This is how it all started…

It is not so easy to say when everything began or found its beginning. For us, it was probably always the view of the stars, which filled us as children with fascination and a little awe. At some point came the much longed-for first telescope, which cost a small fortune at that time, with which one could observe the first moon craters and planets. Later the simple observing was not enough anymore and we began to photographically hold the „wonders of the universe“. Of course, we imagined it easier than we thought. Quickly we sold the old telescope, got a new one with computer control, and strapped a camera to the back of it, and now we have the dreamlike photos we know from the Hubble images. If it were only so easy! Hours of adjusting the telescope, the eternally long search for a guide star, etc. often made the nights at subzero temperatures a torture. To save the constant setting up and aligning for astrophotography, there was only one solution – an own observatory was needed.

The right solution for every problem

Of course, we immediately set about setting up the observatory with our equipment. Actually, one should believe that from now on everything ran smoothly. However, we unfortunately had to realize that a smooth functioning of the equipment, even in an observatory is not as easy to realize as thought.

Our first telescope in the observatory was a Celestron C11GPS in a fork mount. According to the manufacturer, it is perfect for astrophotography. Since long exposures with a fork mount are only possible in conjunction with a polar wedge, or field derotator, we decided to have a very stable polar cradle built by an acquaintance. The polar cradle and the C11GPS harmonized perfectly with each other, at least visually.

The next step was to align the telescope with the polar wedge. As it is known from many descriptions, our instructions were not very satisfactory, our telescope was e.g. constantly the opinion Sirius would be somewhere on the ground in front of the observatory so that we have looked around on the Internet for alternative instructions. We soon found a good video instruction of an American, but this had only ONE small hook, the American dialect was difficult to understand and so we needed about 1 hour until we could finally understand the keyword „Celestial Pole“. Now that we knew how it worked, we got right to work aligning our telescope. After about 4 hours of careful setting up, we connected the camera to the telescope and took the first test image. Of course, we expected a nice image and reasonably round stars. Well, the stars were round but strangely each star was a quadruple star. Sometime, long after midnight, we gave up looking for the error and decided to search the internet for solutions. After some time of research, it became clear to us, it can not work, because contrary to what the manufacturer promises, the fork mount does not withstand the loads in the long term in the inclined position, so sooner or later it comes to problems even with a new telescope. Unfortunately, this was immediately a problem with us, an acquaintance could photograph with his C11 still whole 6 months after our conversation before also his mount confronted him with the same problem.

A new mount is needed… After consulting with our dealer, we decided on the CGE from Celestron. I’d like to note here briefly that we did not yet have the CGE Pro. which is now on the market.

The CGE already made a very good impression when unpacked, stable, large-dimensioned and it carried the C11 without problems. After we had adjusted it, we of course immediately made a test photo. Well, what can I say now? Of course, we had a problem again. It was positive that we didn’t have any quadruple stars this time, but they did a great new thing and made each star appear as a „Y“. Interestingly not as a pure line trace, but always at the corner points of the „Y“ as a fixed point. It took us about a month to find the source of the problem. From Celestron support we had heard at the beginning of the troubleshooting the sentence, quote: „The telescopes are manufactured in California, there it does not get so cold and therefore it does not work with them“, which made it clear to us that we probably had to find the error alone. It should be noted that we had about +16°C at that time and I think I remember that it also gets below +20°C in parts of California.

After a closer look at the gearbox, we noticed that it suddenly stopped running during operation and then continued to run again for no apparent reason. We decided to shoot a video of it and send it to the support, which fortunately replaced the mount without any problems.

Finally everything is running and we are taking pictures…

I really have to say that we were more than satisfied with the CGE and anyone can have the misfortune to get a Monday mount. But the replaced CGE worked flawlessly. As you can see in the photo above, we already pushed the CGE to its limits. Under full load, the CGE carried the C11, a refractor 102/660, the Canon 20D, and the SBIG ST-4 without problems.