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PrimaLuceLab’s Eagle Core


SteveNickolls
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Hi again, I just watched the PLL video about controlling the mount, that was filmed with their v2.5 firmware upgrade. Makes little sense as the paper manual describes something different using the two add on devices. I can only think that before v2.5 you had to use a SkyFi III to control a SkyWatcher mount or a SkyQLink2 for a Celestron mount. All seems confusing and muddled. Best to pin PLL down to an answer over which is the correct way to go about things. I hope I just simply haven't confused you more.

 

This is the record of the last two firmware updates-

Version 2.6 12/07/2019

1) Added support of Celestron equatorial mounts with NexStar+ handpad

2) Added support to Canon EOS 450D and Nikon D90 cameras

 

Version 2.5 26/03/2019

1) Added support of computerized mounts

2) Added support to Canon EOS R and Nikon Z6/Z7 mirror less cameras

Cheers,

Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Hi Steve I have been having problems with my iPad in that nothing will open but gladly at the moment it seems to play nicely. Thanks for the various pdf’s I will work my way through them. I have just bought a new cable to power my Celestron AVX mount but I may have the cables on the Eagle Core wrong. I have the cable with the cigarette connector going into the connector next to the Ariel and the other end into the power port on the mount. It clearly states in the user guide that that connector is an out, where should I connect that cable? Is there a diagram that shows what cable goes where. Although everything lights up when powered connecting the cables where I have them I am not sure everything is in the right place.

PPL said they were testing mount control using a Celestron AVX and the atenuc 232 a and when complete they would contact me, that was a few days ago but nothing yet. Although I have told them my mount is a Celestron AVX with a nexstar handcontroller the only instructions I can find relating to hc settings relate to a Synscan  hc, any thoughts on that?.

They need to revisit the manual and make it more understandable as well as being up to date otherwise they will lose sales. People like me will be going round in circles and getting more and more frustrated as well as looking at other things that may well be easier to use.

Edited by Dinoboy
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Hi Dinoboy,

4 hours ago, Dinoboy said:

I have just bought a new cable to power my Celestron AVX mount but I may have the cables on the Eagle Core wrong. I have the cable with the cigarette connector going into the connector next to the Ariel and the other end into the power port on the mount.

The power port right next to the antenna (shown below) is to accept the Eagle Core's (EC) power in connector delivering power, either battery or mains from either the lead with a cigarette socket end or lead from one of PLL's mains power supply units, I use their 5A 12V output adapter.

image.png.87a4a85747a620e7a7e50a5559a4da14.png

They do make two higher amperage power supplies (10A at either 12V or 12.8V), you choose which one suits your system's power uses.

This is the battery connection that you already have which goes from your battery into the EC power in port, note it does not connect to the mount-

image.png.c636b469fd0b246a203fd208e2ee3409.png

The power input connection to the EC doesn't fit anywhere else except from whichever power supply (battery or mains) you are using to the EC power input socket, it does not connect to the mount.

image.png.01d41e29c15cfc99eb2df206669724d5.png

Photo above showing the power input port to the EC (facing you and to the right of the antenna).

Now as regards power out from the EC to your mount and DSLR you need to have the right proprietory cable from PLL to connect from any of the three power out points on the end of the EC to your mount's power in point and another to your DSLR. You can see below that I am using two of the EC's power out ports situated on the end of the EC, they are the 3A outputs. The thicker cable (centre power out socket) powers my CG-5 mount, the other (on the right) powers my Canon DSLR, again through a specific PLL cable for my camera. I don't have anything connected to the remaining 5A output and in any case my 'power supply' is limited to 5A but this is fine as it suits me fine. PLL do make two other 10A power supplies one at 12V and the other 12.8V).

 

image.png.3199e5047624b2d4ce6bdfac2611275e.png

In my case the middle 3A 12V outlet takes one of these cables to connect up to my Canon DSLR-

image.png.364f0cc0fcb6346d7a5c191140398f92.png

The cable you need to connect to power your AXX mount is this one-

image.png.10cf85cec9bcbb0e9d88c7b7dc5411df.png

Below is a schematic from the pdf manual. '8' is the EC power in port and '5','6' and '7' the power out ports. I'm sorry to say PLL have mislabeled '7' as 12V 5A output as in reality port '5' is the 12V 5A outlet!!!  Completely at a tangent note they label '1' twice and do not correctly name the 1/4" screw in the top of the unit!!!

image.png.4a55963928bb766df9c3d467668d2522.png

I hope this helps clarify the power in/out connections Dinoboy.

