Photo voltaic remark is a subject of research that’s actually taking off. Free of the shackles of not directly viewing the Solar utilizing eyepiece projection, photo voltaic observers are Solar-gazing with reasonably priced and protected white-light metallised filters, ceramic Herschel wedges and narrowband photo voltaic devices, all of which reveal immense element on the Solar’s disc.
Establishing a suitably geared up telescope for photo voltaic remark is comparatively simple, since there’s no wrestle to find the goal. Monitoring the Solar for steady remark is one other matter, for the blue-bleached sky possesses no Polaris for a transportable mount to polar align itself with.
The SolarQuest mount comes with a Sky-Watcher tripod and extendable pier. Picture: Sky-Watcher.
That is the issue that Sky-Watcher’s new SolarQuest mount addresses so elegantly. The SolarQuest comes with its personal Sky-Watcher adjustable tripod and extension pier (the latter to make sure that a photo voltaic telescope doesn’t foul the tripod legs when in operation). The mount itself, weighing simply 1.three kilograms, sits securely on the pier-head. Whether or not selecting to take a seat or stand, the observer can regulate the mount’s peak between 80.5 and 152 centimetres. Full meeting took only a few minutes earlier than ready expectantly for my instrument of selection.
The SolarQuest and the Coronado PST in motion. Picture: Steve Ringwood.
The mount itself, sporting a 45mm Sky-Watcher/Vixen-type dovetail saddle, has a most payload capability of 4 kilograms, simply dealing with the 1.Four-kilogram Coronado Private Photo voltaic Telescope (PST) that I used for this assessment. Energy for the mount is offered by eight AA batteries, secreted inside the mount’s base. There’s additionally a swap-in panel to the battery compartment, permitting the choice of a 12V exterior provide. Nevertheless, energy consumption is sort of low and I discovered that my recent batch of AA batteries had been greater than satisfactory provision throughout some fairly in depth testing. In passing, it was good to see that the battery leads had been safe and of appropriate gauge. Too many instances have I skilled the breaking of a battery holder’s poor-quality leads from their soldered contacts when putting in batteries.
The Sky-Watcher SolarQuest mount, with HelioFind expertise. The battery compartment might be seen on the facet. Picture: Sky-Watcher.
Easy deployment and operation belie the presence of some fairly intelligent engineering and software program inside the SolarQuest. Even at my first try I used to be observing the Solar inside a minute of organising the tripod on the garden.
You’re directed by the included information to put the tripod such that your photo voltaic telescope is pointing somewhat to the east (left) of the Solar. Taking care to stage the mount utilizing the small bubble-level on the mount’s apex, it’s merely a matter of urgent the facility button on the small management panel after which stepping again.
The mount first brings the telescope to a horizontal place, then spends a second pondering. Throughout this pregnant pause, the onboard GPS system is discovering its time and place. From this, it calculates the Solar’s elevation and raises the telescope’s goal accordingly. The mount then slowly rotates in azimuth in the direction of the west and a ready Solar. That is the place the mount’s ‘HelioFind’ system is available in, for maintaining a tally of proceedings is the SolarQuest’s ‘magic eye’ – a Solar sensor utilising suggestions photodiodes that seize the precise location of the photo voltaic disc with unerring accuracy. Aligned with the dovetail saddle gripping the photo voltaic telescope, this digital concentrating on sensor seeks out the arrival of the Solar in its visual view and brings the slew to a halt when its prey is centred. That’s all there may be to it, for as soon as discovered, the Solar is stored within the eyepiece subject by the mount’s monitoring system.
The HelioFind Solar detector is aligned to the dovetail saddle. Picture: Steve Ringwood.
After all, the dovetailed attachment of a telescope might not all the time be in excellent clamped alignment with the sensor, which means that though the HelioFind may have the Solar centred, your telescope might not. Thoughtfully, the SolarQuest offers adjustment by way of a sliding eight-directional button on the management panel that permits superbly clean 16× nice adjustment. As soon as the Solar is satisfactorily pinioned within the eyepiece subject, the mount is ready to retailer this handbook offset to maintain its goal centred. The 16× slow-motion button additionally, in fact, offers eyepiece subject management when observing at increased magnifications.
The SolarQuest’s management panel, exhibiting the eight-way nice adjustment button. Picture: Steve Ringwood.
