Now that I have had the Sky Commanders for a couple of weeks, I have rectified all the shortcomings of the stalk I had made for it, and I also made a lead to connect it to my Dewbuster. In addition to powering and controlling heater strips, it also has 12-volt outlets to connect other devices that require battery power, such as the Sky Commander computer unit. That way I can power it with my 12-volt, 18 Amp-hour battery and doing so will also enable the built in heater to function as well. Even with the heater on, the Sky Commanders use only 130 milliamps of current, far less than any heater strip and hence it places little demand on the battery. That allows it to work in cold temperatures, as low as -25 degrees Celsius, colder than I would normally ever be exposed to here on the Gulf Coast. LCD displays get sluggish in cold temperatures, and therefore there is a heater inside the computer unit that will enable it to function even during cold winter nights. That feature is going to come in handy since winter is the only time of year where I can reasonably expect clear and dark skies. Summers are usually very murky and cloudy in this region of the world.
I also bought some knobs from McMaster-Carr, a company that offers just about any sort of fastener you can imagine. Four of them were used to make custom threaded bolt and knobs to secure the stalk to the rocker box side, and two are used to attach and detach the altitude encoder. When transporting the telescope I can now remove the computer, altitude encoder, encoder arm and the stalk to protect them from damage, then quickly re-attach them for use at a dark site or at home. I store the computer, altitude encoder and arm, and power lead in the case with the upper tube assembly because they are fragile and expensive too to replace.
I am greatly impressed with the performance of the Sky Commanders on my 15-inch truss-tube Dobsonian. I have located very tiny planetary nebulae that are nearly stellar and only identifiable because they have a peculiar blue or greenish color with them. When I entered these objects into the computer and slewed the telescope to the location indicated by the computer, they were either in the field of view or just outside of it, at 227X or even higher. Even at 425X object appeared in the field of view. Unfortunately, my plans to try them out at a darker site than my driveway fell through once again due to the sudden appearance of thunderstorms. I was hoping especially to get a look at the galaxy NGC-5611 in Bootes, which has a type 1A supernova underway in it at this time. It's at about 13th magnitude and visible to an 8-inch telescope, but Bootes and the galaxy are going to soon be lost in the glare of the Sun. The chance to try them out under darker skies that will have to wait until October at the earliest, this year more than half the time weather made driving to the club's site at the airstrip futile because of wind, clouds and rain. Nevertheless I did observe a lot of star clusters and planetary nebulae from home, and the planets Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.