Some upgrades to my astro gear

Now I am always looking for ways to improve my astroimaging setup, be it the support, ancillary equipment, or even shelter/storage. In this thread, I will be sharing about a few changes that I have made so far. One is particularly big, and more will be revealed with time for this – for the moment, I am giving a sneak peek into this.1. Support for the iOptron ZEQ25GT:

I decided that there was a place I normally setup for imaging with the iOptron in my garden which gives me the best view of the sun during the day and also of the South and South-West at night. 3 holes were dug into the ground, sand was used to level the ground and then the 3 round paving slabs were laid into this.

I then used outdoor adhesive to secure the tripod support feet onto these paving slabs, having determined where they needed to be to ensure accurate polar alignment when the bubble was centered in the spirit level of the iOptron tripod.

Result:

Accurate tracking of the sun for H-alpha solar imaging. Now there is hardly any noticeable drift when imaging the sun for at least a good few minutes. It also allows for easy polar alignment at night, as it is already pretty close. The secure base should also allow for better guiding and tracking for deep sky imaging.

Tripod support feet secured to the round paving slabs with outdoor adhesive
Tripod support feet secured to the round paving slabs with outdoor adhesive

2. Enclosure for my laptop:

Previously when I had left my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 outside at night for deep sky imaging, the keyboard became very damp, and I was concerned about the damp affecting my external hard drive as well. Hence I needed something to protect the laptop from the elements. Also,I needed some shade for when I do solar imaging in the daytime.

So I set about converting a cardboard box which stored crisp packets, into a black box which could protect my computer when out imaging, as well as block the sunlight when doing solar imaging. I have to say that it has worked very well both day and night – with the computer in the box, it does not get damp at all, due to the warmth of the computer while it is running. It might not look pretty, but it certainly gets the job done. I am thinking of adding a black cloth over the top to protect it even more from the cold, and also to block more light when doing solar imaging.

Cardboard crisp box made into a black box for the Surface Pro 3
Cardboard crisp box made into a black box for the Surface Pro 3
Being used for solar imaging
Being used for solar imaging

3. Wooden shed obsy:

It is rather a hassle to bring my larger telescope out and then back into the house. I have been looking for a solution to allow storing of my telescope permanently on the Celestron CGEM mount. Hence I managed to get a local shed builder to make one with flip-open roof. It has a polycarbonate roofing rather than wood panels, mainly to reduce the weight of the roof, as these have to be flipped outwards to allow access to the sky. As it is, the weight is already very hefty – but moveable by just one person.

In the picture below, the obsy walls are still unpainted, but I have been hard at work staining the wood a dark colour. The next step is to insulate the roof and walls, so that it will be ready to house my telescope – more to follow on this in due time.

As can be seen below, each roof has a wooden structure hanging down to allow that part of the roof to be flipped outwards and also to act as a lever to close the roof back up.

Peak into my new observatory shed
Peek into my new observatory shed

As you can see, things are moving along with improvements in every area, with the aim of improving astro-imaging. Just hope it all pays out in the end.

Boon