The directions implore you to provoke power-up (and therefore, the search section) with the telescope pointing somewhat to the left of the Solar. With pure curious devilment, I believed I would problem the mount by pointing the telescope to the appropriate of the Solar as an alternative, pondering it’d throw a malfunctional match or one thing. But, after the preliminary elevating of the telescope’s goal to the right altitude, it panned westwards as earlier than, however merely stored moving into virtually a full circle till it approached the Solar from the east. The HelioFind system alighted on our mum or dad star with the identical uncanny accuracy as earlier than. The entreaty to set the telescope to the Solar’s left (eastwards) is subsequently actually nothing extra measure to save lots of energy and the gears.
I don’t (and, to be honest, neither do Sky-Watcher) advocate finishing up the preliminary search and discover, or even perhaps common photo voltaic remark, when the Solar is taking part in peek-a-boo with damaged cloud. The preliminary panning clockwise might attain the Solar when it’s obscured, forcing the mount to overlook its goal earlier than persevering with its westward seek for the Solar’s depth. Or worse, it may lock onto a proximal mis-identified thinning of the cloud simply off-axis. Nevertheless, on one event throughout assessment, when HelioFind was battling scudding clouds, the mount handed the Solar’s place simply as its searing disc was rising right into a patch of blue sky. Impressively, the mount observed, reversed monitor and (with solely minor backwards and forwards affirmations) ‘caught’ the Solar unawares from the opposite path!
I had just one minor irritation – and it was no fault of the SolarQuest, as such. This was that when utilizing my dovetailed PST, the observing place was blind-sided to the mount’s management panel. Thus a touchy-feely familiarisation was required when utilizing a free hand on the nice management throughout remark, however somewhat observe quickly solved that.
The 46mm dovetail saddle and the relatively diminutive bubble-level. Picture: Steve Ringwood.
Though there’s a three-axis auto-levelling detector inside the mount physique, I additionally took nice care to stage the mount at set-up, since I surmised that this at the least assists the mount’s search and monitoring efficiency. Sitting on the cusp of the mount, the relatively undersized 7.5mm inexperienced disc of the bubble stage offered for this objective goes virtually unnoticed, not to mention the tiny 2mm capsule of air used as its indicator. There appears loads of room at this location for a bigger, higher-resolution bubble stage and I urge this enchancment be made within the mount’s subsequent incarnation.
Having mentioned this, a tracking-duration take a look at I carried out had the Solar nonetheless on the centre of an eyepiece subject after 40 minutes with out my intervention (and that included interludes of cloud cowl too!). Whether or not that is testomony to the unsuspected talents of the undersized bubble stage itself, my expertise in studying it, or the built-in three-axis self-levelling tilt sensor, it’s troublesome to say. In any case, as long as there may be an untroubled clear sky, SolarQuest’s ‘auto drift’ correction will hold the Solar’s disc locked rock regular in its gaze for so long as it has the facility to take action. From second to second, it merely is not going to let the Solar go. Even with a 12mm eyepiece and a 2× Barlow at 67× magnification, I may discern no drift or hesitant motions in any respect. It was very spectacular for what is actually a small, compact mechanism.
This mount scores on portability, accuracy and pace of deployment. As to the final, I can attest that leaving the tripod legs prolonged and a photo voltaic telescope shut at hand means that you could be observing photo voltaic element inside a minute of the Solar breaking cowl. I’ve no qualms in any respect in recommending this glorious little beast to each informal and intense photo voltaic observers. The truth is, I would even stretch a degree to recommend that if the HelioFind expertise could possibly be provided with two sensitivity settings, its ideas could possibly be pressed into making it an outstanding lunar monitoring mount too!
Steve Ringwood is a daily contributor to Astronomy Now.
At a look
Mount peak: 80.5–152cm
Mount head weight: 1.3kg
Tripod/mount becoming: three.Eight-inch screw
Saddle mount: 45mm Sky-Watcher/Vixen dovetail
Payload capability: 4kg
Monitoring: Twin-axis mode
Slew speeds: 1,200× in search mode, 16× nice correction
HelioFind expertise: Photo voltaic sensor utilizing 4 photodiodes, with ‘auto drift’ correction, location/time facility, built-in GPS
Whole weight (together with tripod): Four.05kg
Energy requirement: 12V; both eight AA batteries or an exterior energy provide (tip constructive)
This assessment appeared within the February 2019 difficulty of Astronomy Now. Learn the way to subscribe to the UK’s largest astronomy journal.