Why Avalon? Why M1?
Many, from the pages of magazines, forums, on social, through my site, or just over the star parties in which I participate ask me this question. I’m not a technical person, I like to photograph only the wonders of the sky and instrumentation for me is just a means to achieve this purpose. I am willing to learn good behavior on the field of the set up used, but then this should just work. To reach the depth in the images I want, I need tens of hours of exposure. Therefore, beyond the strictly necessary to give effect to time my equipment, I do not want to miss a minute. I realize that for a manufacturer of astronomical equipment, should not be a simple to meet customer!
When should I put out my M1, including all required cables already wired on it, in a medium travel trolley, like a normal hand luggage. Not only usually they are placed in the trolley all my warm clothes to shoot if necessary at night at high altitude! Arrived at the scene, I have no choice but to release the frame from the trolley and put it on a tripod that this is ready after the optics installation and rapid pointing to the pole, to resume.
Counterweights? No thanks
For years in my outings before buying a M1 I brought back dozens of pounds in counterweights. All this is now only a memory: I have not used them (see rust). The M1 arm is also retractable, so if you want to balance lighter instrumentation just slide your arm toward the polar axis shortening.
With the M1, to balance the whole set up shooting (Celestron 11HD equipped and therefore more than 20 kg heavy), just a couple of kg!
Dangling wires? Never again!
Once installed the M1 on a tripod (I use the excellent T-Pod of Avalon, lightweight, robust and with the ability to fill the tubular legs to make it all even more rocky), the M1 comes with out the ready cabling is no small feat especially if you are already in the dark!
Indeed, by removing the polar scope of its housing (I use the external, permanently installed), you will, in the axis polar cable, a generous space enough to pass all the cables. This not only guarantees the cleanliness of the set up, reducing the danger of a cable to be caught (in my case it is vital that this does not happen: I risk breaking the glass of my C11 when in hyperstar mode !!), but completely eliminates the oscillation effect of the wind (even light breezes), can produce the dangling cables. Also, if I want to place my ccd there is a reflex, or a planetary imaging camera or other, I have all the cables ready to use.
Real load capacity
The stated capacity is 20 kg, but normally, sales statements do not interest me much: I always want to see for themselves. On my M1 I loaded everything in every way possible, up to several optics to achieve a total weight of around 30 kg. Visual performance or high resolution have been excellent, while those photographs were very good. The only thing that the M1 so loaded fears is the wind, so I try to keep the load within the 20 kg, which is ample for a set up also challenging. The great thing is that almost every pound profit dal’ottica exploited and not by counterweights!
One of the most challenging loads (30 kg in weight to 150 cm in length) was a homebuilt Newton by his friend Mario Lovrencie. Well, the M1 has run like I never imagined. That night session at Mount Lip (GR) was in fact one of the best that I can remember that we also got the nice LDN 673 the eagle.
Easy of use
When several years ago I decided to change the frame I had, among others, a strong desire: to arrive on site in a few minutes (even with a set up heavy and not easy to handle as it is mine), be immediately ready to resume. In fact, the M1, but from what I heard the other Avalon frames, allows, after a quick polar alignment (leading to eye on the constellation Ursa Major to coincide with its telescope screen printing), to leave immediately with exposures of 10 -20 minutes even at high focal. In the past between cables, polar alignment, balancing and subsequent passage in the meridian, it took me more than an hour before being ready to resume (which especially in summer means starting after midnight). With the M1 use at most a quarter of an hour before the session, during which I can safely go to sleep not being any human control more necessary. This is a great convenience even and especially when you want to, not being physically present, manage the set up in a completely remote.
Meridian flip? No thanks
I did it for years, but frankly I would have done without. I know that for many is not considered a problem, as it can be done automatically by means of management software. Sometimes, however, betrays the electronics and also for holders of configurations with no fixed lenses (I think of the SC but also to holders of Newton), the tilting of the tube would lead to unwanted movement of the optics that could change the field and focus. In my opinion, the best solution is to eliminate the problem at its root. What you should not do, can not not work.
The thing that scared me at the beginning of the M1 was the unusual shape. I was so afraid that some lenses, especially those long, would have been unable in some movements (mainly in declination). The worst position is towards the star Polaris. Well after years of use in all possible configurations, I can say I’ve never had any problems. In the most difficult cases a spacer accessory device, Avalon is available, but for which quite frankly I never needed.
Usually I do not look very appearance, being interested more performance. However I must admit that the quality Made in Italy will immediately recognize (and not just for the beautiful red Ferrari), not only with the eyes, but also to the touch. After years of use, often in moist environments, I have not even found a rust spot, not even a small failure of the perfect anodization: it still looks like new! The construction is light but yet sturdy.
There is no point, however, have a set up easy and quick to use, if they do not let you do what you want. The most important question is, what I can give this frame? To answer, I’ll let the pictures speak only (for those interested, are available raw, in .fit extension).
