February 27 2013
Clear skies! Who would have thought, the day after a new purchase of astro kit and the skies are clear! Upon closer inspection there appears to be high level cloud and the seeing is particularly crap but that wont stop me setting up and practicing with my Astrotrac. Im still waiting for a new replacement illumination module but for now I can use the faulty unit.
Set up was easy. A Manfrotto geared head sits on my tripod and the Astrotrac atop this. This allows adjustment in the three major axis to help balance and polar alignment. On top of the Astrotrac a Manfrotto ball head and my camera, allowing the camera to shoot any part of the sky.
Aligning is quite simple, the polarscope is mounted to the unit and rotated so the constellation orientation matches whats overhead. The geared head is then tweaked to bring the pole star into the gap as marked. This can be further refined if you have good skies using the second and third star epoch markings in the polar scope.
Once aligned the unit can be powered with its supplied cigar lighter and powerpack or via AA batteries. After pressing the start button the screw unwinds about 25mm to balance and get itself ready, a further press of the button will see a green pulsing light and your away tracking.
Now, In my haste to get imaging I forget to actually set the Astrotrac tracking so ended up with an hours worth of subs all with star trails. Still, the as I said above the seeing was terrible with high level cloud that the data collected wasnt usable.