I was asked for some more pictures of the TARDIS showing exactly how the setup works. I just quickly took these pictures this evening, but took it down again; it’s still cloudy here :-(. It only takes 5 minutes to set up, though, which was the idea; it’s the closest I can get to observatory set up time of just opening the roof and switching everything on without actually taking up the space of a full-size observatory.
First, the door removes. It’s designed to fit underneath the overhang provided by the “Police Box” sign so that there’s nowhere for water to get in.
The mount you can see here is one of the earlier model Orion Atlas-GoTos. It’s shortly to be upgraded – I have an Astro-Physics Mach 1 on order and currently being built.
The telescope is a Takahashi FSQ-106ED, and the camera is a QSI583wsg with an Orion StarShoot autoguider attached to the off-axis guide port. The camera currently has my narrowband filter carousel installed (necessary for any useful imaging under the Bortle white skies around here, but I also have a second carousel with LRGB filters). There’s also a Robofocus stepper motor attached to the focuser shaft.
Finally all of the control electronics are in one box (one of those lightweight tool cases that you can get for $20 at Home Depot or Harbor Freight). Inside the box is an Intel Atom-powered PC and a WiFi router, plus all of the cables (tied together with zip ties into a permanent wiring loom) and power distribution.
With this box plugged in, I can control everything from indoors over the WiFi network…
That’s it! Total setup time is less than 5 minutes.
The electronics box makes a huge difference, making the control system very close to a permanent observatory setup. By having everything tied down in the box, not only is it very quick to get everything connected, but everything is always exactly the same.
That last part is very important, particularly given that a lot of this kind of gear is controlled by serial ports, and something as trivial as moving a serial converter from one USB port to another can mess up the configuration.
I’ll post more details of the electronics box in a future post…