October 13, 2008


Welcome to the Star Deck Observatory's New & Updates page! 

Well I've finally been granted some beautiful night skies, but have been unable to obtain much acceptable photography during these beautiful nights.  As I had mentioned in my last news article here I had switched to a Vixen GPD2 as my primary Observatory mount.  Unfortunately it has proven to be a bit of a lemon, the quality of manufacture and materials is there, but the assembly was not.  It was not well assembled out of whatever Vixen plant it came from and this resulted in some issues that I have had to pretty much address on my own.  The process of "addressing" these issues and problems cost me several of those beautiful clear nights we have been so shy of here in the Midwest most of the year.  I have contacted Vixen Optics on the issues, but all I have received from their customer support has been excuses, lip service and apologies followed by more ignored messages.  I have to say I have been impressed with the basic parts & components of the mount, disappointed in the factory assembly of those components, and completely shocked at the poor support.  I had heard Vixen Customer Support was exceptionally good, and expected much more from Vixen.

Given the basics are there I will manage to get this mount up to snuff and performing as it should be capable of, I had just never expect to have to go through the same process of repair and tune up as I did to get my venerable Mead LXD75 up to it's peak performance levels.  I bought the LXD75 used for a whole lot less than I bought the Vixen GPD2 new and I have to admit that stings a bit!  So far these are some of the "better" shots I've managed to get with the Vixen GPD2.  As you can see, I still have some more work and aggravation to go through, but just like the less expensive LXD75 of less reputation...... I'll get it to the performance levels it is supposed to have.

Vixen GPD2 Bubble Nebula Attempt:
Vixen GPD2 North American Nebula Attempt:
Vixen GPD2 Andromeda Galaxy Attempt:

As compared to my "parting shots" with the Meade LXD75; SH2 101 the Tulip Nebula, Caldwell 14 The Double Cluster,

Both efforts were using the same guiding software & hardware other than the different mounts of coarse!  As you can see the LXD75 has actually out performed the Vixen GPD2 in these shots, not what you'd have first expected, but remember my LXD75 has had a super tune and had a lot of TLC.  The Vixen GPD2 came out of the box with problems I am in the process of getting under control on my own.  I am quite sure it will be performing up to the full potential it would seem to possess after several nights of aggravation and user input from me.  What amazes me is I am getting a periodic error of less than 10 arch seconds out of the Vixen GPD2 when I check it, somewhere between 5 - 8 Arch Seconds of periodic error.  The best I got from my LXD75 after super tuning was around 20 - 24 Arch Seconds of periodic error.  This is the reason I say the Vixen GPD2 definitely has much better made components than the Meade LXD75, but hence why the Vixen GPD2 is so much more expensive than the Meade LXD75.  As far as assembly quality well I'd have to say the 2 were about even so far based on my experiences.  I never had to deal with Meade's customer support in regards to the LXD75 as it was purchased used and I knew from the outset of the purchase there was no warranty and I was on my own, so I can't comment on how the 2 companies customer support compares.

Once I get the Vixen GPD2 up to the performances it should have been capable of when I first received it I will post a full review of the mount as well as some photos & data to back up the claims on it's periodic error performances.  That will be a little bit though as I finally had the procedure to address my injuries performed last week.  It looks to be a couple of weeks before I can get back at tuning in the Vixen GPD2 and getting some presentable shots.

The DSO of The Month will be updated with a new set of objects for November, I had hoped to have a couple of wide field  constellation shots of Andromeda & Cassiopeia to give a little better guide to the November featured objects, but....... well refer back to the initial disappointing performances of the Vixen GPD2 out of the box!  Maybe I'll get lucky and get a couple photos to post an update on the DSO of The Month page sometime in November,  I should be back to normal activity levels by then.

I plan to attempt to acquire a decent wide field of all of the constellations with in visible range of the Star Deck Observatory over the next year.  Hopefully with enough exposure time and resolution to reveal the brighter deep space objects that may be featured on the DSO of The Month pages here.  Ambitious project, but well worth the efforts to me.  There is already a site available with this style of constellation photography and well worth a visit if you are a beginner looking for new or particular deep space objects to view, study and explore such as some of the brighter Messier, and Caldwell catalog objects.  It can be found here on the Favorite Links page The Deep Photographic Guide to the Constellations.  Give it a visit it is well worth a look!

Clear Skies!

Mark Jordan
The Mad One
39 47' 06" North X 85 46' 10" West

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