Current setup – spring 2023

The setup consists of two scopes on two mounts – one for lunar / planetary, the other for deep sky.

1. Optics

Both instruments are refractors: the Takahashi FS-60CB and the FSQ-85ED. The focal length of the FS-60CB varies from 355mm to a whopping 2m; used for photos of the solar system. The FSQ-85ED f/6.2 has a 2°x3° FOV and a motorised focuser; used for deep sky photography.

2. Mounts

The mount that carries the planetary scope is the Takahashi Teegul SP3 EQ. This is a tiny equatorial mount motorised in RA only that provides surprisingly good tracking at high focal lengths. Very small, ultra-light setup successfully used to photograph the 2019 total solar eclipse from Chile.

The deep-sky mount is the ZWO AM5 EQ. This is a tiny mount weighing only 5kg that is equipped with a harmonic drive system capable of carrying heavy loads. It is controlled through an app and provides polar alignment even if the pole is not visible. Fully integrated with ZWO cameras, autoguiding included.

The manufacturer provides an error graph (24h) for each unit, guaranteed to be less than 20”. The periodic error is not really periodic, meaning it can not be compensated by playing it backwards. Autoguiding for long exposures (90s+) is imperative for harmonic drive mounts.

3. Cameras

The planetary camera is the ZWO 224MC and the deep sky camera is the ZWO 071MC – both color APS-C sensors. Controlled through the ASIair+ app.

Pixel size and focal length ratio needs to be calculated and thank Gawd for chat gpt cause now you can ask it to do the work for you and provide clear numbers that can guide you further.

4. Controller

The ZWO ecosystem is controlled by the ASIair+ device which handles *everything* from polar alignment to camera control, guiding, aligning and stacking. The interface is an app on your device and it solves plates.

5. Power

Power is supplied by a 220Wh source from Revolt. It is advised to power the mount and the ASIair+ separately, and not one through the other. I found that powering the ASIair+ from the mount is glitchy (the other way around works fine).


First light for the 224MC from ZWO controlled by the ASI Air plus. Shot through the tiny FS-CB60 refractor at a whopping f/20 on a Teegul III mount.

Exceptionally bad seeing made focus quasi-impossible. Contrast very poor as it was shot during the day. This is a stack of a 90s AVI that I find surprisingly good, considering.

Libration was at maximum for the month of February with the Eastern side of the Moon tipped into view. Mare Australis is visible in the SE.

Among the interesting features south of Mare Nectaris are the Rupes Altai range and the Vallis Rheita.

Rupes Altai is a slightly arcuate escarpment bordered by craters Piccolomini to the SE and Catharina to the NW, spanning some 440km. Pictured above is the southern region of the range and the crater Piccolomini with is curious parallel double peaks. The escarpment is a portion of the outer wall of the Nectaris Basin and reaches 4000m heights with respect to the surrounding terrain, considerably more than similar structures such as Rupes Recta and Rupes Cauchy.

Concentric rings forming the Mare Nectaris Basin

Vallis Rheita is 450km long and widest at 30km, formed from a series of overlapping craters that radiate to the center of Mare Nectaris. It is thought to have arisen from secondary events following the Nectaris impact.

BUG HOTEL – Cocoon harvest

The bug hotel opened in the spring of 2017, offering superior accommodation and personalized services in eight spacious yet cozy 9mm by 90mm holes drilled in healthy, un-treated, pinewood that’s easy to chew through should guests wish to make modifications to the otherwise comfortable cylinders.

The particularity of this property is that one of the outer walls has been replaced by crystal-clear 6mm glass that offers spectacular views. Privacy is ensured by a hinged flap that swiftly closes when so desired.

The official designation of the property is CB-890, because you can see the bee in all 8 rooms that measure 90mm in length.

It lies just outside my window, by some flower pots next to the wall (SE) It was populated every year, starting in early spring, with the holes sealed by May. The highest number of holes occupied must have been 5 or 6. Last year (2021) was the lowest so far with only 3 taken.

The tenants are solitary bees of various species, and there are, of course, various parasites that treacherously prey on their larvae.

This pretty cigar-looking structure is made by the leaf-cutter bee:

These are made by what I believe to be mason bees:

A whole row of cocoons has been killed by the larvae of the Carpet Beetle. They manage to break the cocoon, get inside and feed on the larva.

The life cycle is as follows: there is frenetic activity in early spring, when females find (or make) a hole in a vertical structure, usually wood, and fill it up with several mounds of pollen. The bee then lays an egg on each mound, separates them with little walls of mud and seals the entrance. The egg becomes a larva that feeds on the pollen and builds a cocoon in which the bee eventually develops. The following spring it chews through the cocoon, breaks the mud wall and flies out.

Females are about half the size of males and the smaller cocoons are always closest to the entrance, as females hatch first. The larger cocoons are the males that hatch last. A dead female near the front can mean the dearth of all cocoons, as sometimes the newly hatched bee does not have the strength to chew through several separations.


Sunspots AR2936, AR2937 and friends, the first being amongst the largest of young solar cycle 25 and which hurled a coronal mass ejection towards Earth in the early hours of January 30th, bound to reach us February 1st or 2nd.

AR2936 has multiple dark cores larger than Earth, and the entire group stretches more than 100,000 km across the surface of the sun. That’s about 8 Earths one next to each other, or a little less than a quarter of the way to the Moon (which is 30 earths away, roughly).

Beautiful footage from SOHO showing the CME that is expected spark auroras at mid-Northern latitudes: