.


Faulty hand controller cable.


Pictures are much better for the illustration. First of all, examine the original cable which looks like this. Check the color of the cables inside the jacks of both side. You will see that they are in the following sequence as shown. Both sides are identical in layout and by using a multimeter, you will know that there are just four parallel cables inside without any cross-over, we can it a straight cable technically.

The jack is just similar to those for telephone. However, some telephone system has cross over cables, that means, the pin layout of the jacks are not the same. We will need to find those which has two identical layout on both jacks.

Luckily, I found such a cable locally from a store at a very low price, less than 1/10th of the original one. Of course, it you cannot find such a cable, you can always hack one by yourself. Simply buy any telephone cable, cut one ends off, and buy a new RJ11 jack and re-arrange the pin layout with a crimpler tool.

After replacing the cable, my Cube works again flawlessly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going for Astrotrac TT320X-AG?

I begin to wonder if it could be a good move to me, and before that, I'll be selling my Takahashi TG-SP II. The TT320X-AG is lighter in weight but it can probably track even my Orion 100ED f/9 since it has more capacity, so I can do planet imaging again. It has autoguiding port for future expansion, and it's also good enough for indoor tracking of the sun. My existing Manfrotto 410 head should be great for polar alignment of it.

The downside is probably the power requirement. The TG-SP II can be powered even from the USB port, and it can even work on 4 AA rechargeable. However, the Astrotrack would need 12V which means more battery.

I shall see, and at the time being, if you're interested in my TG-SP II, let me know. I've the basic mount plus an extra brass counter weight for it, a power cable which draws power from USB port, a battery box and also a German made Vixen style dovetail saddle. An advertisement has been placed in astromart, wish me good luck on the sales.

Monday, July 19, 2010

20100719 Moon

My Cube was still waiting for repairing, so the TG-SP II was in use. Tele Vue Ranger, Lumenera LU070M, close up with 2x barlows.

I found that without selecting 12-bit, Registax V5 is unable to process the AVI, but Registax V4 can. It answers the question why some of the older AVIs are not accepted by Registax V5.

2219 (GMT+8):-

2224, closeup (GMT+8):-

2229, closeup (GMT+8):-

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Cube

A few days ago, I found that it switched itself to EQ mode and the GPS sign was off. And after powering it up for sometime, it will report that it cannot communicate with the dec motor. Seems it's failed?

I tried to replace its firmware but the problem persisted. Later with the help of a local folk, I managed to get the newer firmware but it does not help either. When I tried to contact the technical support of iOptron, they offered me a repairing service at $70 USD, factoring in the shipping cost for me to send it to them, it's more than half of a new controller! Oops...

Okay, I plugged in the controller again and then it works suddenly. Everything appear to be normal. I switched it off and on, it's not working again with the same set of symptoms. Apparently, something is getting loose?

Therefore, I shall try to find a replacement cable for it. It's just a straight RJ11 cable with four pins (i.e. RJ14 to be exact), and I was told that it's different from our home phone cable, so I should verify by using a multimeter before going on.

Wish me good luck!


I'll try to make replacement cable myself... Guess what, the tools and the raw cables are cheaper than the stocked cable. I guess it's most probably a cable issue since the problem happens something and disappear sometimes, and therefore, it's reasonable to be a result of poor contact.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

20100714 Wide field indoor testing

Didn't go out tonight, since I don't think there would be much difference. I placed the mount on the other side of the window to gain access to M6 and M7... Just a test shot:

M6 on top and M7 near the bottom... very short exposure like 5s at ISO 800 since the polar alignment is very bad, and I couldn't improve it by much since the space is very limit on this side of the window. I even can't do the composition through the view finder.

Anyway, it's more like testing of the equipment, that Canon 100mm f/2.0 wide open.

A typhoon is coming, and I've taken a few more shots, pending processing (stacking).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Preparation for urban wide field imaging

Guess what, I even want to try imaging in the urban center... see what I can get?

But before I can try, I will need to try out the combinations of equipments first. With my newly acquired TG-SP II polarscope, polar alignment could be done faster.

First of all, I need to determine how many counter weight that I will need to use, and without much surprise, this little mount can take my Canon 450D plus a 100mm f/2 or a 50mm f/1.8 without any counter weight. It is because the RA motor was placed strategically to serve as a counter weight.

Therefore, the whole setup is really extremely portable. All I need is a small tripod, the mount without counter weight, a battery box plus the hand controller. I'll also need the timer release so that I can do exposure longer than 30 seconds. Of course, maybe 30 seconds would be too much under such a sky! I shall test run tonight in an indoor setting.

Indoor Test

Finally setup everything, and without Polaris, I can only roughly align the mount by using a compass. By using ISO 400 and f/2, 10s exposure will nearly saturate the whole frame. Star remains pinpoint, and there's no purple fringing... Canon 100mm f2.0 seems to be a good lens indeed.

By stopping it to f4.0 and exposure at 30s at ISO 100, I'm trying to test the tracking accuracy of the mount. Star remains pinpoint! Seems like my rough alignment is not that bad afterall.

Then I centered at Antares and let it go for 20s at f/2.0 ISO 200, M4 was clearly seen. If the sky is darker, I'm sure that it's going to be fun! If the sky is still alright tomorrow night, I shall go out in a nearby open area, I just wish that I can do 30s at f/2.0 and ISO 400 or even 800, I don't need the timer release indeed.

See the hint of M4 in the above shot.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Just sold and shipped my last ToUCam Pro

I became more serious in astronomy with a small ToUCam Pro, and in all these years, I had owned over five ToUCam Pro, and I've modified them to black and white, raw mode support, etc.

Upon selling my bigger scopes, and also by going to DMK and later Lumenera, I had not much point in keeping a ToUCam Pro. My last backup camera was just sold and shipped.

It's still an excellent camera by any measure, especially given its price, however, my focus has been changed to more portable gear. For solar imaging, a black white camera is a must, and therefore, I no longer need any ToUCam Pro.

I've even used a ToUCam Pro with a Asus router so that I can do remote monitoring to my home, but then this was also replaced by an IPCamera.

It's all now history!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Visual scanning at home

No time to really observe, just pulled out my Canon 10x30 IS and open my home window to scan around. Scorpius is hanging outside the window, excellent transparency really help to reduce the problem of light pollution.

M6 and M7 are easily seen with such a small aperture, stars are well resolved thanks to the IS. M4 is again impossible under bright sky, I've tried M4 from my home with a C8 but still failed, so there's no chance virtually with a pair of 30mm binoculars.

It's refreshing enough for me, especially during the busy days.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

20100701 Sun

Cooled Lumenera, strange registax 5 incompatibility so fall back to registax 4, forgot to use that tmax motorizing addon.

With reducer, 1425 (GMT+8):-

With 2x, 1434 (GMT+8):-

With 2x, 1436 (GMT+8):-

Poor shots.