AstroTrac 360?

Started Mar 21, 2018 | Discussions
Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 300
Re: AstroTrac 360?

swimswithtrout wrote:

Pogo65 wrote:

I am surprised at how you think that a 5 arc second error is a really big one. Name me one affordable mount that can do better than that over a 15 minute period, certainly not an EQ6, with all due respect, certainly not most worm gear based GEM within a reasonable price range. I own a Astrophysics Mach 1, quite an expensive mount, with a very smooth 5" error, easily guided out to just below 1" which in most places around the world is better than the seeing anyway.

When shooting at longer focal lengths and when not using very short exposures, there is no way around guiding anyway, not just because of the error, but even slight polar misalignment will make guiding a must.

Peter

I am very well aware of how HUGE, 5" of error is !!!

On my LAST NIGHT OUT , my Atlas/EQ6 had a peak error of 0.75", as reported by PHD2, but I ran for 90% of the 3 1/2 hrs of imaging, at 0.5" to 0.65" with autoguiding.

Astrotrac advertises that it can "easily handle an 8" RC ". An 8" RC with a dSLR like my Nikon D5300 has an image scale of 0.5" /pixel. That's 10 times smaller than the 5" error that Astrotrac claims. At f8, you're not going to be doing short exposures, unless your using a dedicated cooled monocam like a 1600M, and even then you will still be forced to autoguide. Does it autoguide in both axis' or just RA ? If only RA, you're going to need a Polemaster as well, to get good enough alignment, and still keep your fingers crossed that everything doesn't flex.

An 8" RC weighs 16 lbs without a camera attached. But it will have to have an autoguider as well. Weight wise, an OAG would be best, but that's still another lb or two. An old school guidescope/cam is going to be 2-3 lbs. Add in counterweights, rings and dovetail to mount it to the unit, if you even can.....and you're way over the weight limit, if it's even accurate !!

While we're at it, does it include a Vixen saddle, Losmandy saddle, is it a dual, to mount an RC or 101mm APO per there ad, or is going to be proprietary and cost a fortune ?

Or are you going to have to try and fit a saddle to a ball head , even further off balancing the unit.

If you want a light weight, PROVEN, portable travel system, for longer fl, that can autoguide on both axis', there's the iOptron CEM25 that can carry 27 lbs and weighs 10.4 lbs per specs. It costs $900 USD including the tripod.

I am well aware of having to be mobile as well. I gave up, over a year ago, of even attempting to image from my "White Zone" yard. I now drive for 1 hr minimum to get to better skies.

For fl under 200mm, I use my iOptron SkyTracker. Over that I use my Atlas/EQ6.

Since I don't have to move anything more than 5-10', weight is not an issue, and the Atlas/EQ6 with precise GOTO is actually faster to get to first image capture beyond 200mm, even though it takes 10-20 min longer to set up.

If you want to image at 300mm or below, than the old Astrotrac or the new Fornax LighTrack are your best bets.

Beyond 300mm, you'll still be better off going with a GEM.

I hear you and can see what you are saying. If I were to drive an hour for dark skies, sure I would pack my AP Mach1, but I am talking having to take an airline ride to get anywhere dark. This does double as a GEM, even has pointing capability, not unwelcome for hard to find objects at longer focal lengths.

I have to admit, that I find it hard to imagine putting an 8” scope on it as well, besides, that doesn’t travel very well either. I do own the Fornax however and like it a lot and while it is able to handle 400mm or even 600 mm, when properly aligned, it is a bit of a hassle trying to center objects at long focal lengths as well as properly balancing the thing, dealing with flexure etc. I have a Maksutov at 1000mm that seems like a good match in a travel setup. Used it before and while not very fast, produces pretty good results. That was to much for my Fornax.

This sits nicely in the middle I think. While I am not yet 100% sure I think it will guide in both axis as you get two tracking modules that are as far as I know identical. But for those kind of details, we have to wait for Astrotrac to come up with some more details, which they told me they would do coming weeks. They also said they have been testing for two years now.

I know you are not impressed by a 5 arc second error, but I suspect it will be very smooth as with the Fornax and as it is over a 15 minutes period, should be easily guided out. I am still pretty excited about this mount.

cheers,

Peter

starman1969
starman1969 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,392
Re: AstroTrac 360?

