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London_David

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About London_David

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  1. Thanks Martin. As soon as I get something decent I'll post it as an example. Annoyingly there's been no clear nights for a while here. The best I've had recently has been some (good) glimpses of Jupiter in between clouds on the 8mm Hyperion. To add to the complications, we're almost into astronomical twilight season in London. I don't know how much that will actually hinder EEA, since there's so much light pollution anyway, but I do get the feeling that my opportunities to explore the Virgo galaxies this year are dwindling.
  2. Hi Ronin, just to clarify -- You could find that Skysafari uses magnetic North The SkySafari app has no sense of direction in this system. It only shows the model of the sky that the mount is using. The first part is aligning the mount to the model, so I could physically move the mount anywhere and SkySafari would never know. But the model in sky safari and the mount would match. Because the OTA and the mount are independant I cannot really see where the mount polar alignment is done. ... The section at the end "Align the OTA in RA, and correct for inaccuracy. " seems to be centering the object in the scope, there appears nothing to sync the mount to the position. As I understand it, the alignment happens in RA mainly when I place the tripod down in the correct orientation, then accuracy increased when I move the mount with the knobs to point at an object I know the location of in the sky. I do not slew or unclutch, I move the mount to align the mount with the model of the sky the mount has in the computer. In Dec, alignment happens mainly when I level the OTA at the horizon pointing north using the mount adjustment. Then accuracy increased when centering on an object, similarly this is physically moving the mount to align it with the computer model the mount is using. It's the reverse of a "normal" pocedure: polar align the mount first, then star align. Here, I align the star model with the mount, then I align the mount and it's model to the real world. You could indeed do most of this without the ota off, but with the ota and the inclinometer, it is easier to get a reading further away from the fulcrum. I don't think you could fine tune as close since I'm not using the polar scope. @Cosmic Geoff -- actually I've had some great views out of the window, and I'm in zone 2 London so light pollution is a pain too! I'm most interested in EEA for DSOs. It is best when you let the room cool and, yes I have to wait for the sky to come around... but it forces me to observe deep into the area I can see. And, dare I say it, an edge of excitement since if I don't get something right, I might miss it for the night I am most interested in galaxies, but the moon and Jupiter also wander past the window too. I do get out of my home observatory once or twice a month to local societies observation meetings since the setup is small and portable. But I'd rather try to see stuff if the clouds suddenly clear just taking 20 minutes to set up in the back than have to wait for a society meeting and hoping for good weather! @Juicy6-- thanks -- I read about Darv ages ago but haven't tried it. Totally forgot about it. Also -- I have the inclinometer and the dovetail already -- excellent idea! I will see how much faster this is, roughing it without the ota, then switching to Darv for accuracy.
  3. Hahaha. I don't mean to blame Microsoft for all my problems. I will remove the double emphasis if that's the impression it gives. Either way my Microsoft problems were largely OS setup based. I don't want to get into a Mac/PC discussion, but it was less drivers and more things like random updates, or the way Edge search almost gave me a virus. Yes it was user error, but Bing shouldn't put virus filled software at the top of paid search results! Still, my fault I downloaded the wrong thing. I have also since learned how to manage automatic updates (essential if you have no monitor other than RDP). Or something I still haven't worked out: why wifi scope only seems to work properly launching from the desktop. I like a lot about Windows 10 - and the RDP is great for ease of use. If you're comfortable and experienced with Windows 10 then your experience may be a lot easier than mine. But I haven't used windows regularly since Windows 7, so there was a lot to catch up on. This has no bearing on whether or not Windows is a good operating system or not. It's just that in my experience it was that it has been fiddly to get it set up working smoothly. Someone else may or my not. I was not intending to unfairly blame Microsoft.
  4. I thought I’d do an update on the equipment I purchased after a few weeks of ownership. The short version is: it's been great. I’ve been very happy with everything and it’s been lots of fun putting everything together and getting stuff working. The longer version is the rest of this post, which is a bit of a debrief. I’m going to go through everything in some detail for anyone that is interested in a similar setup. Basically this is the post I was looking for when I started researching what to buy, so it will be a long one! As I said in my first post in this thread my priority was to build the most lightweight, portable solution for seeing DSO's within a certain size bracket. What fits your needs is quite personal, so someone else will have different priorities. Everything is a tradeoff. So first I'll describe my experience on this set up, then the specifics of what I bought. The EEA Experience with this Equipment To navigate around the sky and control the mount I use SkySafari Pro native on the iPad. This is a real pleasure to use and is a night and day compared to any handset. I even prefer it to laptop control since it feels snappier and more immediate when you are exploring around or star hopping with the GoTo. Now it even has the Celestron voice narration tours built in, if you’re into that kind of thing. Sky Safari on iOS connects to the Compute Stick using WiFiScope, which then talks to the scope using EQMOD. I use MS Remote Desktop (standard Windows 10 RDP) on the iPad to control the Compute Stick - it essentially turns the iPad into a Surface Pro (with a fraction of lag that is barely noticeable for most use. I wouldn’t try and play an FPS over RDP though…). When at home I sometimes use my laptop in the same way. For viewing I use SharpCap (and sometimes FireCap for planets) on the Compute Stick. This software is not nearly as slick as Starlight Live but it's pretty good. I decided that I wanted to go with the low noise ASI290 over the Lodestar. I chose better specs over ease of use. SharpCap is good though and has a lot of great features. I’ve tried AstroLive USB a few times, but it doesn’t format to the screen properly over RDP. FireCap on the other hand, reads that it’s on an iPad retina and makes everything super small. It looks crisp and is pretty much useable, but you need decent eyesight and a stylus! FireCap is easier on a laptop. SharpCap has some issues on touchscreen RDP in terms of interface too. Mainly it’s okay though. I tested it with an iPad Pro with a Pen and that was much easier. Finger control is a bit less precise than the mouse it was designed for and there is a technique to getting it right. You do sometimes fight