Lloyd Merrill's Blog
Observation Logs

May 2024
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Spot On!
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 8:57 pm

My hand controller read Sept 10.  That was the last time I was at the scope.  Between the weather and the brightening moon I hadn’t been out.  It’s been a long day but I did what to get out and get in a few observations.  It’s great that its getting dark earlier.  I started out by syncing on Altair.  The initial slew brought me very close.  From there I went to globular M15 and then onto M2 which was slightly larger and brighter.  Next I slewed to the Saturn Nebular C55.  As with most planetary nebula’s they appear as a small out of focus star in the Nagler 17.  There was a distinct blue/green hue. Moving south I went to M72 which was very faint and hazy. Next was the open cluster M73 which appeared small but with stars visible. Next, I did a GOTO M31 and it ended up directly in the middle of the field of view.  One last object was M103 before parking the scope for the night.

Many times with this mount I have at least one or two problems. But tonight everything was spot on!  What a pleasant change.

Start time 8:25 End time 8:54. 

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Persistent Problem
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 11:56 am

On my last outing I parked my scope using the Autostar Hand Controller panel. It appeared to work but when I powered up the scope last night and slewed to Vega the scope headed a spot in the west and below the horizon.  I’m going to have to go to some of the Yahoo groups and see if others have had this problem.  After attempting a simple two star alignment on Altair and Deneb I received an alignment failure message.  I redid the procedure and received a 59′v and 8′> success.  I’m going to check my polar alignment using WCS on my next venture out.  I’ve just downloaded the DSI version of the program.

After that frustration all I did was to stay within Lyra and checked out Epsilon Lyra and M57. This time I parked the scope using 497 hand controller.


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Short night
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 11:14 am

Again last night was very clear.  I had only 2 goals last night. The first was to re-observe the Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) in Draco that I had seen the night before and then view Mu Cephei in the Cepheus constellation.
My son Bruce reminded me that we had viewed the Cat’s Eye in 32 inch Dob at Stellafane the month before and the color detail were spectacular.  To get there I synced up on a star in Draco and then slewed over to the Cat’s Eye. I had started out with the Nagler 17MM that gave me 60X but I wanted a closer view at 105X.  The view was great.
My next target on this short night was Mu Cephei.  Over the last few nights I had been reading about the star in two columns in the latest Astronomy magazine. Glenn Chaple’s recommendation was to look at the white star Alpha Cephei first and then go immediately to Mu.  This allows for the best comparison and shows just how red Mu is. This was a very pleasing sight.

Just when I though everything was going right I commanded the scope to park from the Hand Controller panel of Autostar.  I though the scope was taking a little too long to park and looked over at it.  The scope was headed down below the horizon and the only way I could stop it was to turn off the mount. It had been working fine up until then.

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A clear night
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 8:50 pm

Began 8:40

I was driving back from South County at around 7:30 and the sky couldn’t have been clearer. I started by syncing on Deneb. I then decided that I wanted to see the Cat’s Eye Nebula. I did a meridian flip and synced on Aldhibah (SAO 17365) and then again on M92. I then slewed to the Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) a small planetary nebula in the constellation of Draco. I was very pleased that I could pick up the object immediately. It appeared as an out of focus star. Next came some of the usual M11 the Wild Duck, NGC 457 a small open cluster in Cassiopeia, NGC 884/869 the double cluster in Perseus. I then finished up by looking at M31, M32 and M110 in Andromeda. M110 caused me some problems because I put in M101 instead and the mount slewed hitting the small ladder I had knocking off my alignment. M110 was rather faint and required averted vision.

Ended 9:40

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Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 8:20 pm

Session started at 8:07.

Was able to use NetScope after changing port to 5400 from 5401. Synced on Altair.   Starrted tour with M26 Dumbbell, M11 Wild Duck which is always a great site+++, M17 Swan, M24 not sure what I saw, M16 Eagle Nebular lots of stars no nebulosity, finished with NGC 884/69 which were too low. During this session I experimented between the hand controller and AutostarSuite.  I was able to sync once with no problem using the laptop however the time it seemed to lock up the program to the point where I had to end the task.

Locked up at 8:57.

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Members Night
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 1:29 pm

Last night my son Bruce and I went to a Skyscrapers (www.theskyscrapers.org) members night.  This was the first time that I had an opportunity to get to use some on the telescopes at the organization.  Dave Huestis gave us instructions on how to get the 8 1/4″ Alvan Clark ready for viewing.  I was amazed on how easy it was to rotate the roof.  We then went over to the 12″ Meade and were given a quick lesson on how to use that scope.  Jimmy had his TMB 130 on a G-11 and Dan had his 15″ Obsession with his Ethos 13mm. This was about the 5th night in a row that skies were good for observing.

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Other side of Meridian
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 7:55 pm

For tonight I moved to the east of the meridian. Observation started at about 8:43. Bruce and I slewed and synced on Altair.  We had good skies and the moon wasn’t up yet. We started with M11 and then moved to M26 which was not impressive. We then went to the Swan (M17) which which was quite bright. So far all objects we in the FOV of the Nagler 17mm. Next we tried M16 which we could not make out. Before leaving this area of the sky we observed M18 an open cluster. We then slewed and syned on Vega. My favorite in this area is M57 which stood out quite nicely. I then targeted M56 a small globular cluster which was a pleasent surprise. M56 was small compact and relatively bright. Next on to M27 the Dumbbell and finally M29 a small open cluster. I tried the Veil Nebular (east) but it wasn’t visible.