A few years ago and I might have just bought something like this without hardly thinking. My Astrotrac 320 AG has served me really well since I first purchased it back in 2011, mind the horrible polar scope has done it's best to ruin things at times. Yes Rudy, the customer service has been a bit none existent too, not that I ever tried apart from having to wait 3 months for a reply to order a new polar scope. I ended up getting a Polemaster instead of risking another potentially dodgy polar scope.

If anything, the Fornax Lightrack II looks more appealing to me if I wanted something newer, even though it's weight limit is lacking.

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Steve

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Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 300
Re: AstroTrac 360?

starman1969 wrote:

A few years ago and I might have just bought something like this without hardly thinking. My Astrotrac 320 AG has served me really well since I first purchased it back in 2011, mind the horrible polar scope has done it's best to ruin things at times. Yes Rudy, the customer service has been a bit none existent too, not that I ever tried apart from having to wait 3 months for a reply to order a new polar scope. I ended up getting a Polemaster instead of risking another potentially dodgy polar scope.

If anything, the Fornax Lightrack II looks more appealing to me if I wanted something newer, even though it's weight limit is lacking.

Hi Steve,

Fornax now offers a declinaties unit, which should make it easier to load Some heavier equipment.  I have used the Astrotrac dec unit with it and it workshop great as well.

peter

1llusive
1llusive Senior Member • Posts: 2,733
Re: AstroTrac 360?

Pogo65 wrote:

starman1969 wrote:

A few years ago and I might have just bought something like this without hardly thinking. My Astrotrac 320 AG has served me really well since I first purchased it back in 2011, mind the horrible polar scope has done it's best to ruin things at times. Yes Rudy, the customer service has been a bit none existent too, not that I ever tried apart from having to wait 3 months for a reply to order a new polar scope. I ended up getting a Polemaster instead of risking another potentially dodgy polar scope.

If anything, the Fornax Lightrack II looks more appealing to me if I wanted something newer, even though it's weight limit is lacking.

Hi Steve,

Fornax now offers a declinaties unit, which should make it easier to load Some heavier equipment. I have used the Astrotrac dec unit with it and it workshop great as well.

You mean the counterbalance kit? It looks nice, but pricey. Also, I think the suggested weight limit is very conservative.

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Pogo65 Regular Member • Posts: 300
Re: AstroTrac 360?

1llusive wrote:

Pogo65 wrote:

starman1969 wrote:

A few years ago and I might have just bought something like this without hardly thinking. My Astrotrac 320 AG has served me really well since I first purchased it back in 2011, mind the horrible polar scope has done it's best to ruin things at times. Yes Rudy, the customer service has been a bit none existent too, not that I ever tried apart from having to wait 3 months for a reply to order a new polar scope. I ended up getting a Polemaster instead of risking another potentially dodgy polar scope.

If anything, the Fornax Lightrack II looks more appealing to me if I wanted something newer, even though it's weight limit is lacking.

Hi Steve,

Fornax now offers a declinaties unit, which should make it easier to load Some heavier equipment. I have used the Astrotrac dec unit with it and it workshop great as well.

You mean the counterbalance kit? It looks nice, but pricey. Also, I think the suggested weight limit is very conservative.

Sorry yes, that is my spelling correction at work:)

meant to say declination unit. But yeah the counterbalance kit. I can load it pretty heavy that way, but it is not ideal and abit shaky that way.

elgol20
elgol20 Contributing Member • Posts: 796
Re: AstroTrac 360?

Pogo65 wrote:

1llusive wrote:

Pogo65 wrote:

starman1969 wrote:

A few years ago and I might have just bought something like this without hardly thinking. My Astrotrac 320 AG has served me really well since I first purchased it back in 2011, mind the horrible polar scope has done it's best to ruin things at times. Yes Rudy, the customer service has been a bit none existent too, not that I ever tried apart from having to wait 3 months for a reply to order a new polar scope. I ended up getting a Polemaster instead of risking another potentially dodgy polar scope.

If anything, the Fornax Lightrack II looks more appealing to me if I wanted something newer, even though it's weight limit is lacking.

Hi Steve,

Fornax now offers a declinaties unit, which should make it easier to load Some heavier equipment. I have used the Astrotrac dec unit with it and it workshop great as well.