with the controls, but it’s not too bad. Occasionally I use the laptop at home for SharpCap control. iPad Pro is very good though! Images are recorded to an microSD Card in the Compute Stick that I can then physically remove and move files to my Mac for later processing or archiving to HDD. Sometimes I just copy images to a USB stick which saves fiddling around with the tiny microSD card. Before Sky Safari I attempted to use Starry Night Pro via the iPad on the Compute stick for mount control, but it’s too laggy and mouse oriented to be useful. It doesn’t work well with touch at all. I had similar issues with Stellarium, though it was better. Anyway — native Sky Safari Pro on the iPad is really great for touchscreen mount control. Indeed -- if there’s one thing I'd recommend -- I’ve found it’s really great fun to explore the sky using Sky Safari on iPad/iPhone to control the mount. It's the best mount control I've used. Once you’ve bought the app it’s free to connect using WiFiScope and EQMod on your PC. You could alternatively purchase SkyFi or SkyBT from Simulation Curriculum. I’ve used the official SkyWire and the EQMod based WiFiScope, and wireless is much easier and more fun. I use a small gamepad to move the mount manually. Touchscreen control for direct movement is annoying and laggy on any of the multiple bits of software I tried. So in keeping with everything else I looked for the smallest gamepad I could find and came up with the 8BitDo Zero. This is a tiny but functional (8cm x 3.5cm x 0.5cm) gamepad that can control the mount through ASCOMPAD. I use the shoulder buttons to increase and decrease slew speed and the direction pad to move the mount itself. Then I have buttons for sidereal tracking, lunar tracking, spiral scan, align, unpark and emergency stop. You can move the scope using the gamepad and see the scope crosshairs move on Sky Safari. So it’s super easy to get around, even without using goto. The live updating crosshairs on the screen in Sky Safari are one simple thing that makes it particularly easy to move an equatorial mount in the right direction. For quick keeping-a-record-of-EEA-observation and sharing snaps I just take screenshots on the iPad of SharpCap and of Sky Safari (pressing power button and home). That shares quick note pictures easily across devices. In terms of mobility, it all fits into a small backpack, and a hold-all for the OTA. It takes exactly 15 minutes to be unpacked and set up for polar alignment. Breakdown and pack is just under 10 minutes. Polar alignment takes as long as you want it to… My biggest issue has been with polar alignment. Since I can't see Polaris I had to figure out another way to set up each night. I have gone into detail in another thread here: Equipment List Core - Skywatcher Explorer 150PDS - This was the largest aperture for the weight class I could deal with. - EQ 3 Pro - This is a great portable mount — the smallest, easily packable one I could find. - ZWO ASI290 - 2MP and very low noise. - Low noise allows for short exposure stacking. This is a very interesting thread: - Intel Compute Stick STK2m3W64CC - That’s the Core m3-6Y30, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB eMMC, Intel HD Graphics 515 - I know Rob in this thread said that the Atom was fast enough, but I watched some clips on youtube comparing the m3 and the Atom and I up-sold myself because of the general system speed. I'm sure the Atom is fine for most use -- and cheaper. - Also, I went for the m3 because I wanted a powered pass through USB-C hub. Unfortunately that didn’t work. The m3 is very flaky in terms of power and USB plugs. - iPad - This is the main control interface. I leave the SynScan hand control at home. - Not going to lie, but the iPad is a bit fiddly with fingers only. I’m mainly using a regular iPad but the iPad Pro is the way to go. I tried it using my iPad Pro from work and the experience was much better with the pen, because it’s designed for the small button precision control of a mouse. - 8Bitdo Zero Bluetooth Wireless Controller - This is my direct mount control interface because often just pressing a real button is better! - It’s very small and wireless and you can keep it in your pocket or let it dangle from your wrist. - There are more reliable gamepad controllers (official Xbox and PS4 to star with!) but they are all much bigger. I went for small size and portability above all. - The Bluetooth is a little flaky but I think it is to do with charge, and connection dropouts. It is generally reliable within bounds. - Make sure you turn on the PC first. Then turn on the pad using right shoulder and start together for a couple of seconds. It should auto-connect if the PC had paired before. If not, pair on windows. Turn off by just pressing start. Don't walk too far away to loose the Bluetooth connection or it will drop and get confused. You may have to remove the device and re-pair, as if for the first time. - I think I was confusing it by trying to pair each time, I don't know. It seems to work fine if I'm careful about not dropping the connection. - The controller mapping is a little odd to set up since ASCOMPAD seems to read the buttons differently. I cleared the ASCOMPAD preferences and only used the main EQASCOM settings window. - You can of course redefine the keys, though I couldn't find a way to redefine the joypad because ASCOMPAD sees the direction pad as a joystick not separate keys like on the XBox or PS4 controllers. - For a non mobile setup the official controllers are the best made controllers, and easily run on PC. Xbox using standard windows drivers or DS4 on the free DS4 PC drivers. - I had no flaky Bluetooth, or key mapping stuff using the PS4 Dual Shock 4. It was rock solid. - TPLink 5Ghz Wifi Hub - This was the most frustrating part of the experience and a thing to note for any computer user: USB 3.0 and 2.5Ghz WiFi interfere. - This isn't a compute stick issue but a hardware specification issue. Intel have a paper about it here (http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/io/universal-serial-bus/usb3-frequency-interference-paper.html). - If you are using any USB 3.0 devices (camera, HDD, camera) with a hub or wires that are not shielded enough you must use the 5Ghz wifi band to avoid interference. - I know people have had issues on the Atom Compute Stick but I though I might be ok on the m3. I was -- if I didn't use a hub. Add in the hub and it was too flaky to use. I wasted a few nights just trying to figure out why my RDP connection was dropping signal while getting my camera working. At first I thought it was a hub bandwidth issue but I narrowed it down. The hub generates interference -- is my guess. On reading the intel paper it's probably too small to be shielded properly. A more shielded hub may be okay, but I am happy with this tiny one, even if I need an extra WiFi point in the field (at home I can use my home network which is 5Ghz anyway) and don't want to purchase yet another USB hub. - Bottom line is to RDP in over wifi you need to use 5Ghz. Ad hoc networks are turned off on Windows 10 and the network adaptor on the compute stick doesn't want to allow hosted networks, preventing command line launching of an ad hoc network. There's probably a way to fix this and I might at a later date but I got bored wrestling with windows. This means I needed to set up a separate wifi hub to connect the iPad and the compute stick on the same