Observing session ended around 9:28.

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Choosing my targets
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 6:37 pm

Observation for August 17, 2008. I’ve now learned that to get more enjoyment out of my LXD75 it’s better if I plan my observing sessions. I planned to repeat the previous night’s observing and add a few more globular clusters. I chose the Ophiuchus area. The night’s session started around 9:07 which meant that Arcturus was just out of sight so I had to choose a different star to sync up to. I chose the 2nd magnitude star Rasalhague which was in the general vicinity. My son Bruce was at the controls of the Autostar. The scope slewed pretty close to the target which was then centered in the 5mm reticle.

For tonight’s targets I chose M5, M12, M10 and M14. M5 was clearly visible. M12 at 6.6 magnitude was more difficult to see and was best view using averted vision. M10 which was also a 6.6 magnitude cluster was easier to see then M12. I then revisited M14 and once again found it was a difficult target and required averted vision.

I ended up the night looking atM13 and M92 in Hercules. These are 2 clusters I never get sick of looking at.

Session ended around 9:45

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A Few Minutes
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 7:56 pm

Before the full moon got too high I wanted to get a little observing in.  It had been a very rainy week.  I started up the scope at 8:37 and synced up on Arcturus using the 5mm reticle.  I then switched to the Nagler 17mm and slewed to M13.  While not centered it was in the field of view.  Using adverted vision I saw many pinpoint stars.  Because I wanted to stay on the same side of the meridian I then targeted M92.  It’s smaller then M13 but gives a nice view.  The moon was getting higher so I thought I would get in one more Messier.  I chose M14 which I had never tried before.  Luckily it was in the FOV but was very faint.

I was very pleased to get 3 targets in 3 attempts.  Using the LXD75 mount you never know what you end of with.


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Polar Alignment Set
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 7:11 am

I had torn my scope down and upgraded the mount with Scopestuff knobs and saddle plate.  I also added a 80mm refractor as a guide scope.  Having done all this I needed to rebalance and realign the scope.

Well last night I finally got clear skies and more importantly some dedicated time to nail the polar alignment.  After many iterations it got to the point that just a little pressure on the adjustment knobs would move the alignment star one way or another.

I was using WebCamScheinern V1.31 to do the alignment and as long as you read the directions closely and don’t get overconfident that you know what you’re doing the program works great.  The big problem I had was that when doing the declination adjustment you first train your scope on a star in the east (or west if obstructed), do the calibration run and then pick a star to the south and near the zenith.  Once trained on that star then adjust the mount to bring the star into alignment.

Next night out I’m going to perform PEC training and get the scope ready for what I hope will be some great imaging.

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Alingment and PEC Training
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 6:16 am

Things came together for me last night.  After performing the azimuth alingment a few days ago I was able to get the altitude alignment accomplished.  I’ve been using a software program called WebCamScheinern or WCS for short.  This program uses a camera attached to the focuser to calculate the amount of ajustment needed for the azimuth and declanation.  In my case I uesed my Meade LPI  to do this.  After the polar alignment was completed I started Meade Envisage learned how to use the guiding option.  With guiding running I then started PEC Training.  The process followed the instruction manual, which is very short on details, and when through the 150 steps which represent one revolution of the worm gear.  With this accomplished I will now try to start to get more serious about imaging.  The forecast doesn’t look too good for the next few days and when it does clear I’ll have a moon to contend with but we will see how it goes.

All in all I was very pleased on how things went last night.


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Alignment Work
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 3:02 pm

I’ve spent the last few nights trying to align my scope.  When I first put up the pier and the custom adapter I used the transit of the sun to do my alignment.  One the mount went on I used Meade’s two star alignment to refine the setup.  I was able to get the alignment to where the Autostar controller said the I was within 5′ of North.  Still some goto opertations brought my target within view while others were off the field of view.  I also used the “park” command and then powered down the scope.  The first night I came back and tried to slew to M31 the scope was off.  At the end of that night of viewing I also “parked” the scope. 

Last night after I watching “Seeing in the Dark” I initializing the scope and tried to go to M31 the scope slewed to a position below the horizon.  Luckily the scope did not strike any object.

I was a little discouraged however I went to work trying to use the “sync” command which is done by centering and object and holding down the “enter” key for 2 seconds.  When the key is released the Autostar controller prompts you to center the object and press “enter” again.  This seemed to work pretty well.  After the “sync” I was able to slew to M57, M31 and Vega with pretty good accuracy.  The clouds rolled in fast and I once again “parked” the scope.  The alignment marks on the mount body were perfect on the RA and only slightly off on the DEC.  We’ll see how well the next session goes.


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Getting ready for weekend
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 6:31 am

Tonight I’m going to pre-drill the holes in the roof rails. This should make it easier to install the hinges. They’re predicting scattered thunder storms this weekend but I think that I should be able to get the roof frame up.

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Another evenings work
Filed under: Astronomy
Posted by: Lloyd @ 8:19 am

Last night I installed the garage door tracks to the 4X4 rails.  The only concern I have is where the track goes over the 4X4 galvanized steel connectors.  Next step is to drill the holes to connect the roller hinges.

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