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johninderby

Starsense Explorer Stand Alone Conversion

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Funny coincidence John but I have a mini ball-head also but hadn't thought to use it for this mod.

image.png.d52353705ed8f222c17476f36661285b.png

One handy thing I realised was that the camera flash bars I bought fit that finder shoe I just received tho would be too wide for a regular Synta one. Might be worth me fitting this shoe to the vintage scope so the starsense can be used there too 🤔
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For reference this is the view from the Celestron OEM mount off the mirror with my phone (note 10+). Still get some clipping at the top corners and the phone obstructing the bottom part, hence I think a prism will perform just fine and did in early tests. I guess the view with the mirror rig will vary according to phone and position of the cameras, shame the note-3 can't work for this as the camera was better positioned for this use-case compared to where the 10+ ones are.
image.png.81d9f48ba66cb30508e07e7c011dc04d.png

So with this in mind and having built a holder for the prism, I've moved the OEM mount back onto the LT70 and using a tube ring here's the rig on the TAL-1
image.png.f72c11b7dd47c48be5da1d239462980b.png

Now I think this may be workable on the EQ mount and if I run into issues with the angle I can always do what you normally do with a newt in an EQ mount to sort the focuser angle... rotate the OTA or in this case, just the starsense finder if necessary being it is on an independent ring. For the 100RS and SW130 I wouldn't have this flexibility unless I acquire an additional tube ring for them which I'm not planning to quite yet.

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On 14/10/2020 at 08:50, DaveL59 said:

So with this in mind and having built a holder for the prism, I've moved the OEM mount back onto the LT70 and using a tube ring here's the rig on the TAL-1
image.png.f72c11b7dd47c48be5da1d239462980b.png

Now I think this may be workable on the EQ mount and if I run into issues with the angle I can always do what you normally do with a newt in an EQ mount to sort the focuser angle... rotate the OTA or in this case, just the starsense finder if necessary being it is on an independent ring. For the 100RS and SW130 I wouldn't have this flexibility unless I acquire an additional tube ring for them which I'm not planning to quite yet.

Nice design!
You almost have my own idea on that implemented (but my eyepiece is on the other side already). If you now just move the cradle to the eyepiece side and more forward (as much as you need to clear the headspace) you could use the CSSE from the eyepiece sitting position by just turning your head right to look at the phone. I'm using my QuInsight that way. Very convenient as soon as you can counterbalance this rig (looks heavy).

Also, make sure that ballhead holds strong. Not all ball heads are made equal.

Edited by AlexK

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so tonight I tested the TAL-1 rig with starsense, it seemed to work very well, quick position location and not phased by the EQ mount tilting the phone even so it was edge vertical as I panned around. Had to do a bit of balancing tho with the extra weight of the tube ring, holder and phone on top of the usual finder and eyepiece. But I think I can report that it will work on a GEM setup, tho I guess it may depend on the sensors your phone is equipped with. I'm using a note-10+ so pretty much top end of the range.

Then switched to the LT70AZ on the OEM rig and again similar results, located quickly and directed just fine tho the phone of course does remain at a "better" position during the pan actions, no crazy tilt angles or rotating the OTA required 😉 

Seems accurate enough to at least get you to the right part of the sky and on target for the lower power EPs before you home in with more magnification.

Cloud now stops play here, managed to attempt some video capture with the LT70 and the Philips SPC900 tho probably poor as cloud had drifted over Mars' location as I was attempting this. Will have a play and see how it comes out in a while. For sure that'd have been a lot easier on the EQ5 mount with proper SloMo controls lol.

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44 minutes ago, AlexK said:

Nice design!
You almost have my own idea on that implemented (but my eyepiece is on the other side already). If you now just move the cradle to the eyepiece side and more forward (as much as you need to clear the headspace) you could use the CSSE from the eyepiece sitting position by just turning your head right to look at the phone. I'm using my QuInsight that way. Very convenient as soon as you can counterbalance this rig (looks heavy).