You mean the counterbalance kit? It looks nice, but pricey. Also, I think the suggested weight limit is very conservative.

Sorry yes, that is my spelling correction at work:)

meant to say declination unit. But yeah the counterbalance kit. I can load it pretty heavy that way, but it is not ideal and abit shaky that way.

for this money you can get better. giro is more stable. also you have some leverage. I made a solution more stable for less invest, see posts some months ago

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_____
Stefan

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Jacob the Photographer
Jacob the Photographer New Member • Posts: 8
Re: AstroTrac 360?

I  do 100% agree !
I use the AstroTrack 360 - nice portable tracker that - once I had it a tiny bit modified -works accurate. The flaw in my version was that the whole unit 'wobbled a little' on the tripod, some extra shims eliminated that. And indeed that polar scope is a joke - a compass and inclinometer work a lot better.
Very recent I wanted to buy a few extras for the AstroTrac 360 - got a quick reply that there might be some surplus items available.... not all and not in the online shop. Why not keep the new and old Astro Trac side by side ? They are very different products.

On the web site it is made clear that the funds for a deposit for the new model are not being covered by Escrow - or a trust etc. Once you have released you pre-order-payment .... hope for the best. Not me, having stung to often by backing nice projects on crowdsourcing platforms.

I feel bad to write this , as the AstroTrac 360 I use on a weekly if not some times nightly basis is by design a real nice product to use and to look at, but yes , customer care is as important as a good product !

Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,839
Re: AstroTrac 360?

Pogo65 wrote:

I have to agree about the price, however you are looking at a highly capable (claimed) german equatorial here that is also very portable and modular as it can be taken apart and used as two camera trackers if the need arises. If not, you have a german equatorial mount that has a 5 arcsec accuracy and with goto capability as well from what I understand( even though I don't find that last capability so important, it can certainly help to put small objects in your field of view whith longer focal lengths, which this mount is supposed to be able to handle as they claim.

Considering all that, I think the price is high but reasonable.

Go To is surprisingly important when you start going for even medium sized objects. They can be difficult to find without go-to. Wide angle lenses, sure easy peasy but start getting into the smaller stuff and it can be frustrating. I would say the frustration starts around 300mm focal length.

Greg.

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Re: AstroTrac 360?

swimswithtrout wrote:

RudyPohl wrote:

Pogo65 wrote:

I have to agree about the price, however you are looking at a highly capable (claimed) german equatorial here that is also very portable and modular as it can be taken apart and used as two camera trackers if the need arises. If not, you have a german equatorial mount that has a 5 arcsec accuracy and with goto capability as well from what I understand( even though I don't find that last capability so important, it can certainly help to put small objects in your field of view whith longer focal lengths, which this mount is supposed to be able to handle as they claim.

Considering all that, I think the price is high but reasonable.

I have been watching for the unveiling of this new tracking mount from Astrotrac for almost 3 months now and I must say that I am so disappointed at the price point. Here in Canada this item will be $4350 plus taxes (13%), plus shipping ($100) for a total approximating $5000! There's only one word for that - "insane!"

There are a few reasons why I have serious doubts that this product will succeed in the marketplace and why we might be witnessing the end of Astrotrac as a viable company, if in fact it still is one at the present time.

1. The price. Like I said, it's an insane price for what you get that will ensure only those with the highest discretionary funds available for hobbies will buy one of these trackers. This will be a unguided portable tracker for the exceedingly well off of which there are not all that many.

2. This is a totally unproven product. We're not even being shown a real, live working prototype complete with videos and sample astro-images. Who has ever heard of a serious product launch without a working prototype and samples? All that we're being presented with here are some great-looking drawings and a whole lot of claims and promises.

3. Astrotrac has had a terrible record, especially in recent years, for product and customer support - "abandonment" is the operative word. They could be the poster child in the astro-imaging world for the category of "most unresponsive company". So given this abysmal track record are you willing to lay down this huge amount of cash on the hopes that this product lives up to it's claims, and that if there are design and/or other problems, that you will have them addressed and remedied in a timely fashion? Not me.

