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Chris Rowland

Celestron StarSense Accessory

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I've been testing this for a few months and now it's started shipping can say something about it.

It can be fitted to most Celestron goto mounts and automates the alignment process in the same way as the SkyProdigy mounts do, the difference is that it can be fitted to a wide variety of mounts, both Alt Az and GEM.

Basically it works.

It fits to your scope like a finder. You turn it on, press Align when prompted and select SS Auto align. The scope moves to a number of positions (2 on each side of the meridian for a GEM), takes an image and plate solves it to get an alignment position. You get a well aligned scope without having to do anything.

If the positions it looks at are obstructed then SS reports "Too few stars", moves to a new position and tries again - and again. The place I've been testing at is seriously obstructed to the North and East - I'm set up about 3 feet from the side of the house. None the less it manages to align although it may need to make half a dozen attempts before it moves clear of the house.

There is also a SS Manual mode where you move the mount so it's looking at a clear patch of sky and it takes an image. You repeat this for the 4 positions and it's aligned.

I'm impressed by how well it does in hazy, twilight summer skies.

There's an electronic equivalent to aligning a finder; after doing an alignment you select and slew to a named star and press the Align button. The HC prompts you to centre the named star and when you have done so takes an image, solves it, and records the position of the star and the new centre.

There's a manual on the Celestron site.

Chris

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Thanks for the info on this Chris.

As a CPC owner myself I've been very interested in this since it was announced.

I also have to set-up close to a house wall, so the fact that the unit can cope with that scenario is encouraging. How has the testing process been - have there been many iterations of Firmware? Has the functionality changed much from when you first got the unit?

Also, do you think there is a possibility for Celestron to add auto-guiding functionality at a later date, or does the camera size limit this possibility?

Cheers

Andy

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The early test versions had not much other than alignment, with the other things added later. The basic star discovery and plate solving has been there from the start and has always been reliable.

The pixel scale on the camera is about 19 arc seconds per pixel so it will be a challenge to get the arc second star position precision that guiding needs. I wouldn't totally rule it out but think it's unlikely. It might be possible to add additional optics to give more magnification.

I must try it on my Astro Society's CPC. The challenge there will be driving the dome round so the camera can see out!

Chris

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Great for the heads-up Chris. Thanks alot. I have been looking very closely at the accessory since it was announced and was waiting to see who bought one first and gave a review of it. Didn't know that you had tested it, but as you are a beta tester for Celestron then I should have thought that you would have given you opinion of it.

Has it actually been released for sale in the uk yet? FLO had it's status as incoming. It will sit very nicely on my CG5. Yes I am a lazy sod and want something that does it for you with the minimum of fuss and it looks like this fits the bill.

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Hi Chris

Can it do calibration stars automatically as well? As I recall - without the SS it's two alignment stars and up to four calibration stars. So after the four alignment stars with SS - how many calib star slots are left?

Thanks for the review. Gist to the Mill on this one.

Cheers

Ian

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I think it's up to 10 stars. The mount model is totally different.

We were trying it on my Astro Society's CPC1100 yesterday. It worked well, even though the CPC is in a dome. I watched what the mount was doing during the align and drove the dome to where the scope was looking.

We went to the Swan nebula and it was just out of the field so I added a calibration position where the scope was looking and did another goto and there it was - centred. Adding a calibration star is a matter of backing out of the menu you are in, pressing Align, and Enter a few times - instructions on the HC take you through it.

I've no idea when they will become available here, our esteemed sponsors will probably be able to get more information.

Chris

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If I do go for it then I will wait until the initial rush is over I think. After Chris' favourable review it does seem like it actually does work. I was a little worried that it was just a bit of a gimmick, but maybe it does what it says on the tin.

Edited by M4lcs67

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Hi Chris

"I think it's up to 10 stars. The mount model is totally different."

Now that is interesting!

Really appreciate the info.

Cheers

Ian

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I refer the honourable member to the answer I gave on the 3rd September.

I've no idea, I hear they are on the way.

I'm pretty confident they are coming by the pretty way, via Torrance, because I hear that Celestron are testing each one using an artificial star.

As I said our sponsors will know more than me, my contacts are all technical.

