Crude but effective

When I used to do manual guiding the biggest challenge often used to be finding a suitable guide star. After getting the main scope aligned on a target for photography it often took ages of fiddling and frustration to get the guidescope aligned on a star without disturbing the setting of the main scope. Sometimes I would give up trying especially on freezing evenings. At that time auto-guiding was just a dream as only the big observatories and perhaps wealthiest of amateurs had systems that worked. That this element of astrophotography should have become so easily accessible to anyone with a suitable mount for relatively little expense must be the main reason why so many now successfully photograph deep sky objects. Reading around the forums it soon became evident that it didn't require anything very sophisticated in the way of guidescopes as the modern guiding software would work on a fairly poor image. A few years ago I made a crude scope using an old 80 mm objective from some broken binoculars. It had a short focal length of about 260 mm which gave great widefield views but image quality could only be described as "adequate". I thought I'd see what happened trying it as a guider. To my great delight it works very well and makes finding a guidestar amazingly easy. So far I have only had to move it a short way in declination to pick up a suitable guide star. This has allowed me to attach it to the mount on, what is basically, an up and down hinge which I can adjust easily without disturbing the main scope. Using PHD Guiding software, what was once one of the most difficult aspects of deep sky photography has now become one of the easiest.

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