Given the fact that Astrotrac is known around the globe for the world's poorest polar scope and polar alignment solution ever, which after many years of complaints from frustrated users they apparently did not even try to address and remedy, what has changed in their ownership or board of directors or company philosophy to assure us that a similar major flaw does not exist in the 360 model and if so, that users won't once again get stuck holding the bag?

4. Finally, I would not be surprised to learn that Astrotrac is in serious financial difficulty and may never even complete and bring to market this new model. Why do I say this? For two reasons. One, as mentioned above, they do not even have a working, tested and reviewed prototype, even after all this time. And two, they are asking for huge order reservation deposits and yet do not expect to be shipping till some time in the third quarter. Why would they need a thousand pounds from each person other than they don't have the cash flow to complete the project? Everything may very well be in good shape, financially sound, and on track production-wise behind the scenes; I hope for everyone's sake that is the case, especially for Astrotrac as I really would like them to succeed. However, I personally would not take that risk.

Summary:

Given these serious potential downsides to purchasing one of these units, which presently consists of only claims, promises and diagrams, and given Astrotrac's less than stellar history when it comes to product and customer support, my stance is, "Astrotrac, the ball is in your court and you need to earn back the trust and the confidence of the astro-imaging community."

my 2 cents,
Rudy

I finally got to their web page and if I didn't know better, I'd have thought it an April Fools joke.....

An 11lb mount that can carry 22lbs, an 8" f7 RC, and image with "only" 5" of error ???
I don't even like shooting my little AT 65 mm (fl 420mm) at more than 1.5" error, which only happens in the worst of seeing conditions

Even a moderate GEM, with autoguiding , is going to struggle shooting with an 8" RC at native FL. Using a NIkon D5300, I'd need accuracy in the sub 0.5" range to feel comfortable !! The "lightest weight" GEM that is just barely able to handle an 8" RC is the Orion Atlas/ SW EQ6 and they think an 11lb mount can beat that ?

Even their claim of using a 100mm APO is ludicrous at 5" error. I'd want want well under 1" accuracy.

Their price point puts it on par with a "super premium" GEM, that can actually shoot at 1-2" accuracy without autoguiding, and well below 0.5" with guiding, and carry 40-60 lbs. without blinking an eye.

Not that I'm even looking for another mount, but this thing sounds like nothing but a marketing pipe dream, and terrible on all accounts.

I think you may be confusing terms here. 5 arc second periodic error of the mount is actually high end. A Paramount ME11 which is about US$12,500 has a spec I think of 7 ar seconds or less of periodic error.

1 arc second error is almost unheard of and only the very very top mounts with absolute encoders get to that figure.

Your autoguiding errors would be possibly less than this but Perioic Error which often looks like a sine wave is the base error from the machining errors of the mounts gears.

Having said that 5 arc seconds unguided may not give you too long an exposure at 300mm before you get eggy stars. I doubt 10 minutes, maybe 2 or perhaps 3.

Round stars at 10 minutes exposure length and 500mm focal length or longer is the realm of well performing mounts and autoguiding.

Greg.

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Astrophotographer 10 Forum Pro • Posts: 13,839
Re: AstroTrac 360?

rnclark wrote:

swimswithtrout wrote:

RudyPohl wrote:

Pogo65 wrote:

I have to agree about the price, however you are looking at a highly capable (claimed) german equatorial here that is also very portable and modular as it can be taken apart and used as two camera trackers if the need arises. If not, you have a german equatorial mount that has a 5 arcsec accuracy and with goto capability as well from what I understand( even though I don't find that last capability so important, it can certainly help to put small objects in your field of view whith longer focal lengths, which this mount is supposed to be able to handle as they claim.

Considering all that, I think the price is high but reasonable.

I have been watching for the unveiling of this new tracking mount from Astrotrac for almost 3 months now and I must say that I am so disappointed at the price point. Here in Canada this item will be $4350 plus taxes (13%), plus shipping ($100) for a total approximating $5000! There's only one word for that - "insane!"

There are a few reasons why I have serious doubts that this product will succeed in the marketplace and why we might be witnessing the end of Astrotrac as a viable company, if in fact it still is one at the present time.

1. The price. Like I said, it's an insane price for what you get that will ensure only those with the highest discretionary funds available for hobbies will buy one of these trackers. This will be a unguided portable tracker for the exceedingly well off of which there are not all that many.