It will be very interesting to hear what PLL have to say after testing on an AVX mount.

3 hours ago, Dinoboy said:

Although I have told them my mount is a Celestron AVX with a nexstar handcontroller the only instructions I can find relating to hc settings relate to a Synscan  hc, any thoughts on that?.

The Synscan HC is a SkyWatcher product you need directions from PLL for your Celestron AVX mount and it's hand controller, a NexStar+. 

You really need to wait to hear from PLL.

Cheers,
Steve

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Hello Steve, thanks again for your help. I have the cables for the EC bought them when I purchased everything else. I have swapped the cables around so they should be in the right place.

The problem I have with pll is that I don’t think they always understand what I say, they do a pretty good job of translating though.

Just waiting for my new cable to arrive then on a very rare clear night I will try things.

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I found that my Eagle core would not work with Celestron AVX mount until after upgrading to firmware version 2.6.  I found technical support from PLL to be very poor.  Many of the e-mails I sent them regarding issues I was having went unanswered.

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11 hours ago, JEM_svca said:

I found that my Eagle core would not work with Celestron AVX mount until after upgrading to firmware version 2.6.  I found technical support from PLL to be very poor.  Many of the e-mails I sent them regarding issues I was having went unanswered.

Thanks JEM_svca for both these points. Interesting to note the latest v2.6 firmware was required for control of your mount. Sorry to learn of your experience with PLL's Tech Support's lack of response. My own experience is they have been quick to reply to me and acknowledged some ideas for inclusion in a future Eagle App upgrade. It's very helpful to others to know the score with the company and the products.

Would you be willing to write in this thread how you now successfully control your mount using the Eagle app interface, it would be valuable for others with an AVX mount?

Best Regards,
Steve

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Hi Steve,

I use the Eagle Core with my AVX mount and Nikon DSLR to enable wireless control of the mount and camera through my Apple ipad pro tablet.  I use SkySafari 5 plus (installed on the ipad) to find targets and issue GoTo commands, and use the built in Eagle Core image acquisition software to control camera exposures.   I do not use the Eagle Core guiding software.  I use PHD2 instead with the mounts guide port because It has more features and I have a better understanding of how it works.  I turn DEC guiding off because my mount has a lot of DEC backlash.  With a careful polar alignment I can get by without DEC Guiding.  I calibrate guiding using a star near the meridian and celestial equator and use PHD2's "ask for coordinates" feature in the Aux Mount Setting, so I don't have to recalibrate for every different image target.

When I tried to set up the Eagle Core initially I could not get it to connect properly following the instructions in the manual.  I tried using both the Serial port hand controller with various USB/serial adapters and the newer USB hand controller.  Neither worked.  I was able to get it running by connecting everything after (rather than before) powering up the Eagle Core, but this led to other problems which I don't need to get into here.  I also had a problem with the led lights always being on and not functioning as stated in the manual.  This made upgrading the firmware dicey because the instructions depended on light sequencing.  Despite this I managed to get the version 2.6 firmware installed.  I was then able to connect with both hand controller types and all the software seemed to work properly.  The led lights however were still not functioning as stated in the manual,  but this didn't seem to have any effect on system performance.

Currently the Eagle Core camera control will display an image after it is taken which is very useful.  However, it will not display an image if it is taken using the camera's long exposure noise reduction feature which involves taking a dark frame exposure immediately following the normal exposure.  I sent an message to PLL pointing out this issue but they never responded other than to say the message was received. 

To get good imaging results with my AVX and the Eagle Core I use the following procedure:

1)  Carefully pre-balance mount with all supported equipment installed and camera in focus.  I use small spring scale to measure force in both directions.  Record counterweight and scope positions for future use.

2)  Rough polar align tripod, level tripod mount face using torpedo level, attach mount, rough polar align mount head.

