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StuartJPP

From Horizon To Horizon (and beyond) With The Avalon M-Zero

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I know some people aren't bothered about performing a meridian flip but if you don't need to do it then it is one less thing to worry about, one feature I really like about the Avalon single arm fork mounts.

This is my current setup and although it may look a bit clunky it has been designed in such a way so as to not to require a separate counterweight as the StarGo Controller is acting as a counterweight. The control box is also positioned in such a way that there are no possibility for cable snags which provides a 4 Port USB hub, power for the camera and 2 dew heater controllers.

Only requires is a 12V supply and a single USB port.

All in an effort to reduce the amount of set up time to imaging (circa 30 minutes).

 

 

 

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Nice video. I agree regarding the Meridian flip. Simple, trouble free imaging is my goal. And the flip is just one additional potential fail. Waking up to an aborted session or having to discard subs is something that no longer happens since obtaining the M Uno.

 

Derek

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I have an M-Uno which has the StarGO box integrated into the mount in about the same place.  I think I'll try and follow your lead with the USB hub.  I do like the way that the wires can be routed through the RA axis – makes it very trouble-free.

 

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On 07/06/2017 at 14:31, AKB said:

I have an M-Uno which has the StarGO box integrated into the mount in about the same place.  I think I'll try and follow your lead with the USB hub.  I do like the way that the wires can be routed through the RA axis – makes it very trouble-free.

 

I was trying to emulate where the M-Uno has it's StarGo controller. If the StarGo had a USB hub built in to it along with some power ports that would be great.

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Just a thought, Stuart, is it possible to set up the M-ZERO without sight of Polaris? I understand that it doesn't have the ability to do a multi-star alignment, is that a problem?

Ian

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I don't have an optical setup appropriate for one of these mounts but, if I did, I'd be right in there!

Olly

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1 hour ago, The Admiral said:

Just a thought, Stuart, is it possible to set up the M-ZERO without sight of Polaris? I understand that it doesn't have the ability to do a multi-star alignment, is that a problem?

Ian

Ian, I am not too sure as I always make sure I have a clear view of Polaris. With a clear view of Polaris I either use SharpCap's polar alignment functionality or PoleMaster with my QHY5L-II-M with a 25mm lens.

Without a clear view I can of course do drift alignment with PHD2 or alternatively I can use the Avalon X-Solver polar alignment tool which I haven't used before. Both would require a PC of course.

Would be nice to be able to polar align properly and quickly with no clear view of the poles.

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Actually, the latest versions of the StarGO software allow you to build up to a 24-star model of the sky. This is not the same, of course, as the polar alignment issue, but the you could always start with a best-guess and do drift alignment.

Plate solving can run either off-line with a local database or on-line using Astrometry.net.  You do, indeed, need a PC!

Latest manual download here: http://www.avalon-instruments.com/images/download/StarGO__User_Manual_Rev2.2.0.pdf

 

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Theres a newer version 2.2.1.

http://www.avalon-instruments.com/images/download/StarGO User Manual Rev2.2.1-.pdf

I can't find it now, but the latest version of X-Solver also has a polar alignment function (P.ALIGN).There was a table indicating how many arc-minutes per turn each of the alt/azi bolts make for the different Avalon mounts. Not sure how well or quick it works though. Looks similar to how Astrotortilla does polar alignment. Unlike the PoleMaster or SharpCap it isn't realtime...hence the reason I always try to get a clear view of the NCP.

 

Hi all StarGo 5.2.3 version Installer has been released What's new! - New X-Solver Polar Alignment tool

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1 hour ago, AKB said:

You do, indeed, need a PC!

Actually, I'm wrong here too!

With the Bluetooth StarGO hardware you can run it from SkySafari on an Android phone, with the WiFi version you can do the same with an iPhone/iPad.

 

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22 hours ago, AKB said:

Actually, I'm wrong here too!

With the Bluetooth StarGO hardware you can run it from SkySafari on an Android phone, with the WiFi version you can do the same with an iPhone/iPad.

 

I have used SkySafari over Bluetooth from my Android phone ro the StarGo controller and it works well for GOTO but I'd say that it is more useful in the ALT/AZI mode or for visual.

My netbook is only an 11" one so really isn't an issue and it gives you everything you need for an entire night's imaging.

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15 hours ago, StuartJPP said:

I have used SkySafari over Bluetooth from my Android phone ro the StarGo controller and it works well for GOTO but I'd say that it is more useful in the ALT/AZI mode or for visual.

My netbook is only an 11" one so really isn't an issue and it gives you everything you need for an entire night's imaging.

Forgive the beginner's question, but if you use a computer to target an object, does the computer have to remain in communication with the mount in order for it to track? In other words, does the mount  need to continue to receive positional information, or does it work it out for itself once it has been sent to a target? Also, I don't quite understand why it is better for Alt-Az than EQ.

Ian

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4 hours ago, The Admiral said:

Forgive the beginner's question, but if you use a computer to target an object, does the computer have to remain in communication with the mount in order for it to track? In other words, does the mount  need to continue to receive positional information, or does it work it out for itself once it has been sent to a target? Also, I don't quite understand why it is better for Alt-Az than EQ.