2. This is a totally unproven product. We're not even being shown a real, live working prototype complete with videos and sample astro-images. Who has ever heard of a serious product launch without a working prototype and samples? All that we're being presented with here are some great-looking drawings and a whole lot of claims and promises.

3. Astrotrac has had a terrible record, especially in recent years, for product and customer support - "abandonment" is the operative word. They could be the poster child in the astro-imaging world for the category of "most unresponsive company". So given this abysmal track record are you willing to lay down this huge amount of cash on the hopes that this product lives up to it's claims, and that if there are design and/or other problems, that you will have them addressed and remedied in a timely fashion? Not me.

Given the fact that Astrotrac is known around the globe for the world's poorest polar scope and polar alignment solution ever, which after many years of complaints from frustrated users they apparently did not even try to address and remedy, what has changed in their ownership or board of directors or company philosophy to assure us that a similar major flaw does not exist in the 360 model and if so, that users won't once again get stuck holding the bag?

4. Finally, I would not be surprised to learn that Astrotrac is in serious financial difficulty and may never even complete and bring to market this new model. Why do I say this? For two reasons. One, as mentioned above, they do not even have a working, tested and reviewed prototype, even after all this time. And two, they are asking for huge order reservation deposits and yet do not expect to be shipping till some time in the third quarter. Why would they need a thousand pounds from each person other than they don't have the cash flow to complete the project? Everything may very well be in good shape, financially sound, and on track production-wise behind the scenes; I hope for everyone's sake that is the case, especially for Astrotrac as I really would like them to succeed. However, I personally would not take that risk.

Summary:

Given these serious potential downsides to purchasing one of these units, which presently consists of only claims, promises and diagrams, and given Astrotrac's less than stellar history when it comes to product and customer support, my stance is, "Astrotrac, the ball is in your court and you need to earn back the trust and the confidence of the astro-imaging community."

my 2 cents,
Rudy

I finally got to their web page and if I didn't know better, I'd have thought it an April Fools joke.....

An 11lb mount that can carry 22lbs, an 8" f7 RC, and image with "only" 5" of error ???
I don't even like shooting my little AT 65 mm (fl 420mm) at more than 1.5" error, which only happens in the worst of seeing conditions

Even a moderate GEM, with autoguiding , is going to struggle shooting with an 8" RC at native FL. Using a NIkon D5300, I'd need accuracy in the sub 0.5" range to feel comfortable !! The "lightest weight" GEM that is just barely able to handle an 8" RC is the Orion Atlas/ SW EQ6 and they think an 11lb mount can beat that ?

Before I respond you your post, Swims, let me say I agree with all of Rudy's points.

Regarding the above, the new astrotrac is aimed at a completely different market: those who want extreme portability. I could not do my recent trips (24,000 miles in about 6 weeks) with a gem or any other big heavy equatorial mount.

But the original astrotrac is only 1 kg mount (2.2 pounds) with a claimed 15 kg (33 pound) capacity. I would have to weigh what I put on it, but it is on the order of 5 kg (11 pounds) (Canon 7D2, 300 f/2.8 + TC, gimbal head, or 1D mark 4 and add another pound). The tracking accuracy is also around 5-arc-seconds. With short exposures, I get tracking accuracy in a single exposure of about an arc-second.

So what does the new astrotrac 360 get me? At some 4+ times the price and 5 times the weight for similar tracking accuracy, just to go more than 2 hours? No thanks.

Even their claim of using a 100mm APO is ludicrous at 5" error. I'd want want well under 1" accuracy.

Their price point puts it on par with a "super premium" GEM, that can actually shoot at 1-2" accuracy without autoguiding, and well below 0.5" with guiding, and carry 40-60 lbs. without blinking an eye.

Not that I'm even looking for another mount, but this thing sounds like nothing but a marketing pipe dream, and terrible on all accounts.

For this price, and new technology, I too would expect much better tracking accuracy. Maybe they a going for an even smaller niche market: extreme portability with autoguiding, as that is the only way to get better than 5 arc-sec with this device.