network. Seems crazy to me but that's the only rock solid way I've been able to connect if I want to use the camera. - You can use any network connection for RDP of course: so long as your main computer and your remote computer are on the same network RDP is easy. - Since I am focused on being mobile, I have the compute stick set to automatically WiFi connect to my TPLink and my iPhone, nothing else. Since there is no monitor except over RDP if it connects to something else I’d never be able to see anything because I couldn’t connect in. The TP link is primary and the iPhone is the backup in case something happens. I know I will always have my iPhone with me, and the iPhone personal hotspot is totally reliable I will always be able to get in. Power - Quick Charge 3.0 RAVPower Portable Charger 20100mAh - I bought this because of the USB-C power, which I wanted to plug into a USB-C powered USB hub. The idea was to cut down on cables using USB-C passthrough. Unfortunately, the Compute Stick is a little flaky with power needs. I haven’t quite got to the bottom of it, but USB-C wouldn’t power the Compute Stick and an inline hub (despite that is what it is supposed to do!). - But -- it turns out however, the Compute Stick is very happy using QuickCharge 3. (Using a standard USB to USB-C cable). - The RAVPower can also power the mini USB 3.0 hub. So unfortunately an extra (small) wire but not a deal breaker. - I can probably get 8 hours out of the compute stick and camera with this battery. - All that said, there's noting particularly special about this battery -- the important thing is the Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 to supply the Compute Stick. - Poweradd Pilot Pro2 23000mAh (12V DC out) - This is for the mount mainly. - When needed I also plug in the 5Ghz nano WiFi hub. - I occasionally charge my iPhone with it too. - I found it actually to be quite a small rage of lithium ion batteries at 12V DC. This was the best bang for buck for me. It was similar in price to the TS 10Ah one, and more than double the capacity. I can get about 12+ hours mount control out of this, and that’s with quite a lot of slewing. Software - Sky Safari Pro for iOS - Makes mount control really easy and fun - WiFi Scope - Wirelessly connect (over your standard WiFi network) the Sky Safari on iOS with the Compute Stuck ASCOM control. - EQMOD / EQASCOM, using ASCOMPAD - SharpCap - For viewing almost everything. - FireCap - For video of planets. - It's a bit too frustrating to use on the iPad though it makes all the text and buttons super small. You really need a mouse. - It does work though, and I have successfully taken planetary videos which are the best representation of what you see looking through the eyepiece. Additional - 28mm Skykwatcher Plossl Eyepeice - Comes with the 150PDS. - Nice enough wide view eyepiece, I have no basis of judgement on quality. I've not used it much. - 8mm Baader Hyperion Eyepiece - Even though I’m most interested in imaging, I like checking things out on visual. - I got this because it was flexible, changing magnification. - I also like that I can stick the camera on it and experiment with the adjustment rings as well as use it for visual. - I've had some great views of Jupiter through it when I've been unsuccessful with the DSOs. - MicroSD Memory Card for storage on the Compute Stick - For storage of images. The internal drive on the Stick is only 64Gb. - It allows me to transfer images to another computer very easily. - Anker 4-Port Ultra-Slim USB 3.0 Data Hub with 10W Power Adapter / USB Wall Charger Included - The USB-C pass-through power hub I tried didn’t work, so I switched to this. This is reliable, even if it adds an extra wire to the battery. - Rii K28C 2.4Ghz Mini Wireless Keyboard, Backlit - Sometimes you just need a keyboard. This one is responsive, reliable, has a touchpad and is backlit. I’ve tried a lot of small keyboards over the years for HTPC and this is one of the best. - Most of the time, I leave this at home. iPad RDP good enough. - Digi-Pas DWL 80 Pro 0.05 Degree Mini Pocket-Size Digital Level/ Angle Gauge/ Protractor/ Inclinometer - For polar alignement. - They say this is 0.05 degree accurate. I don’t know if its’ true, but it’s the most accurate inclinometer I could find without being ridiculously expensive. - Bahtnov Mask - This is a great invention! Utterly essential. Makes focusing easy. - I don’t understand how anyone got anything in focus before? - Lynx Astro EQMOD cable - Compute Stick to SynScan mount control. Good quality thick cable, nicely finished. - Anker PowerLine USB-C to USB 3.0 - RAVPower to Compute Stick - USB 3 cable - Compute stick hub to ASI290 - RA/DEC/Control Mount Cables - These came with the mount, and connect the motors and the control unit. - Collimation cap - I was tempted to buy a fancy laser thing, or a nice Chesshire one, but I figured I’d start simple and crucially -- small. It was cheap too. - I’ve found it easy to collimate using this on the 150pds. Put the cap on he eyepiece, point the scope at a bright wall (or put wither paper over the front and shine a torch on it), get the circles inside arch other. - 3M Command Hanging Strips - Everything snaps onto the tripod legs using these 3M velcro like strips: mount controller, batteries, wifi hub, stick... etc. Everything. Some small additional velcro cable ties tidy any dangling cables. The only cable is from the camera on the OTA to the USB hub. - I have 2 strips on each leg, and all the elements stick on and off with these, one strip on the mount, one on the element. Bags - Veevan Portable Electronic Accessories Organizer Travel Carry Case(Grey) - Everything except the eyepieces, mount and OTA fits in here — L26 x W20 x H9 cm - Kaboodle and Co Neoprene Lens bags for the camera and eyepieces - These are nice soft padded camera lens bags. - I keep the ASI290, filter wheel and eyepieces in these. - Nike SB RPM Backpack (http://m.nike.com/gb/en_gb/pd/sb-rpm-skateboarding-backpack/pid-10883087/pgid-10958155) - Nicer than needed but it fits the mount and electronics perfectly, has lots of pockets and is comfortable. - Best of all: you can strap the mount tripod onto the back using the velcro straps. - It fits a large iPad or a laptop too. - Skypak 90L folding travel bag black - This takes the OTA easily, I wrap it in padding, since the bag is super thin. - It folds away into a small square pack about the size of a small vinyl record. I also have the two chargers at home for the two batteries. But they never come into the field. Everything fits into the back pack, except the OTA which goes in the hold-all. Everything can easily be carried by one person. Finally, I haven't purchased these yet, but I will as a reward for getting a galaxy image on screen that isn't smudgy. - ZWO 5 Space Filter Wheel - Baader LRGBC Ha Filters Conclusion In terms of ease of use, the mount has been great so far, for visual it has already been excellent, for imaging the proof is still to come. The initial results are very promising though. I will admit the computer control side has been fiddly to figure out. Various things didn’t like talking to each other. I blame a combination of cutting edge tech, unusual voltages, home brew software and a lot of Microsoft. However, once things were figured out, the experience is very good. My biggest issue has been polar alignment at home because of my restricted view. I’ve not managed to snap great galaxy images to compare with anything usually posted here on SGL (I will post one when I at least get something crisp). This is user error and lack of time rather than equipment issues. Jupiter images seem about par for this kind of setup. On the other hand, I have seen several galaxies - smudgy -- almost like visual viewing -- but most definitely there. I've tracked along Markarians Chain. I've seen Virgo A (though not the relativistic jet... yet -- this is one of my big initial goals). All of which is more than I thought I would ever do in Zone 2 London. I’ve also had some great views of Jupiter and the moon. There's lots to explore, and too much cloud! So I'm very pleased so far and look forward to exploring the deep sky! I hope this detailed breakdown is helpful to someone thinking of doing something similar.
