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New EQ6-R Pro... but not having any luck


69boss302
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HI All. New here and this is my first post. Id like to preface this with saying Im REALLY new to this whole thing but not a complete virgin. For the last couple of years Ive used my skywatcher star adventurer pro, and absolutely loved it.  I have had excellent results with it, and its easy to set up and use.

Now... I recently picked up a new EQ6-R Pro and have had far less luck. I can polar align (Northern Hemisphere) no issues at all but thats where my success ends.

Right now, I have a very basic set up:

-Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro mount and tripod

-William Optics Zenithstar 73

-William Optics 73a Field Flattener

-Canon 1DX Mark III DSLR

 

The first issue Im having is balancing the optical gear.   I can balance the camera gear to the counterweights (Sorry, I dont know all the terms yet), but balancing the camera gear wont happen. Its a heavy camera and its not much of a lens so that part I understand. Ill move to a CCD at some point.  I have it all moved as forward as it will go without the focus knob hitting the dovetail mount.

Secondly, After I polar align it, it asks me for a 1,2 or 3 star calibration.  I figured Id start easy with 1 star.  I picked a star close to polaris and hit enter, then it says "Now center the star in the view using the arrow keys".  Nothing happens when I hit the arrow keys.  And I assume its still talking about the polar scope I aligned NCP with? If so, that wont move with the arrow keys. So Im stumped.

Another oddity Im having is if I have my retical  aligned with 0 at 12:00 in the polar scope. all my camera gear is upside down, and it hits the front elevation bolt. I cant believe Im the first to ever have a DSLR on this things so Im betting Im doing something wrong.

I have spent (literally) days on youtube and google looking at every video I can on it, but nothing I have found so far tells me about the 1,2 or 3 star alignment. Oh and some describe setting the home, which I did but didnt see what that did for me at all.  Following the instructions it came with talk about using the dials but not setting them etc, so Im not sure what good they do me.

Im not giving up, I love learning and cant wait till I understand it all.  Thank you for any insight to my dilemma!

Bob

 

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Hi and welcome to the forum. I have a similar set up:  ZS73 with a new EQ6R Pro mount which I have not had a chance to use in anger yet. I also have a flattener with an ZWO ASI 294MC Pro - it is tail heavy and even with the scope sat as far forward in the saddle as possible it doesn't quite balance on the dec axis.  To achieve balance I have screwed some small counter weights into the front/bottom of the dovetail. Similar to these (you'll need to check the thread size will fit):

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07WH18BKM/ref=sspa_dk_detail_1?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B07WH18BKM&pd_rd_w=McyuL&pf_rd_p=828203ef-618e-4303-a028-460d6b615038&pd_rd_wg=uGa25&pf_rd_r=YBXA7HTDGQBWFPYCG7V2&pd_rd_r=1bae2abb-486a-4488-941f-4adb96b964c2&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzMFgwSVY0VkhUMTJSJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMDg3MjgwMTY3V005RUlDSDVNSCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwMTcyMDE4M1ZHT1VFRlg4OExEJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfZGV0YWlsJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

I don't understand why they designed the stock saddle with a section cut out in the middle, time for an ADM upgrade I think. Unfortunately I can't help you with alignment as I use an ASI AIR Pro .

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GoldTop57, thank you for that, I was thinking of something exactly like that, I didnt know it actually existed. Thats perfect.  

Im all for using an ASI Air Pro to do alignment with if it helps. I know that now means I have to lug a laptop around with me but thats not the end of the world. What alignment camera do you recommend?

bob

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Hi Bob I can highly recommend the ASI AIR Pro though stock is hard to come by as everyone is waiting for the new ASI AIR Plus. It uses your rig to polar align by plate solving - no need for a seperate alignment camera.

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Try rotating ota upside down so knobs don’t foul the dovetail , long term is to use two metal blocks (risers) to lift ota high enough to clear dovetail , secondly what software are you using for capture you have a few options , the asair pro as recommended by others it’s compact but does lock you in to zwo products which is fine if you haven’t purchased any cameras yet ,note DSLR cameras are fine primarily guide cameras and cooled cameras , or go via ascom and use Nina or ASTROPHOTOGRAPYTOOL , I use Apt  via a laptop both can use platesolving and I use sharpcap pro to polar align (£10) yearly subscription there are many options available.

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11 hours ago, 69boss302 said:

HI All. New here and this is my first post. Id like to preface this with saying Im REALLY new to this whole thing but not a complete virgin. For the last couple of years Ive used my skywatcher star adventurer pro, and absolutely loved it.  I have had excellent results with it, and its easy to set up and use.