Also, make sure that ballhead holds strong. Not all ball heads are made equal.

hehe yep the TAL-1 isn't light, being a solid ally OTA at near 1M length. It worked pretty well as pictured tho I could adjust where the phone rig sits. The Joby adjusts and holds very well once the screw is tight, it isn't a ball head so you have only a tilt axis. I didn't need to use the mini ball-head for this setup, for the EQ5 mounted 100RS I'd just have to "cope" with the phone tilting as I move around the sky being the mounting would be fixed to the dovetail bar 😄 

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1 hour ago, DaveL59 said:

managed to attempt some video capture with the LT70 and the Philips SPC900 tho probably poor as cloud had drifted over Mars' location as I was attempting this. Will have a play and see how it comes out in a while. For sure that'd have been a lot easier on the EQ5 mount with proper SloMo controls lol.

oh well video just gave me a bright white blob, didn't expect I was going to get a result that was any good, I need time to figure the exposure settings etc and a tracking mount to keep it in view while I fiddle about. Still I was looking to give it a quick try having only got it today, Mars even seemed blue on screen some of the time with clouds crossing it so not the best conditions to attempt this. Next time I may try with the 100RS and VPL filter and maybe a 2x barlow as the EQ5 will at least track by just adjusting the RA or using the synscan one.

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Two of my grandkids have just got hooked on astronomy so I've just bought them a telescope.  They live under light pollution in London where there are few naked eye stars, so a Starsense Explorer was an ideal choice.  Additionally, their father has got to carry the scope a fair way up the hill to Blackheath as their garden is almost surrounded by high trees.  Light weight is therefore important, so the obvious choice was the 70mm refractor.  The eyepieces and diagonal are very basic so I've upgraded these.

I tried the scope out myself here in the country and was extremely impressed indeed with the technology.  So much so in fact that I've bought myself the same scope just to get the Starsense Explorer.  The idea was to adapt it to my own scopes - a refractor and two Dobs - and to be able to swap between them using finder shoes.

The biggest problem I have is that my hands don't work properly, and so fabricating any parts is a non-starter.  I therefore needed to construct something that needed no more than a screwdriver or an Allen key.

The key is to connect the Starsense Explorer to a dovetail with a slot(s) rather than just holes.  The slot means that a screw can be used almost anywhere rather than just at a fixed position(s).  

This is important as it seems as if Celestron is using an unnecessarily complex mount for the Starsense Explorer that I can only guess was done to make it as difficult as possible to use on other scopes!

Luckily, I'd already sourced such slotted dovetails and used them for finders made out of camera lenses that needed different and varying gaps between the two finder rings.  These slotted dovetails to fit standard Synta finder shoes were almost impossible to find.  However, after much searching worldwide I finally located just one model on an AliExpress store.  The store is called StarPal and the item goes by the long title of "StarPal mini small dovetail plate for guider scope finder bracket tail plate dovetail star pen standard plate"!  These dovetails are available in several sizes (called colors!), and I'd already bought 3 in the 100mm size and 1 in the 40mm size.  

I was about to post this up when I saw John Inderby's  excellent idea above of incorporating a mini ballhead so that the Starsense Explorer is always upright - thanks John!  So I duly bought the same one from Amazon (Andoer Camera Monitor Holder Mini Ball Head with Cold Shoe Adapter for LED Video Light Monitor).  It's tiny, and as John said this model is preferable as it locks tightly with the supplied Allen key.  

This ball head isn't needed though if your finder shoe is at the top of the tube, as it can be on my rotating tube Dobs.  However one then loses the option of the tube rotation.  Also neither finder shoes on my refractor are at the top of the tube, so the ball head is needed anyway for this scope.  So I incorporated John's mini ball head into my design.

John fabricated a part to fit the ball head to the Starsense Explorer.  As I mentioned earlier though my hands won't allow me to do this.   However, incorporating a second StarPal slotted dovetail solved that problem nicely.

The complete arrangement is dead easy to make and seems to work very well on both my Dobs and my refractor.  I just need a clear night to do a field test, but that seems a long way off!

I was going to post this a few days ago, but delayed so that I could incorporate John's idea of a ball head.  I'll try to add pictures later this evening, though it may have to wait until the morning when the light is better.

Edit note: pictures 4 posts down.

Edited by Second Time Around
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This adapting the Starsense Explorer to other scopes is becoming a very popular passtime. 👍🏻

Glad to see some of my ideas have been of use. 🙂

         John

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28 minutes ago, Second Time Around said:

StarPal mini small dovetail plate for guider scope finder bracket tail plate dovetail star pen standard plate".

