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deb1919

Discouraged experienced newbie here.

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I need encouragement. I've been doing basic astrophotography for years and am still much greener than I should be. And the new challenges I've recently taken on have left me wanting to throw in the towel.

My scope is a Celestron 150mm Omni XLT refractor. Originally, it was on a CG4 mount, and I had to do everything manually, which provided a good basic education. I added a motor kit, and learned to polar align to the point where I could get about 3 mins of exposure without streaking. Sometimes.

I wanted a go-to mount, with enough weight capacity to handle anything I might buy one day. So I picked up a Celestron CGE Pro for a song, when they were on clearance. But this mount uses their All-Star Polar Alignment (ASPA), and has no alignment scope, which pretty much negated everything I'd learned before. ASPA seems like it should work well, but the beginning-to-end alignment procedure has to be pieced together from all different parts of the mount's manual. And for me, it's still just a rote procedure. For most of the steps, I'm just doing them without understanding why they need to be done. So if the alignment doesn't turn out right (usually), I have no idea why. Alignment stars and calibration stars, what's the difference? Why is one step done before another, and not after? I've not been able to find any tutorials that explain things like this. I occasionally get a good alignment, but it's always a crapshoot. And it shouldn't be.

Now I'm trying to use autoguiding for the first time. Yes, I know that an autoguider won't make up for a poor alignment, but it would be useful if I happen to get a good one. Been fighting with this for weeks, and I can't make it work. My guide cam seems to connect properly in PHD, but won't display in the window. And I have yet to make it move my mount in any way. And, as with ASPA, I have no idea where to even begin troubleshooting. All the PHD tutorials I've found assume your gear is connected and working when they begin. Mine isn't.

And I still have filters and stacking to look forward to. Can't even consider that before resolving all the above issues.

So yes, I'm beyond frustrated, and ready to give it up. Or, just revert back to my old limited setup. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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I am not an imager at all, purely visual, but I do know that a 150mm refractor is a big lump with a long focal length. Would it be worth trying something like an 80ED so that the mount is much more within its load capacity, and there is less pressure on the alignment/guiding with a shorter focal length?

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Hi. I'm not familiar with any Celestron mounts at all but they are from the same family tree as Skywatcher mounts. Just checking on Google and the CGE Pro seems to be a good hefty piece of kit! I've not watched the below videos but I hope they can help.

 

 

 

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+1 for the advice from Stu. Keeping things as simple as possible usually provides results that are encouraging. I'm also not an imager for the reasons you are experiencing.    ?

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Hi Deb,

Well despite what Stu says, the Omni XLT 150 is F5, and if you really have the CGE pro Like this one? Then things should work out just fine for you, so stick with it!  (Dont go buy more kit yet that's not the answer!).  you may suffer with some CA, but easy to correct PP.

Try joining the celestron forum, they can help.  For the ASPA, i can't help, but PHD2 has a couple of good alignment routine when you get reasonably close PA.

For guiding and mount control, start with ST4 - even if it adds an extra cable, it just works.  As for not seeing the camera in PHD2 screen, are you sure you installed the driver ok?  maybe try your capture program (sharcap is good for just about all cameras) and display the guidecam in that just to confirm it works.  

Best of all find someone to look at the setup and help with PHD2, 

good luck, and post some more as you go along..

Mike

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Peter, Stu,

Tell me, just how are your comments offering encouragement??  'Buy a different telescope' or 'Dont bother with Astrophotography'...  jeez guys, take a happy pill!

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Photos would help too re guiding setup including screenshots of PhD. 

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21 minutes ago, mikeyj1 said:

Peter, Stu,

Tell me, just how are your comments offering encouragement??  'Buy a different telescope' or 'Dont bother with Astrophotography'...  jeez guys, take a happy pill!

I'm quite happy thanks :), and don't recall saying don't bother with AP.

The OP has indicated he has tried AP for a long period without real success, so rather than banging his head against the same brick wall I suggested a change to see whether that would help.

I did get the spec wrong though, I assumed the Celestron was f8, not f5, so the focal length is not so long. It is still a heavy lump though, and will be harder to guide than a smaller scope, regardless of any CA benefits. The 150XLT is three times the weight of an 80ED and very front heavy.

Most advice for imaging is big mount, little scope, certainly to start off with, and general advice is HEQ5/80ED as the best and easier combination. The CGE Pro is a seriously expensive bit of kit from what I can see, so it seems like it will cope with the 150 no problem.

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Hi and welcome to the forums.

They key with imaging is don't try to take on too much at once.  It takes an awful lot of patience and understanding of each element, but can very easily make you feel overwhelmed and like chucking it in if you try to take on too much.  However, when it goes right, boy is it satisfying!!

Your PA is going to be quite important for you at this stage as with that mount, a good PA is going to let you image for a reasonable time without guiding, certainly enough to get used to how the mount works.  Guiding can come along soon after, but deal with that as a separate thing as it is actually reasonably simple, but you need to get your head around it and not think of all the other things you need to do also.