Ian

On the M-Zero, the unit powers up not tracking (for some reason) but as soon as you push a button on the hand controller or perform a slew or anything similar, the RA motor will continue to track at Sidereal (or lunar/solar etc.) rates in EQ mode at which point you could disconnect everything barring the power and it will continue to track.

In ALT/AZI mode basically the same thing happens but I think you have to perform a few goto/sync operations so that it knows where it is pointing. After that I assume both RA and DEC will run at the required rates to keep the object in the eyepiece however I haven't use the mount in ALT/AZI mode at all (and possibly never will). Android or a PC would be required to goto different objects in this mode.

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Don't forget you can connect a laptop via wifi to reduce cables!

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On 2017-6-16 at 18:56, StuartJPP said:

Theres a newer version 2.2.1.

http://www.avalon-instruments.com/images/download/StarGO User Manual Rev2.2.1-.pdf

I can't find it now, but the latest version of X-Solver also has a polar alignment function (P.ALIGN).There was a table indicating how many arc-minutes per turn each of the alt/azi bolts make for the different Avalon mounts. Not sure how well or quick it works though. Looks similar to how Astrotortilla does polar alignment. Unlike the PoleMaster or SharpCap it isn't realtime...hence the reason I always try to get a clear view of the NCP.

 

Hi all StarGo 5.2.3 version Installer has been released What's new! - New X-Solver Polar Alignment tool

A bit late in replying I know, but having now got my head around it I see this won't help if you are a DSLR user.

What is needed is a version of ASPA I guess. May be Alignmaster would do the job?

Ian

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Looks like you could choose a target and just continuously image for weeks on end and just discard the subs taken through the Earth!

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Hi @StuartJPP, what 12v battery are you using to power the mount and hub? I take it it's the silver square on the ground... lithium ion? What size and many hours do you get out of it (powering mount, guide cam, USB hub, DSLR too(?))? Thanks!

Edited by shamantanthew
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20 hours ago, shamantanthew said:

Hi @StuartJPP, what 12v battery are you using to power the mount and hub? I take it it's the silver square on the ground... lithium ion? What size and many hours do you get out of it (powering mount, guide cam, USB hub, DSLR too(?))? Thanks!

Hi,

It all depends on where and what time of year I image. If it is on holiday abroad and it is warm or Autumn/Spring in the UK then I will just use a portable battery like in the photo above. It is a 75W/h lithium ion battery pack (Anker Astro Pro2 20,000mAh unit) and it will power the mount for the whole night. I will either use another one (I have got two) to power the camera seperately or use actual camera batteries.

In Winter when I am using dew heaters and it is much, much colder I just use an SLA type battery, I think it is 40Ah. It will power everything for a full night.

 

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Hello Stuart,

I have also an M-Zero  and I have just seen this post. Very interesting and inspiring. How did you connect the StarGo on the side of the arm of the mount? It looks very neat.

I really like the M-Zero and I was crazy enough to take it with me to the States for the total solar eclipse. See here: https://www.astrobin.com/users/pieroc/

Thanks.

Piero

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Hi Piero,

The StarGo is mounted via an Arca Swiss dovetail and two Arca Swiss clamps (items I already owned). In the image(s) below you can see that there is an Arca Swiss plate attached to the bottom of the M-Zero via a couple of spacers. The StarGo has two Arca Swiss clamps mounted via 2 spacers. This allows me to remove the StarGo relatively easily if I need to. It also adds some extra counterweight as it is further away from the centre of rotation and opposite the lens and camera.

You will also notice that I made up my own motor cable with a right-angle connector to allow the StarGo to be butted up against the RA section.

All the tapped holes were present in the M-Zero and StarGo so I didn't have to drill and tap anything. However I had to ensure that the screws were long enough to be secure but short enough to not damage anything in either the StarGo controller or the motor section of the M-Zero.

 

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Many thanks Stuart

That is a very neat solution. I have mounted on the M-Zero a Takahashi FC100 with an ASI1600MM cool with a filter wheel. As you can imagine, my main challenge was: cables of all sort! But initially I had to deal with distribution of power from the battery to the focuser, dew heaters, camera mount and USB hub. A power hub with the Anderson pole connectors made life so much easier. I am still working on what an optimal setup but my current solution is way better than when I started. I admit that some of the boxes are simply connected by heavy duty velcro pads. This can be improved but what I like is that I can try different solutions easily.

The next logical steps for me I think are: (i) move the StarGo as you have done! (ii) consider replacing the USB hub with a NUC or equivalent. With that solution I would not need the USB hub, the NUC could go attached to  the guidescope bar so all the cables (save for the one going back to the battery) would finally rotate happily together!

I have seen some of the PHD2 graphs some people got with their M-Zero. Whilst mine are not perfect amazingly I am still getting round and tight stars. (consider that I am beginner astrophotographer and where I live there is a huge supermarket and streetlights all around!). I would be curious to know how you improved your tracking.

Thank you very much for sharing!!!

Piero

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Orion Nebulas.jpg

Edited by pi_co100
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