Log, Jul 23, 1999

Saturday: We met between 9:30 and 10:00 and began the disassembly of the 12" shell and the StarFire 7". The German mount was disassembled into a variety of parts which we could remove. Then began the sawing of the existing pier. What a job! The pipe is a full 1/2" thick and it took Joe and Chuck a long time to finally break through the wall with two Sawzalls. As we expected, the pipe was packed with sand. Any attempt to using a cutting torch would have been a disaster as the sand's moisture expanded and the sand began to melt into a glassy mess. Once through Joe and Chuck with relief by other members cut the pipe at a much faster pace. They did a neat job of it too. Finally, we placed the new pier (with its custom hole in the base) over the existing pier. Everything went as planed. Soon we had it lined up with due North. Success! We did everything before Noon. I was sure it would take at least another two hours of work. Great job Ladies and Gentlemen!! Many thanks from the guy who sat around and watched the real workers work.

Monday: Bob Lyon drilled the holes in the cement part of the pier without a hitch of any kind. His drill is a wonder. It just melted into the concrete exactly like a warm knife into butter. The special expansion bolts are kind of unique. They actually hold more firmly when stress is applied, without introducing a lot stress when nothing is unbalanced. Chiara Vincente and Damien Carson of Media One filmed Bob Lyon doing his thing and we gave their cameras a tour of our assemblage of boxes.

Friday: 20 people. We arrived about 5 PM to assemble the Meade. The first there were Art, Joe and I, shortly followed by Dave, then Chuck and finally Rob. Media folks were there from several local papers and Media One. Through out the evening, people arrived and Rob tried to let them see through his scope.

Putting the Meade LX200 together was close to a snap if anything which weighs the better part of a quarter ton can be called a snap. Probably the most awkward unit was the OTA (optical tube assembly). It weighs the most, and has to be lifted the highest. We grunted and groaned but got it in place. We don't have shots of this process because we were all putting our shoulders into it. Hopefully, the media will have a few memorable shots. We ran into a tiny snap when we had difficulty exactly lining up bolt holes but after a bit off pushing and coaxing we got the OTA mated to the yoke.

We started adding the attachments and ran into our first "this ain't right" - the electric eyepiece focuser Meade sent was a 1207 (intended for small telescopes) rather than a 1206 designed for us. A few telephone calls in the morning got the problem resolved. Until the backordered 1206 arrives, we'll have to focus manually. We attached power sources and finally the hand paddle. Power on and BINGO! we were up and running.

Les Coleman was given the first crack at looking at something though the scope. Since it was still daytime, that left us with the Moon. What a sight to see the Moon in the Zoom lens. Diving down on the Moon smoothly from 169 power to 508 power makes you feel like you are landing there. We tried the new (HUGE) 56 mm eyepiece. Contrary to what many people would guess large eyepieces with long focal lengths are LOW power. They also give widest possible views and extremely easy eye relief. This monster eyepiece gives us our lowest magnification - 73 power. Many smaller telescopes consider this mid range. Without a Barlow, we can push the telescope to 812 power through our 5 mm eyepiece. This is the limit of reasonable magnification. The Zoom lens with a Barlow can zoom from 340 to 1000 power, but we would expect serious image degradation above 800 diameters.

Clouds rolled in and thunder rumbled. We shut up and made a dash for the Nature Center. Clouds bedeviled us for the rest of the evening. We wanted to make two star sightings about 90 degrees or more apart within a few minutes of each other. This allows the telescope to oriented itself physically with respect to the Earth and the horizon.

We got a mediocre 2-star alignment opening the shutter and slewing the dome back and forth trying to get a clear shot at an alignment star. The upshot is we would only get within a degree or so of what we were looking for. Dave and Joe got lots of practice slewing the scope at different speeds looking for things. Dave managed to get a pretty good alignment on the finder scope which made things easier.

Successful targets included M57, which was astounding. In every small scope we've ever seen it in, M57 is a rather small 'o', which at times requires averted vision to really discern the ring. In the 16" with the zoom dialed down, the ring took up half the field of view and really looked like a smoke ring in space.

We also hunted down the M27 (the Dumbbell), which was less stirring because of the clouds and haze. We tried the broad band filter, which helped some, but didn't make up for the poor seeing. Virtually no structure was seen. The first time we looked for it, we thought we'd just picked up a tiny cloud, since it was essentially a light gray patch on a dark gray background!

We discovered that the nebular filters we have are for neither 1.25" nor 2" eyepieces, but instead screw directly onto the threads of the exit port. That caused a few seconds of confusion as we looked at the filter and tried to figure out how it would possibly connect to the 40 mm eyepiece! This was a good call, though, as the filter will be usable by any size eyepiece and the CCD. The OXY-III filter should certainly be the same size, and a variable polarizing filter of that size would also be helpful. All our moon filters are 1.25", and with our lowest power 1.25" ep (the 26 mm), we're still at 156x, a bit high for most lunar viewing.

About 1:00 AM we noticed Jupiter about 10 degrees above the horizon in one of the few clear patches left. We swung over to it, and with the 40 mm in place (102x), we saw 3 of the bright moons, and distinct banding was visible despite the huge amount of thick air we were battling through. It didn't take any more magnification than that, with higher power showing nothing but a fuzz ball. By then it was starting to go through one of the taller pines to the east, and the entire sky except for the east was cloudy, so we packed up. As we brought the StarFire back from the Nature Center, we saw Jupiter had risen a bit higher, likely clearing the tree, but 3 minutes later, when we got to the eyepiece, it was gone! The sky was almost completely overcast by that point, so we closed the dome and packed up all those heavy pieces from the old mount and headed out at 1:40 AM.

Outstanding job, folks!

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 23, 1999
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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