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Hi there folks, at the moment I'm primarily a traditional, through the eyepiece observer, however I'm putting together a list of components/software that I will need going forward as I venture into the realm of EAA.  Primary consideration for my EAA platform is that it be easily transportable with as small an on-site footprint as possible.  My thought is that I want to be able to control everything remotely over WiFi, I have an abhorrence for spaghetti cabling, so want to be able to keep this situation down to a minimum.  To this end I have put together a list of components which I think will facilitate the sort of observing platform that I am aiming for:

Item 1 - Polemaster from QHY and associated control software.  I have both Alt-Az and Equatorial setups, however I see the equatorial as being the primary mount for EAA, hence the investment in Polemaster.  The EQ is a Vixen SXW and the Alt-Az and Altair Astro Sabre.

Item 2 - Small footprint CCD/CMOS Astro-Camera (I'm thinking along the lines of the SX Ultrastar), and associate control software.

Item 3 - Guide camera (Although this may not be an immediate requirement bearing in mind my primary goal is near real-time observing rather than traditional CCD astro-photography).  Thinking perhaps the Altair Astro GPCAM, or perhaps an older SX Lodestar.  Associated software perhaps PHD2, what alternatives are there?

Item 4 - Computer stick or very small footprint PC capable of being fixed to either the mount or OTA, without seriously adverse weight impact.  The device needs to have integrated WiFi capability and the ability to interface to guide camera, primary camera and Polemaster.  Needs to be run from 12V DC supply.

Item 5 - Apple iPad (already acquired).

Item 4 poses the question, does such a device exists that will enable simultaneous connectivity to all three devices?

Immediately people may think of alternatives such as the Mallincam line of products, Revolution Imager etc... however I want to try and steer clear of the older analogue technology.


Is the suggested approach realistic, in getting me to where I want to be, if not, are there alternative ways of achieving the same goal?  Would appreciate the forum’s thoughts, and in particular any insight from fellow forum members who may have taken a similar approach.  

Kind Regards
Paul J.

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If you have something that's compatible with Sharpcap 3.0 or 3.1 beta, you could use it's polar align feature with your primary viewing camera and forgo the Polemaster altogether.  It needs to be about a 1° view.  Another option is to run your camera on an Orion 50mm Guidescope for the polar alignment with Sharpcap.  If your scope is small (e.g. 80mm), you can run the Ultrastar with Sharpcap 3.1 beta for the Polar Alignment as it's supported natively in Sharpcap 3.1, then close it and switch to Starlight Live as it will give you better control for the actual image.  You don't really need a guide camera unless you want to do long exposure AP.  I rarely go over 60 second exposures with the Ultrastar.  If you do choose to guide, PHD2 would be the preferred guiding software.

I stuck a powered hub on top of my scope and then connect everything to that.  The one I have (Cirago 6 port hub with 2 charging ports) can power a Computestick through the charging port.  If you're using it wirelessly, you would only have two wires coming off the scope, one to power the hub and one to power the mount.  Everything else can be short usb cables and you can leave it attached to the scope.  I've powered an ASI185MC (for guiding), an Ultrastar-C, Starlight Xpress USB Filterwheel, Computestick (gen 2) and the mount through the hub.  I've had the Computestick running Astrotortilla and APT for plate solving, Stellarium, Starlight Live and Sharpcap all running simultaneously.   I don't do remote viewing so I typically run the computestick on my observing table with a small portable battery and run a long USB cable to the hub.  I have a wireless keyboard/mouse that can be difficult to use if the computer is near the mount (blocks the signals), especially when it's slewed opposite my position.

For $1K, a camera like the new ASI294MC would give a nice wide view.  Even in an 8" f/5, you'd be able to do a polar alignment in Sharpcap.  You might need more hd space and memory than the Computestick provides as it's a 12mp camera (or bin).  But for $1K, you get a low read noise camera, with a wide view that is capable of doing polar alignment with Sharpcap.  Plus, Sharpcap 3.0+ can do plate solving with the addition of a plate solver like Astrotortilla (free).