Ah yes- the SMSDPFGSFBTPDSPSP for short🤦‍♂️😂

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Straying from the main topic a little but playing with the LT70 scope I found the all plastic focuser quite stiff, so decided to attack that today. Easy to adjust with these 2 screws, back off slightly to slacken the focuser action or tighten to make it more stiff.

image.png.a69bf5af028551f0aac1902a559373bf.png

Also decided to add a lock screw so it won't drift once I have the focuser running more smoothly, drill and tap for M4 and insert a nylon thumbscrew...
image.png.6a8cd7674ce50b91a3f031907a7ce1c5.png

To do that I of course dismantled the focuser and removed it from the OTA first:

  1. Undo the 2 screws under the focuser and lift the pinion away
  2. Pull the drawtube out
  3. Undo 3 screws holding the focuser body to the OTA.

Was surprised that there's no spring plate under that U bracket holding the pinion as I've seen even on the cheap NatGeo I have. Still this is a real bottom end scope. Pick a spot and drill then tap for M4, clean up and refit in reverse of the above. I now have a smoother running focuser that I can adjust the drag or lock with that thumbscrew. Might as well make it feel nicer to use and at no cost why not 🙂 

Edited by DaveL59
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Here are the promised photos.  The first is the StarPal 100mm slotted dovetail.  I used this to join the Starsense Explorer to the mini ball head.  I could have used a 40mm slotted dovetail, but had only 1 of these and I used it to join the mini ball head to the standard Synta finder shoe that I have on all my scopes.

The second pic shows the Starsense Explorer on the top of one of my Dob tubes. 

The third shows the Starsense Explorer at the side of my refractor, with the mini ball head at an angle so that my mobile phone is horizontal.  I gather that having the phone horizontal is essential otherwise the Starsense Explorer doesn't work properly.

StarPal 100mm slotted dovetail with screw.jpg

Starsense Explorer on Dob.jpg

Starsense Explorer on refractor.jpg

 

 

 

Edited by Second Time Around
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The Starsense Explorers are in very short supply, especially the 70mm refractors - I had to really search around for my own.  So here's a heads up to all who are looking for a Starsense Explorer to put on their own scopes.

There's one of the horrible Bird-Jones LT 114AZ reflectors on eBay that might be worth getting for the Starsense Explorer.

The eBay item number: 193715607646

 

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My Mk i version of the adaptor was a bit too fragile for my liking mainly due to me trying to cut corners, so here is the Mk ii version.

The plastic parts came courtesy of a couple of old chopping boards that were destined for the tip, thank goodness that we've been shielding and the tip has been too busy for me to feel comfortable going to drop the pile of stuff off.

IMG_20201019_155857.thumb.jpg.2add2666bb5052209935a267dc812e63.jpg

The plastic adaptor plate itself.

IMG_20201019_172452.thumb.jpg.a77966f4921e5fba3a88f48a0bbbeee3.jpg

The assembly attached to a Syvbony finder dovetail and base.

IMG_20201019_172527.thumb.jpg.77e78f47d3c0484e9c67409c606240de.jpg

The whole base assembly attached to a Skywatcher L-bracket which attaches to an ADM clamp attached across the Alt bearing of my OOUK Dob Base as in this post.

IMG_20201019_172610.thumb.jpg.9b158552d2793191f8efac94cf214495.jpg

The whole assembly which can easily be attached to the second clamp of my Ercole or simply detached from the L-bracket and slotted into the findershoe of one of my Fracs.

Fortunately all of my Fracs are Moonlited so no need for the ball & socket joint as it's easy enough to rotate the focuser so one of the finder shoes is upright.

First light. 

I gave the system a test run the other night when the sky was unexpectedly clear and was impressed by the results.

Tested it on the following targets, M35, M36, M37, M38, M45, M57, Mars, Uranus and Neptune with all targets easily placed within the FOV of my ES 24mm 68 degree eyepiece in my Skywatcher 200mm f/6 Dob.

I ambitiously tried M33 as well, and the field stars looked right, but I couldn't see it for love nor money.  A bit too dim for the skies at home me thinks.

Overall, I'm very impressed and the views of the objects I found with it, particularly M36, M37, M38 & M57 reminded me why I have an 8" Dob. 

The Dob has been somewhat neglected over the last 2 years as I've tended to use my Fracs on the EQ mount and rely on Goto to find targets.