3)  Manually align mount index marks.  Lock clutches.  Attach and position counterweights and scope.  Connect hand control, Celestron GPS, and mount power source. 

4)  Power on the mount.  Perform accurate polar alignment using Polemaster (laptop required).  Power off mount.  Loosen clutches, return mount to index marks manually, retighten clutches.  Disconnect/remove Polemaster.

5)  Connect the Eagle Core to the hand control and Eagle Core power source, but don't turn on the power to the Eagle Core yet.  Power on the mount.  Use HC Menu to View Time-Site.  Wait for GPS to finish linking.  If it doesn't link, open the utilities sub-menu and make sure the GPS is enabled.  Once linked, turn on camera live view display and begin 2 star alignment procedure, followed by 4 calibration stars.  When finished, turn the camera off.  Use the Goto command in the utilities menu to home the mount..

6)   Connect the Eagle Core to the Camera USB port, turn the camera on, and finally power on the Eagle Core.  Link the ipad and the SkySafari app to the Eagle Core WiFi according to instructions.  In SkySafari go to Scope/Connect.  Once connected you should be able to go to any objects listed in SkySafari and permitted by your mount altitude limits.  After reaching your target you can switch to the Eagle Core app and start taking pictures.

😎 

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Hi JEM_svca, thanks so very much for you detailing your equipment and the procedures you follow for utilising the Eagle Core. I'm sure this will be extreemly helpful to others with similar equipment and as a guide to those with slightly different set ups. I am struck by the many similarities how we both set up.

I have not yet been able to try out the Eagle Core to guide either my CG-5 Advanced Go-To mount or Star Adventurer mount due to bed weather and current prolonged cold. I take note you decided to still employ PHD2 for guiding rather than the Eagle App. I have used PHD2 successfully on my CG-5 albeit with relatively modest focal length telescope (500 mm) and it was very forgiving of the DEC backlash problem associated with the CG-5 mount. I'm hoping the Eagle App will be equally lenient but my testing will prove it one way or another. I will post a review of that once completed. I have noticed that the Eagle App doesn't have any means to take dark frames to use when guiding compared to PHD2 and I've noticed my new ASI120MM-S camera has lots of stuck pixels. Adjusting the gain seems to hit a spot where stars are visible but most of the stuck pixels aren't. I'd hoped the Eagle Core would provide both imaging with a DSLR and guiding so removing the need for long USB cables, time will tell of course. 

I've so far used my Eagle Core on my CG-5 mount with Canon 600D and modified 700D DSLR's using a Samsung Tab A for Wi-Fi control. I have also used my Win 10 laptop to control the device using an Ethernet cross over cable. The Eagle app does visually appear better on the tablet. I haven't attempted to control my mount with the Eagle Core and as most of my imaging is of nebulae I tend to manually point the camera to the target area so no need for any detailed star alignment other than selecting 'Last Alignment' on the hand controller. Like yourself I use the Eagle Core to control imaging and find it works very well. I have been spoilt with BYEOS in the past and did contact PLL over some changes to the Eagle App including changing the percentage exposure bar to that of seconds elapsed or a countdown clock, who quickly comprehends what 36% of a 5 minute exposure means? Some means to stretch temporarily the last image as you can in BYEOS would also be helpful for fainter targets.

I have the camera's long exposure noise reduction feature turned off, a habit from the past and over time I have built up a library of dark frames to match up with light frames from each session. i have had issues with turning off 'Live View' onthecamera then affecting the operation of the Eagle App which I should investigate more but for now I leave 'Live View' on despite adding to noise.

I do not know if I want to bother with mount control of the CG-5, it does seem quite convoluted and I usually only image one target a night. When I have guided using PHD2 I have calibrated on a star close to the target object and it works fine.

I will try and set out my procedure below like you have which will show a lot of similarities-

1. As part of my attempts to reduce set up and take down time I have constructed an imaging pad with marks that I can place the tripod on meaning the mount will be facing north and level.

2. I have a long list of all peripherals used for imaging together with their weights. I have calculated their turning moments on the mount along with the counterweight and bar used. This is used to ensure an slight imbalance in the mount both in RA and DEC. I leave the dew strap on the lens in use to simply plug into the mains connection if required.

