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Monday, May 22nd, 2006
Tonight I get to add a new item to my equipment list. The much anticipated Equatorial Platform! Ooooh... I've been waiting 2 years for this. Here is my history with it:
 
Early 2004 
When I got my Dob, I had equatorial tracking on my 6" newt. I inquired at my local astronomy shop about tracking for Dobs and the guy there said that it is around $1500 to set one up. I told them they were crazy and left it at that, but I really wanted it. 
 
Late 2004
I started to actually consider spending the money because I really wanted tracking in a bad way. I met some guys that had equatorial platforms for their big Dobs and I actually exerienced looking through a tracking Dob. Now my real investigation started. The result was that Dan (at the local astronomy shop) was correct on the pricing and there was still no way I was going to spend that much.
 
Early 2005
As I learned more about what went into making one of these platforms I decided to look into making one myself. I searched around and found that there is actually a Yahoo group called "eqplatforms". Amazing. I hooked up with some guys in that group and really started to understand how to make one.
 
Mid 2005
Realizing that I do not have the skill to make such a thing, I decided to hook up with a buddy that is an engineer who can help me make the blueprints and a buddy who is a woodworker who can make the blueprints into a product.
 
Late 2005
This getting together with buddies stuff isn't working. I don't have the skills to do it and they simpy don't have the interest in the project. My only option is to pony up $1500 and buy a professionally made one.
 
Early 2006
I begin to speak with Tom Osypowski about building one for me. This time, the conversation wasn't theory, it was, "I'm saving up now to get one this year".
 
April 2006
I came across a review for "Round Table Platforms" at Cloudy Nights (read the review here). Like the reviewer, I also found Brian very responsive and easy to comminicate with. I made arrangements with him instead of Tom Osypowski to make my platform and though the price has gone up since the review in 2005, the cost was nearly $1000 less than Tom's.
 
 
And now, for the past several nights, I've been out every night observing, taking pictures and TRACKING!!
 
I'm not going to review the platform, but suffice it to say that with (very) rought alignment, it takes an object 10 minutes or more to drift out of the view of the eyepiece at 300 power. It normally takes about 10 seconds. You can also take some short time lapse photos as the examples I will post below.
 
 
Wide Field Shot of Cancer
This is a wide field shot with the camera piggy backed on the scope. I used the 18mm to 55mm lense at about 20mm. In Cancer you can see both M44 and Saturn as well as Mars below Pollux in Gemini. You can also see most of the constellation of Leo.
 
 
M44 and Saturn
This picture was taken with the camera piggy backed on the scope. I used the 300mm zoom lense which gives me roughly 10x. This was a 180 second exposure.
 

Wide Field Shot of Hercules  
There are tons of stars in this 2 minute exposure. It is almost difficult to make out Hercules, Corona Borealis and the head of Draco.
 
 
M57 - The Ring Nebula
This shot is seriously funky. This is an eyepiece projection shot with a no name, 25mm, Chinese Plossl eyepiece in the camera adapter. The edge distortion is magnified by the flat nature of the CCD as well as the time exposure. I am still learning how to even take pictures with this setup and this is the first real deep space object shot that was worth keeping. This is a 70 second exposure.
 
 
So even though I got the equatorial platform for observational tracking, it's kinda cool to be able to take some pictures as well. Again, photography is not my objective, but I've been having fun!
 

 
 






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