What scope are you going to be using?

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6 hours ago, Robrj said:

If you have something that's compatible with Sharpcap 3.0 or 3.1 beta, you could use it's polar align feature with your primary viewing camera and forgo the Polemaster altogether.  It needs to be about a 1° view.  Another option is to run your camera on an Orion 50mm Guidescope for the polar alignment with Sharpcap.  If your scope is small (e.g. 80mm), you can run the Ultrastar with Sharpcap 3.1 beta for the Polar Alignment as it's supported natively in Sharpcap 3.1, then close it and switch to Starlight Live as it will give you better control for the actual image.  You don't really need a guide camera unless you want to do long exposure AP.  I rarely go over 60 second exposures with the Ultrastar.  If you do choose to guide, PHD2 would be the preferred guiding software.

I stuck a powered hub on top of my scope and then connect everything to that.  The one I have (Cirago 6 port hub with 2 charging ports) can power a Computestick through the charging port.  If you're using it wirelessly, you would only have two wires coming off the scope, one to power the hub and one to power the mount.  Everything else can be short usb cables and you can leave it attached to the scope.  I've powered an ASI185MC (for guiding), an Ultrastar-C, Starlight Xpress USB Filterwheel, Computestick (gen 2) and the mount through the hub.  I've had the Computestick running Astrotortilla and APT for plate solving, Stellarium, Starlight Live and Sharpcap all running simultaneously.   I don't do remote viewing so I typically run the computestick on my observing table with a small portable battery and run a long USB cable to the hub.  I have a wireless keyboard/mouse that can be difficult to use if the computer is near the mount (blocks the signals), especially when it's slewed opposite my position.

For $1K, a camera like the new ASI294MC would give a nice wide view.  Even in an 8" f/5, you'd be able to do a polar alignment in Sharpcap.  You might need more hd space and memory than the Computestick provides as it's a 12mp camera (or bin).  But for $1K, you get a low read noise camera, with a wide view that is capable of doing polar alignment with Sharpcap.  Plus, Sharpcap 3.0+ can do plate solving with the addition of a plate solver like Astrotortilla (free).

What scope are you going to be using?

Thanks for your feedback Rob.  Scope is an 8” EdgeHD.  Do you have any photos of your setup, would help me visualise how to port it to my setup.  Currently I run my SXW through the Starbook controller remotely from my iPad via a small format TPLink router.  The Starbook connects to the router over a CAT5e connection.  I guess I would be replacing the TPLink with a larger format router capable of interfacing to all the necessary components?

Paul.

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Back in March I was putting together an EEA setup for myself and got a lot of useful advice from people here. I also did a write up on what I bought. You may find the thread useful or give you some inspiration.

My focus was on being lightweight small and portable, which guided decisions over other considerations. I’m really pleased with the way it has worked. I particularly like the compute stick / iPad setup for control. You just have to be careful about power requirements.

 

 

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26 minutes ago, London_David said:

Back in March I was putting together an EEA setup for myself and got a lot of useful advice from people here. I also did a write up on what I bought. You may find the thread useful or give you some inspiration.

My focus was on being lightweight small and portable, which guided decisions over other considerations. I’m really pleased with the way it has worked. I particularly like the compute stick / iPad setup for control. You just have to be careful about power requirements.

 

 

Hi there David, great write-up, sounds like you’ve got a great little field obsy plarform.  I think a lot of your setup will be transportable to what I ultimately want, there will be a few differences obviously for example in my case, mount control is via SkySafari and the TPlink router over CAT5e to the Starbook, one of the design elements I firmly believe that Vixen got right with the Starbook.  I will be going for the Ultrastar, so hopefully the Starlight live software will cater for most of my requirements, though I’ve yet to find out how it performs over RDP from the iPad, hopefully someone will add this material to the post.

