The summer is always busy for us as traveling has to be done when the boys are out of school. I'm going to backfill a little of what we have done this summer as life hasn't always slowed down enough to let me write!
In late June, we left NYC a week before school finished in order to squeeze a trip to Missouri into the plans. This year we drove. We spent four days going there, nice and casual, but drove back in a hurry taking only two days (very long days for driving).
Our first shock was the weather in Missouri. Here in NYC, it got really hot back in April for a week, then it turned cool and mostly rainy. When we arrived in Missouri, it was over 90F every day the first week and most days it had crossed the 90F mark before 10 AM! Fortunately, most people (including my family) have air conditioning.
I took the AstroTrac and camera gear with me. Alas, the new pier and wedge were not done in time so I went with my old tripod and Bogen 410 mini-gearhead. I spent one night out in the field at my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Barb's place. I had wanted to image the rho Ophiuchus region, but his property is due north of Cape Girardeau and the sky glow to the south is horrendous. I tried shooting M13, but that cluster really need a longer focal length than the 256mm of my Borg 45ED. As the night wore one, I turned to M31 which is pretty nicely framed and took a series of exposures. Unfortunately, late June is still too early to get a lot of exposure time in before the Sun begins to brighten the eastern horizon. The image of M31 isn't going to win any awards, but it's not a bad first (well, first serious) attempt.
[img_assist|nid=855|title=Cropped M31 Image|desc=|link=node|align=center|width=640|height=426]
After nearly a week near Cape Girardeau, we headed off to visit my sister Tressa and her husband Pat near Piedmont. A little further west, this location has nothing to the south. Unfortunately, the moon was growing nightly as it neared first quarter, so imaging couldn't start for real until it was down. And of course, rho Ophichus was still on the high priority list. I did get some images and they look strictly "okay." I still need to finish processing them, but the early results show hope. Maybe not for the images, but hope that I'll be able to do it next year. I also took some images of the Trifid and Lagoon nebulas, both of which fit in the same field. However, I didn't get quite as much as I had hoped. While I catnapped in the car, the AstroTrac appears to have stalled for part of its imaging sequence so I ended up with severely trailed images in over a third of the exposures. And when tracking finally kicked back in completely, I was no longer framed correctly.
Based on some comments on the AstroTrac Yahoo group, I think the issue may be the amount of torque the AstroTrack motor can put out. I usually mount with the arms pointed straight down at the start, but this means that the AT is effectively lifting whatever weight is on the arms. Some have suggested starting with the arms horizontal so that as the one arms plays out is is moving downward. If the cameras were perfectly balanced, this would make no difference at all. I'm going to have to play around with it some to see how I can gauge balance, too.