3. Most of the imaging equipment is left attached to the mount between sessions and simply carried outside and connected to the tripod. The Eagle Core does help to keep connections made permanently again saving set up time. Only if a different lens is being used do I need to pre-focus the camera and lens beforehand. I've found my Eagle Core does best if all cable connections are made before turning on power.

4. A portable rcd protected mains cable reel is used to supply power to the Eagle Core and another socket powers the dew heater if required. This is the only long cable that now needs to be used, again saving time.

5. Polar alignment is performed using an iPolar device powered and controlled from my laptop, this is very accurate and quick to do. Once aligned the device is disconnected and the laptop taken indoors.

6. The rcd is switched on powering the mount and Eagle Core. I return the mount's DEC and RA to their index marks and perform a cursory star alignment just choosing 'Last alignment'. I then check that the slewing rate is set at '2' being sidereal rate.

7. I connect up my Samsung Tab A to the Eagle's wi-fi hot spot and turn on the DSLR. Once in the Eagle App interface I synchronise the time in Advance Settings/Clock Settings then head to the Acquisition Interface to set the details for imaging.

8. I then manually move the mount head or the camera (on a ball head) to point to the target and take a quick 'frame and focus check' image at ISO 1600 and 30 seconds. If all is well I then commence the imaging run usually at ISO 400 and 300 seconds, keeping an occasional eye on proceedings and checking some of the last frame JPEGs to check all is well. 

I can see from your process where if I wanted to extend into controlling the mount I would need to do so, thanks again.

Regarding guiding with the Eagle App how did it all come over as an experience? Obviously you prefer PHD2 but what shortcomings did you encounter, or features did you find missing?

Also concerning mount control, and mindful of Dinoboys issues, do you need a device such as the Celestron SkyPortal Link to make it work or is it just the right cables to the right ports?

Cheers,
Steve

 

 

Edited by SteveNickolls
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Hi Steve,

My experience guiding with the Eagle Core has been minimal and took place on a night that had particularly bad seeing conditions so I can't really make any informed comments on the Eagle guiding process.  I just felt that I had more options with PHD2 considering that the AVX is not what I would call a precision tracking mount.  PHD2 also gives me features that I can use to examine mount behavior.  I also love the fact that I don't have to recalibrate the guiding for every target, I just tell PHD2 the new DEC angle which is listed in SkySafari under target info.

I am surprised how well the AVX does at pointing and tracking when I have good polar alignment.  I use a 714 mm FL main scope and the guide scope is supported at 3 axial positions, one at the guide camera to reduce the effects of focuser flexure.  Total instrument weight is about 22.5 lbs.  The Eagle core is mounted on the tripod underneath the mount.  The moving Scope components connect to the non-moving computer components through a single mesh-sleeve enclosed cable bundle routed from the scope down through the altitude pivot hole in the mount.  This bundle includes:  USB from DSLR to Eagle Core,  USB from Guide Camera to laptop, ST4 cable from guide camera to mount guide port.  I replaced the original tripod leg tubes with stainless steel tubing 2x thicker and made them a little longer so I don't have to use as much extension.  A friend of mine crushed one of the inner legs on his tripod when he overtightened the leg lock.  The thicker legs keep the legs from denting and increase the tripod stiffness.  The extra weight makes the whole setup more stable, though some would consider this a disadvantage for portability reasons.

With a 6 point goto alignment done through the hand control and the camera in live view mode I get very good pointing accuracy.  The skysafari 5+ goto command works very well wirelessly through the Eagle Core.  It nails the target position.  This is good because I have no way of seeing it when the cameras is connected to the Eagle Core until after I take a picture.  On the minus side. the slew buttons in SkySafari don't seem to work very well.  There is too much delay.  The scope takes a while to start slewing and keeps going after you take your finger off the button.  I can't remember if you can make a pointing adjustment with the hand control and see how far it moves in SkySafari without messing up the initial alignment.  I think you can, but I will have to give it a try next time to make sure.   If this works, it would be a good way to tweak the framing even though the target would move off center in the SkySafari view.