For power, I opted for a couple of 10ah Tracer LiPo batteries when I bought my scope in 2014.  These are excellent, consistent voltage, and I typically get two nights observing with these before a recharge is a must.  One powers the dew control and the other the Sphinx.  When the time comes I will probably pick up a 20ah to add to my power reserves.

 Do you have any photographs or perhaps schematics of your setup, as they say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’.  Thanks again for your excellent write-up, most enlightening ?

Paul.

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Here is my current setup.  The hub is sitting on top of the scope, though it's a bit hard to see.  It's held on with 3M Extreme Dual Lock fasteners https://www.staples.com/3M-Scotch-1-x-10-Extreme-Dual-Lock-Fasteners-Clear-RF6760/product_1671400

 

It's like a heavy duty velcro that clicks together.  It's very strong.

20170416_181916.jpg

Edited by Robrj
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Here's a close up of the hub and the Computestick on my Newtonian.  The short small cable is the power from the hub to the stick.  The larger cable connects to the hub for devices.  The 2nd gen computestick has interferance with the WIFI if you use USB 3.0.  So I bought a cheap external wifi antenna and turned off the internal wifi on the stick.  The antenna also hooks up to the hub.

20160916_073234.jpg

Edited by Robrj
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24 minutes ago, Robrj said:

Here's a close up of the hub and the Computestick on my Newtonian.  The short small cable is the power from the hub to the stick.  The larger cable connects to the hub for devices.  The 2nd gen computestick has interferance with the WIFI if you use USB 3.0.  So I bought a cheap external wifi antenna and turned off the internal wifi on the stick.  The antenna also hooks up to the hub.

20160916_073234.jpg

 

30 minutes ago, Robrj said:

Here is my current setup.  The hub is sitting on top of the scope, though it's a bit hard to see.  It's held on with 3M Extreme Dual Lock fasteners https://www.staples.com/3M-Scotch-1-x-10-Extreme-Dual-Lock-Fasteners-Clear-RF6760/product_1671400

 

It's like a heavy duty velcro that clicks together.  It's very strong.

20170416_181916.jpg

Rob

Thanks for the pics.  All makes much more sense now :-)   Is that a Celestron Starsense I see hanging of the front of the dovetail?  If so I guess in my scenario the Polemaster will provide that functionality.

 

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They're different.  The Polemaster is only for polar alignment.  Once you're polar aligned, you would still go through your regular goto mount alignment.  After you polar align, you wouldn't use the Polemaster any more during that session.  That's why I say try Sharpcap first.  If it gets you close enough for your purposes, you don't need the Polemaster.   Starsense is for automatically aligning the goto computer of the mount to the sky rather than doing something like an Auto  Two Star alignment. It doesn't do anything for polar alignment (it does the same whether the mount is equatorial or Alt/Az).  My steps are set up the mount and use the polar scope to get it close.  Then I polar align the mount with Sharpcap (this is where you would use the Polemaster), and then start the Starsense auto alignment (here you would do your goto alignment).  Starsense slews the scope and maps out the sky so it knows where it's pointing.

Edited by Robrj
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13 minutes ago, Robrj said:

They're different.  The Polemaster is only for polar alignment.  Once you're polar aligned, you would still go through your regular goto mount alignment.  After you polar align, you wouldn't use the Polemaster any more during that session.  That's why I say try Sharpcap first.  If it gets you close enough for your purposes, you don't need the Polemaster.   Starsense is for automatically aligning the goto computer of the mount to the sky rather than doing something like an Auto  Two Star alignment. It doesn't do anything for polar alignment (it does the same whether the mount is equatorial or Alt/Az).  My steps are set up the mount and use the polar scope to get it close.  Then I polar align the mount with Sharpcap (this is where you would use the Polemaster), and then start the Starsense auto alignment (here you would do your goto alignment).  Starsense slews the scope and maps out the sky so it knows where it's pointing.

Ah of course... Starsense equates to the Star Alignment process via the Starbook, which as you say tells the mount where it is on the earth in relation to the sky and facilitates the Goto functionality.

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