It would help to know what camera you have, and what you are, or are intending to, image.  If you are imaging planets with a video type camera, then you probably won't need guiding just yet anyway.  Also, if you are imaging with a CMOS camera, selective targets (bright galaxies) mean you can use short enough exposures to again not need to guide just yet.

Don't fret, we all have periods where it seems an impossible task, but splitting it down in to bits, and tackling each bit as a separate element can really help to structure a solution.

Have fun, it's very rewarding when it works.

Edited by RayD
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My advice to anybody that already has a Fastar compatible OTA is consider forgetting traditional long exposures and instead buy Hyperstar. No GEM/wedge; no polar alignment (unless on GEM) , no autoguiding required. You won't win Astrophotographer of the year but it's an easy "cheat" that will produce great results with ease.

A mere 10 second exposure on Hyperstar captures the equivalent of over four minutes of regular exposure with no field rotation issues. Then stack a dozen of those for great results. I struggled with long exposures, wedge, polar alignment and DSLR for two years before I discovered this (lens) device.  I then decided to buy Hyperstar for £960 rather than an AVX mount for similar money as I had reached the conclusion that ANY mechanical elimination of field rotation was always going to be challenging unless I spent £3,000 + on a superior GEM. My 8" Evolution is an excellent Alt-Az and with Hyperstar now makes EAA/AP easy without the usual paraphernalia.  So if discouraged by the frustrations of traditional AP (or light pollution) , do consider Hyperstar. 

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I had a cg5 Mount years ago, so I use to use the all star polar alignment. In order to do the aspa, the mount needs to know where it's pointing. After pointing the mount north you do a star alignment. If you are purely viewing this is then sufficient to allow accurate gotos. If you wish to image you need a more accurate pa. The aspa works by using 2 stars well spaced to measure and adjust the mount axis. You want these two stars to be in an eyepiece so you need an accurate goto which needs your original alignment. Once you've pointed the scope at the two pa stars, the handset will tell you the error and ask you if you want to continue, if you select yes the mount will then move to where the star your we're pointing at would be if you were polar aligned. You then recenter this star using the mount controls, not the handset. If I recall correctly it will then slew to the other star to correct other direction. You'll then adjust the other mount control. I can't recall which but it does first!

You repeat this process until you're happy with how close you are to pa. On the first iteration I used to find the two stars were quite a long way out and sometimes had to use a red dot finder to do the first adjustments. Later ones get into the eyepiece!

After this you will need to do another star alignment as you've basically repositioned the mount to make gotos more accurate. 

I hope that explains what is happening and why. 

Anne

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58 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

My 8" Evolution is an excellent Alt-Az and with Hyperstar now makes EAA/AP easy without the usual paraphernalia.

I have to say that this thought was one of the clinchers for me buying my Evolution recently. I am almost drooling in anticipation. ?

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Deb, you are not the first person to feel this frustration.  I gave up imaging a few years ago.

Back in May I decided to give it another go.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately as it turned out), the nights here are very short at that time of year.

 

As there was no real hope of taking images with only 2-3 hours of darkness, I decided to just play with the equipment.  Each night that it was clear I went out with just one or two objectives in mind.  These were things like "balance the scope" or "Do a polar alignment".

Within a couple of weeks, I had everything working far better than I ever had in the past.  The big difference was that I wasn't putting any pressure on myself.

At this point, I would simply try to get the guide camera connected and working.  This is a job that you can do in the daytime in the comfort of your own home.

Once the camera is working, you can see about getting a guide star onto the chip and check that PHD can follow it.

You won't know if your polar alignment is a problem until you start taking long exposures, so forget about it for the moment.

You have a good mount, and 750mm focal length is not too difficult if your imaging ccd is a reasonable size.

 

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If its any consolation, ive just had a frustrating 2 days just gone with poor polar alignment and imaged nothing (apart from star trails). I just purchased the sharpcap pro licence for a tenner which has the polar alignment tool and got me aligned within minutes. I have yet to see what the phd guiding graph will be like though as the clouds rolled in straight after getting the mount aligned. However, you mentioned your guide cam is not showing anything so this is obviously an issue. Check the gain settings / exposure time but maybe try the software that came with the camera (again something like sharpcap) to ensure its working. 

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@Anne Spretty much said what I was going to stay. Use star alignment to get the mount oriented so that go-to's are fairly accurate. I'd use at least three and as many as six stars. I never understood calibration stars either: you don't need them so just ignore them. Once you've done star alignment (and assuming you set down the mount roughly polar aligned to begin with), then do the ASPA. Follow the directions on the handset closely. Now ... after you've done the ASPA, you may want to repeat the procedure because you've changed the position of the mount. I would park/home the mount, turn it off, wait 10 seconds, turn it on, redo the star alignment (because, again, during ASPA you may have moved the mount significantly), and then redo the ASPA. At that point, you should be dialed in.

Also, consider getting a reticle eyepiece like this: https://www.amazon.com/Orion-8450-Illuminated-Telescope-Eyepiece/dp/B000J5OTBM/ref=sr_1_11_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1541394002&sr=8-11-spons&keywords=orion+eyepiece&psc=1

Yes, it's pricey; yes, there may be cheaper ones and it's fine to get a cheaper one ... but having illuminated crosshairs to help center your alignment and ASPA stars will help more than you know.