The camera control in the Eagle core is simple to use and works well but doesn't have many features.  I wish it would work with the camera long exposure noise reduction feature.  I wonder if there is any software that does.  

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Hi JEM_svca, thanks for all this detail it is very informative and am sure it will be of great help and advice to anyone else thinking of using the Eagle Core. Your description of how the Eagle Core is placed on the tripod and the modifications you have done are very useful to know and share. 👍

Your AVX has a lot of improvements over my now almost 15 year old CG-5, PEC is valuable to have and the bundled routing of cables through the hole is very helpful to be able to do. When my cold has finally gone and the weather here decides to go and allow some clear nights the next job is to explore how the Eagle App controls guiding both on the CG-5 and Star Adventurer and I will post the outcomes here. Like you I've found PHD2 very full of features though I've been unable to take advantage of some due to my mount's inbuilt limitations. However the large user base and constant innovation bring a well researched product and it's very forgiving on my CG-5's DEC backlash problem too.

I am very interested what you have to report about mount control as Dinoboy has had problems establishing that control over his AVX mount. As you will see from earlier in the thread there is confusion over how mount control with the Eagle Core is carried out, namely if an adapter such as the SkyQLink is required or not. Your success shows the v2.6 upgrade did do away with the requirement for any extra adapter which is very good to know and also lessens the costs involved. The whole mount control issue doesn't come across as something straight forward to do particularly considering the Eagle Core is meant for those getting to grips with astro-photography using a DSLR. Your account of the pro's and con's using SkySafari are interesting, I do like the idea of tweaking the framing if required. 

For what it is worth you could drop an email to PLL and give them your feedback and suggest changes to future firmware updates. I did uncover some details about the cpu used in the Eagle Core, it's an ARM A7 1 GHz quad core and there's 1 GB RAM and 8 GB SSD on board. Not sure how much room PLL have to add too many changes in capability of the device but would have thought small desirable tweaks could be forthcoming from them. 

Cheers and clear skies.

Steve

 

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Hi Steve,

Let us know how your guiding with the Eagle Core works.  One of the things I noticed was that the Eagle Core did not have any way to build a bad pixel map for the guide camera.  This was one of the features that I appreciated in PHD2.  This supposedly helps to prevent choosing a hot pixel as the guiding star.

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Hi JEM_svca, that's exactly my concern after finding my new ASI120MM-S has many hot pixels. I have identified a gain setting to use that while showing actual stars does not show most of the stuck pixels. I will be contacting PLL to suggest them adding the use of a dark frame or bad pixel map if the Eagle App has the memory and storage to address this.

Cheers,

Steve

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Hi Steve,

When you use the gain adjustment process are you still able to find a properly unsaturated (i.e. not over saturated) star for guiding.  I don't think the Eagle Core app gives you any information on star saturation.  The guide star image intensity profile should be a smooth curve otherwise it is more difficult to determine the center of the star for tracking purposes.  PHD2 will show the star intensity profile so that you tell if it is over saturated (flat top profile).  I suppose lowering the gain is less likely to produce over saturated stars, but some can still be very bright.  It is still nice to be able to see the profile to make sure.

 

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11 hours ago, JEM_svca said:

When you use the gain adjustment process are you still able to find a properly unsaturated (i.e. not over saturated) star for guiding.

I have yet to try out the guiding process under the night sky with the Eagle Core but from tests of using the guide scope and guide scope and from my previous experience using PHD2 I think  choosing decent star for guiding will be quite possible to do, the proof of course will be in the doing. Yes, PHD2 has all the helpful tools to make the job as simple and painless as possible and to stop you making mistakes, it has had a lot of user feedback to get it that way and is a much more mature product than the Eagle App. My disposition is one of hope that the Eagle App will allow guiding to be accomplished so I have a handy device to control guiding and imaging by wi-fi. 

Cheers,
Steve

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Hi Steve,

I verified that  I could make slews or goto's with the AVX keypad without affecting subsequent wireless goto's made with SkySafari from the ipad through the Eagle Core and vice versa.

Attached is a picture of my setup using the Eagle Core.IMG_0982red.thumb.jpg.0a89c135c38ff976eb16fac20d5f62a3.jpg 

 

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4 hours ago, JEM_svca said:

Attached is a picture of my setup using the Eagle Core.