  5. Is there a similar linear/non-linear option on SharpCap for limiting overexpose of the core?
  6. I recently purchase my first EQ setup. And as you might guess... my biggest issue has been polar alignment. I have some big constraints, but I've worked out a solution. The question is: Does anyone have any suggestions for improvements in set up speed or accuracy, given the constraints of: no pole star and only 15 degrees of sky (pointing south)? Why the constraints? I’ve not got an optimal location. That's putting it mildly. My observatory is the bathroom... and my dome opening: the bathroom window. I can only see a thin sliver of the sky, about 15 degrees of sky looking south. So, no pole star and it rules out easy software alignment like Alignmaster. Also, no wide view for two star alignment for the GoTo afterwards. After much searching the internet I figured I could align the mount using an inclinometer as you would for solar observing. I'll go into detail on what I do to see if there's something I could improve. Before you start know your observing lattitude. Your phone gps is okay, I think dropping a pin on Google maps is better, because phones can sometimes give inexplicable readings if they don't get a good signal. Also, the inclinometer I use is rated to 0.05 degrees (DigiPas DWL80Pro £35 on Amazon). This is a slightly modified version of (https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/416367-daytime-polar-alignment/), and learning stuff from this video (https://youtu.be/rPdQ9pU9GJA) and this one (https://youtu.be/AAB9nom4Ke0). I may also have modified it for the worse so please correct errors or redundant steps. Here’s what I do: - Set up and roughly align the mount and North using a compass. - On the EQ3, one tripod leg is marked N and you just point that north. - Precise is great because it makes things quicker, but it doesn’t matter too much at the moment — you only need to be precise enough to be able to compensate later with the RA knobs. - The easiest is to figure out the west-east axis and put the back two tripod legs on it. - iPhone compass is fine. - Make sure the compass is set for true north, not magnetic! - Level the mount using the spirit bubble on the tripod. - I double check the finder scope is pointing in line with the OTA using any bright object. Important for later. - Register the OTA position to the mount controller, (this will mean the alignment works even if your mount isn't properly levelled, or starting in the home position). - North/South register - Move the mount to point North exactly north on the horizon - I use SkySafari and move the reticule until it points exactly north. - I've set up a UserDefined mount park on EQMod for quick goto then tweak the last fractions using slew controls. - The OTA should be horizontal on the west side: parallel to the ground pointing directly north at the horizon. - The counterweight should be horizontal: parallel to the ground along the West-East axis. - Release the relevant clutch and level the counterweight arm using the inclinometer (you will get the best reading with the level instrument as far away from the mount fulcrum as you can). - West/East register - Move the OTA to point exactly West on the horizon. - I use SkySafari and move the reticule until it points exactly west. - I use the UserDefined mount park again on EQMod then tweak. - The counterweight arm should be vertical at an angle of the arm at about 90 degrees minus your latitude. The arm will be lining up north-south. - The OTA should be horizontal: parallel to the ground pointing west. - Release the relevant clutch and level the OTA using the inclinometer. - Align the OTA in Dec - Point the OTA exactly north at the horizon. - I use SkySafari and move the reticule until it points exactly north. - As before I use the UserDefined mount park on EQMod for quick goto, then tweak until perfect. - Again, The OTA should be horizontal on the west side pointing north, with the counterweight arm parallel to the ground on the east side. - I use the park position and then slew the reticule on SkySafari to make sure it's lines up with the mounts model. - Level the OTA -- this time using the Declination polar alignment bolts. - Do not release the clutches. - Align the OTA in RA, and correct for inaccuracy. - Turn on sidereal tracking. - Slew to any bright object you can see. - Do not de-clutch the scope. - Center your bright object in your finderscope eyepiece using only the physical RA polar alignment knobs. Dec should be close to correct. - Ideally you will only be adjusting RA, but you will probably want to tweak Dec a little too. - For final tweaking, centre it using the polar adjustment knobs in your highest power eyepiece too. - Focus using the Bahtnov on the bright object (though it could be any star) using the ASI290 on the screen. - If this is not good enough then drift polar align using the camera which has a good explanation of what to do here: https://www.cloudynights.com/articles/cat/articles/darv-drift-alignment-by-robert-vice-r2760 - Here too: It seems not many people outside of solar observing do this - or at least if they do they don't talk about it! This procedure uses the fact that the equatorial mount has be exactly level to point exactly to the West or South cardinal point on the horizon. From that you can get your mount and sky model aligned, then you can align it to the sky. It took me quite some time to figure this out, because instructions I found didn't quite seem to match my setup - nor really explain why something was happening. Hence why this is a little over explained. As a beginner I was very unsure about a lot of things that now seem obvious. I've found this a very easy way to polar align without going near a polar scope or Polaris. Visual is great with the procedure, now I'd like to tweak to see if there's a way to get longer exposures without a drift align, i.e. over 30 seconds on an f5 Skywatcher 150pds which is 750mm with an ASI290. Also, since I’ve not really got the space to properly align the scope for the GoTo to work as well as I’d like, this works well enough for small goto jumps after the initial align. EQMOD software can build up a sky model with the jumps and I find it accurate enough within my viewing window. This is basically star hopping with GoTo: align, star-hop, align, star-hop, align. It’s actually quite a fun way to get around and is relatively accurate straight off the bat, especially since I’m only looking at a small part of the sky. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to improve speed or accuracy in this procedure, within the given constraints?
