The Starry Night, 40

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01/06/2011. I can haz ethernet? I have 3 USB ports, could use more to control the mount and perhaps a remote, automated, or in any case a computer-commanded focuser. I have a much wider sky up at the cul de sac.

Suppose I run CAT5e cable from down here to up there. Nothing new in this thought: I almost surely will. I thought I would attach it to the netbook and use Remote PC over the wired connection (better battery life with wifi off and a solid connection way up there). I will surely start out that way. But suppose that instead of putting a computer up there, I used an ethernet to USB hub. Common models offer 5 USB ports. The hub would use less power than the netbook and tolerate extreme cold better. Keep all the software on the desktop computer. (Install a duplicate set on the netbook for travel; just plug in an ethernet cable and take the hub along.) Think some about adapting the RoboFocus to the FeatherTouch in a convenient, removeable form (that means more power issues). First things first. Run the wire. Then decide how much to do with it and what technologies to use.

First Caveat: SBIG ST-series CCD cameras may require an isochronous connection (see the A-P website for USB extender products) in which case (most? all?) the devices I've been looking at won't support them. A computer in the cul de sac would still offer a solution as would an Icron Ranger ethernet to USB hub (Icron Rangers support isochronous communication and supply power over ethernet, too, but they are limited to 100m either by spec or in reality). I need 150m. The fibre optic family of extenders from the same maker will easily cover the distance, but they cost over twice as much and do not supply power for the remote side of the connection. I need at most 10 amps at 12v up there (half that would be a typical peak load, and I need even less routinely), so it's not exactly a demanding power problem. 14-2, even 16-2 or 18-2 wire would suffice. But why carry all that juice? What would it take to convert to DC down here and send that up a wire? Thinking. Battery first.


1/07/2011. So by reading the above, you know some of what I was thinking about when I went to and put this together:



[Xtranormal has suspended operations for a while; maybe this is on YouTube; not really worth going to find] See, I was wondering whether I could use Xtranormal to do some nice animations for clients' websites, and I figured I better get in there and try it out some. I started riffing on sleep deprivation and amateur astronomy and this was the result. Pretty well satisfied with how the site worked, I didn't want to just chuck the rough, so I had it rendered then showed it to Tom and George and Amy. Amy posted it to Facebook; Tom put it on Cloudy Nights. A few days later, I had over 3,000 hits as well as comments from Rolando and from half the people whose names I know off the A-P user group. Someone told me it had "gone viral." Yeah, well, maybe, but only in the way a mild head cold and ebola are both viral. It's a small community. [one year on: 6,300+ hits. "Not viral," as Amy put it, "but a pretty good rash."]

1/12/2011. Snow's closed Caldwell Community College for three straight days. It's clear tonight, but I'm not setting up in the ice and snow, especially when I expect to be pressed into driving duties before sunrise tomorrow.


1/17/2011. Still snowy and icy! Now I've made both mistakes: I've left the kit set up to be covered with unexpectedly deep snow, and I've put it away on the promise of snow only to have the ground remain ice-locked much longer than I expected. I prefer the former mistake. My unwillingness to drag the trailer back out over snow- and ice-covered ground has cost me some very clear skies over the last week. Assuming I do get the telescope back under the stars soon, I'll expect my light-duty cover to suffice for such occasions for the rest of this season, and I'll expect to have a heavy duty cover ready to deal with snow by next year.

I was brainstorming how to carry the telescope in and out to the mount. It's only a few steps, but with the guide-scope and cameras attached, the OTA is heavy, bulky and covered with tempting grapple-points that are best left ungrappled. Some of the convenient edges are sharpish; some are easily knocked out of alignment. None of the safe "handles" are near the center of gravity. I spent a morning designing a sling to carry the telescope. Eeventually I realized that I was reinventing a log-carrier, a firewood tote. Call it what you will, one is on the way from Amazon along with CAT 5e cable, a crimp tool, terminators, and fresh after market batteries for the EOS bods.

And during this enforced lull, I've been thinking about that "photometry" tab in Maxim...

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                   © 2011, David Cortner