Astrofest 2002

Mark Jenkins with the staff of Astro-Physics - Luke Kilpatrick, Roland and Marj Christen

The 92mm f5 Stowaway offered views with the Giant Binocular from Baader Planetarium. Although we viewed the sun with the 155mm f7 StarFire EDFS and DayStar 0.7 T-Scanner for a short time on Friday, the clouds and haze discouraged solar viewing. The 155 was mounted on the 900GTO with the 92mm Stowaway riding piggyback. During the evening it was fun to view the same object with both scopes at varying magnifications.

10" f14.6 Mak-Cas with the 1200GTO are shown on the right. Thursday and Friday evenings cleared out offering Roland a chance to do some serious imaging with his ST-10E until Saturn and Jupiter rose from the trees. Those who were awake in the wee hours were treated to some very fine views of the planets as the seeing steadied.

Roland polar aligned the 1200GTO mount in daylight using the park 1 and 2 routine and a carpenter's bubble level. The scope is shown in park 1 position with the counterweight shaft being leveled.

Peter Ceravolo is looking on during the final step of the daytime alignment procedure. Both mounts were quickly polar-aligned while the Sun was still up and we were able to catch views of Venus. The alignment was so good on the 900GTO mount that we never touched it further and were able to find objects all over the sky with the 155mm f7 StarFire and a 5.2mm Pentax eyepiece. The 1200GTO was used for imaging with the ST-10E camera. Very slight azimuth and altitude adjustments (less than 1/4 turn) nulled out the drift in both axes. This allowed Roland to demonstrate the imaging capabilities with 1-minute snapshots of objects that people requested. He also took some longer exposures as shown below.

Peter Ceravolo is co-author of the new Desktop Universe planetarium software from Main-Sequence Software This software utilizes the ASCOM driver for the Astro-Physics GTO mounts written by Ajai Sehjal.

Images taken at Astrofest
By Roland Christen with The Astro-Physics 10" f14.6 Mak-Cas
Click the thumbnail to see the larger image.
M27 NGC206 NCG206 Close Up M 74

Perry and Pat Ramakulus, publishers from Willmann-Bell, Inc, chatting with Marj. Earlier this year, Willmann-Bell released Emil Bonanno's MegaStar 5 Sky Atlas for Windows. This new version has telescope control for many mounts including the Astro-Physics GTO.

Roland catches up with our long-time friend, Tom Dobbins, noted author of Introduction to Observing and Photographing the Solar System (with Donald Parker and Charles Capen) and numerous articles.
Stan Chlebicki - 155EDFS and 900GTO Paul Baughman - 130EDT & 600EDA
Stan Chlebicki - 155mm f7 StarFire EDFS and 900GTO German Equatorial
Paul Baughman - 130mm f7 StarFire EDT and 600HDA German Equatorial with the 8010 Dual Axis Controller

Hi all,

This year we brought a 900 and 1200 mount with 155F7 refractor and a 10" f14.6 Mak-Cass. We also brought two Stowaways, f5 and f7 models. We arrived at 2pm on Thursday, and had to set up way in the back - the field was almost full. After unpacking our van, I set up the two mounts and polar aligned them using the park1-Park2 routine (written up as "Polar Aligning in the Daytime" in the GTO keypad manual) and a carpenter's level. Each mount took about 10 minutes to align with this quick procedure. After getting a bead on the Sun, we were able to slew to Venus and a couple of bright stars and have them land pretty well centered in a 200x eyepiece.

The 900 mount was so well aligned that we did not have to futz with it further and were able to find objects with the 155f7 all night Thursday and Friday. Even before the sun had set, I started to do imaging with the 10" Mak and ST10XE while Luke was showing Venus to people wandering by. I used the Track & Accumulate function in CCDOPS to further refine the polar alignment of the 1200 mount. It was not very far off, requiring only about 1/4 turn of the altitude and azimuth axes to achieve less than 1 arc sec overall drift in 10 minutes. The end result was that before twilight was done, I had a well-aligned mount ready for some imaging fun.

We had quite a few folks stop by in the first half of the night to see the mount slew to different objects using my laptop planetarium program, and then with a click of the mouse, take a snapshot of the requested object and watch it appear on the screen. The skies both nights were hazy and partly cloudy until after midnight. Nevertheless, in just 60 to 120 seconds I was able to capture faint galaxies down to mag 16 - stuff that you would never be able to glimpse through the eyepiece at this somewhat light-polluted site. It was amazing to see objects appear on the screen even though in some cases no stars were visible through the wispy clouds. After the clouds parted, the skies became steady and transparent, and I went after the spiral arms of M31 with hour-long guided exposures. These images will be added to our current M31 mosaic project. Above, you will see some of the snapshots I took (M27 and M74) as well as the spiral arm detail (close up of NGC206). The wider field image is a composite of my NGC206 added to an image taken by Mark Jenkins with his 9" f4.3 FastMax.

Mark, Trent and myself each entered one picture in the astrophoto contest. We didn't win anything (probably because we were disqualified due to some misunderstanding about the rules). We had a good laugh about it afterward, and may get them published in Astronomy mag under the heading: "See the images that were banned in Kankakee!" Seriously, though, Astrofest was excellent as usual. The CAS put on a great event, the weather was very nice all around, the seeing was excellent, especially when the planets finally rose early in the morning, and Marj and I did not get much sleep at all.

Great job, Chicago Astronomical Society!

Roland Christen

Although we attempted to photograph additional customers with their scopes during the day, many people were visiting, checking out the swap meet or catching up on lost sleep. If we missed you, but someone else took a photo of you with your Astro-Physics scope or mount, e-mail it to us so we can include it here.

Copyright © 2004-2005, Astro-Physics, Inc. - All Rights Reserved
This page was last modified: May 4, 2007

Astro-Physics, Inc.
11250 Forest Hills Road, Machesney Park, IL  61115, U.S.A.
Phone: 815-282-1513   Fax: 815-282-9847