  7. I have one too (though I went for the Core m3 version for a bit more grunt and snappier windows experience) and it has been great. I love it -- I use it for both imaging and mount control using eqmod. I Remote Desktop in from my iPad or laptop so I have wireless control over the mount and camera on the touchscreen. Even if I'm using my laptop, I almost always still use the iPad for mount control. The reason for this is Sky Safari on the iPad. It's the best thing I have found to control the mount. All you need is to have the iPad and the stick on he same wifi network and then connect through a free utility called wifiscope running on the stick (assuming your stick is controlling your mount). The wireless touchscreen control of Sky Safari is a really great experience. Using the stick you don't need to purchase the large and expensive official box from simulation simulacrum, avoiding more stuck on the mount. It makes star hopping and exploring using goto really fun. Thr one thing to note is that 2.4GHz wifi band interferes with USB3. This isn't a compute stick issue but a general technology specification one. However the compute stick is particularly susceptible due to its size. Basically I found that as soon as I tried using a USB 3 hub the 2.4 wifi became completely unreliabe. Curiously it was sometimes okay plugging the usb3 directly in. But only sometimes. In the end I dropped using 2.4 all together and use 5ghz exclusively and I've had no issues. The other great thing is that you can make it super portable and power it from a small lithium ion battery pack. It's a little demanding on the voltage so you need to be careful about what you buy, but for the m3 if you use a battery with Qualcomm quickcharge 3 USB power it is completely stable. For the atom I think pretty much most 2.4A USB outputs are good.
  8. That sounds very good with the Compute Stick. Do you need to tweak anything? I was skeptical with the 2Gb Atom and was tempted to go for something like this (Bben Z8300 4GB, 64GB Mini Desktop Computer or the MINIX Z83-4 with similar specs) a bit larger but I wondered if they'd be more reliable, since there seemed to be some issues with the compute stick. I read AstroJedi's post that said he needed to turn off some of the software that is pre-installed. Did you have any issues there, or with the USB 3 and ASI camera, or with the WiFi/USB 3 connection? I read there were issues there too. The other question I had was -- do you use a touchscreen to remote desktop in? I was planning to do that but wondered if SharpCap and other software might not have interfaces that were not that useable on a touch screen.
  9. Thanks again for all the help. @Martin Meredith - Bahtinov mask arrived this morning! And after playing with focus last night I think I'll go for the parfocal Baader filters, rather than introduce extra complications. I'll work through those extra tweaks! Thanks for all your help. I'll post the first galaxy pic I get back here. @Robrj and @HiloDon -- thanks for the camera notes. Also thanks to @Astrojedi who hasn't posted in this thread but has posted lots of useful interesting stuff, including a lot with the ASI Rob suggested which convinced me that it was the best match to take a chance on for mono DSO observing. Plus, if the DSO's prove too difficult to see where I am, the camera should be good for lunar, and in the future I figure it will be a decent guidecam if I decide to upgrade to some as yet unannounced zero noise super sensitive camera. @shirva to keep things light for portable power, I'm looking at one of these (https://www.firstlightoptics.com/batteries-powerpacks/tracer-12v-10ah-lithium-polymer-battery-pack.html) or (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00YP823NA/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A3KPCAN4ISC0PS) or (http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p5991_TS-Optics-10000-mAh-ultra-flat-Powerbank-for-CCD--mounts--mobile-phone-----.html) for the EQ3 rather than a lead-acid battery. Also -- it should power any other accessories (i.e. computer and camera). I need to figure out the power consumption of the mount first for judging how long they'll run for per Ah. So I tried out the new equipment on the last two nights which have been clear and... I can't see Polaris so I've had some trouble aligning, I'm working on some daytime alignment methods, I just haven't figured them out yet with the Synscan GoTo operation. But it was getting late. I saw Jupiter coming across so, I manually pointed at Jupiter looked visually. It looked like a good sized disc in the 24mm eyepiece, though it was very bright and I couldn't see much detail, which also made the 4 moons harder to see, but it was quite satisfying relative to the 10x50 binoculars I have. I switched out the eyepiece to the ASI -- but before it was set up working properly on the computer, heavy haze set in and all I got in the end was a very fuzzy out of focus smudge... There will be other clear nights though. Other than alignment, setting up and breaking down has been fast and easy. The Synscan interfaces with my Mac and PC with no trouble, though the ASI seems to have some teething issues runing to Firecapture through Parallels (I'm sure that a computer setting). I'm also tempted to switch to an Intel Compute Stick like AstroJedi for a super compact setup, though I'm surprised the Atom chip is powerful enough to stack efficiently. Either way, I'm going to get everything running smoothly before adding a new computer... AstroLive USB seems to work smoothly enough on OS X, though I've obviously not tried it much over and above checking to see if frames were coming in and stacking. I also had a copy of Starry Night Pro which interfaces with the Synscan nicely on both Mac and PC. It's quite fun to use that to explore objects and point the telescope. As it is the set up is very (for an equatorial mount) light and easily portable. The mount breaks down to a very compact size and you could easily cary it in a small tote bag or backpack (minus the legs, which are also light). Everything else fits in a small shoebox. The OTA I'm hopeful will fit into a padded Manfrotto tripod carry case I have, but I haven't tested that yet. This should be a great portable rig which is quick to move and set up. Once I figure this Polar alignment out... Overall -- on first impressions -- I'm very pleased with everything, and looking forward to tracking down some interesting things!
