Surprisingly the weather changed last night so had the opportunity to take my scope out and give my new motor drive from First Light Optics a spin.
Setting up the motor was easy, taking about 5 minutes, following the provided instruction. One thing worth considering is how to attached the battery pack and handset to your tripod, this will save you having to hold them throughout a gazing session. For my first session I just hung the battery pack over the Altitude clamp (see photo below) and for the handset I brought some Velcro pads so I could stick it to the legs of my tripod but allow me to remove if needed (see photo below).
Using the motor is easy, you simply turn it on and off you go. There are 6 buttons on the handset:
- On / Off
- N / S (North / South)
- Forward (2x faster)
- Fast Forward (4x faster)
- Rewind (4x Reverse)
When you turn the motor on it will automatically start tracking at a speed set by the manufacturer and cannot be changed, that’s great as it saves the user from having to work out the speed to counteract the speed of the Earth’s rotation. Obviously the potential issue, lets hope they have got it right.
It was fairly early evening so only Jupiter and Mars were visible, so decided to set my scope on the gas giant. Our garden is only very small and the best position for my scope means Polaris is not visible, which always makes polar alignment fun. Once my scope was fixed on Jupiter I flicked my motor on… and watched as the gas giant moved out of view! hmm…
Fun and games
I checked the motor was on, there is a green LED which tells you this, and all was ok. The next thing was to check the motor was turning, all looked ok with both the motor gear and the RA gear (pictured below).
As the motor only drives the RA gear really slowly it’s fairly hard to see it spinning so I presses the 4x speed button to make it go faster. It turned out although the RA was turning, it didn’t appear to be engaging the cross bar (pictured below) to turn the scope. To resolve this I got a cross head screwdriver and tightened the screw in the centre of the RA gear (seen in the picture above).
Now that the motor was turning the scope I reset the scope to point at Mars, and although it did slow it down Mars was soon out of the view on my scope. I spent about 30 minutes fiddling with the position of my scope as I believed it was a polar align issue, but had no luck. What I hadn’t realised was the motor had worked it was out of the RA gear teeth and was no longer turning the scope. I reset everything and ensured the motor was engaged properly, but after about 5 minutes the same thing happened.
Trying to workout what was going on in the dark with only a small torch is pretty tough, so decided to take the scope inside and have a look. It looks like my RA crossbar is getting stuck, jamming the RA gear and forcing the motor to move out of position. I will say the motor seems to be working perfectly, it’s my mount that seems to have the issue. If you turn the RA gear by hand you can feel it easy to turn in places then tough in others.
At this stage I’m guessing, but I think I’m going to have to grease the crossbar so it moves freely, though why it is sticking in the first is a mystery. Will seek some professional advice and post the solution here once I have it, wish me luck.
Till next time.