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As I remember it was painful for me at the beginning to find complex list of the software that needs to be installed on your PC to control your rig remotely so I have decided to tie all things together and share.
I will try to explain it simplest I can. As whole idea is quite complex I am not going to be too detailed. You can treat it as quick catch up for novices and beginners only. I have tested it all on Windows 10.
I am a beginner as well but true is that I have struggled a lot to find those information all together (what actually you need to install) so it could make some confusion for novices I think. That’s why I want to tight things a bit together and reveal the tip of the iceberg. But at least COMPLETE tip. It should be suitable for most of equatorial mounts with guider.
First why I am not using SynScan hand controller? Answer is simple. Controlling rig through PC is way more accurate and more convenient. So in general I have USB hub attached to one of tripod legs.
To this hub I have connected:
HEQ5 Pro mount through EQDIR USB cable (it is plugged on mount into hand controller port) ZWO ASI 120MM-S guide camera which is attached to my guide scope Canon 6D camera 2 x dew heater straps (for scope and guide scope). Those are attached to charging only ports on my USB HUB. Mentioned USB HUB is plugged to the laptop which is outside, close to my rig during sessions. Then I use RDP to connect to laptop from inside of my house as both, laptop and my desktop are connected to the same router.
Concept is simple as you can see but it needs whole bunch of software to be installed and configured to work properly. Again I will go through it quickly to do not mess too much and I will try to provide links for some tutorials which I have used at the beginning to understand whole concept.
ASCOM; You can understand it as a platform which will create environment for EQMOD driver (I will explain what EQMOD is in next paragraph). This, alongside with EQMOD, is core part which will communicate with your rig through USB and also will create a kind of link between all astrophotography software that you need. Please watch Dylan’s short vid who has explained it in convenient way: https://youtu.be/Se88i3Cs6M0. You can find and download ASCOM platform in here: https://ascom-standards.org/. EQMOD (EQASCOM) is a driver that provides the astronomical 'brains' of the mount control system as per: http://eq-mod.sourceforge.net/eqaindex.html. As you can see there a list of functionality is huge. You can download it from here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/eq-mod/files/EQASCOM/. FTDI Virtual COM Port Driver is another small piece of software that you need to install. In general it is driver for your EQDIR cable. To be honest I haven’t heard about it in ANY tutorial. Like everybody has forgot about it but without it nothing will work. So in general EQDIR USB cable needs to be emulated as standard COM/Serial device. You can find it in here: https://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/VCP.htm. It will install itself as COM1, 2 or 3 device. You will need to pick same port in EQMOD with same speed. Above three apps are core and needs to be installed. If you have doubts (I am sure you do, like I had a bit more than a month ago) please just lurk YouTube and watch more related tutorials.
You will need also to install drivers for your main and guide cameras. You can find it on your manufacturers website.
Now I will describe software of my choice (of course you can pick another, as there is a few alternatives for each of it). Those software will let you auto guide your object in more accurate way, perform polar alignment without looking through polar scope, will help you to plan your session on particular objects and check FOV, will control your main camera wit GoTo functionality and many others:
PHD2. Ok in here there are no alternatives. If you have decided to control remotely you rig you need an autoguiding software and PHD2 is probably only or at least best and simplest option. In general it will connect with your mount, guider, will “stick” on one or more stars close to your object, will look on it carefully through your guide scope/guide camera and will send information to your mount how and where it should move to stay on track. You can visit again Dylan for more info: https://youtu.be/Mt0luBLaHDw. You can download PHD2 from here: https://openphdguiding.org/. This is first example of software that will communicate and control your rig through 3 core software described above. SharpCap; This is actually software of my pick. Its main purpose is planetary astrophotography but it has one very useful for me functionality. A great and cheap tool for polar alignment. You don’t even need to look through your polar scope or spent fortune on dedicated polar cameras. It will use your guide scope camera! I have used this tutorial to learn it: https://youtu.be/ivlgbgNIeTU. It is really simple and straight forward. No more kneeling in the wet grass for just 10 quids: https://www.sharpcap.co.uk/. If you struggling with standard PA process you should definitely consider to check it out. I am super happy with it. Cheers @SharpCap. Stellarium. This is planetarium software of my pick. I use it to plan my session in time, plan FOV (at what angle should the main camera be attached to the focuser to cover object in best possible way) and before I used it as GoTo tool (now I use Plate Solving GoTo). You can find more info and download it in here: http://stellarium.org/ A lot of people use app called “Cartes du Ciel” but I have never tried it.. Astro Photography Tool – APT. Next software of my pick. I use it to control my main camera, plate solving and few other minor, but still very important things. Cost is less than 20 quids per year for further updates. I think I have decided for APT because I like interface, functionality and something silly- most of experienced astrophotographers which I have watched on YT have used it. And I absolutely do not regret it. You can check demo version or buy it in here: https://www.astrophotography.app/downloads.php. You can watch Trevor’s walkthrough as well: https://youtu.be/icd9Tlrb9Jg. Lots of astrophotohraphers uses NINA which is offering similar functionality and it’s free. I haven’t tried it for longer yet as I have already get used to APT but if you want and you will like it - it could save you 20 quids. Plate Solving – is one of very cool APT and NINA functionality (based on external free software). In general it works like this: You can for example take a blind shoot of night sky and ask plate solve software to tell you where exactly you are shooting with your scope and how FOV look like for you. So if your software knows it already it can take you to any other object on the sky just like that (like GoTo). I have learned how to install and use it from this video: https://youtu.be/dpYXoYEKFpA. It is 2 apps plus databases. You can also consider to buy (or at least check out) ZWO ASIAir. In general it is micro PC which has all software similar to above installed and tied together on one simple panel which you can control through WiFi on your tablet. A lot of astrophotographers use it. I didn’t have any occasion to try it yet but it looks so complex and simple in the same time. Definitely it looks very convenient and handy as well.