However, although the catalogues in the app are not exhaustive they are plenty comprehensive enough for me to find targets in my light polluted back garden.

Strangely, I only got the message about the scope being in target once, the rest of the time it said "Finding Location, do not move telescope" however, it worked well and put me on target so no real complaints from me.

Looking forward to another clear night to play some more now, though looking at the forecast, that may be some time.

Edited by AdeKing
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36 minutes ago, Second Time Around said:

The Starsense Explorers are in very short supply, especially the 70mm refractors - I had to really search around for my own.  So here's a heads up to all who are looking for a Starsense Explorer to put on their own scopes.

There's one of the horrible Bird-Jones LT 114AZ reflectors on eBay that might be worth getting for the Starsense Explorer.

The eBay item number: 193715607646

 

I’ve written to Celestron to ask them to release a license only package. I’m sure they’d love to keep selling us their cheapo scopes but it’s a bit wasteful and a licence package would be money for nothing for them

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57 minutes ago, markse68 said:

I’ve written to Celestron to ask them to release a license only package. I’m sure they’d love to keep selling us their cheapo scopes but it’s a bit wasteful and a licence package would be money for nothing for them

There's a huge thread on the Starsense Explorer on Cloudy Nights.  Early on there was a post from Daniel, who heads up the software and electronics development at Celestron.  Here's his comment about adapting the Starsense Explorer for other scopes, plus whether Celestron will sell it as a stand alone product.

"As an engineer, I think its pretty cool. We had expected that some people would do something just like what you're doing. I did not expect it to happen day 1 though 🙂

Selling a bracket separately and then targeting this product at new astronomers would lead to a lot of customers buying telescope x, y, or z and then the bracket, and then having difficulty properly mounting it, etc. It would take away from us trying to make this a product that makes astronomy easy. Maybe in the future, if the demand is there, we will figure out a solution that mitigates that concern. But for now, we will only be selling complete StarSense Explorer telescopes.

Enjoy your endeavors with you custom StarSense Explorer dob. I look forward to hearing your results! "

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Second Time Around said:

There's a huge thread on the Starsense Explorer on Cloudy Nights.  Early on there was a post from Daniel, who heads up the software and electronics development at Celestron.  Here's his comment about adapting the Starsense Explorer for other scopes, plus whether Celestron will sell it as a stand alone product.

"As an engineer, I think its pretty cool. We had expected that some people would do something just like what you're doing. I did not expect it to happen day 1 though 🙂

Selling a bracket separately and then targeting this product at new astronomers would lead to a lot of customers buying telescope x, y, or z and then the bracket, and then having difficulty properly mounting it, etc. It would take away from us trying to make this a product that makes astronomy easy. Maybe in the future, if the demand is there, we will figure out a solution that mitigates that concern. But for now, we will only be selling complete StarSense Explorer telescopes.

Enjoy your endeavors with you custom StarSense Explorer dob. I look forward to hearing your results! "

 

 

hmm 🤔 so we better all get writing then! 😉 Selling just the license (no bracket or hardware at all) would mitigate his concerns and be great for us diyers who want to try it out 👍 I have a CN account but rarely use it- I’ll try and find it and pm him 😉

Mark

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1 hour ago, markse68 said:

I’ve written to Celestron to ask them to release a license only package. I’m sure they’d love to keep selling us their cheapo scopes but it’s a bit wasteful and a licence package would be money for nothing for them

As Steve says, the thread on CN indicates it ain't happening yet. Lets face it, those real new might get the scope kit then add an accessory kit then come to sites like this to find better eyepieces can be had and more stable scopes, so spend even more getting the DX version. So while there are some of us that'd like to hack the mount idea and use it on other scopes I wonder how big a market it might really be. That said there does seem to be a lot of interest so could well be a money spinner...

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I'm hopeful that they'll make it standalone eventually.

After all, wasn't the now discontinued Celestron Sky Prodigy the all-in-one precursor to the full Starsense setup that's now available as an add-on?

I'll be watching with interest.

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there'll be a load of no longer required LT70's thrown on the market I bet 😉 Tho I'll likely pass this one on to my daughter for her little one to play with if she develops a real interest. 