The following image shows typical guide values in hyperstar mode, using Lodestar X2 in off-axis to focus f2 (so the guide is made to 530 mm focal length approximately).
In fact, however, I confess to believe the only indicative guidance graphics. What is in fact, a good graphic if then I did not star well-guided and recorded images? Since I have the habit to fully test the equipment I own, I tried from the beginning to understand the limits of the M1 and in that sense what could be worse for a frame of a full-load test performed at very high focal? And therefore the behavior of this creation Avalon at full load (over 20 kg), on long exposures (a single half-hour pose!) The focal length of 2800 mm (CCD H694: 30 min guided single exposure with PHD, Lodestar and OAG Proxima).
And here was the result of 20 minutes of exposure with the same set up but bringing the focal to f 20 (focal length: 5600 mm !!!). I confess that during this test graph had not impressed me, but the end result, what ultimately counts went far beyond all my wildest dreams. The so my humble advice is to not give too much heed the charts !!
I have always been a loyal user of the system EQ Mod, I continued to also use with my M1, gaining great satisfaction. However, the difference with the Avalon proprietary system is obvious. In fact, I installed the Star Go for about a couple of years and then I got to test it thoroughly. Sorry to disappoint those who want technical tests, as mentioned at the beginning are mainly a demanding user. In this sense I can confirm the excellent pointing accuracy even at long focal lengths that are normally used for shooting (model the sky built with a pointing to more stars improves pointing performances, but personally I have found in the simple alignment to a star), as well as driving performance, much finer and much more low speeds (up to 0.05 x) with respect to the EQ Mod of Syntha. Also you can park the mount in any position so you can start each new session so avoiding the need alignment before each session. Focus manageable through star go (and focuser FOC S of Avalon) is perhaps the finest and most precise I’ve ever experienced. Filming as NGC 3628 that gave me the third APOD and Messier 51 are giving me second place at the International Prize La Palma, it would not have been possible without a guide and a tune impeccable fire. Go through the star and created dedicated ports are manageable and programmable number of accessories, including digital SLRs. Star Go is also an excellent remote management system, also on Smart Phone, Tablets etc .. In short, it is a modern, versatile and highly functional as well as constantly updated and implemented through new firmware continuously released from Avalon.
In Observatory : remote set up
The Avalon is a leader in remote instrumentation. In this respect I can report from personal experience, the ease and efficiency of remote management of my set up both at a fixed location in my observatory, both outputs, external session. Many fans have gone further, by purchasing the complete package or Merlin, the mini remote observatory Avalon. I got to watch completely automated sessions, while the operator was maybe on vacation with his family to hundreds of chilomentri away from the operating site. During the night sessions, I was often close to many Merlino (especially at ‘Astronomical Center of Manchester), during operation, always obtaining impressions of extreme efficiency and low noise.
Nothing is perfect. But regarding the optimal substance I find the defects of the M1 very marginal. Cable somewhat rigid keypad especially at low temperatures (so much so that I prefer to take it off as each Frame function is easy to access via PC or thanks to my smart phone). Inability to align with the pole mounted instrumentation (but to eliminate this problem simply use an external polar scope as I try to do for years). I have also noticed how, in the case in which the arm is brought into the most external position, namely when it is necessary to use the mount with optical diameter and heavy weight, it opens a little light, a minimum distance between the base of the frame and the the arm itself. The only drawback is that the space above the same could allow moist air of the night creep inside the compartment where the electronic card is contained. However, even in this case, the solution is really trivial being sufficient a rubber strip of a couple of mm thick, to ensure that all the returns to be perfectly isolated from the outside. Other possible improvements could be: the presence of a spherical bubble on the base (in place of that of the toroidal series), which would give the user a way to check the flatness of the system (currently solved problem however, simply with a dual axis bubble cost of 3.5 Euros).
A few years ago I had the opportunity to define the assistance Avalon surreal, as incredible. After years of using the instrumentation (not just frames, but focusers, X-Guider, tripods, extender, etc accessories that will soon be the subject of a separate report), this established Italian brand, I can only confirm my judgment. Personally I have to say, that when you talk to mr. Avalon Luciano Dal Sasso, we forget soon to be in front of a creator, designer and manufacturer of cutting-edge solutions to the world of astronomy amateur and professional: the feeling is rather, to talk to a friend who you know a life full of passion. The only difference is that the friend in question is one of the most volcanic creators of astronomical beautiful toys that I know. He will probably invite you to the paradise of high-tech machines in the sheds where the Avalon ideas come to life, as he will himself to beg you, in case you have any questions or simply want to get more and more out of your set up, to see you physically or to make a night remote session for them anyway with you (perhaps while engaged in new construction, or while it is to participate in an international exhibition of astronomical material). He would like to have the gift of bi-location, but waiting to own it is also supported by an excellent team!
To all present and future owners of a Avalon product then, my most sincere wishes for Good Fun!