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SkyWatcher SynScan GOTO - what the Manual doesn't tell you!


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I bought a Skywatcher Mak 127 with synscan goto at the IAF last month. I have since bought a 130p on an eq mount form Ebay and fitted it with dovetail/clamp so that all are interchangeable. I have gone through the same process as others in this thread over the last month. (BTW - why can't I do carriage returns?) Comments : Using a large rechargeable battery (like the golf trolley one mentioned solves several problems. You can use it for many nights with no problems. If you put it on the tray you do not need the 'bag of sand' for stability. The output voltage barely changes over several evenings. Especially for the MAk but also for the 130p a 40mm EP is a boon when looking for fairly bright object as once the synscan is setup the object chosen is more likely to be in the eyepiece. You really do need to know where the brightest stars are. Definitely take an evening to learn them before trying with the instrument. When the clouds are around using a star chart does not work for a novice and in any case does not do wonders for your night sight. Question: I've done all the basic things suggested on this board (level, time, co-ords etc and I'm getting very handy at getting set up but I still find that the synscan has nowhere near the accuracy suggested on these notice boards. This does not matter with relatively bright objects but is extremely difficult with dim ones. Very rarely is any object near the centre of my EP an often not in view at all. Is my machine inaccurate? or are they all like that?

Hi,

I have had the Mak and the GoTo mount for about 5 months now but have not used the mount in a while as I also have an EQpro. The trick is to align the mount to stars that are in the vecinity of your intended DSO . If the mount is true and level I found that even a simple 1 star alignment will work if I could get the star to be one as described above. Make sure that you end the centering with the up and right arrows as there is quite a bit of backlash in the drive train if the motors reverse direction. PAE procedure also works for objects about 5 degrees or so around target. Use a 40 mm EP for finding the object and then you could hone it down with shorter focal length. I can't remember if I did a 3 Star alignment with the AltAz mount but with the EQ mount it is an advantage as it maps the sky more accurately and takes care of the "cone error " . Hope this helps a bit.

A.G

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  • 3 weeks later...

Is there a particular reason why the SynScan setup seems more complicated than other manufacturers which use 2 or 3 brighest stars? Seems a logical system if you're not familiar with the night sky.

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As a noob who has recently bought a scope on this mount I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring. After just a couple of weeks of using the setup I can now get aligned in about 10 minutes. That includes slewing back and forth across the sky 2 or 3 times so I don't think that's too bad.

I kind of approached it a different way. I look for a couple of bright-ish stars (I've found they don't need to be the brightest) on opposite sides of my vista.

I find out what they are with my tablet running SkEye software and then select the first from the list. I've changed the sort order in the handset so it's alphabetical rather than descending brightness. Helps me find them quickly. I try to select 2 stars that start with A, or A and Z etc. This means you're selecting and slewing to the next one before the tracking goes too out. You can scroll up from A to Z as well as down from A to B.

To minimise the time between the first and second star I centre the first one THEN press enter to register that star. Then I pick my second already identified star from the list and slew to it. Centre that and I'm good to go. I can then relax and have a fag while fine tuning it - I just pick a couple more in the middle of the sky, select enhanced precision option (ESC then hold ESC), fine tune their alignment with the arrow keys and press Enter to register the tweaks.

I've found that I can go to , for example, Altair to Arcturus for alignment, then fine tune with Tarazad (sp?) and maybe Rasalhague. I do one final Altair to Arcturus check and I really find that to be pretty much spot on enough to find, say, M15, M13 etc.

I started with a 25mm eyepiece, then when I got more slick at it I moved to a 10, then a 10 with barlow and now I use Sharpcap with reticule to get it majorly spot on. I was actually surprised how accurate it is, I was expecting it to be in the eyepiece but a bit off to the side.

The main thing that helped on top of practising was a powertank. Got the Maplin 5 in 1 and I noticed a different noise from the gears straight away. It is clearly delivering the required juice and alignment has got even better since I started using it.

I think a couple of weeks just working between a few main stars is worth it to get a quick setup, reliable GOTO and pretty much hassle free spotting.

Oh, and I keep my rig in the shed so from the time I get it out to the time I am installed, levelled, setup and aligned is about 20 minutes.

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An excellent review, it should be recommended to all the new telescope buyers who want an easy-to-operate mount.

