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Please forgive me in advance for my newbie and potentially frustrating question here!
I have got an HEQ5 mount for my skymax 180 that I was given for Christmas. We have tried following many YouTube videos and reading what we can to get this set up and polar aligned and feel like we are missing something fundamental as when we go to then star align with the GOTO remote, it points at the floor instead of the moon or the star we are trying to align to. So far we have used 5 freezing nights of trying to do these things to no avail and it is rather frustrating and extremely disappointing!
So I am wondering please, what is the best way for me to actually set this thing up so we can finally enjoy using the scope? Do I need to have Home position sorted before I've aligned so once we have (hopefully) done that then we can navigate everything easier? Is that potentially what we are missing?
With lockdown i dont have a handy shop to visit or anyone else that knows how to do this and while I am sure patience is a virtue, I feel so overwhelmed by it all! Any advice or recommendations on what to watch or do to help us are gratefully received!
Again, I am sorry for being such a newb, I am hopeful once we crack this it will become second nature over time! Thank you!
By Rolland Balazs
Atik One 6.0 CCD + OAG + Astronomik filters + Atik-Eos adapter
- Astronomik II. LRGB; 6 nm Ha, SII, OIII filters
- Unique Atik-Eos WORKING adapter
- Power supply, USB cord
- Pixinsight dark, flatdark, bias files
Tape is against light pollution only. Of course some sketch on it but working perfect.
Lacerta guide cam exclude.
Bank transfer only.
2.660,-GBP (2.999,-EUR) + postage.
<private contact details removed>
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,
For sale is my beloved but now superfluous to requirements HEQ5 Pro for £650
It's in a used condition as you would imagine. I've had it for about 4 years and found great success with this mount. Ideal for those beginning astrophotography and also good for visual users.
I'm calling it "deluxe" due to the upgrades I've had done.
- It's belt modified
- It's had brand new bearings and grease
- The backlash has been expertly setup
- It has the latest polar scope
- The power port has been replaced with an aviation style port which is a lot more secure
It'll come with the hand controller and at least 1 counterweight (if I can find the second it'll come with both). The polar scope cover has been lost. The counterweight is rusty as always. There is some marring on the counterweight bar housing as shown in the photos.
It also will come with the modified power cable required also.
Note: the power LED sometimes doesn't illuminate but the mount is still powered (please see the photo with the hand controller).
Collection or local delivery within Northampton