Finally: don't give up. It amazes me that you were persistent enough to align a motorized CG-4 well enough to get 3 minute exposures. I had a similar set up and never did better than 15 seconds. So you have the persistence and ability. Go slow, and aim for repeatability. Master the star alignment routine and then enjoy a night of observing. After that, master star alignment and ASPA -- so you can do it without much drama night after night -- and enjoy more observing. Then do it and add a camera to the mix. Get comfy with 10-15 second exposures. Then add a guide camera to the mix. Figure out how to get it focused,  get PhD calibrated, etc., and go for 30- to 60-second exposures. Etc. The goal is to get to the point where each of these things is very mechanical and predictable: where you repeat the exact same steps every night and get essentially identical results. It takes patience, but if you take a deep breathe and don't try to move too fast, with your persistence I'm sure you'll get there.

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I would start off keeping things really simple. Just stick your mount down pointing roughly at polaris (although the closer the better). Then using your camera do a basic drift alignment. This will get your PA where it needs to be and with practice should not take too long.

Take a look here.

This will allow good PA without adding PHD into the mix. Once you get your head around PHD then you can use the tools within PHD if you wanted.

 

cheers,

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If you have a guidescope, consider using the polar alignment routine in Sharpcap, only £10 a year licence and gets my PA down to a gnat's whisker in a couple of minutes.

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Wow, I didn't expect this many replies. I've got a lot of reading to do here. Thank you all.

 

- Doug

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   I can't give you much encouragement, but I can be down there with you for comfort. I've had my new rig for a month, spent the first two weeks familiarizing myself with all the hardware and software, etc., and the last two weeks waiting to test everything I've learned, having exactly three relatively cloudless evenings of bad seeing to do it in. This time of year in eastern Ontario has not been kind to astronomers. Needless to say, I'm only slightly better off now than the day I cracked open the boxes.

   But I can tell you this: I've had a 10" Dob for twenty years, and all that time dreamed of photographing what I saw; that feeling is only growing stronger.

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I align with my guide camera and scope (ASI120, Orion 50mm) and that works pretty well. I'm using KStars and Ekos, which are free. I am fortunate enough to have a pretty decent polar scope in my mount, but after I rough it in with the scope I use the Ekos PA routine. You shoot three images at varying RA, it analyzes the cone error, then displays a live view with a vector. You click on a suitable star and it sticks the base of the vector there; the other end has a little alignment reticle (looks like a lollipop). Twiddle the mount until the star is licking the lollipop, and you're laughing. Usually gets me within a couple minutes of arc on the first try.

I think the nadir for me was when, hours into a session that burnt 50 minutes just getting the stupid target into the camera's view (!!!), I had the scope fall out of the saddle and hit the ground. Talk about discouraged, I wanted to gnaw through all my cables in frustration. But then was treated to miracles and wonder when I processed the data from that trip.

It gets better.

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I'm not going to focus in technical advice. Instead I think you should focus in the spiritual or emotional part inherent to any hobby. First answer the question "Why are you doing it?" Check your goals, are they realistic with your resources (time, skill and gear)? If the answer is affirmative try to always walk in that direction, improving each time, tasting the little success that come along the path. Hurdles fought became good themes for "fireplace talks" in the future. Astrophotography is a fight against yourself, pushing your limits, overcoming the difficulties... Try to not compare with other people except your are doing it rationally, knowing the resources involved in their shots.
Trying to be the best astrophotographer in the world without investing time and money will only end up in frustration.

and always... have fun!

Sergio

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39 minutes ago, AstroCava said:

Try to not compare with other people

Excellent advice.

My ambition is to do the best I can with what I have or can acquire at reasonable cost.

 

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Hi Doug,

It sounds you are struggling a lot and unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in this hobby... 

Even if someone would come and would show you everything from A to Z, you would not be able to remember all at once.

Short steps forward only... :)

I have struggled a lot also and learned 3 main steps which made the rest much easier.

my 2 pence:

1) Good Tripod leveling;

2) Good balance (keep in mind, you have to balance with ALL your toys on the top, even with all cables you will use);

3) Plate Solving, it made my Hobby hundreds times easier.... It leads to the easier Star Alignment and even faster and simpler Polar Alignment using SharpCap PA tool (I think it is free during the Trial) and PHD Drift Alignment (to needle PA).

Plate-solving will make your Star Alignment and targeting as simple as as possible.

The Main challenge,  - to make all software work and speak to each other ;) and lastly....

it becomes not completely Astrophotography, but nerdy study of the Software.... However, it leads to a quite fast and rewarding images. :)

Start from LightVortex walkthrough http://www.lightvortexastronomy.com/tutorial-setting-up-an-equatorial-mount-on-ascom-with-eqmod-stellarium-and-cartes-du-ciel.html#Section1

Keep in mind, all software you use, must have the same time and coordinates.

Enjoy! :)

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