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This is me with the 32-inch reflector owned by the Alliance for Astronomy.  I have put a lot of time into getting this scope in first-class condition (and there is still a way to go!).  The telescope was designed and built by Al Kelly and Andy Saulitis and used in Texas.  The Alliance was able to buy the telescope with the proceeds of a cash grant from the Boeing Employees Community Fund of St. Louis. 

In the form we took delivery of the scope it had a friction drive with tracking motors (steppers) and electric clutches.  The scope had to be pushed to a target (with the clutches released), then the clutches would be engaged and it would track well enough for visual use and short exposures.  But I wanted it to be a "Go-To" telescope.

To that end, I installed a servomotor system from Sidereal Technology, Inc.  Two servo motors replaced the stepper motors simply and the controller provides the management of them.  Subsequent changes have been to eliminate one stage of the friction drive with a toothed belt drive and an additional 5:1 step down coupling using a toothed belt drive for that too.

There is still slippage in the main friction drives which makes it impossible to achieve a truly valid mount model and to be able to track for more than 20 seconds or so in long exposures.  I have plans to add direct drive to both axes - again with toothed belts and to add high resolution encoders on the telescope axes to get greater precision in pointing and tracking.

Nevertheless, the telescope is capable of pointing within 10s of arc minutes anywhere in the sky.  A quick calibration exposure is analyzed using the program Elbrus, the scope is updated to its true position and a subsequent slew usually lands the target right near the center of the FOV (using an SBIG STL-1001 camera with 23.5x23.5 arc min FOV). 

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    Posted Mar 19, 2009, 8:36 PM by Jim Roe
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