That is a very good looking set up you have, I like the customised metal work holding the Eagle Core and the platform below that. I now see how tidy the cabling is in the sheathing. 👍   May I enquire how you have found the performance of the Celestron Lithium Powertank in operation? Do you use your Eagle Core to then power your mount and DSLR? I use a mains extension reel with a portable rcd to provide power to the Eagle Core which then in turn provides power to the mount and DSLR. A separate lead from the reel to the Dew heater. I didn't think the capacity of my older type power tanks would provide enough power to all the equipment over a prolonged imaging session.

Hmm, it is good to know that you have been able to mix using your keypad and SkySafari to control the mount.

There are so many things that I need to trial surrounding the Eagle Core yet at the moment the combination of our fickle UK weather with storm following storm and a persistent cold have put paid to doing anything outside.

Cheers,
Steve

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Hi Steve,

I live in California and do my Astro photography at dark sky sights were I don't have access to mains power.  I use the Celestron Lithium power tank to power the mount directly.  I have been very happy with it.  It is lightweight and never seems to run out of juice.  It also holds its charge over long periods of inactivity.  I power the Eagle Core and my laptop with a Yeti Goal Zero 400 watt hr lithium ion battery/inverter combination which I recharge with solar panels after each nights use, and I use it to recharge the power tank when necessary.  So far I haven't had to deal with dew heaters.  If I had to use dew heaters I think I would need to get a bigger mount and I would mount the Eagle Core with the scope because of the extra wiring. 

Attached is a photo I took of Andromeda, 4 light frames, no darks or flats.

M31_Andromeda_Galaxy_small.thumb.jpg.0e775a2baa78daf59a6113f8ecee7b25.jpg

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Ahh, you are very lucky living in California, I once heard that it never rains there 😉 and having access to local dark sites to image are very welcome indeed. I can see how your equipment is geared towards minimising set up despite having to travel; the Eagle Core ideally would provide that hub between guider, mount and camera.

Unless you are fortunate enough to live at a dark location it's only a dedicated few people in the UK who travel to dark sites. Despite being a much smaller country than the USA we tend not to travel so far, or at least feel a trip taking an hour or more is actually too far. The few times I would travel a long distance would be to go on holiday where I'd hope to take the Eagle Core along with my Star Adventurer. Thanks very much for sharing your image of Andromeda, I do like the dust and star forming regions-was that image taken at a dark site by any chance?

The weather here can be terrible for months on end and I do most imaging set up in the rear garden at home under a Bortal 6 sky. I have consequently taken the road less travelled and mostly couple very fast lenses with a modified Canon 700D DSLR and Ha filter to take images of nebulae. Two hours of total exposure will usually produce a reasonable image since one cannot always expect to get another clear night for some time. With patience however I have been able to construct mosaics, this is from late 2018 using a Samyang 135 mm lens-

CYGNUS_Region.thumb.jpg.35c22aec9d0edd1d779d70195320e19e.jpg

Being able to make visible what is otherwise completely invisible in our night sky is really rewarding and particularly how a mosaic can bring a very large object such as the Great Northern Coal Sack into plain sight. The dark cracks of dust running between the North American Nebula to around Sadr merely hint at what more remains hidden from our Earthly perspective.

And more recently using a canon 50 mm lens at f/2 of the Orion region, I was pleased the camera captured the fainter arm of nebulosity reaching out to Betelgeuse from Barnard's Loop-

15_1_20_ORION_Mono_New_3_pane_Mosaic.thumb.jpg.bf076c12d7c15c20407656eaf49a1c4c.jpg

Well I'm hoping to get guiding with the Eagle App resolved one way or the other before the galaxy season begins and when I will need guiding to use my telescope.

Clear skies.

Cheers,
Steve

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Hi Steve,

Thanks for sharing those images.  Amazing how much you were able to capture by using mosaics.  I hear UK is overcast a lot so I can appreciate your problems with the weather.  I am surprised that quite a few people there have telescopes and do Astro photography.  While it doesn't rain a lot in California, it rains pretty hard when it does.  The biggest problems are cloudy or overcast skies, light pollution, wind, and atmospheric turbulence.  I think we all have problems waiting for days where all visibility factors are good simultaneously.

