Wednesday, April 6, 2005

New Product Announcement

At least, I am starting to advertise the new product on

For those of you who aren't amateur astronomers, let me explain what a "toe saver" is. Most equatorial telescope mounts (which allow you to track astronomical objects as they slowly move across the night sky) are a style known as a "German Equatorial Mount." These have two axes: one points at the celestial pole, and is known as the polar axis. To track objects across the sky, the mount rotates on the polar axis at one revolution per day. (Is it running? Or not? Be patient, and you will eventually see it move.) The other axis is at a right angle, and is known as the declination axis. (Here's an example, in case my text isn't painting you a picture.)

At one end of the declination axis is the telescope; at the other end is a counterweight. The counterweight needs to be adjustable as to location on the axis, so they are usually held in place by set screw or thumbscrew. What happens if, as the shaft cools, the screw releases? The counterweight slides down the shaft, and perhaps lands on your toe. Hence "toe saver."

But the real damage isn't to your toe. It is that now your telescope has nothing to counterbalance it. Like a runaway locomotive, or a government with only one branch of government, but much more quickly, it lurches out of control, perhaps smashing itself against the mount. Your toe will heal; the telescope will not.

Anyway, "toe saver" screws have become common on serious (and even pretty unserious) German equatorial mounts in the last few years. If you have to disassemble your mount with any frequency, such as when moving it, you need to unscrew the toe saver to remove the counterweight, and reinstall it when you are done. This is a mildly annoying task, since it can take 10-20 seconds to do, and it is very easy to lose the toe saver in the dark, especially because you are almost certainly going to drop it in grass.

What I am now selling is a quick release toe saver. It takes the place of the existing toe saver for Losmandy mounts, but uses a quick release pin that comes out in less than a second. The pin also has a lanyard loop on it, so that you can tie it to the mount, and be sure that it won't get lost.

Now, if only the marketplace decides to reward my brillance with some orders....

UPDATE: Well, three hours elapsed, and I have enough orders that I have to order up more parts tomorrow. (Okay, I didn't build a huge inventory.)

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