  10. Thanks to everyone for the help, it was all very useful. I have purchased a 150pds with the EQ3Pro GoTo mount. After a bit more digging (thank you for the suggestion @Robrj ) I've also purchased an ASI290 mono and filter wheel. Astrojedi's results convinced me... I'm very interested to see what results I get. There has been a surprising amount of skepticism in person about short subs and using cameras like the Lodestar for galaxies... And heaven forbid a CMOS! camera for anything other than planetary imaging. I was tempted by the zwo electronic filter wheel but I decided I'd get setup first and make sure the 290 can do what I want before spending more. Also if the whole thing is a wash out and I can't image or see anything... then the 290 will be pretty decent for the moon anyway which is my second interest after galaxy's. What else... Filters. I was going to buy the Baader CCD LRGB set but the guy in the store said the ZWOs would be good enough and less than half the price. I appreciate that he was trying to save me money but... My priority is the the Baader 7nm Hii filter and that won't be parfocal with the ZWO. What gave me pause was that I could buy an auto focuser for less than the additional cost of the Baader CCD filters over the ZWO. And actually... just how par-focal are filters even from the same set, moving any glass in an optical system tends to make you want to double check focus. Are the Baader or ZWO just as good on my setup? Will it have a noticeable effect on exposure time or image quality? And can anyone recommend an auto focuser for the 150pds? I assume, also, that the 7nm is recommended over the 35nm? Is there a reason to get the 35nm? How much will the 7nm extend my Are there other things I should be getting (someone mentioned bobs knobs in a post, flocking too)? Should I bother with a light pollution filter, if I'm going rgb hii and mainly mono plus hii. I assume it would help with the mono but I also assume it will mess with the IR signal. Are there any other bits and bobs I should now about that make things easier/better...? @martin -- In an earlier post you said that there might be some tweaks to a Newtonian you could recommend… what would you suggest!? Looking forward to first light! Thanks!
  11. I had a chance to go to a shop and see the equipment today in person, which made things a lot clearer and simpler. The following will probably be no surprise to many! The EQ3Pro is actually quite small and compact and I should have no issue with it in terms of space. It also essentially flat packs when you take it apart which makes it relatively easy to move around. The Celesteon AVX is a nice looking mount in person, though actually quite large, similar in size to the HEQ5. Ironically, the small StarWatcher Discovery mount I previously looked at is actually larger and more awkward than I expected because of the plastic arm shape. It's also not very attractive looking. In addition the 150PDS ota is smaller than I imagined too. All of which pretty convincingly puts me at onto an EQ3Pro (£399) with a: -- Skywatcher 150PDS f5 (£219, £618 total), or -- TS Optics 6" f4 Carbon Fiber (€849[~£745], £1144 total) I did look at the 80ED which is very compact. I could definitely just leave it out -- so zero set up time for visual which would be fun. It's a possibility, but I'm not sure I'll get out of it what I want. That said, if I upgrade later it would make a nice companion to an 8". I'm still unsure about the camera -- the I spoke to was very unconvinced about the Lodestar for imaging and short subs for DSO... but I'll trust the maths (and posts, descriptions and pictures here). I'll probably go for an ASI174 or Lodestar X2 mono. @Robrj -- The reason I previously dismissed the Ultrastar mono was @HiloDon saying he'd only recommend it for dark skies and fast optics -- and London definitely doesn't have dark skies...! As I said, I'm still unsure about the camera. I'll take another look.
  12. Hi Shirva, ED80... Well, that is a thought that would solve all the size problems but also… it’s what started them! It was meeting someone at an astronomy society last month with an ed80, StarAdventurer block and DSLR that got me looking to buy a telescope in the first place, hahaha! As it happens the next observing meet up of the society I'm a member of is next week -- I've kind of been on here researching in the meantime trying to educate myself to be able to ask decent questions. Last month I was really clueless and could only ask the most basic questions. I couldn't even tell you what equipment anyone had -- it all looked much the same!!! So 80ED refractor — I didn't think that size of refractor was going to show me the stuff I'm interested in and so decide against it. Please explain that I'm wrong since a smaller scope would make things easier… I’m most excited about exploring what's out there in terms of the science. I don't want to compete in astro photographer of the year but as I posted to Martin above, I’m more interested in trying to image interesting things - even if it’s a just tiny smudge of the edge of a galaxy. I want to discover things rather than make things look nice with a camera. Would I be able to do that with an 80mm refractor? If I could, to get it fast for EAA I think I’d be looking at something like: William Optics Star 71 II at f4.9 71/350mm which is £1274 AltairAstro Lightwave 72/432 f6 £399 Altair Astro Starwave 70/350mm f5 £999 Starwave 72EDR 72/432mm f6 £399 Skywatcher Esprit 80/400mm f5 £995 4kg TSOptics 71/347mm f4.9 €1199 2kg TSOptics 72/400mm f5.5 €675 2kg TSOptics 80/480 f6 and (379 f4.74 in reducer set up) £689 Knowing nothing of the quality of the optics (other than, you get what you pay for), on bang for buck the TS Optics or the Skywatcher look best to me there. I'm thinking 70mm unless I start thinking about reducers - as the 80 f4.74 TS comes coma corrected set up like that if you want, which is good. That would make sense for eaa. Definitely interested in any ideas about getting the f ratio down. Also with the refractor I probably could keep the thing mostly set up on a smaller tripod, reducing set up time to next to zero -- certainly for visual. However, my knowledge of refractor telescope quality is minimal and have no experience in comparing the effect of aperture between scopes. I know the resolution maths in arc seconds, but what that actually means... I'm not so sure. Just how much do you loose as you drop in