Now... I recently picked up a new EQ6-R Pro and have had far less luck. I can polar align (Northern Hemisphere) no issues at all but thats where my success ends.

Right now, I have a very basic set up:

-Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro mount and tripod

-William Optics Zenithstar 73

-William Optics 73a Field Flattener

-Canon 1DX Mark III DSLR

 

The first issue Im having is balancing the optical gear.   I can balance the camera gear to the counterweights (Sorry, I dont know all the terms yet), but balancing the camera gear wont happen. Its a heavy camera and its not much of a lens so that part I understand. Ill move to a CCD at some point.  I have it all moved as forward as it will go without the focus knob hitting the dovetail mount.

Secondly, After I polar align it, it asks me for a 1,2 or 3 star calibration.  I figured Id start easy with 1 star.  I picked a star close to polaris and hit enter, then it says "Now center the star in the view using the arrow keys".  Nothing happens when I hit the arrow keys.  And I assume its still talking about the polar scope I aligned NCP with? If so, that wont move with the arrow keys. So Im stumped.

Another oddity Im having is if I have my retical  aligned with 0 at 12:00 in the polar scope. all my camera gear is upside down, and it hits the front elevation bolt. I cant believe Im the first to ever have a DSLR on this things so Im betting Im doing something wrong.

I have spent (literally) days on youtube and google looking at every video I can on it, but nothing I have found so far tells me about the 1,2 or 3 star alignment. Oh and some describe setting the home, which I did but didnt see what that did for me at all.  Following the instructions it came with talk about using the dials but not setting them etc, so Im not sure what good they do me.

Im not giving up, I love learning and cant wait till I understand it all.  Thank you for any insight to my dilemma!

Bob

 

Ok, two things.

1) sharp cap pro or other software to help polar align, it's cheap and will guide you through it...I hate doing it on my HEQ5 manually.

2) star alignment it asks to chose which star you want to look at, chose one away from the NCP (use planetarium software to find the best one) and go there, it's wanting you to put the center of the main scope FOV onto the star you chose...now with a DSLR attached it can be quite a pain so I used to start with a wide FOV eyepiece and then switch to a cross hair one later for fine adjustment. Also worth noting that the mount may be moving very very slowly when you press the arrows, the slew speed can be changed (I think it's number 2 on the handset).... alternatively to the above, get an eqmod cable, get APT and plate solving working and never worry about star alignment again.

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Do a search on YouTube for "Astronomy Shed" - there are some old, but excellent videos on balancing a scope in three axis so the centre of gravity matches the balance point.

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Thank you everyone for the excellent advice.  Im going to start with APT and my DSLR using plate solving for alignment at this point, since I have the camera and a laptop. When my ASAIR plus comes in Ill get a dedicated cam for that to make it a little easier. Ill report back on how it goes!

 

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Hi Again.

I just wanted to give an update, and cry on your shoulders a little. Ive had absolutely zero luck so far. hahaha. Im not giving up!

I have watched a bunch of excellent videos.  Two of the best were this one for ADP and plate solving  https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=dpYXoYEKFpA  and this one for stellarium/ascom etc : https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=mYTD7RuF3x8  Take out the space in the .com to watch, I hated the way int inserted the video into this message.   Anyway... Just because I watched them didnt mean I had good luck. Holy hell, I installed a dozen apps while I was following him along and in the end it didnt work. It seems in order to control anything I need to have my PC recognize the the EQ mount which doesnt seem to be happening whatsoever. I installed the ASCOM stuff, as well as going to skywatcher and getting the drivers for both the mount and the syncscan handheld.  I even installed syncscan for windows and that doesnt recognize my mount either.    I took a USB cable from my laptop and plugged it directly in to the USB slot on the mount, and no luck. Then I read that I either need a special usb cable with some drivers in the cable, or a regular usb cable which is what I had, into the hand controller. Still no luck.  At this point Im at a loss. Do I really need to install all those apps just to get this to work? bob

 

 

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18 minutes ago, 69boss302 said:

Hi Again.

I just wanted to give an update, and cry on your shoulders a little. Ive had absolutely zero luck so far. hahaha. Im not giving up!

