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For a long time now Alan Buckman has been overworked which explains some of the delays in sorting out queries or upgrades. If you have not had a reply then please contact us again. Workload is easing now...and as it is Easter there are a few days of break to reflect on the activities over the past six months and tell you about them.

Most of the time has been spent developing a Socket tester for UK mains 13 amp socket outlets. This is an upgrade of previous products, but now measures the resistance of the wiring (a LOOP test), and the posh version will do a basic RCD test. We design a lot of electricians meters, most of the ones featured on this website are ours. We are in constant touch with the factory facility in China.

We did not attend Astrofest this year but our products were available on the House of Optics stand. There is likely to be a similar box of goodies at the European Astronomy Show at Essen in May. Please look out for the House of Optics stand and ask about our products. Better still, email them and request certain products to be present for you to see.

New on the stand is our DEW HEATER CONTROLLER. There are plenty of controllers on the market but the main feature of this one is the ability to look after the power supply, which is invariably a lead-acid battery. These do not like being discharged and the Heating Strip function is energy demanding and it is very easy to flatten the battery quickly.

At the same time, finishing off the Active Morror Support system (see below) and commissioning as kept Alan pretty busy. Jan 31st saw Alan do a presentation on 'Instrumentation for the Astronomer - Getting Started' at the BAA Back to Basics Workshop, and a further workshop session in the afternoon. A Telescope Workshop was also organised for the South East Kent Astronomy society for Saturday 11th April.

SPARE PARTS - if you require spare parts or difficult to find items gives a call / send an email and we will get back with a price. We have access to most electronic and machanical components, tools and test equipment. I am on the hunt for a 12 volt operated heater / blower hair dryer at reasonable cost.


The ACTIVE MIRROR SUPPORT system is finished and working. This is a closed loop pneumatic load cell mirror support system, similar to that used on the William Herschel Telescope but now available to amateurs. Control electronics fut in a box attached to the rear of the mirror cell and a pipeline with Nitrogen under pressure is feed from the bottle kept in the base. There is further information with photographs on our web page.

The active mirror support is a bit overkill on a 32 inch but it saves a lot of mechanical headaches. The design can be expanded to any size mirror. The 32 inch is a prototype for a 1.2 metre which can take all the parts as is and build with a wider fork onto the same base.

The 32 inch is now finished as designed.


We are particularly pleased with the LXD750 upgrade that we have just completed. We loaded up the tube assembly with an 18kg roll of lead, balanced it and away it went. Slew speed achieved in excess of 1 degree per second on both axes and SO QUIET. There is no vibration. Both motors are held on brackets within the head, driving with timing belts to the slow motion assemblies which are Meade's unmodified. However all mounting points that need to be adjusted have had spring washers added to ease setting up. Tensionning of the belt is achieved with a rigid extension arm holding a bearing against the inside of the belt To drill for the motor bracket mounting screws we had to dismantle both main axes, removing the roller bearings and drill carefully, with pretective measures in place to stop swarf going where it shouldn't. We also took the opportunity of putting on a stainless steel counterweight arm. We can do these from about 35 + postage depending on the amount of machining to do at the ends.

The owner says that in the moonlight he can see it slewing but in the dark it will need a bell on it because it is so quiet! He did drift alignment then the image stayed put for an hour. He says it is absolute bliss after using an EQ6. There is no image wobble even in wind. Here are photos of the RA and DEC mechanics:

We are in the process of completing an order to drive a 30 inch in Norfolk using the same 400Ncm motors we used on the 32 inch (above). There is another one of this size in process of being put together for a private observatory in Australia.


In CCD photography with autoguiders used to increase the apparant resolution you stack photos with your autoguider on. But the autoguider tends to correct the drive to keep it within 0.2 pixels of the camera. What you really need to do is take a group of exposures, then move the telescope 5 arc seconds or so, then take another group of exposures. The image has landed on a different group of pixels and the autoguider profile will be slightly different This is essentially an 'optical dithering technique' for digital cameras. Try it! The SEEKER is suitable for all scopes with an autoguider input.


We are currently trialling V1.72 software for the handset. There have been a number of minor quirks that have come to our attention when delivering and commissioning recent orders, so in line with the perfection that Alan requires, the software has been modified and should sort out the known issues. The drivebox has also got an update to V0.74 to make the system ASCOM compliant. The biggest problem is the use of the PREV feature which we found to overwrite the MAXHA and MAXDEC settings. By LOCKing the LIST it is possible to get round this until the software is updated. The full set of changes can be read about in our Version History.


A HANDS-FREE adjustable LED lamp for use in ASTRONOMY, SAILING, FISHING etc. It is switchable WHITE - OFF - RED, ideal! It comes with 3 x 'AAA' batteries. Priced at 16.50 incl postage.