There are two dark sites I go to.  One, Chuchupate, is about 75 miles from home at an elevation of about 5500 feet. The other, Camp Ferguson at White Mountain, is about 265 miles away at an elevation of 7200 feet.  Our astronomy club rents Camp Ferguson (a primitive camping site) once or twice a year and we usually spend about five nights there.  We have to make reservations six or more months in advance so we are stuck with whatever weather we get.  I have only tried mosaicing once.  I used  a 17 mm lens, and several 30 sec exposures without tracking, to get the Camp Ferguson location shot shown below.  The Andromeda shot in the previous post was taken from Chuchupate, which has a nice parking lot (without lights) to set up in.  The Eagle Core works very well for me in a portable wireless setup for finding targets and taking pictures.  I used to push the camera exposure button by hand timing the exposures with my watch, and often lost track of the time.  I was looking for an intervalometer but a good one was expensive.  I found that the Eagle Core provided more capabilities and a wireless connection for around the same price, so I decided to give it a try. 

 

MilkyWay.thumb.jpg.b6e9011bc2a5523d20740129d5591c19.jpg

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A caution......arising from the above description in the Eagle 3 manual...

You do NOT want to buy a 'SkyQLink' Celestron WiFi wireless accessory. Any device emitting a signal with the SkyQLink name is first generation and is unsatisfactory. 

The product was renamed 'SkyPortal' and is now up to generation 3 and emits a signal named 'Celestron.xx'. The 'xx' is a hexadecimal number offering 256 access codes. This step was introduced because 'SkyQLink' conflicts were identified from an early stage, rumoured to have been  between adjacent Evolution scopes at the Launch Party.

 Both generation 1 & 2 version offer poor range and are flaky due to poor ribbon aerial and unsatisfactory WiFi chip etc. I have owned both and eventually obtained a generation 3 under warranty. A problem is that externally you cannot distinguish between versions (no differing product code). So, never buy a SkyPortal external WiFi accessory second hand unless certain it is generation 3 (e.g. brand new is best). Even with a third generation device, please note it uses the 2.4GHz channel, which can suffer from interference from USB3 devices and urban 'clutter'

I don't use a Prima Luce Eagle 3. Instead I built my own twin computer based remote control device using Intel NUCs for about a third of the price. I do use a SkyPortal device to wirelessly connect scope to computer, and it works fine as the distance to be wirelessly bridged is merely around two feet. However, I needed to ensure it was distant from my USB3 camera and when considering its own effective range  I found it unreliable beyond about 10 feet in either Direct or Access Point mode (even third generation). It seems to get overwhelmed by external interference in urban locations.

Celestron has long blamed 'urban clutter' which I suspect is real. My neighbours control everything from central heating to curtains and lighting by WiFi. The list of 2.4 GHz networks I can "see" is inexhaustible. I have created  dedicated 5 GHz WAN network, and wirelessly connect my two computers using Windows 10 Pro Remote Desktop (much cheaper than Eagle 3) and this works great. But until Celestron make its SkyPortal device (say) dual band you are stuck with 2.4GHz, not ideal with either route.

 

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2 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

A caution......

Hi noah4x4, thanks very much indeed for this 'heads up' concerning the 'SkyPortal' and its descendants. I'm sure it will be also very helpful for others also considering the device and alternatives. 

Your experience building and running an alternative mini-pc to the Eagle range is most welcome and I hear what you say concerning competing wi-fi signals on the 2.4GHz range. I have found the range offered by the Eagle Core varies, it can be over 30 feet allowing connection from indoors but other times this becomes patchy. I now try to keep my tablet within about half that distance to avoid drop out which has worked flawlessly. The Eagle core has the ability for users to change the channel used for the connection but i have not attempted to alter any settings. An advantage of the Eagle Core is it can be operated using a wireless connection from Windows, iOS and Android devices etc. and I also have operated mine using an Ethernet crossover cable which worked fine and avoids signal drop outs. I did however get the device to mainly reduce the number of cables (and the time spent laying them out and gathering them back in at the end of a session. I'm really pleased there are now so many ways to make astronomy more enjoyable and the solutions meet every level of ability and personal requirements. I understand the larger models in the Eagle range use dual band connectivity like you own built system.