Chris

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Thank you very much. I'm afraid I didn't c your answer to this question in sept. Sorry about that . it just seemed u would b the best to ask as you said at the top #now they have started shipping# so I inevitably read and suspected they would be arriving soon . sorry to of been a clutzzz

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One other thing that I was wondering about the Starsense is how much of both meridians do you need to be able to see in order to get an accurate lock-on? I have a predominantly east-facing back garden with only a little of the west visible (due to my house being in the way). I, like others have to set-up close to my house which is around 30 feet away so I have virtually no western sky visible. The further down my garden I set-up frees up a little bit more, but not a great deal. I have read the Starsense instructions off the Celestron website, but it is a little unclear. I can get a giant swathe of clear unobstructed sky in the east from north to South. So basically it would be great to know if the StarSense will work ok with only the eastern meridian visible to the the camera?

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My SS arrived earlier this week (pre-ordered in July), and tonight was the first chance to use it before the clouds (and dew) moved in.  Apart from a few niggles with the instruction manual (it described as sequence of events that would appear in the SS menu, but the events that did appear were slightly different), the unit was reasonably straightforward to set up.  Once autoaligned, it placed stars and DSOs in the centre of the eyepiece, but was off for the moon. I am using it on a CPC800, which has in-built GPS, so after a bit of playing I found the menu option to tell the SS to use the time and location from there.  Hey presto, the moon was centered. 

I only had a brief play, but was impressed with the results.  I began using it during the late twilight period, when very few stars were visible.  My house blocks the northern sky, and two street lights shine into my garden from the southern sky.  Neither caused a problem with the SS unit alignment.

It feels a bit unnerving removing the finderscope and replacing it with the SS device.  It is possible to fit both with a bit of fudging, but I thought I would try without, to see if I really could rely on the SS.

Paul.

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Set mine up tonight - easy to fit on a CPC 1100   and was able to leave the finderscope on as well

1st mistake - it reported seeing too few start - this I solved by taking the lens cover off the front of the camera !!!  :grin:

One I did this surprise surprise if seemed to work much better . Seemed v slightly out so think I may need to have another go at centering the camera but first impressions are v good

Mark

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Hi where can u buy these at moment with thank colin

There are non available for sale at this time in the UK :smiley:  They should be available again early in the new year.

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I had problems with the SSA at first on my CGEM 9.25 because the Calibrate Center operation is not correctly detailed in the manual, and I managed to get the center set out of range (either number over about 1000). When I got that straight, I was getting offsets up to 2 degrees every time I removed and replaced the camera in the dark, where I couldn't see well enough what was happening. This proved to be because the camera dovetail had metal spurs sticking out of the screw holes and interfering with consistent mounting. Some filing and sanding fixed that.

Friday night, I went to a star party and set up under about 80-90% cloud cover. Couldn't see Polaris, so just used my IPad compass. I tried Auto Align, not expecting it to work until things cleared more. It surprised me by breezing right through. Centering is now good enough for a 20mm EP regardless of sky quadrant.

Hal

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I have a CPC 800 and the starsense keeps telling me failed alignment. Anyone else had this problem?

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Sorry, cant help you there as I'm still waiting for them to come in to stock.

I have downloaded the manual and can only think the problem can be is the data input (remember its month/day/year) as it also says the mount doesnt even have to be level which is normal a problem when an alignment fails. 

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It connects with the onboard GPS so date/time shouldn't be a problem, I've now updated the firmware in the unit so will try again tonight. I must admit the manual does leave a little to be desired and a FAQ would be useful.

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Funny, I just posted the link for the update for someone else that is having problems and was just about to post it you but you have already updated it.

Good luck, keep us updated.

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Okay just checked the date and time and the onboard GPS module is giving correct lat/long but time is a year out!

Not happy, not impressed and this is after I updated the firmware.

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I have one. Been testing it for a while now. Tested it at Les Granges (Truly dark skies) and at home in Windsor (Not so dark).

Both sites have unobstructed views.

It is a complete and utter waste of space! Totally erratic. Works one minute - fails the next. Locks up at every verse end. On the rare occasion it does work - spot on! Well - spot on after you remind it that it's 2013 - the date you told it - and not 2012 - the date it has decided it is.

If they can get it to work - it would be brilliant. And I am working with them to achieve that.

But right now? Forget it.

Cheers

Ian (Spent the last 3 hours testing this F'ing thing!)

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