I have watched a bunch of excellent videos.  Two of the best were this one for ADP and plate solving  https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=dpYXoYEKFpA  and this one for stellarium/ascom etc : https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=mYTD7RuF3x8  Take out the space in the .com to watch, I hated the way int inserted the video into this message.   Anyway... Just because I watched them didnt mean I had good luck. Holy hell, I installed a dozen apps while I was following him along and in the end it didnt work. It seems in order to control anything I need to have my PC recognize the the EQ mount which doesnt seem to be happening whatsoever. I installed the ASCOM stuff, as well as going to skywatcher and getting the drivers for both the mount and the syncscan handheld.  I even installed syncscan for windows and that doesnt recognize my mount either.    I took a USB cable from my laptop and plugged it directly in to the USB slot on the mount, and no luck. Then I read that I either need a special usb cable with some drivers in the cable, or a regular usb cable which is what I had, into the hand controller. Still no luck.  At this point Im at a loss. Do I really need to install all those apps just to get this to work? bob

 

 

If your mount is the newer version which has the usb port on the mount head (see image) then you don't need any special cables, any regular usb cable will work

NEQ6-R-4.jpg.2953d321ab1e6f74abb974dadcbdab42.jpg

 

Once connected to a PC, next thing to do is go into device manager (assuming you're on Windows) and check which COM port the mount is mapped to (note this will likely change if you plug into a different usb port on the PC, so try to remember which usb port you use, and use the same one each time)

1449223821_20211013_2309122.thumb.jpg.c9e6d152be37165928d88fef55d92d65.jpg

 

Then type eqmod in the search bar (again, I'm assuming Windows 10), and open the eqmod toolbox

480764310_20211013_2309592.thumb.jpg.1dcc0a0f792bc652a8fbe1ce016c49f0.jpg

 

The window on the left will appear. Click driver setup and then the window on the right will appear. Under eqmod port details, set the correct com port as identified in the device manager and set the baud rate to 115200. This should now allow the PC to talk to the mount and you should be able to manually slew using the arrow keys in eqmod.

20211013_231117.thumb.jpg.830cf37fbbe57275e9eea1d4d9086406.jpg

 

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33 minutes ago, 69boss302 said:

I took a USB cable from my laptop and plugged it directly in to the USB slot on the mount, and no luck. Then I read that I either need a special usb cable with some drivers in the cable, or a regular usb cable which is what I had, into the hand controller. Still no luck.  At this point Im at a loss. Do I really need to install all those apps just to get this to work? bob

 

 

The newer mounts with a USB - B port don't need any special cables.  A standard USB A - B cable of no more than 3m will be fine.  With the mount powered up and the cable connected, windows Device manager (presume your running windows as you mentioned ASSCOM) should detect the mount and create a virtual com port.  By default this com port will be set to 9600 baud, the speed at which data is sent back and forth.  On mounts with a built in USB port they work at 115000 baud, so you will need to open the properties and of the port and change the speed.  Once done close the properties and make a not of the com port.  If the entry for the port has a yellow exclamation mark, then chances are it needs the driver, which should be available for the Skywatcher website.  Download and run the driver installer, and reboot the PC if required, and then change the speed setting as directed.

The  download and installed EQMOD (no need to install ASCOM platform as you have already done so by the sounds of things.  Once installed, run the TOOLBOX option, and under the setup  section, with EQASCO selected in the drop down box click Driver Set up.  Under EQMOD Port details set the baud rate to match the 115000 speed we just set, and select the same COM port number.  Under mount type select Synta EQ, and under site information enter your long/lat info.  Then click OK.  Once back at the toolbox, click the test connection which will launch EQMOD.  Under the slew control section, change the 1 in the dropdown box to 4 and then click on the NSWE buttons the mount should move.

If that works then it has proven the communications are working fine.

If you remove the USB lead and simply use the handset, does that work, or do you get a "no response " message for either or both axis ? - If the handset works but the USB doesn't, then you need an EQDIR cable such as this one  - Again, when you plug this into the computer it will be detected, and as it used FTDI chipsets, windows should install the COM port driver automatically.  Once that is done leave its speed set to 9600 - don't change it.  Power off the mount and the computer.  Remove the handset and connect the other end of the EQDIR cable to the same port the handset would normally go.  Power on the mount and power on the computer.  Follow the same steps above with the Toolbox to point EQMOD to the new port and new speed of 9600.  Test the connection as before

Let us know how you get on

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The lazy astronomer covers what I was typing at the time very well.  The only issue you may have is prolific chipset used hasn't been supported by Windows 10 for several years.  But there are drivers that can be used IF you find that to be an issue. - try the attached if device manager complains

PL2303_64bit_Installer.zip

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You guys are the best! Success!! It looks like it was a few things that went wrong that you helped with!