aperture? Am I right in thinking (as with any lens), any given f stop (say f5) should expose as f5 and the FOV at 400 focal length will not too dissimilar (though a bit wider) to the newtonian 130… and so the image should come in at the same speed but less resolution.So… for any given camera it would essentially be like binning 2x2 since the resolution would drop on the smaller aperture, restricting to bigger less detailed objects. Maybe I’m not going to be able to explore that detail anyway due to light pollution and situation. Less resolution may be okay... I just don't know. What do you think? My impression that more photons are better, even with light pollution and not so great seeing. But I'd be very happy to be wrong! I've always assumed refractors were best for making beautiful wide pictures rather than exploring narrowband detail. Anyway... here's what I'm thinking a refractor set up would look like: TSOptics Ota f5.5 2kg, £589 IOptron Cube Pro mount £355 ZWO ASI 174 Camera 1kg £647 Which actually takes me back down to exactly my original guess at a budget and is physically much smaller... but can it do the job? Also with a sub 5kg payload I have other mounts that I could play with for visual, which would be cool. Going back to the EQ3 Pro... that was my original first choice too. But with the 130pds... I'm not going to lie -- I have a romantic notion of what a telescope looks like from pictures when I was young -- and it's a Newtonian on an equatorial mount. If I was going to go as big as the EQ3 I'd want to get the 130. You are right though -- I think I really need to see a couple of these in person to get a sense of size and weight. The counterweight on the equatorial scares me in terms of additional weight and space. Though I suppose easy to store. I did talk to someone a couple of weeks ago an astronomy shop selling cameras who tried to talk to me about astro imaging — and I’m sure he knew what he was talking about to a point — but he was quite dismissive when I was asking about short subs and said a bunch of stuff about CCDs and CMOS that I knew to be untrue… so I figured there might be better knowledge on line!!! Which definitely seems to be true! Thanks again, David
  13. Hi Martin, To answer you Quattro question: I need to carry it quite far — narrow stairs plus to and from a car. So “quite a pain” isn’t going to work for me… hahaha. Camera wise I'm definitely going mono. I'm quite excited about exploring what I can see in different bands. I think I mentioned before, there was a post you put up of a galaxy and then you overlayed the Ha image that showed up the star forming regions. That kind of thing is much more exciting to me than polishing up long exposures to look beautiful. Similarly, there is another post somewhere showing a relativistic jet from an active galactic nucleus which was a smudge on a b+w image. Again, that is the kind of thing I'm interested in trying to find, not make Hubble. I'm not expecting to see _that_ much with where I am, but I'm hopeful that I'll there will be some interesting stuff I can pick up with a camera. But if the Skywatcher mount is not really good enough on the 150pds for even under 30 subs, I see the following options: Less OTA... 130PDS + StarDiscovery is relatively cheap at less than £500 for both (ota+1kg takes you to ~5/6kg payload limit). Going cheap certainly appeals if I'm not getting exactly what I want right now. More mount... Jumping substantially to the very nice iOptron AZ Pro at £1299 with a 15kg payload capacity on the compact 6kg mount. This at least should do me if I get a Quattro or similar fasts 8" in the next 18 - 24 months. Plus I could double mount another scope on it when I have space. This is my main thought. A non GoTo Vixen mount -- the Porta 2 rated for 6.8kg. Add on a Train-n-Track which I imagine takes a bit of learning to use. It may be odd but it's a neat small solution (5.7kg inc tripod for £615). This is weirdly tempting because it’s so small -- and weird. A motorised Vixen AZ Polaris T style mount, tiny and pretty (8.2kg payload, £619+589+299). But expensive and with some unknowns on the motor GoTo controls. Not so sure about this right now. With EQ mounts, without seeing them in person I fear they all may be large - especially with the counterweight arm. That said, the EQ3 Pro is rated for 5kg imaging and 7kg for visual. The Celestron AVX looks really nice (£599), but again, probably too big…. but it’s half the price of the iOptron! Hahaha. More OTA... Spend more money on the OTA on a ZWO CF 153 (£650) or TS Optics 153 CF. I know nothing of their quality but it would get me to f/4 and 3.8kg. Plus 1 for the camera, totalling ~5. But if what your saying is right, that still might not be stable enough, even with short frames. So the question that requires some experience to answer --specifically for EAA with short subs is it better to: Loose aperture, go to a 130mm and be a bit more stable on the Star discovery, Chance a 150mm on a Star Discovery, Vixen, or EQ3 Pro at the limits because it matters less for short subs, or Spend disproportionately on the mount now and get something really nice which should see me through a few OTA set ups -- and even though it's not equatorial, should be fine? Thanks again, David
  14. Hi, Thanks again to everyone who’s commented -- everyone has been really helpful. I've just got back from holiday and following HiloDon's suggestion I went back and checked the space I have --and I have miscalculated. I do have space for a 6" evolution, indeed, I have just enough space for an 8" Quattro... I really thought hard about he SCT... The f2 speed is really tempting — but having to switch out the secondary mirror for visual is less appealing, because I would like to sometimes just do visual. However, I’m also really interested in multi-spectral and as I understand it the filter wheel would take up too much space and the drawer solution is sub-optimal… Plus… I've had access to, my Dad’s 8" SCT for a few years and I'd like to try something a little different. Perhaps those are not the most scientific reasons but... My intended final set up is: Skywatcher Explorer 150pds on a StarDiscovery AZ GoTo The 8" Quattro is actually what I really want... but back of envelope calculations suggest it weighs in at about 25Kg, with each component (ota, mount, tripod) weighing about 8kg. Disappointing as it is, I can fit the OTA — but with the bigger mount it’s is too