At the end just few words about post processing software of my choice:
AstroPixelProcessor; why I have decided to pay 60 quids to rent (or 200 to own) software to stack images if there is free Deep Sky Stacker? Because I live in Bortle class 7/8 area so my data is not the best quality. I have found that APP is handling it much better and it has important for me, and well working functionality to remove light pollution and perform initial photo stretch. You can find more info in here: https://www.astropixelprocessor.com/. I have learned it from Tim’s tutorial: https://youtu.be/9EAKNqZ201Q. It is very simple in use as you won’t need to change most of the default settings. Someday maybe I will switch to PixInsight which offers even more cool postprocessing functionalities but like for now I am happy with APP + PS 2021. PhotoShop. I am absolutely not PS magician but I just get used to it already. You can try free GIMP if you would like to. If you have read this to the end you see that actually to control your rig remotely and PP your photos you need to install… around 15 different applications and drivers. As I have mentioned at the beginning this makes a lot of confusion for beginners because you can find detailed instructions for particular programs or drivers but you will never find complex list from A to Z (at least I haven’t found) of software that you will need. I will highlight it once again that most of the described apps are my personal choice and you can find other options (I have tried to provide a few alternatives). Another problem is that most of this software needs to be configured properly so unfortunately you will need to dig more on your own but I think this is pretty good portion of information if you have just started.
Good luck and clear skies,
By Alex Iordache
I can't get my Skywatcher AZ-EQ5 PRO connected to Stellarium. I'm tring to de that by cable, an usb in my laptop int the other end plugged in the usb port on the hand SynScan hand controller. I did that about 2 years ago, and it worked perfectly, but now i can't get it working. In the end, I want to be able to control my mount via Stellarium. I've tried everything, even plugging my laptop in the mount directly. What am I missing? Did something change in the way Stellarium works or something?
By Alex the great
Hello everybody on this community, very happy I recently joined stargazers lounge.com
Last November I was able to modify my EQ5 mount via shoestring astronomy GPUSB (ST4 mount-USB laptop, my guiding camera is connected to the laptop by USB and PHD2 as guiding software) so I can autoguide it for long periods 6 minutes and more, I was really happy that this project was achieved and now I can get more details out of deep sky objects.
My question is how can I go GOTO with this set up, trying to find objects to image is really time demanding without GOTO, and my goal is to take advantage of time to get those photons.
I installed already ASCOM but I didn't connect with the USB connection (I think only work with serials cable)
Thanks in advance for your valuable comments
So I had a free day yesterday and decided to sort out my equipment and update my astro laptop software packages. I downloaded the latest Stellarium and managed to get it to sync with APT. I installed my Xmas present from my sweetheart (Optolong L-eNhance filter) how did she know it's what I wanted??? I recently installed the free trial version of Pixinsight on my main laptop so after watching a few YouTube videos decided to get some Dark and Bias frames to create some masters ready for my next session.
The weather was good yesterday and it stayed clear here as the sun started to set, so I set everything up outside hoping the apps were wrong and it wouldn't get cloudy. As it got darker I launched Sharpcap and completed a polar allingment, I used Stellarium and APT to slew to Vega and checked the focus was good. I then used Goto++ in APT to slew to NGC 7380 (Wizard Nebula), I set PHD2 off guiding and then I had my first issue; my laptop would not connect to my Lyn Astro dew controller so I manually set the temperature to quite low as it wasn't too damp at that time. So I started capturing 5 minute subs went inside and remoted into my astro laptop from my main laptop to check how it was going, all appeared good.
I recently set up a Rpi NAS at home so I'm able to transfer data to it and then to my other laptop on the go, so after I'd got a few subs I opened them in PI to check the quality, they looked ok to me. after about an hour PHD2 started binging a lost star warning so I went outside and the clouds were starting to cover the sky, I then took loads of flat frames using my main laptop, Notepad and 3 sheets of white paper and decided to take some more darks in case it cleared. I then set about trying to process the 9 subs I'd managed to capture with the 200 flat frames the master bias and dark frames I'd created earlier. Despite the lack of subs I'm quite pleased with the result, I have done a quick Histogram stretch, and the knowledge I have gained, I'm definately going to purchase PI when I can afford it.
So this morning I thought I'd sort out the issue with the connection to the Lynx Astro dew controller, you won't believe it, my Astro Laptop will not turn on, it's been playing up for a while I suspect the battery has died. So just when I thought I was getting on top of this frustrating hobby I get another spanner in the works. So do I gamble and order a new battery then discover it is the laptop that has failed, do I set up another old laptop I have and hope it will be ok, do I set up my Rpi3 with Indigo or do I buy a mini PC as I know my way around windows?
Anyway here's the calibrated stacked image as it is in PI with a quick stretch.