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29 minutes ago, DaveL59 said:

As Steve says, the thread on CN indicates it ain't happening yet. Lets face it, those real new might get the scope kit then add an accessory kit then come to sites like this to find better eyepieces can be had and more stable scopes, so spend even more getting the DX version. So while there are some of us that'd like to hack the mount idea and use it on other scopes I wonder how big a market it might really be. That said there does seem to be a lot of interest so could well be a money spinner...

it sounds like it works - how well in light polluted skies where it’d be a godsend we’ll have to find out but if they’re selling it with scope for 130 i’d happily pay a reasonable proportion of that for just the license and I reckon it might become as ubiquitous as a red dot finder. They seem to be marketing at beginners now which i’m sure is a huge market but I think they may be missing out on a huge incumbent market for whom it could be a valuable tool. I have been umming and ahhing about fitting a dsc for ages- largely rejecting it for the added complication but this takes all that away if it’s something you can just plonk on the scope if and when you need it. And I don’t really want to buy a scope i’ll never use just to get that licence- probably others feel the same way- it'd cost them nothing and not impact on their beginners scope market either.

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can't disagree there Mark, I really didn't need the LT70 given I've quite a few already but curiosity got the better of me lol. I was considering a starsense for the EQ5 but it isn't available for my old SynScan. More a convenience thing more than anything but not cheap. It certainly seems to pick up the location pretty well tho my skies are reasonably dark, not had a chance to try at my daughter's in SW London where you don't see much at all so if it works there that'd be a real bonus.

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Mark, on the long thread on Cloudy Nights there was a report on using the Starsense Explorer just after dark in light pollution.  It worked very well.  In fact, that's what decided my buying one for the grandkids in London.

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7 hours ago, Second Time Around said:

Mark, on the long thread on Cloudy Nights there was a report on using the Starsense Explorer just after dark in light pollution.  It worked very well.  In fact, that's what decided my buying one for the grandkids in London.

Yes I read that STA- it does sound a pretty useful piece of kit- i’m getting closer and closer to succumbing! I guess given that it takes long exposures for the plate solving it may not be so useful in windy conditions with my wobbly dob but when the wind’s down (wind’s not good for observing anyway) it should be great 👍 

I wonder if there’s an optimum phone for it- something with a good fast camera and real gyros. The Android developer on there was really slagging iphones for their backwards hardware- and guess what i use 😬

Mark

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7 hours ago, markse68 said:

I wonder if there’s an optimum phone for it- something with a good fast camera and real gyros. The Android developer on there was really slagging iphones for their backwards hardware- and guess what i use 😬

I've been using an iPhone 6, which I believe is the minimum requirement for the app, and in testing it's worked fine for me.

My main phone is a Huawei P20 which has given me nothing but trouble with linking SkySafari to my Skyfi or to the AZGTi so I figured I wouldn't waste a SSE code on it.

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7 minutes ago, AdeKing said:

I've been using an iPhone 6, which I believe is the minimum requirement for the app, and in testing it's worked fine for me.

My main phone is a Huawei P20 which has given me nothing but trouble with linking SkySafari to my Skyfi or to the AZGTi so I figured I wouldn't waste a SSE code on it.

oh that’s good news Ade. I did a little research last night and the P20 came out near the top for low light photography so i imagine it should be pretty good for this but if it works well on the iphone then i’ll just stick with it- when i finally take the plunge ;)

Apparently some phones don’t have real gyros just using accelerometers to approximate a gyro but iphones do as i’m sure premium android phones do too. A good IMU is an important part of the tracking as it’s required between the slower plate solving 

Mark

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I bought a new rugged outdoor phone for use with Starsense and Synscan. Not expensive but with Android 10 and outdoor oriented features.but with rubber armor and shockproof and is supposed to withstand being dropped onto concrete from 1.5 metres. Also water and dust proof and can be used as an underwater camera down to 4 metres.  Has an 8000 mah battery so will keep going for ages withput a recharge. Twice as thick as a regular smartphone due to the battery but not that heavy and the rubber armor makes it easy to hold.

Hopefully it will be “John proof”. 😁

EDIT:  OUKITEL WP5 Pro from Amazon

A3324E87-E73F-484A-91C2-7BF2CC094B00.jpeg

15D75414-5E35-4EF5-9D2C-646414496686.jpeg

DADBB311-2553-406F-A26D-C0285AB12D9D.jpeg

Edited by johninderby
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