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                                 Click on Images to Enlarge

Still Awaiting the Optical Systems RC-16...stay tuned...

rc16.addfinal.jpg

This is a photograph of an Optical Systems Ritchey Cretien telescope.  This one, a bit smaller than the one we're awaiting, also has a Takahashi 106mm mounted, much as we are planning.  In our case, we intend to use this refractor for wide field astrophotography.  The RC-16 may be months in coming, but we believe will be well worth the wait (the primary mirror is undergoing ion milling in the Ukranian).  Go to www.rcopticalsystems.com for more information on this remarkable telescope. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Close-up of Paramount ME Control Panel

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This photograph shows the "adapter panel" (large black square area) and "cable conduit" channel, which allows wiring to be installed throught the declination mount and up to the telescope (I have my STV cables, an extra USB cable, and the TCC power cable for the 'soon to arrive' RC-16 running through the conduit, with room to spare).  There are multiple built in access points to the telescope on the built-in panel, including a 3 and 7 pin serial ports, autoguider port, standard CCD camera power port, focus port, parallel port, and 2 auxillary ports.  As can be seen, this set-up allows for USB driver support between the computer and telescope (Software Bisque includes the necessary driver software which is easy to install).  I removed the small access panel which covers the USB port to the Paramount ME (and has some delicate looking components which I don't want exposed or touched...as I have NO idea what they're used for) and drilled a small hole thru this small access panel, allowing the USB cable to exit this panel (ie, the electronics remained covered).  I imagine future versions will have this pre-drilled or the USB port separated from this area.  The USB drivers work perfectly. All wires run through the mount, a must unless you want to stand there all night and watch them (no thanks !!). 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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par.me.circutboard.jpg

I'll keep this short and to the point. This is the old circuit board from the Paramount ME.  If one follows the clearly written directions it is an easy matter to remove and properly replace the circuit board.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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...And Awaiting the Mount which will Make Accurate Autoguiding Possible...

paramountmefinalrcsitecrop.jpg

This is a photographic composite taken from Software Bisque's site (with their permission), and illustrates the Paramount ME Mount.  This mount is considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, fully robotic telescope mount avaiable.  The mount, especially when flexure and other errors are compensated with Software Bisque's  ProTrack program, has allowed for 15 min (and longer), accurate guiding without the need for active corrections.  This is remarkable. For more information go to www.bisque.com .  Needless to say, we can hardly wait for it's arrival and installation.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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electrical.fire.2005.jpg

Why, you may ask, is there a box of "junk" in this image.  This is one of the most important images on the website.  It is what can happen if you do what I did, ie, make a wiring error which results in an electrical fire, which in turn can (and did) cost hundreds of dollars and many stressful hours to correct.  In this case you'll note the Icron Ranger (on the left, and carries the USB signal, via a catagory six cable, the 150 foot distance from my office to my observatory).  I attached the power to it briefly with the polarity reversed.  When it didn't light up correctly I reversed the polarity and all seemed fine (ignorance is bliss...).  Unfortunately the Icron Ranger was evidently damaged when it was powered with reverse polarity.  Within 10 minutes I saw SMOKE billowing from the side of my telescope (yes, the beloved RC-16 !!).  I powered down, recovered from my heart attack and found that, as best as I can figure, the damaged Icron Ranger had sent a higher voltage to the Edgeport (which normally converts the USB signal into a serial signal for some of the telescopes components) and the Edgeport transferred this current into the RoboFocus which proceeded to SMOKE, BURN and MELT.  Little did I realize that I ALSO damaged the DC voltage input to the SBIG STL-11000, the USB input to the Paramount ME, the TCC (telescope control to the RC-16) and, of course, destroyed both the Icron Ranger and Edgeport.  It took me 2 weeks of daily (after work until 2-3 AM) work in order to track down what had happened.  As always, Brad and Dan of RCOS came through with a new TCC.  The last repair, of the Paramount ME mother Board,  is shown in the next image.  LESSON:  DO NOT USE OR CONNECT ANYTHING UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING.  AND, USE A DIGITAL VOLTMETER TO CHECK POLARITIES BEFORE YOU POWER ANYTHING UP (advise courtesy of John Smith). Amazingly, I have since learned that I was NOT the first person to do this with an RC-16.   
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ra.motor.jpg

What struck me about this was how accessable the RA motor was, and how carefully the Paramount ME was wired.  The other end of their "through the mount" wiring can be seen here. 
 
 
 
 
 
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Initial Set-up of the Paramount ME, using the Takahashi 106 with RoboFocus and the ST-10 XME.....To be replaced by the RC-16 upon arrival.....

takonparamountme.jpg

About a week ago the Paramount ME arrrived from Optical Systems.  What a gem.  The Paramount ME manual is great, and the new electronics included a direct USB link to the mount.  Then mount has a beaurtiful array of built in connectors, connecting the mount to the telescope through the mount itself, so you don't have to have danggling wires comming off the telescope. As an awazing bonus, the dec plate comes off, allowing several "extra" wires to go through the dec tubing. Translation:  NO more wires hanging off the scope.  Operation of the ME throught the SKY 6 was flawless and user freindly.  I'm using the Tak-106 atop the scope to get used to using it.  I'm quicky learning about T-pointing and Pro-Track.  Put simply, T-pointing is the process of building a virtual reality sky which takes into account all the imperfections of your telecope.  Once "applied" to your star map is improves excellent systems to arc-second acuracy (!!).  Pro-Track allows you to use this information while tracking.  These are professional grade tools. 
   What amazes me about the ME is the craftmanship.  It is well designed, beautifully constructed, and appears to be mechanically perfect.  It is obvious, from the moment you lay open the boxes, that a great deal of  thought went into this fully robotic telescope, all the way from from packing to ease and accuracy of use.
  My only recommendation would be to work on the T-Point manual.  The information is all there, but it could use a bit of re-organizing and should contain a section on Pro-Track.  
 
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ra.panel.open1.jpg

From my perspective, as one who has very little (actually no) knowledge of computer science, the support provided by those who sell us astronomical equipment is just as important as the quality of their product.  In the case of Software Bisque, I can only say they have been great. When I told them about the problem I was having with my USB interface (at the time I was not sure of the cause) they promised to send another "Board" out.  They did, and this first image shown the RA panel being removed, in preparation of adding the new ciruit board.  What struck me immediately was how beautifully the insides of this telescope are designed.  When they designed this mount, they obviously thought a great deal about making sure the end user (thats us) would be able to get into the telescope if repairs or upgrades were needed.  The RA motor, wires and circuit board were nicely accessable and carefully designed to make it difficult for an amateur to "mess up".  The new Board also came with a great set of instructions (glossy colored, which helped in identifying the various colored cables). The construction seems immaculate to me.  One note: Be sure you are grounded if you need to do this.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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dec.cover.removed.jpg

The declination panel has been removed, allowing the dec motor index angles to be recorded.  These are later re-programed into the mount using Paramount Me console in "The Sky".  The engineering of this is a marvel to me.  Again, it was easy to get into the declination compartment and the components were obviously meticulously designed, built and placed. Look carefully to the right with the image magnified (click on it) and you'll see an 8 legged visitor looking for a home in the Paramount ME !!! I didn't even see this guy until I was editing these images.
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