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Guiding with a laptop - I give in, so, what do I need?


rocketandroll
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Right, after a quick stumble down the stand-alone autoguider route to try and avoid taking a laptop into the field.... I have given in, I am getting a guide camera and running it from a computer.

So, my set up is as follows:

I have a HEQ5-pro (which I'll be upgrading to an NEQ6 in the new year).

I have an ST80 guide scope on a side-by-side mounting plate with my imaging scope (Meg72 or RC6 at present).

I have a fairly modern (1yr old) reasonable spec laptop running Win 7 which has both an RS232 port and two available USB ports.

I am imaging with a Canon Eos 500D and, I guess, can now do so via the laptop with the supplied capture software.

I am going for either a QHY5 or a Co-star as the guide camera.

What else do I need?

What software do I need, what of that needs to be bought, what is free to download?

What cables do I need?

I'd like to future-proof this set-up rather than skimp on it now and have to learn new software again in a year or so... so I don't mind if the better options involve buying software.

Advice?

Ben

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If you get a QHY5 everything you need comes in the box, the ST4 cable, camera and a CD with plugins for certain programs.

PHD is free to download and easy to use, it may even come on the CD with the QHY5, I cant remember.

No need to invest in expensive software really.

Edited by shaunster
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You cannot go wrong with PHD software to guide with.

It's free and very easy to use. That's the guiding sorted.

You'll need planetarium software (starry night is what I use), free ones like Stellarium are out there and with an add on bit of software will control the scope via First Light Optics - HitecAstro EQDIR adapter and ASCOM.

So that's the guiding software and the scope control software all of which can be free. The EQDIR is about £45, others are available, but this one works with the HEQ5 and Win7 (this again is what I use).

There is a couple of bits of freeware software that will control the dSLR for long exposure photography (not sure if the software that comes with it will go over the 30s).

HTH

ant

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Don't forget, you've already got the EQDIR adaptor (although when you get the NEQ6 you will have to change out the RJ45 connector for a DB9).

Apart from that, what Ant says.

Steve

EDIT: Luke's post has prompted my to say that you are welcome to pop over again.

Edited by Parallax
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If you have the firmware upgrade cable for the Synscan ( the one which connects between the handcontroller and the laptop) you don't need the EQDIR cable.

Just connect the QHY5 with the ST-4 cable directly to the mount and the upgrade cable to the handcontroller - start your planetarium program (I use Cartes due Ciel) it will then do the rest...simples!

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You will need a 20-25mm extension tube to get the QHY5 camera to focus on the ST80, or use a x2 barlow tube with the lens removed.

Personally I would go for APT to control your camera (there are alternatives available), the EOS utilities are ok but very limited.

Edited by Photosbykev
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thanks all for the advice so far...

So... I'm a little confused about which cables are for what...

I am guessing whatever I do I need one to go from the camera to the laptop, and another to go from the laptop back to the mount?

Steve... I assume the one you gave me is the latter?

For starters... could I just use the laptop for guiding and keep the pointing of the mount done with the go-to? If I did that, would the only software needed be PHD?

And thanks for the offers of 'hands-on' help. That'd be very useful once I have the bits and need advice to get it running the first time!

Ben.

Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk

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You WILL need the connection from the camera TO the computer (usually a USB),

IF you use a QHY5 then the ST-4 cable from the camera to the mount "relays" the correction signals from the guide software (PHD) via the camera to the mount....

That's all you need for guiding.

IF you want to add full GOTO control by the planetarium software, then you need a connection from the computer to the Mount....the upgrade cable does this via the handcontroller.....

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Did I get this correct:

So even QHY5 have (TTL?) interface with mount, and it can move the mount (autoguide)with pc+software. BUT its not possible move the mount freely and have GoTo with PC?

Im getting the HEQ5 syntrek soon..

Or is it possible connect QHY5 to syntrek handcontroller?

Edited by jaffons
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What was said refered to the OP use of the HEQ5pro with Synscan handcontroller.

