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Photosbykev

NEQ6 Hardware/Software for Astrophotography

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I've noticed that there is a lot of queries on what to buy and how to connect the various pieces of hardware and software for guided astrophotography so I thought I would take a stab at it here based on my limited experience over the last 6 months.

Any, and all, corrections are welcome

The basic EQMod layout for Synta mounts

eqascom.jpgsyntrek.jpgeqmod.jpg

The layout above assumes you are going to be using a laptop for guiding and image capture.

***Software***

The core software, called the Ascom v5 Platform, is available from here Download Center as well the EQMOD software from here http://eq-mod.sourceforge.net/. This software allows all the other software and hardware to talk to each other.

The free navigation software I use is Stellarium and Sky Chart / Cartes du Ciel | Download Sky Chart / Cartes du Ciel software for free at SourceForge.net

PHD Guiding is available from StarkLabs . This allows the mount tracking to be improved by monitoring the position of a star using the guide camera and guide scope.

I use Astro Photography Tools from www.astroplace.net - APT - Introduction or AstroJan Tools, which is still under development, for DSLR control and image capture.

***Hardware***

EQDir - this USB/Serial device connects the laptop to the NEQ6 mount and allows the EQMOD software to control the mount. Cables, Leads and Controllers - HitecAstro EQDIR adapter

Serial Shutter Control - this device controls the DSLR camera shutter from the APT software allowing the use of Mirror Lock Up to minimise vibrations. Using this also stops the problems of amp glow caused by using the Live view option to simulate a MLU Astronomiser - Automated Astronomy and AstroImaging Solutions

GPS - I use the BlueNext usb gps module available from CPC Electronics http://cpc.farnell.com/1/1/62842-usb-gps-unit-bn-903s-bn-903s-bluenext.html . This provides GPS co-ordinates, altitude and accurate time to EQMOD

Temperhum - provides information on temperature/Humidity/Dewpoint to the APT software, useful for calibrating Darks etc. I use this one http://www.pcsensor.com/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=31

***SynScan Handcontroller users *** (thank you for the information Merlin66)

synscan_0.jpgsynscan.jpg

For direct control from the PC, it's very straight forward. The handcontroller is connected to the mount as usual and:

1. The serial to RJ45 cable connects between the PC and the second socket on the handcontroller.

This cable is usually supplied with the HEQ/NEQ mount to allow updating of the firmware.

Obviously if there's no serial port on the PC you also need to add a USB>Serial adaptor.

2. With Synscan firmware > V3.2 the communications mode is automatic - no need for the user to do anything other than connect the cable. With V2 or V3.1 firmware you need to set the "RS232 comms" via the utility menu on the handcontroller.

3. A guide camera with a ST-4 port can still be used and the direction buttons on the handcontroller still used to move the scope.

4. Telescope control is provided via Stellarium/CdC etc with the selected telescope drivers (Celestron-Skywatcher).

EQMOD, the EQDir module, cabling and joystick control shown are not required for this type of comms connection.

***Using PCDirect and EQASCOM***

please read the caution note from chrisshillito before you use this method

and this EQMOD pdf showing all of the PC control options for Synscan users

I hope this helps because it took me some time to sort it out, with a lot of help from the forum, when I was starting down the astrophotography road. I would also point out this is just one of many schemes available and there are plenty of alternatives that work as well, if not better, than this method.

Edited by Photosbykev

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This is very useful, I shall be bookmarking this :). One small question:

Hardware

EQDir - this USB/Serial device connects the laptop to the NEQ6 mount and allows the EQMOD software to control the mount. Cables, Leads and Controllers - HitecAstro EQDIR adapter

Where does this cable connect to on the NEQ6 Pro Synscan? Am I right in thinking it is in place of the hand controller? :)

Edited by Black Knight

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Great idea!

A similar diagram where the PC is connected to the handcontroller (PCDirect) I think would be very useful for beginners....they can then see the differences in connectors etc.

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A great diagram.

Maybe it could be made clearer as to what DSLR is used. I only say as I own a Nikon and there is very little support to connect and control my DSLR through my laptop, if any. Maybe it needs a separate 'sub' diagram to show the camera control better?

Also, as Merlin66 says, a 'PC Direct' example might be good also as this is how I connect my NEQ6 to Stellarium on my Mac.

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Great post Kevin

The only comments I'd make are that, if you use one of later Canon EOS DSLRs (such as the 1000d and 500d for example) you can get away with only one USB lead (as supplied with the camera) and APT does a neat job of using Live View to "force" mirror lock up to reduce vibration.

Also, if people are OK with very basic soldering, they can make themselves an EQDIR USB lead for about £20 as shown here

EQDIRECT

and here

Future Technology Devices Intl - Catalogue search

..and in answer to Black Night's question - Yes - the EQDIR lead and EQMOD / laptop replace the handset by plugging into the handset D plug on the mount.

The ST4 cable between the guide camera and the mount is optional because EQMOD allows for pulse guiding using only the EQDIR cable from laptop to mount.

