The latest improvement in the observatory is lighting. I needed something that was low power, needed to be red, needed to be white, preferably dimmable, preferably remote control. There didn’t seem to be anything in the local shops, but I found an LED solution on ebay costing a whole $18.90. At that price I’d have to give it a go!
White light is needed so I can see notes, find computer cables etc. when I’m not visually observing. A low power red light is needed when I’m visually observing so as to try and preserve my dark adaption.
Here is the ebay image of what you get:
There is a 12v controller (there are versions with mains supplies), a 5M reel of LED’s arranged as Red Green Blue Red Green etc., and an IR remote control. There are 60 LEDs per meter, and they are type 3528 which are the dimmest I could find on ebay. This set are waterproof and the tape is backed with some double sided tape.
These LEDs are a bit to bright to look at directly, plus you see the colours rather than white light when you look directly so I cut a piece of angled plastic into the wall and used the double sided tape on the LEDs to stick them to the top of it. That was the light shines down, but none of it directly into my eyes. Using the remote control I can change the brightness, colour, and even activate strobing and fading light sequences (no there is no possible astronomical use for those other settings! see the end of the video below anyway!). And it’s all powered from the same bench power supply that runs the scope and dew heater.
Heres a quick video showing how it looks:
It works very well. Reading and writing notes is fine with the while light, and also the red at high brightness.
The only downside is that even on the low setting the 100 red LEDs are still a bit bright for ideal dark adaption. My red astronomy LED torch has 2 red LEDs on a dimmer for example. That’s not such a big issue for me – the light pollution and direct streetlights mean that I don’t ever really get dark adapted anyway. I can also turn them on and off via the remote, and use my trusty old red astronomy light 🙂