Well, last night I got a chance (finally!) to try out the new equipment. I got the cameras on Friday (all 14 of them). We still don’t have some of the accessories for the telescope, most notably the Telrad finters. But, I had enough to let me try everything out on the sky with the full set of equipment. I learned a few things that I’m still digesting. One thing was that my personal telescope, a Celestron Nexstar that was the basis for the early work on this project, now has to qualify as an old telescope. I don’t know how that happened but I’ve had it for 11 years now. Still seems new to me. Anyway, Celestron has clearly been busy over that time and the telescope shows signs of many improvements. More interestingly, I was able to take it out and get it running without reading the manual at all. Yes, the hand controller is quite different now but I managed ok. Eventually I’ll read the manual in time.
I was able to get the Mallincam Special camera on and take images of the sky through the focal reducer. The star images look really good, at least on the monitor. I’m still working on how best to deal with the video images that come out of our video recorder. There are a few things that are clear now. 1) the video recorder (DVR) looks like it will work but has some operational peculiarities that I need to document. The device somehow decided to change video formats during my short tests and I need to figure out why and how that happens. 2) I still need to get memory cards for the DVR. These are on order now. 3) A bigger monitor is certainly nice to have and I have a good option picked out if we have to go this way, but, the DVR screen is pretty good on its own. 4) getting power to the gear and routing the video lines is tricky. There aren’t that many wires but they seem to mulitiply in the dark. I had a real rat’s nest going there for a while. I also need to come up with some additional power cords for the full system. I was using my pile of engineering gear and I’ll have to do a census on the remaining items that will be needed. Once that’s done the cameras should be ready to be sent out, most likely in early March. I will be running additional tests on the camera next week while I’m at my observatory in Arizona. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll bring the new telescope along for the ride or just stick with my trusty (old) scope for now. I guess it depends on how full my car gets.