- I had the baud set wrong, it was set to auto. When that didnt work, I went to 9600. However taking malc-c 's advice, setting it to 115000 worked!

- The latest version of stellarium has a bug where it wont accept a configuration for Telescope control. I had to use a back version.

-When I connected stellarium to the eq, it said port not available. I had to quit eqmod (since it was using the port?) and that worked.  Now, at least in my living room, I can see where my scope is pointed in stellarium, and then slew to any DSO I select. Im pretty sure I yelled out loud when it worked!   

Of course my mount was randomly placed in the living room so it wasnt near polar aligned, it was too cloudy out.      Hopefully tomorrow it will be clear and I can try it out. Of course this is just half the battle...getting it to find DSO's.  Photographing them is another challenge which I cant wait to experiment with. 

I cant thank you guys enough, very very very helpful, and Im pretty excited right now!

bob

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So far so good. 

The best videos for APT is from Kurt at astroquest1,  from setting it up , plate solving etc ..There is a writeup on here to do with APT, think it's in the software section

Good luck but  so far seems like it's going in the right direction 

 

Edited by newbie alert
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8 hours ago, 69boss302 said:

You guys are the best! Success!! It looks like it was a few things that went wrong that you helped with!

- I had the baud set wrong, it was set to auto. When that didnt work, I went to 9600. However taking malc-c 's advice, setting it to 115000 worked!

- The latest version of stellarium has a bug where it wont accept a configuration for Telescope control. I had to use a back version.

-When I connected stellarium to the eq, it said port not available. I had to quit eqmod (since it was using the port?) and that worked.  Now, at least in my living room, I can see where my scope is pointed in stellarium, and then slew to any DSO I select. Im pretty sure I yelled out loud when it worked!   

Of course my mount was randomly placed in the living room so it wasnt near polar aligned, it was too cloudy out.      Hopefully tomorrow it will be clear and I can try it out. Of course this is just half the battle...getting it to find DSO's.  Photographing them is another challenge which I cant wait to experiment with. 

I cant thank you guys enough, very very very helpful, and Im pretty excited right now!

bob

Excellent...

I don't use Stalerium so can't comment on why there was a conflict of ports.  I use Cartes du Ciel, and when you use its hardware interface popup, selecting EQASCOM as the telescope and clicking the connect button launches EQMOD.  Anyway, its irrelevant as you've resolved the communications issue between mount and PC 👍

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Great video thank you!

I went out tonight and spent a couple of hours trying some things out, and had decent success. Im happy to say that I set up the tripod and EQ in the light, leveled the tripod, set my home position and dont you know as soon as it got dark and I looked in my polar alignment scope it was almost spot on.  It took 2 seconds to get it set right with the knobs after that :)

More good news:  Connected the laptop to the camera and EQ mount, fired up EQMOD and it connected right away.  Went into stellarium, and it connected right away. Went into APT and it all connected right away!  Click on an object in stellarium and it goes right over to it! Thats pretty much the end of my success.  I was unable to plate solve because for some reason I was getting star trails when taking a 20 second test shot. I attached a screen shot. You will notice that on the left window it says Not Tracking.  Plus it says Meridian Limit and Im not sure what that means.  When I pressed the star icon nothing happens. It doesnt track.

I noticed in APT I have the ability to track (guide) too but looks like it whats PHD2, which I do not have.

I think this is where a lot of my confusion is coming in. There are 3 places or more to put in my longitude and latitude (EQMOD, APT, Stellarium...), and more than one place to track. Where do I do it from?  Do long/lat/alt go in all three apps? Wheres the best place to guide?  Why am I getting star trails?   In APT, I did make a telescope profile with focal length.  

Im getting really close, I can feel it. I think once I solve the star trails/guide issue Ill be able to plate solve then take some actual pictures.

Thank you all for your help, it is very much appreciated.

Oh, one other thing. On the EQ6-r Pro, when I turn on the power, the Polar alignment red LED in the scope defaults to 100% brightness which is way too bright. I turn it down with the handheld but its a pain, is there an easier way?   I think Im guessing I wont even need the scope if I can get the plate solve working but I could be wrong.

Bob

 

Capture.PNG

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Polar align using sharpcap , no bending down on knees no need to use polar scope as all done using your guide scope,more likely  star trails are caused by polar alignment error sharpcap will help solve that combined with guiding 

set your latitude in every program that asks for it , download phd2 and configure to your setup ,camera etc  read up on phd2 website, plenty of info on YouTube,you will be able to see phd2 graph in Apt , configure apt  for your camera , scope fl etc in profile you can have multiple profiles depending how many scopes cameras you have but make sure on the night you have the right profile selected ,download ASTAP and use that for your platesolving within Apt ,all programs need some sort of setting up so do each program and check platesolving is working by solving an image you have taken makes it less frustrating on the night  so one program at a time , set apt up first and get platesolving working with Astap , then move on to phd2.