If you ONLY have the Syntrek version then you either have to upgrade to the Synscan version or use the EQDIR module/ cable between the PC and the mount to give you GOTO etc under EQMOD.

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You WILL need the connection from the camera TO the computer (usually a USB),

IF you use a QHY5 then the ST-4 cable from the camera to the mount "relays" the correction signals from the guide software (PHD) via the camera to the mount....

That's all you need for guiding.

Additionally if you use EQMOD you don't need the ST-4 cable you can use ASCOM pulse guide. You can use EQMOD via the handset operating in PC-Direct mode you don't strictly need the EQDIR cable either.

So an alternate minimum hardware setup for guiding is :

Guidecam with usb cable to PC

A USB-232 cable to connect the PC to the synscan handset (which you may have already).

Chris.

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Yes,

the ST-4 port only acts as a "dummy" movement controller - like the arrow buttons on the basic handbox.

For GOTO you need the motors / encoders to send signals back and forth betwen the software and the mother board, this is done with the Synscan controller ( or via the EQDIR module)

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Yes,

the ST-4 port only acts as a "dummy" movement controller - like the arrow buttons on the basic handbox.

For GOTO you need the motors / encoders to send signals back and forth betwen the software and the mother board, this is done with the Synscan controller ( or via the EQDIR module)

Okay I think I got this one, thanks. So this made me assume that EQDIR is RJ45 and it replaces the handcontroller. And autoguiding port is (ST4)/RJ12.

Though.. I wonder whats the difference between "move DEC+ 12 steps" or "move DEC+ 12200 steps/RA-550 steps" :p

I already dumb the EQDIR but perhaps re-consider.

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The example you quote is based on knowing the size of each step..where it started from and where it should end..this is all data required by the GOTO process....

for guiding PHD just "presses" the +dec button until it sees some movement, then the -dec, then the +RA and the -RA - this is the calibration process within PHD. Nothing to do with GOTO....

HTH

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Okay I think I got this one, thanks. So this made me assume that EQDIR is RJ45 and it replaces the handcontroller. And autoguiding port is (ST4)/RJ12.

Though.. I wonder whats the difference between "move DEC+ 12 steps" or "move DEC+ 12200 steps/RA-550 steps" :p

I already dumb the EQDIR but perhaps re-consider.

It doesn't really work like that. The ST-4 inputs are simply direct "switch" overides to the mount that tell a specific axis to move at a set rate in a given direction. There is no target position communicated at all - the mount just keeps moving at that rate while ever the signal is present.

For goto however a target position must be specified and this requires a much more sophisticated interface than ST-4 (which really is just a series of switches). So goto is achived via serial communications with the mount controller.

For ASCOM base pulse guiding the ST-4 inputs are not required but instead the mount is commanded to move the RA/DEC axis at the guiding rate via serial communications.

Chris.

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  • 2 weeks later...

...just to update...

After careful consideration, and not wanting to make the same mistake again and need to upgrade in a year or two...

I now have a Lodestar winging it's way to me from the lovely folks at FLO.

Expect cloudy skies and lots of "Which plug goes where?" posts for the next couple of weeks ;-)

Ben

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Hi Ben,

I assume you have a handset with full GOTO in which case there is no necessity to add EQMod unless you really want to.

As you know I have an NEQ6. I don't use EQmod and find no necessity to, although I dare say it has some useful extras, but I feel you need to conquer one set of things at a time. Get your guiding sorted out and then think about whether you want to add yet another set of cables and software to the set up. PHD is excellent and free.

I currently use Stellarium for telescope control with the RS232 cable (no extra cables or gizmos to add to that). It is a bit limited (without stellariumscope), but I only really use it for moving the mount and centering the target if the GOTO falls short slightly.

I think you'll find things a whole lot easier with a laptop, but don't forget to cover it with red film or plexiglass for Star camps :rolleyes:.

Carole

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