Completed SAC Trackers
Antennas site is a shot of my tracker set up at the Hovatter Road "Antennas Site" about 100 miles from central Phoenix, west on I-10. Lots of room for plenty of people shooting the sky. The bad news, lots of airplanes tracking through the shots, but that is modern life for a wide field astrophotographer.
Bob Gardner and his red tracking mount on a beautiful gold tripod. Bob was the club president years ago.
Quad_Pod is Pete Burgraaf, the designer of the SAC Tracker, and his "QuadraPod" mount. Certainly an inventive way to get your tracker working.
Tracker1 thru Tracker7 are different views of Steve Coe's tracker. It is mounted on an old Celestron tripod that I purchased at Riverside for 20 bucks. The green tape is on the switch for choosing "North or South" so I don't reverse the motor by mistake. I usually add a counterweight, a jug of water will work. In one of the images you can see an old counterweight that I have also used successfully. Gene Lucas says to let the weight just touch the ground for stability. I will try that. The batteries are taped onto one of the legs of the tripod and this design needs a 6 V Lantern battery and a 9V transistor battery.
1. Polaris is not directly on the pole, it is one degree from the North Celestial Pole (NCP) in the direction away from Kochab, the bright star at the end of the Little Dipper. Just set up the hinge axis so that it has Polaris at the edge of the view through the pipe. Make certain that Polaris is offset in a direction away from Kochab. That is generally down in the winter and up in the summer.
2. Bring a towel or other knee pad. Kneeling on Arizona rocks for a while getting lined up on the Pole and lining up the image in the camera will get to your knee caps after a while.
3. Bring fresh batteries.
4. You are doing technical work in the dark. Be obvious: make certain the gears are turning the correct direction. Don't start an exposure when the gear needs to be reset back to the beginning of the curved bolt. Make certain that the lens cap is off and the cable release is opening the shutter. Put film in the camera and make certain it is advancing. If you are using a digital camera, make certain there is room on the capture memory card for new images. Check the f/ratio of the lens.
I leave it to you to create new ways to make an "oops" while photographing the night sky, there are lots of ways to mess up. But, it always seems that enough of the shots do turn out that you are willing to try more. So, be prepared and be persistent.