 

Hi JEM_svca,

My, what a lovely image you took there, the benefits of a dark, high site certainly spring out. I'm pleased you have been able to use the Eagle Core and show its usefulness in such circumstances. Do any of your companions on such trips also use an Eagle Core for some or all of their imaging? Given what noah4x4 says in his post at least at a remote dark location any interfering signals should be few.

A few years ago we went on summer holiday in Coverack, Cornwall-a very dark location on the English coast and one evening for a period in between sea mists was able to take some exposures of the North American Nebula/Pelican Nebula region. Just looking at the individual frames I was stunned by the great improvement in detail over what can be captured back home under typically 19.21 SQM-L average skies. I was able another night to take images of the Heart and Soul Nebulae region and when back home attempted to compare the results, you can image the difference. I'd like to utilise the Eagle Core as the basis of a lighter weight travel set up to take advantage of darker sky locations.

Cheers,
Steve

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Hi Steve,

Interesting that your WiFi range experience with the Eagle 3 mirrors mine with a DIY solution. I found with a regular Home WiFi network the effective range seemed to differ by the day. One day 30 feet, next day minimal. Drove me nuts!  But I have a theory, and a solution.

Recently, Apple was fined €25m in France for issuing upgrades reducing the performance levels of earlier I-phones. Vodafone offers two speed levels of its 'unlimited data' tariff. It is evident that manufacturers and ISPs can remotely vary WiFi,  4G and other performance parameters. I reckon at peak loads we possibly get screwed down. I tried a Netgear EX8000 wireless extender. But it's performancec struggled to deliver the consistency I needed.  To be fair to Netgear, I probably needed two or more such units (see next paragraph). If streaming a movie, our eyes won't miss a dropped frame. However, if any interference/clutter results in a "lost packet" then a scope will miss a heart beat and lose orientation. It needs a perfectly stable, consistent strong signal. I struggled for nearly three years with this challenge.

I didn't get good consistent WiFi performance until I obtained a set of three BT 'WholeHome' discs (£163 from Amazon). I put one in my conservatory connected to my router by Ethernet cable. Another in my (converted garage) Mission Control. My scope connects to the former and my computer to the latter. I still needed to strategically put a third powered disc between them to form a MESH bridge. This now covers my entire house and garden with a 5 GHz private network wholly independent of my regular network. I use it only for my astro devices to avoid clutter I can control. The rest of the family suffer the regular network!  It works brilliantly. However...

The distance between each overlapping signal disc is little more than 5 metres. The distance between scope and  computer indoors circa 12 metres (requiring the extra disc between) with signals having to breach a brick wall at each end. It now works solidly. Frankly, the limits seem to be no longer than "active' USB at my location, but as you have noted, any 'clutter' issue might not manifest at Dark Sky sites or less (WiFi) populated areas.

This route is also a  cheaper than more sophisticated point to point solutions. But I had already invested in high gain antennae wireless adapters. A pal has mentioned to me that my 'timber framed' (brick exterior) house has inner plasterboard lined with tinfoil insulation that perhaps further explains the local challenge. 

Lastly, but not relevant to the Eagle 3, I found that disabling RemoteFX compression in Windows 10 Pro Remote Desktop offered benefits. This compression deliberately restricts data flow to stop a single user choking a commercial network. On your own unique private WAN this compression isn't necessary. Unleashing this data flow was the difference between me succeeding or failing with an end to end 4K UHD display system using WiFi.

My DIY system electronically now works great, but it is not as compact as the Eagle 3. Still working on that challenge. But with plastic (electronics) project boxes costing under £10 from Rapid Electronics, I am close to a perfect DIY solution. 

EDIT

I notice BT offer the original AC2600 (R800) WholeHome system £163 (for three discs) plus a revised AX3700 system for £269. Evidently, MESH technology has stepped up another gear which might improve connectivity and range. These discs work with any router (BT, Sky, Talk Talk etc) and set up a wholly independent 5 GHz network. 

Edited by noah4x4
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