Finally - this also applies to the HEQ5 series of mounts...and works a treat.

Sorry if I've hijacked your thread Kev

Steve

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I believe that the EQDir module plugs directly into the mount where the handset used to plug in on the SynScan version of the mount. It isn't somethingI've used so would appreciate a confirmation from a Synscan user.

I've no experience of controlling the Nikon cameras for astrophotography, if there is alternative software to control them could someone add a few links.

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Great post Kevin

The only comments I'd make are that, if you use one of later Canon EOS DSLRs (such as the 1000d and 500d for example) you can get away with only one USB lead (as supplied with the camera) and APT does a neat job of using Live View to "force" mirror lock up to reduce vibration.

Also, if people are OK with very basic soldering, they can make themselves an EQDIR USB lead for about £20 as shown here

EQDIRECT

and here

Future Technology Devices Intl - Catalogue search

..and in answer to Black Night's question - Yes - the EQDIR lead and EQMOD / laptop replace the handset by plugging into the handset D plug on the mount.

The ST4 cable between the guide camera and the mount is optional because EQMOD allows for pulse guiding using only the EQDIR cable from laptop to mount.

Finally - this also applies to the HEQ5 series of mounts...and works a treat.

Sorry if I've hijacked your thread Kev

Steve

No problem at all with the extra information Steve, this helps everyone.

I would say that the use of the extra Serial Shutter cable is highly recommended. Using just the USB lead and live view to simulate MLU causes problems with amp glow and increased noise because the sensor is turned on for longer, using the real MLU via the serial shutter cable removes this issue.

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I believe that the EQDir module plugs directly into the mount where the handset used to plug in on the SynScan version of the mount. It isn't somethingI've used so would appreciate a confirmation from a Synscan user.

I've no experience of controlling the Nikon cameras for astrophotography, if there is alternative software to control them could someone add a few links.

Yes please, if someone does know Id love to find out.

As for the EQDir I cannot say unfortunately as I connect my mount to my laptop through the jack at the bottom of the hand controller. I dont know whether I could get the EQDir to work with my Mac?

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Yes please, if someone does know Id love to find out.

As for the EQDir I cannot say unfortunately as I connect my mount to my laptop through the jack at the bottom of the hand controller. I dont know whether I could get the EQDir to work with my Mac?

NKRemote NKRemote - Breeze Systems Nikon camera control software for Nikon D7000, Nikon D90, Nikon D5000, Nikon D300, Nikon D700, Nikon D3 or Nikon D200 will control Nikons, I also use the DSLR Remote Pro from the same company for Canons and that is very good and is available for pc or mac users.

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..and in answer to Black Night's question - Yes - the EQDIR lead and EQMOD / laptop replace the handset by plugging into the handset D plug on the mount.

Steve

Thanks Steve :)

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Also,

The ST4 cable between the guide camera and the mount is optional because EQMOD allows for pulse guiding using only the EQDIR cable from laptop to mount.

Steve

I didn't know that. Useful to know that as well :)

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I would say that the use of the extra Serial Shutter cable is highly recommended. Using just the USB lead and live view to simulate MLU causes problems with amp glow and increased noise because the sensor is turned on for longer, using the real MLU via the serial shutter cable removes this issue.

Ah - that's interesting - thanks Kev:headbang:

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Camera control 5.2 from www.DIYPhotoBits.com for Nikon.

Looks pretty interesting but I cant seem to get it to work for my D200?

EDIT: Got it working. A nice little application, shame it doesn't allow bulb mode :)

Edited by Digz

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Looks pretty interesting but I cant seem to get it to work for my D200?

EDIT: Got it working. A nice little application, shame it doesn't allow bulb mode :)

The NKRemote software for Nikon cameras doesn't support the Bulb mode either

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Are you going to add USB and power connections for focusers and filter wheels?

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Are you going to add USB and power connections for focusers and filter wheels?

I could but they are a bit out of my league lol

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A slight correction - there is no such thing as EQASCOM platform V5

EQASCOM is not an integrated part of the ASCOM platform itself but rather an independent development maintained and distributed by the EQMOD Project - link to EQMOD where folks can get all the necessary info and download links etc.

Chris.

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A slight correction - there is no such thing as EQASCOM platform V5

EQASCOM is not an integrated part of the ASCOM platform itself but rather an independent development maintained and distributed by the EQMOD Project - link to EQMOD where folks can get all the necessary info and download links etc.

Chris.

Thanks for the correction Chris. I've revised the link in the opening post and will update the block diagram this evening

So is it ok to say the Ascom v5 Platform and EQASCOM (EQMOD) hardware/software

Edited by Photosbykev

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Thanks for the correction Chris. I've revised the link in the opening post and will update the block diagram this evening

So is it ok to say the Ascom v5 Platform and EQASCOM (EQMOD) hardware/software

Yes that's fine.

Chris

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Well, there's no EQMOD/EQASCOM hardware as such.
there is the EQDir USB/Serial interface which is used by EQMOD

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