Equipment and observatory images with the Mountain Instruments MI-250 (November 2004):
The Stellarvue SV80S looks a bit small on this large mount! The first image shows the scope in the parked position. The second image is looking to Polaris, I still need to tie-wrap the cables properly...
The counterweights visible in the first image are a whopping 10 pounds! The 25 pound counterweights that came with the MI-250 (one visible on the floor in the lower left corner) had to sit as close as possible to the mount in order to balance. These dumbbell weights work much better. Once the SV152 is on here, the larger counterweights will be required.
The middle image shows the scope and mount with the Gemini system fastened to the mount.
The last image shows the Mountain Instruments MI-8P transportable pier. As the name suggests it is not simple to move, but it is manageable - thus transportable. The three legs fasten to the pier with three nuts and bolts each - a crescent wrench and socket wrench are required to attach the legs. In this image you can also see the supports I needed to use to set the legs on to. The ground is a good 10" below the floor, so these concrete blocks span the distance the feet cannot. I am a bit worried about the wood block on top and might remove it - but so far so good. The entire pier is resting a couple inches above the plywood floor.
My "Observatory" (August 2003):I copied the setup for my observatory from Russ Coman's description of his "observatory" here.
When I first got my LX200, I would bring all my equipment from inside the house, and setup it up outside. Once setup, I would wait for it to get dark, and then check my polar alignment. With the LX200, tripod, and wedge, this got to be a lot of work. So, I started leaving my tripod and wedge outside, covered with a tarp. I would only bring in the scope after each session. This was better, but I still had to spend time each night checking the polar alignment since putting the heavy LX200 on would always shift the tripod and wedge some. I had seen Russ' observatory page and decided to try and pursue a similar design. Using the information on Russ' page, I built my tool shed observatory:
The observatory is an Arrow Sentry tool shed from Home Depot. I am using the 5' by 8' version of the Sentry. This shed is metal with a wood foundation. In order to make it into an observatory, I simply did not attach the roof to the walls. Here is the observatory when it is closed up:
The roof fits just on top of the shed walls and is held in place with spring clamps. The clamps aren't normally necessary here in Southern California. We don't get very strong winds here. Without the clamps, the roof is held on pretty tight. With the clamps I cannot pull the roof off. So, it should be able to hold up under a stiff wind. The shed is quite weather proof as well. There is some minor water leaks at the base of the shed where it meets the wood frame. As long as I keep everything off the floor, nothing gets wet. With the roof in place, there is just enough clearance for the LX200 and the SV80S:
Above, you will see a couple of holes in the floor where the tripod legs go. The legs extend below the floor and sit on concrete blocks set into the dirt. This is to isolate the scope from any vibrations when I am walking in the shed. Also above, you can see the ST-2000XM connected to the SV80S piggybacked on the LX200.
The observatory is powered with an extension cord and surge protector plugged into an outdoor power receptacle on my house to the left of the observatory. I control everything via a long USB cable extending into my house. I use two USB active extender cables. These cables are each 15' long with a bus powered hub on the end. Inside the observatory, I have a self powered 4-port USB hub. Connected to this hub is the SBIG ST-2000XM and two USB-to-RS232 converters. One of these converters connects to the LX200, the other connects to the Robo-Focus.
These connections allow me to control the mount, camera, and focuser from the warmth of my house. All I have to do at the beginning of a session is to remove the roof of the shed, power on the equipment, and align the LX200 to a known star.