But I believe there is a hidden problem that buyers may not be aware of unless they have loaded a astrotrac type device: that is the problem of wind. As one pushes up focal length and resolution to the sub 3-arc-seconds per pixel, stability is more important, not just tracking accuracy. With a big optical tube on a very light mount, the flexing in wind destroys stability, and tracking, even with autoguiding, is crap.

In my recent trip to Tanzania, I tried for 2 nights to image the Eta Carina nebula at 300 mm f/2.8 on my astrotrac. Wind destroyed most of my exposures, often shaking so much the star images are amazing patterns 30 to 60 arc-seconds across.

It is not worth trying to get images with my 300 f/2.8 on my astrotrac if there is even a moderate breeze. The only solutions are: 1) only work on clear calm nights, 2) make a wind break. I'm working on #2 but do not yet have a good solution. 3) Use a heavier mount. I have a Losmandy G11 and autoguider, but it is hard to pack onto an airplane--costs go way up.

So the new astrotrac does not seem like a solution. Maybe the reviews will show these problems have been solved, but I'm skeptical.

Also disturbing is the astrotrac pages for the existing astrotrac have been removed:

https://www.astrotrac.com/product-page/tt320x-ag no longer exists.

So it appears they have stopped making the 320 model. Most manufacturers leave such pages up and say discontinued, so people will know their legacy products, e.g. for the used market. This makes me wonder if they even have any stock in parts for repairs.

Looks like the Fornax lighttrack II is the future for the more reasonably priced portable market with longer lenses.

Roger

Wind is an imager wrecker up there with clouds!

There are wind tents available that may suit your setup. Check at optcorp.com

I have seen wind tents available that open at the top to allow imaging. It would be lightweight, inexpensive and hopefully very workable. I have never used one.

Parking a vehicle next to your setup may also help, I have done that. Semi-workable.

Greg.

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Re: AstroTrac 360?

RudyPohl wrote:

aramgrg wrote:

atigun wrote:

Not that I would even consider the AstroTrac 360, but from a technical viewpoint, I wonder how the friction drive would do at freezing temperatures with frost buildup everywhere, including the exposed friction wheels?

I must also say I am a little lost as to where the camera/ball head goes, especially when used in compact mode with only one of the units.

I used my Lightrack II very extensively this winter. The lowest temp I tried was -18c! Both X-T2 and lightrack were going strong.

I wrote to the Fornax tech department in Hungary in January and explained that I was from Canada where I have imaged with the Star Adventurer at -32 degrees Celsius without any issues and asked if the LightTrack II could handle those temps.

To their credit they did not make any unsubstantiated claims, but wrote that one of their staff had used it at -22 C with no problems and that they did not foresee any even at -32 C.

Rudy

You went outside in -32C??? Wow ,you Canadians are tough. I am inside if its below 5C after 30 minutes!

Greg.

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atigun Contributing Member • Posts: 828
Re: AstroTrac 360?

Astrophotographer 10 wrote:

RudyPohl wrote:

aramgrg wrote:

atigun wrote:

Not that I would even consider the AstroTrac 360, but from a technical viewpoint, I wonder how the friction drive would do at freezing temperatures with frost buildup everywhere, including the exposed friction wheels?

I must also say I am a little lost as to where the camera/ball head goes, especially when used in compact mode with only one of the units.

I used my Lightrack II very extensively this winter. The lowest temp I tried was -18c! Both X-T2 and lightrack were going strong.

I wrote to the Fornax tech department in Hungary in January and explained that I was from Canada where I have imaged with the Star Adventurer at -32 degrees Celsius without any issues and asked if the LightTrack II could handle those temps.

To their credit they did not make any unsubstantiated claims, but wrote that one of their staff had used it at -22 C with no problems and that they did not foresee any even at -32 C.

Rudy

You went outside in -32C??? Wow ,you Canadians are tough. I am inside if its below 5C after 30 minutes!

Greg.

Well, at least we get free sensor cooling at those temperatures. 

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Atigun valley, a place north in Alaska

BlackgumNate Contributing Member • Posts: 634
Re: AstroTrac 360?

Astrophotographer 10 wrote:

You went outside in -32C??? Wow ,you Canadians are tough. I am inside if its below 5C after 30 minutes!

Greg.

You haven't lived if not experienced the feeling of death that is bare aluminum against bare skin in -35C...:/

Nate

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