My new telescope mount arrived recently. Upon opening the box I was astounded by the mount's beauty. It's like a jewel, a big mechanical jewel! The mount is a Paramount MX produced by Software Bisque. It not only looks beautiful, it's functionally beautiful. It operates with exquisite precision under computer control using SKY X, super astronomical software created by Software Bisque.
I spent hours installing software and reading the manual. Then I set it up for a first trial on cloudy September 15. The Sun appeared often enough through infrequent clear spots to provide a target for testing. I initially worried about lifting the 50-pound mount onto the tripod, but two "handles" on the mount made this easier than I expected. In the first picture below the silver 20-pound counterweight balances the telescope in right ascension. The new rock-solid tripod features leveling screws for each individual leg.
The next image below shows my Lunt 100 mm solar telescope with a blue DMK41 camera. A north-south line is chalked on my driveway. Later, I painted this line, along with marks for each tripod leg, so I can set up rapidly in the future. The camera now connects directly to the mount, and its data is fed to a laptop through the wire seen on the left below. I no longer worry about snagging camera wire as the telescope moves. Camera data, camera power, and signals to control the mount all pass through ONE wire, a vast improvement over my previous mount! The wire seen on the right below supplies power to the mount.
The black vertical bar seen below within the mount (perpendicular to the tripod base) is an altitude adjuster used to precisely set the polar axis to my latitude. The red "X" on the shaft between the counterweight and the telescope points to the north celestial pole.
My goal for the first cloudy day trial was to accomplish daytime polar alignment using the Sun. If the mount is perfectly level, facing perfectly north, and adjusted perfectly to my latitude, the right ascension axis should point directly to the north celestial pole. In practice none of these adjustments are perfect. First, I homed the mount. Then I commanded it to point to the Sun. After acknowledging warnings about inappropriate eyeball-melting Sun disasters the mount slewed to the Sun and placed it only slightly off center within the field of view of my 20 mm reticle eyepiece! Yes! I felt like cheering! It's nice when equipment works the way it should on the first try! I corrected my slightly inaccurate initial polar alignment by using the mount's fine azimuth and altitude adjusters to center the Sun on the eyepiece cross hairs. Then I synchronized the mount to the Sun and told it to track the Sun. Everything worked beautifully, including the ultra-precise N-S and E-W motion controls.
In spite of imperfect conditions I tried for a solar image through the clouds and got the result below. Although not as sharp as images possible on a clear day, it shows two sunspots in amazing detail considering they were viewed through clouds!
|Sunspots 1571(Left) and 1569(Right) (Click for full detail.)|