 

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Tracking is the mount moving in time with the stars which is fine for observing and short exposures. - if off you get star trails. It is not the same as guiding which is a system of following a guide star and auto-correcting the mount position in small increments and allows longer exposures.

If you switch tracking on the platesolve should work and if your Polar alignment is good the short exposures should be much better.

It looks like you have settings for where a Meridian flip should occur active and this has halted tracking.  The LIMIT part is that you have reached the limit settings stored and again this stops tracking - you can switch those off.

I've not used eqmod Ascom for some time so can't point you at the settings controls for these 2 options from memory.

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Do not usa a star next to Polaris for calibration. In that region of the sky you will need huge mount movement to make things move at the eyepiece.  Pick a star moderately high east or west and you should find calibration much easier.

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2 hours ago, StevieDvd said:

It looks like you have settings for where a Meridian flip should occur active and this has halted tracking.  The LIMIT part is that you have reached the limit settings stored and again this stops tracking - you can switch those off.

 

 

Hi StevieDvd, thank you. I have the tick box unticked in EQMOD in the picture above does that mean it needs to be ticked?

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Glad to read you are getting somewhere.

This is how I set up my system, and my workflow.  Like most things there is more than one way to get the end results, and we all have our own methods.  I use basic equipment, which is dated by current standards, but it works for me and I don't have the money to upgrade.

The first thing I did on the observatory PC was to install ASCOM, EQMOD, CdC, Sharpcap, APT and PHD2.  I just installed them, one after another, including any drivers needed for my hardware.  Then I used a GPS dongle purchased from Maplins (remember them) and used the option in EQMOD to set the long lat and elevation form  GPS device.  I then manually created a new observatory location in CdC using the same information displayed in EQMOD that it in turn obtained from the GPS device.  That was the only two applications that required the site data.  At this point I tested the functionality of using CdC to control the mount.

I then set up APT, just basic things such as folder location, camera control (my 400D uses a serial control cable) and the like.  Once I tested the long exposure control of the camera I selected a bright star (Arcturus comes to mind) and after a slew instructed from CdC , centre the star in the image by taking 10 second exposures and making small adjustments using the NSWE buttons in EQMOD.  Once centred I then opened up Sharp cap and  adjusted the finder guider so that the start was also centred in the finder / guider,  so that both the finder and the main scope are aligned.  I also have a red dot finder on the OTA and that too was lined up so all three devices are optically aligned.  I entered the details of the finderscope and camera into Sharpcap, and then used the excellent polar alignment tool to PA the mount.

Lastly PHD2 is launched and the details of the camera and the finderscope entered, and the connectivity to the camera and the mount checked.  Now whilst it's possible to use APT to control the mount, and relay info for  tracking etc I use each application singularly.  I use CdC to select the target and start tracking the target.  This application is then minimalized, and I then get PHD2 guiding, and once that is guiding, it too is minimalized  This leaves APT up and running.  I then set up a plan of usually 20 x 4 minute subs at 800ISO and if the first one turns out OK then let the thing run.

As I mentioned before, this is just my way.  Others will suggest plate solving (which is basically how Sharpcap sets up the PA), and you can delve into the preferences of each application and set up limits, auto flips at the meridian, etc, but me, I keep things simple :)

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33 minutes ago, 69boss302 said:

Hi StevieDvd, thank you. I have the tick box unticked in EQMOD in the picture above does that mean it needs to be ticked?

I can see you have auto meridian flip unchecked (for short term keep it that way, long term set it when you need to and are versed in it's use).  There should be another setting for the Limits to see iff it's checked or not too, 'mount limits' .

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1 hour ago, 69boss302 said:

 (except you are having success :)  

Not always... , computers being what they are sometimes it goes pearshaped.... Some nights you can roll the roof back, power up, boot the PC and be imaging in less than 20 minutes.... I park the scope, shut down and close up for the night.  Now you would think that as nothing has moved or been touched, the next session would be the same... nope... PC issues (I remote desktop into the PC from the house), power issues, detached cables, or Windows updates occur and then nothing works (my equipment is old from the windows 7 days), or it all works, but for some reason the guiding is not as good, so you spend hours running the calibrations to see if it can be improved.

All part and parcel for astronomy :)

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