Tonight, Dickson Yeager, Mark Hillestad, Larry McCune and I witnessed the Project40 mount with improvised small scopes find and track stars nearly flawlessly. After upgrading the serial connection to a dedicated PCI card in the computer to outwit the USB-serial noise demons, and after working through a great starter checklist from the AltAz listserv, and after a couple of false starts, we synchronized the scope on three stars and successfully traveled around the sky, consistently getting the target star in the field of the larger telescope (not high power yet). I have to say, “Woo Hoo!!”
As we continued to sync, the pointing continued to improve. We even did Mark’s acid test – we moved the mount to a safe parking place, set the park location, parked, shut down the system, rebooted the computer, and automatically unparked on relinking Sky6 to the controller. We were immediately tracking and could slew to a target star without further initializations. Since we are still learning the software, it took a couple of tries, but we were satisfied that parking and unparking were working.
The pointing accuracy made it clear we still had tweaks to do, but this was a big milestone for the project. It demonstrates that the software components are all working together correctly, and that the mount is fundamentally sound – we can repeatably move from coordinate to coordinate.
And we are about to hit another milestone – the first assembly of the scope with optical components. Over the next week, the primary, secondary and tertiary mirrors will be installed in the mount for the first time, allowing us to work on balancing the structure, and then driving to a star to do some much needed star testing on the primary. That event will have pictures, have no doubt.
In the meantime, break out the champagne!