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Breakintheclouds

How to polar align with HEQ5 and EQ6 mounts, and SynScan 3.11+

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I've recently taken delivery of a SynScan HEQ5 Pro, and have found that the SynScan software now provides a very easy way to do polar alignment. However, I've not really found anybody on the web talking about this, so I thought I'd quickly document it here - I know it would have been really useful if this information had been out there when I was choosing my mount.

When booting up the SynScan handset, with firmware 3.11 or higher, after you enter your location and time information the handset flashes up two pieces of information about Polaris before going into the alignment procedure. It tells you (a) how long it is since Polaris last made a transit (i.e., how many hours since Polaris was last directly above the Celestial North Pole) and (:rolleyes: Polaris's current 'clock position' in the polarscope.

Let's say, for example, that during the setup procedure your handset gives you the following two numbers:

Time since last transit: 20 hours 45

Clock position: 7:37

This means that you need to have your polarscope rotated such that the 'Polaris' circle is down in the bottom-left quadrant - it needs to be exactly where the hour-hand of a clock would be if the time was 7:37.

So here are the steps to get the mount's polarscope into the right position for a quick polar align.

1. Look through the polarscope and rotate the RA axis until the 'Polaris' circle is right at the bottom.

2. Keeping the RA axis still, spin the RA setting circle round until the zero point is next to the triangular index mark.

(What you're doing here is setting the mount up so that when Polaris is at its highest point in the sky, the RA setting circle reads zero. [Recall that your polarscope shows the sky inverted, so when Polaris is really at its highest point, you want it at the bottom point in your scope]. NB You probably only need to do these first two steps once, as long as you then leave the RA setting circle alone.)

3. Read the first number from the handset's display. In this example we know that it is 20 hours and 45 minutes since Polaris was at its highest point. As we now have Polaris's highest point associated with zero on the RA ring, we just rotate the RA axis until the setting circle shows 20:45 next to the index mark. IMPORTANT: In the northern hemisphere, you use the BOTTOM set of numbers on the scale.

4. Look through the polarscope - the 'Polaris' circle is now down at the bottom-left - in the 7:37 position - exactly the right place for polar alignment. Use the altitude and azimuth screws on the mount to place Polaris in this circle and you are now polar aligned. Voila!

It's a really neat system, and means you don't need to worry about using the date and time circles in the usual way: the computer does all that stuff for you.

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Theres a problem with it which I why I dont use it. The HEQ5 has no dimmer on its polarscope LED. With the polarscope illuminator on you cant see Polaris unless the sky is amazingly clear.

The net effect is I found I ended up entering all the date to get the clock position then having to power everything off so I could see Polaris in the polarscope then having to power up again and enter the data all over again which is a bit annoying.

I dont find it that tough to set the polarscope up using its calibration rings myself. All you have to do (once they are calibrated) is spin the RA until the date and time match up and hey presto your there. It also has the advantage that if the rings are properly calibrated your not guessing where 8:15 might be on the 'clock' when your heads craned down and looking up :rolleyes: Saves my knees from getting too damp while crouching down as well :)

I didndt add it to my own guide cos not everyone has Synscan but perhaps it might be worth it when I redo the guide which - I am working on at the moment. My youngest son is going to help me do a video of doing it for the web with him as an 11 year old doing the alignment to show its really quite easy :eek:

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Hi Astro Baby. With the latest versions of the SynScan software you can control the brightness of the polarscope's LED from the handset. It actually gives you a lot of control (something like 50 different brightness levels), and so it is finally quite usable.

It'd be great if you did add something on this to your webpage, as I found your resource really helpful and the more you can get into one place the better.

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I'd love Astro baby to add it to the collection of great guides already produced..... but am I missing something here??

The Instruction Manual for the HEQ5/EQ6 Mount (#130405V1) starts "Polar Alignment" on page 10 and finishes on page 13. It seems to go into quite an amount of detail........

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That manual is partly outdated. What it describes is the process that Astro Baby describes more clearly on her website. But it doesn't go into the process I described above. If you look on Skywatcher's website there's an addendum for the 3.11 software (http://www.skywatchertelescope.net/swtsupport/Instruction_Manuals/V3_11Update.pdf), which *mentions* the new polar alignment procedure in passing, but still doesn't tell you how to do it, for some reason...

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I have version 3.25 and theres nothing in my handset that allows the polarscope brightness to be turned down. This was discussed muchly on CN and also some of the Austrialin boards of late with no conclusion other than some people have it while other people dont - mine definitely doesnt even at V 3.25.

There are brightness settings for the LED display and the buttons on the handset but they dont affect the polarscope brightness.