I'd like to add some coments based on my own experience with EQ3 sysscan goto mount:

1. Update the firware to V3.35, the alignment and polar alignment procedures are much easier to understand and follow.

2. A good star atlas is always needed.

3. With practice you will speed up your alignment, It took me over an hour to get my first alignment done, now it's someting between 10 to 20 minutes.

Clear Sky

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I use 10 X 1.2V rechargeables to power my Synscan AZ. Just go to Maplins and you can get a pack to connect then up.

I then used the connector from the supplied 8 X 1.5V pack to wire up. The 10 pack will just fit in the leather/plastic pouch provided.

I simply strap the pack to the base of the arm which holds the scope.

Gives me at least 4 hours power and eliminates "cordwrap" problems.

Also put a 5kg flat dumbell weight on the centre tray- this keeps things nice and steady and is OK to put your EPs on too.

Nice tip on the batteries matey. Never thought of that! I use the old counterweight from my Newt for this too. Makes a massive difference.

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Nice tip on the batteries matey. Never thought of that! I use the old counterweight from my Newt for this too. Makes a massive difference.

While you are in Maplins see if they still have Maplins car booster pack. I bought one last week for £39.90. It has two 12v cigarette lighter out puts and an lelight, a compressor and it mayeven start your car up if you have a flat battery. Well worth the money I'd say.

A>

.G

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Great thread...thanks to the OP.

I have both the Celestron6SE and the SWEQ5 goto.

The 6SE is easiest to set up for goto as you select the stars, the SWEQ5 is a pain. I am adding an RDF to supplement the 9x 50 finder 'scope on the EQ5, RDF's might be decried by some but they are very usefull on a SynScan mount.

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I find with the EQ5 synscan that since the 3.35 update, a 2-star align is easiest and still allows for polar align feature to be used. Best to try and start at 'Home' position and looking through the finder polaris wont be exact in the crosshairs but close, then go for wide low stars either side approaching up and right buttons for backlash then PAE corrections each time a convenient object is centered.

The biggest hassle I had with the synscan was knocking the power cable after everything was done, so then needing to start over, however I have noticed that if you already have your target in view when you get a power cut, its ok to just quickly switch it back on and go into the set-up menu and select 'tracking' = sidereal and it just starts RA tracking without needing to re-align. You might know this but I can remember many times giving up in a huff and packing up if this happened at just the wrong moment, but since finding out the 'tracking' works without the rest Ive not had the stress of power offs.

Regards

Aenima

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if you already have your target in view when you get a power cut, its ok to just quickly switch it back on and go into the set-up menu and select 'tracking' = sidereal and it just starts RA tracking without needing to re-align.

That is really useful to know.

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Hi I'm getting there.I recently decided to get the equipment out in daylight and see if it was really stable enough.

I set it up using an external spirit level (as advised elsewhere) but when I attached the scope the internal sprit level changed significantly. So I went back to using the internal (on the mount) level.

Next I rotated the scope to all altitudes and points of the compass. The bubble on the spirit level moved all over the place especially when the scope is near vertical and the weight of the Mak is therefore all on one side.

The legs of the tripod move and bend!

I dropped the legs to half height and put a large bag of sand (about 20LB) on the instrument tray. Hey presto the bubble stayed level as I slewed the scope around. The battery I had been using both for power and stability was clearly not heavy enough.

I initialised the scope, set up as above, and looked forward to an evenings stargazing. A massive improvement!! After set up, most targets were now on the left edge of my 40 mm EP each time. At least I was able to find them, even if I do have to crawl on the floor to see through the view finder.

I could now attack the offsets on the targets. I assumed some of this might be due to backlash when setting up. So I very carefully aligned using 'up' and 'right' for final adjustment as suggested on this thread.

Most targets now appear on a 15 mm EP if not a 10 but still a little off to the L in the EP. If I ask the handset to identified the object when I put it in the centre of the EP it now identifies it correctly and tells me I am 0.03 off on virtually every target. Next I shall investigate the backlash settings!

Crawling on the ground, with my 66 year old aching joints to get below the viewfinder, will be no fun when winter comes, so suspect that I will be building a heavy wooden tripod or at least putting heavy wooden legs and tray on the lower part of the present tripod.

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  • 4 months later...

