Thanks to some help and testing from Pete Eschman, I’ve been able to restore support for Orion telescopes to my ASCOM Driver for Digital Setting Circles. Specifically, Orion Sky Wizard 2 and 3 and Orion Intelliscope platforms should now be working. Please let me know if you have problems using the driver with these platforms.

Orion itself gets no credit for this–they repeatedly ignored my requests for technical support on this issue, despite the fact that the ASCOM driver they published was a slightly-modified version of one of my earlier drivers.

Here’s an image I took with my NexStar 6SE and Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT DSLR of the total lunar eclipse on the evening of 27 Sept 2015, just after the eclipse reached totality. The image was taken with the DSLR mounted at the prime focus of the NexStar 6SE. This is a 1500-mm f/10 setup, with the camera set at ISO 400, 15-sec exposure. Unfortunately, with the long focal length I couldn’t quite fit the entire moon in the frame.

Total lunar eclipse image taken with Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT connected to Celestron NexStar 6SE at prime focus. 1500 mm f/10, ISO 400, 15-sec exposure.
Total lunar eclipse image taken with Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT connected to Celestron NexStar 6SE at prime focus. 1500 mm f/10, ISO 400, 15-sec exposure.

I seem to be getting into the habit of acquiring older gear and then facing the uphill battle of making it work with more modern equipment. Recently, I wandered into the local pawn shop here in Woodland Park and discovered a used Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (350D) DSLR camera sitting on the shelf. I’d always wanted a DSLR with which to try some astro-imaging but wasn’t willing to shell out the bucks for a new one. So, I laid out the cash and took the 350D home with me to check it out.

Did I mention that we moved from Colorado Springs to Woodland Park this spring? We found ourselves a nice house on an acre with mostly dark skies overhead. You can actually see the Milky Way on moonless nights–completely unlike the washed out urban sky in Colorado Springs. We love it! If you noticed that there haven’t been any additions to the ol’ web site for more than a year, now you know why. It’s a lot of work to get one house ready for sale, sell it, find a new house, buy it, and get moved. I’m pooped. Anyway, let me tell you a little bit about the new camera and what it took to get things up and running.

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So, you probably saw the post I put up a day or two ago about having just gotten a Celestron NexStar 6SE telescope. I’ve been having a ball with it so far. My plan last night was to try using my digital camera to take some video of Jupiter and then run it through Registax software to see what came out of it. I followed the instructions posted on this page at Stargazer’s Lounge. I can’t claim to have done anything original here–just followed the cookbook.

My final image of Jupiter, created from video processed by Registax
My final image of Jupiter, created from video processed by Registax

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I’ve never been crazy about my Meade Starfinder 8″ equatorial Newtonian telescope. The optics seem fine, but the mount is heavy, hard to move, and hard to use. Even with my digital setting circles it’s difficult to get the thing pointed exactly where you want it, and a modest breeze can make it almost unusable. Even getting it set up was a chore. So I didn’t really use it much, and I felt bad about that. So, a week ago I decided to buy myself a new telescope, and this time I chose something much more compact–a Celestron NexStar 6SE SCT.

My new Celestron NexStar 6SE on my living room floor just after unboxing
My new Celestron NexStar 6SE on my living room floor just after unboxing

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I’ve just updated my Digital Setting Circles ASCOM driver, adding a few additional alignment stars in southern constellations at the request of a southern hemisphere user. I added stars in the constellations Carina, Crux, and Grus. Go to my ASCOM driver page and download the new version (1.0.8.0) there.

And an additional note to you southern hemisphere users: if you’re looking for the star Achernar, it’s actually with the constellation Phoenix in my alignment star constellations. Sorry for the confusion.

I’d been hearing lately about some astronomy software for the iPhone/iPad called SkySafari (made by Southern Stars), but not owning either one of those devices myself, I hadn’t really bothered to look into it at all. That all changed when I came across an ad for SkySafari in Sky and Telescope magazine that showed that an Android version was available. Now I became much more interested to see what the fuss was about, so I dropped $14.99 in the Google Play store for the Plus version so I could try it out on my HTC Incredible phone as well as my rooted Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Mostly, I wanted to see if SkySafari would connect to my digital setting circles box via bluetooth. Initial impressions are very good.

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I didn’t find out about last Sunday’s solar eclipse until just a few days prior, and I didn’t have any equipment that I could use to safely view the eclipse. Not wanting to resort to the pinhole projection method for viewing the eclipse, I consulted my 40-year-old copy of Sam Brown’s classic (and extremely informative) book All About Telescopes for some other ideas. The book showed a design that would fit over the front of my 8″ Newtonian telescope, stopping the aperture down to 2″ and using a lens from a welding helmet to knock down the sun’s intensity to a manageable level. All I needed was the welding lens.

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