Unless the basic hardware has changed any its definitely not on my handset - I tried and despaired :rolleyes:

It may be that its only installed on new HEQ5 Pros whereas mine is an HEQ5 thats been upgraded about 12 months ago. Theres also the nuisance value that the RA circle on mine is dreadful. It binds and anything that means your dependent on the RA circle moving smoothly is a complete non starter cos it binds badly in any position except zero - curse you Synta for not putting a ball race on it :) that means on mine (and other HEQ5s judging from what owners say) your step 3 to rotate the axis while the RA moves around to its time againts the index mark is a non-starter - mine would move about 10' and then stick while the RA axis keeps going - sorry to be a misery guts LOL :eek:

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Weird! On my handset (also v. 3.25) there's a polarscope LED brightness control in the same place as where you can control the screen and key brightness. Is this some really recent hardware development, do you think?

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I stand corrected!:)

You are 100% correct!

The method you outline is much easier than the one in the printed manual.!!:rolleyes:

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I think its probably a new development - mine deffo doesnt have it.

What Hand Control Hardware does yours show under 'information' mines a V3.02 with Ver 3.25 firmware.

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Weird! On my handset (also v. 3.25) there's a polarscope LED brightness control in the same place as where you can control the screen and key brightness. Is this some really recent hardware development, do you think?
I have that too.. Not sure how well it works (just tested it with the lights on) but definitely a cool thing to have in the menu. This mount just gets better! :rolleyes::cool:

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What Hand Control Hardware does yours show under 'information' mines a V3.02 with Ver 3.25 firmware.

HCH = 03.04, Firmware 3.25, Motor control 02.03.00 for me (but I only bought it a month ago and I have a HEQ6)

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Higher version hardware - thats probably why then. Sighs - looks like I shall have to get round to fitting a dimmer control on the mount.

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Higher version hardware
Although the HCH is unlikely to be responsible for dimming the polarscope. That'll probably be down to the mount board (unless hand controller hardware is a misnomer...)

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My motor control also shows a lower hardware version. Version 1.05 I think but definitely lower than version 2.

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Mel, I also found it too bright on my Orion Sirius EG-G Mount. If there is no software control it just needs an in line resistor or pot to sort it out. I will check mine to confirm whether it has any software control and mod it if need be.

Regards

Kevin

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An inline resistor of about 1k should sort it out. I keep meaning to do a small mod to mine but never get round to it.

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JUst did a reload of the handset to conform and nope - theres no polarscope illumination control.

For those that do these things there is a new Synscan 'loader' for the software - version 3.0 on the Sky-Watcher site. It loads quicker and apparently works better with USB convertors.

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Astro_Baby,

I have both the HEQ5pro and now a NEQ6pro....

The issue of the polar recticle illumination appears to be related to the motor drive board firmware..

The HEQ5 has V1.04 motor firmware and V3.25 handcontroller but has NO control over the polar illuminator, whereas the NEQ6 has V2+ motor controller and V 3.23 handcontroller and does have illuminator control.

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Well - what can I say - pooh ! - Looks like I'll have to get my finger out and do my own mod. I was messing about today with working our the resistor value for a pot to control the brightness - my math says 100k which seems absurdly large but I can argue with the math. Now I have just fin a small enough pot to fit.

Thanks for that Merlin - I was really hoping I wouldnt have to carry out more mods to the mount myself but if I do I do I guess.

I'll never get the fan and rear cell upgrade done to the scope at this rate :rolleyes:

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Cheers Breakintheclouds,

I found your walkthrough a lot easier to follow than the manual I recieved with the mount :p and indeed downloaded manuals from the net, which can be a little confusing to a beginner such as myself.

:)

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Hi there - I've always wondered what that polaris clock information is for...

I have a CG5 (EQ5-equivalent) upgraded with a synscan fitted with a SW polarscope. If I'm reading this right, this should also work with my setup as well?

To date I've been using polarfinder.exe and then using alt-az adjustments to get polaris in (hopefully) more or less the right place on the imaginary polarscope clock. I therefore haven't actually been using that tiny polaris circle on the reticle at all, only the outer circle. This might explain why, for imaging, I'm lucky to get 90s without trails which of course gives me a pretty poor SNR. Although a guidecam is #1 on my shopping list, if this works, perhaps my alignment will be just that little bit better and allow me maybe an extra 30s (or maybe more!).

I guess I can try this method and check the results against the polarfinder output...

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as i recall but i may be wrong the polaris clock shows what time polaris made it`s last transit and the bottom line shows where polaris is now on aa 12 hour clock, so say the bottom line reads 7.00 you can polar agin the scope turn the weight bar until it`s in the 7 o`clock position and then you can ajust the azi mth until polaris is in the circle. just is a bit qiucker than other methods

this is how i understand it but i may be wrong so don`t shout at me if i am.

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But there is no guarantee (unless you have aligned it so) that the polar circle lines up with the cw shaft.

You need to put Polaris at the right time on the reticule circle as described above.

BUT you also need to check that the reticule is correctly aligned with the RA axis in the first place. The manual describes this process...

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Hi

How do I check which version of the PCB controller I have without having the eqmod ?

Thanks

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shows you which version on the handset when you fire it up, also in the settings somewhere

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