I'd like to raise a couple of other questions.  I've been running into problems with SynScan (on an EQ mount) choosing a slewing direction that runs the  OTA (Orion 120ED) into a tripod leg. There doesn't seem to be any way to make it turn around and go in the other direction. Anyone run into this and have a fix?

The second problem concerns the SynScan GPS. (Yes, I know that no one really NEEDS a GPS.) Mine has suddenly started locking onto a date in mid-year 2033! Time, latitude and longitude are correct. However, if you manually correct the date with the handset, it throws the time off, so you are  back to setting both time and date manually. (Horrors!) Anyone have any thoughts?

Evan

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Re GPS. Mine isn't synscan, but when my dongle first fires up it produces some weird results until it has hooked onto enough satellites.  Does the synscan GPS tell you how many satellites it has locked onto?  Is it having difficulty finding enough?  Sometimes I find moving merely a couple of feet can cause it to pick up another three satellites.  I know moving the laptop is easy, but if you can set up the scope in a slightly different position it might solve the problem.  Alternatively, it could be that this was just a spurious result for me - it was about to sort itself anyway as I was moving it.

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Re GPS. Mine isn't synscan, but when my dongle first fires up it produces some weird results until it has hooked onto enough satellites.  Does the synscan GPS tell you how many satellites it has locked onto?  Is it having difficulty finding enough?  Sometimes I find moving merely a couple of feet can cause it to pick up another three satellites.  I know moving the laptop is easy, but if you can set up the scope in a slightly different position it might solve the problem.  Alternatively, it could be that this was just a spurious result for me - it was about to sort itself anyway as I was moving it.

Ten satellites. And the problem seems just to have started, with no changes in anything.

Evan

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Once you are familiar with setting up it's not too difficult to link it up to a laptop running stellarium so you can use the laptop to tell it where to point.

I assume you got the Serial cable with the Synscan handset (Network type connector at one end and RS232 at the other), it's quite easy to get RS232 - USB adaptors on Ebay that allow you to connect to your computer/laptop. 

The only gotcha is that not all RS232 - USB adaptors come with drivers for all Operating Systems, do make sure you check before buying. 

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This is an absolutely excellent thread and with the possible exception of the pompous and blinkered Meade-owner's reply #23, a veritable goldmine of information on the subject of SW SynScan.

I am considering an upgrade for my EQ3-2 but now will be thinking very carefully indeed before going ahead - thanks to the wealth of experience voiced here. I have read nearly every reply posted in full but will sit down at some point and go through it all again to make sure I fully understand the implications and restrictions that apply to fitting GOTO to my mount as applied to my particular situation ie. location, available view of the sky - particularly Polaris, and other related issues.

This also raises questions for me relating to mounts but I will not hijack this thread to ask my questionshere. I will start a new thread!

To me this is a perfect example of a community dedicated to helping each other by offering to share information and skills gathered over often years and years of hands-on experience in the field.

Wonderful.

KInd regards

Roger

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Does anyone else have a massive difficulty actually getting polaris in the finder scope on the mount? I find it so hard to know exactly which stars I'm looking at when i am looking through the mount eyepiece with the rest of the Mount literally in the way!

Anybody have any easier tips to accomplish this? A compass on the north leg perhaps :p

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk HD

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Does anyone else have a massive difficulty actually getting polaris in the finder scope on the mount? I find it so hard to know exactly which stars I'm looking at when i am looking through the mount eyepiece with the rest of the Mount literally in the way!Anybody have any easier tips to accomplish this? A compass on the north leg perhaps :pSent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk HD

? Turn the dec axis 90 degrees?

Great mount, but the firmware side of it has alot to be desired.

Need more alignment stars, or a way of selecting any star we want above the horizon. Better way or quicker way to scroll through the database. Would like for it to keep date and time. Maybe a polar alignment routine.

One calibrated correctly, its goto is pretty much spot on though.

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Liking it!

Like the 99p part.... Don't like the expensive camera part. Does anybody else know of a cheaper suitable camera that would work?

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk HD

I used this mod rather than a webcam :

http://www.eastmidlandsstargazers.org.uk/topic/4108-right-angle-polar-scope-viewer/

You need to source a Nikon DR3 lens though.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hiya,

I bought my newbie husband this for Christmas and after wrestling with the alignment thingy for 2 hours he gave up. Thanks for this really useful thread and hopefully he will have better luck tomorrow.

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