big and heavy for my current location. Not having seen the equipment in person, or tried to lift it / set it up, does this seem correct? It’s not exactly going to be too Martin -- I believe this must be similar to what you have? And I assume this is quite a hefty setup. The Skywatcher Explorer 150pds on a StarDiscovery AZ GoTo is so much lighter. I'm thinking I go cheap and play with the 150pds in my small apartment for a year or two then upgrade to something bigger when I move house and have more space. I do have reservations about the mount, but willing to take a chance. The 150pds OTA is 4.9Kg but then I’m adding maybe 1Kg for the camera and filter wheel. The SkyWatcher load is described as 5kg, however, the Orion StarSeeker which seems to be exactly the same is rated for 6Kg. Either way I know I’m pushing the mount. But I don’t want to have to move up. I basically can’t — the EQ5 is too getting big again. Am I crazy? Again, my aim is not to shoot more than 30 second subs, mainly keep them under 10. Plus, I mainly want to see objects and investigate, rather than make pretty pictures. Should I just drop down again to the 130PDS and then weight is not an issue? Would it make a noticeable difference to EAA speed? I have no idea how much that at 33% smaller aperture will effect EAA viewing. Is there somewhere way I could get a sense of comparison? The Camera... I'm edging towards a Lodestar X2 with an SX filter wheel. But this is a struggle for me. I want a bigger sensor and more resolution... But I would prefer to use the Starlight Live software. This also may be nonsense but my gut says that the CCD Lodestar is less suited to short subs than the CMOS ASI cameras. I have tried loading up other software options and Starlight Live seems the most polished and stable. Perhaps it’s the demo mode, but I was very disappointed that AstroLive would barely load in Camera Simulation mode. It kept crashing on me (also, I’m on a macOS Seirra, though I’m happy to use parallels). And it seems to have been discontinued. All of which makes me a bit nervous. Can anyone tell me of a good or bad live experience with AstroLive and a ZWO camera? Have I just had bad luck with AstroLive not running in simulation mode on a Mac? What can Starlight Live do that AstroLive can’t. I assume Starlight Live can't be made to support ZWO cameras with additional drivers? And @shirva what have you seen of the Altair Astro cameras... Having just seen the Altair Astro Hypercam 174 Mono (https://www.altairastro.com/Altair-Hypercam-IMX174-USB3.0-Mono-Guide-Imaging-Camera.html) that is marketed as and EAA camera, and uses the same chip as the ZWO… though I don’t know what filter wheel would work with it. If you’re thinking this will be your next purchase… Have you used the software? Is it as good as Starlight Live? Thanks again, David
  15. @Martin Meredith Thanks! All very useful. I've been doing some more looking into the things you mention. Quickly on colimation -- if it is just 5 minutes as part of the setup I'm not worried. I'm used to that kind of thing setting up projectors. Now -- both Dom and yourself mentioned the ZWO cameras and the more I've read the more that they seem to be well to be suited for me. However, what do people use for near live viewing. Is it AstroLive? Their website doesn't seem to be working. How is that software? From the YouTube videos it seems fine... I assume from your original post here that the Starlight Live is the best and easiest to use software.... Or are AstroLive, Starlight Live and the Atik Infnity software all quite similar these days? The ZWO hardware however... I'm still a little confused. I know full well not to compare cameras on just specs... but going just on specs... the best seem to be: -- ASI178 -- 6.4MP, 2.4µm, 1.4-2.2e, QE: 80-85% £375 mono -- ASI290 -- 2.1MP, 2.9µm, 1.0-3.2e, QE:? £399 mono -- ASI174 -- 2.3MP, 5.86, 3.8µm, QE: 74-80% 3.5-6 $899 mono $599 colour And ZWO dso recommendation: -- ASI1600 -- 16MP, 3.8µm, 1.2-3.6e, QE:?, $999 mono, $699 colour. (Does anybody know why the mono is more expensive?) This is based on the following assumptions: -- Priority is for highest QE and lowest read noise. -- From the calculations in your post on on S/N I can use pretty short exposures (under 30s, maybe even down to 1 or 2) and not worry too much if seeing is not great. Which I figure means I don't need a cooled camera. -- Minimum 2 megapixels is a good image size for me, I'm used to processing video at 2k. Also: --Using the seeing/pixel scale calculator, I'm tending towards oversampling rather than under sampling and when there is particularly good seeing plan to use a Barlow and shoot smaller objects. -- On the 600mm@f4 the ASI 178 due to the pixel scale it has the best match in terms of sampling overall, with the 290 just behind. -- 750mm@F5 is far more forgiving but the best to worst in matching is still 178 ,290, 174. Am I following the correct logic? Because that looks to me that the cheapest camera the ASI178 is the best one for short sub DSO on a fast Newtonian. That's not what ZWO recommend. Surely I'm doing something stupid here? But the 178 does have the bonus that it's a decent camera for shooting the sun and moon too...! The two wild cards: -- The Atik Infinity also seem to have a good sensor size and pixel scale match for the 750mm focal length f5 but but less so on the 600mm f4 where it tends to undersample. -- Starlight Xpress Lodestar or Ultrastar has a better software experience that outweighs lower specs and greater suitability towards the faster optics of the hyperstar. On the 8" f4 you use, Martin, according to the pixel scale CCD suitability calculator, good and exceptional seeing will cause significant undersampling on the lodestar and ultrastar. Do you find that to be an issue, or do you use a Barlow/something else? In conclusion, unless I'm missing something, my choices are: -- ASI178 if I'm keeping budget down -- ASI1600 if I'm feeling flush -- Lodestar/Ultrastar for software experience and ease of use -- Atik Infinity to get a bigger sensor while keeping good software experience One more thing... the A7S sensor is a much better performer at short exposure than any of these sensors. Is anyone doing short exposure stacking with the A7s? I've seen 30s stacks but I couldn't find anything less than that... Or is an equivalent sensor to be found anywhere in an Astro camera? And thanks again to everyone who is being so helpful here!