Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Questions, bug reports, requests for enhancements, etc.
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osogordo
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2020 8:01 am

Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by osogordo »

Hi everyone. Just had a big birthday and finally got to realize a long-held wish to get into astronomy with a telescope. As per me, I jumped off the deep end with the idea that I'll learn to swim eventually. Keep in mind here that I have zero idea what I'm doing and am brand new to everything astro. I originally copied a rig from a Twitter follow for astrophotography and here I am with the following setup:

Scope
Meade LX85 ACF 8" f/10

Mount
SkyWatcher EQ6-R Pro

CCD
ZWO ASI120MC-S

Current Progress: Can operate. Can basic polar align using the polar scope and a polar align app on my phone. Can use the Synscan to star align and navigate around.

Today I decide to try the camera for the first time after purchasing AstroImager and AstroTelescope. As I don't have a guide camera, I don't think I need AstroGuider yet. I was able to connect the mount to AT and also go out via the server to Stellarium and control the mount.

Current hurdles:
- AT and Stellarium both had me with noticeable offsets from targets so I couldn't get into view. The hand controller worked fine, however. Is there an alignment process in AI or AT that I need to do?
- When I finally i get Mars into view, I couldn't quite make anything real happen in AI and all I could see was a white blob.

Could someone suggest a workflow or goal steps I should I try out? I would be grateful for the direction where I currently have none. I want to stay exclusive to macOS, and I'm happy to join the testers out there in whatever way might be useful. Lastly, the "Register..." button is greyed out in my software, and I'd like to participate in the v4 testing. Does anyone know how I might fix that?

Thankful for any bones thrown my way.

Best regards,
Oso
JohanB
Posts: 224
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2016 5:55 pm

Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by JohanB »

Hi Oso,

Fellow user here. I started 6 years ago at the same level you are now. Learned a lot and in the end it will all work out for you as well. But it takes time, effort, patience and endurance :-) But you've come a long way already since the start. Regarding the two hurdles you describe;

1) Offset when using AT/Stellarium. Good chance you are having a system time and/or site location difference between the laptop and the mount. What you want to check are the preferences in AT. It has a tab "Observatory", were you need to set the site location you are at and check the first checkbox "set the site coordinated to the mount controller". Also make sure the system date/time from your laptop are correct.

Next you need to align in AT (provided you did the Polar align already on the scope). The easiest way to get started is to use the manual control panel in AT and a finder on the scope. The steps are:

- Selecte a bright star in sight in AT and slew the scope there
- Use the manual control panel in AT to manually move the scope on to a bright star
- Press "Sync to selected position" in AT
- Et voila, you have one-star alignment
- You could repeat this process in other parts of the sky when needed, for a n-star alignment

Next time you use the scope, the old alignment point will still be stored in AT and AT will notify you of that on start-up. You may need to delete those old alignment point first using the Indigo Control Panel. Once you get the camera going in AI, you could download and run Astrometry from the Indigo website. This will allow you to automate parts of this process by plate solving from AI.

2) Mars looking like a white blob. To image a planet is like shining a flashlight into your scope. Planets emit an enormous amount of light compared to the faint stars. In order to see some details, you'll need to throttle back the exposure time into the ms range and work your way up from there in little steps to find the right exposure time. Also focusing on a bright planet may not be that easy, when you have not found the right exposure time yet. What may be of help is bathinov mask for your scope. They're not that expensive and a great and easy to use focusing tool.

Hope this helps!

Regards, Johan

PS: I run a Skywatcher AZ-EQ6, with a Skywatcher 190MN scope, an Atik383L camera with the EFW2 filterwheel and an SX guider camera, OAG mounted. I have an ASI120MC-S for planets as well.
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Peter Polakovic
Posts: 2189
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2016 9:38 am

Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by Peter Polakovic »

Thank you Johan, I have nothing else to recommend! Peter
iMustBcrazy
Posts: 204
Joined: Sun Jun 02, 2019 3:52 pm

Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by iMustBcrazy »

Hi @osogordo, congratulations on your new endeavour! You seem to be taking the right steps but I would say that planetary imaging is probably not the best first step as they are very small, although you have a good scope for that. But try imaging the craters of the moon first. Once everything is good, you can slew the scope to a planet like Jupiter or Saturn and then mars. Personally I find deep space imaging more satisfying but you'll need guiding with that scope. Good luck, you have a great mount and a nice scope so you're halfway there!
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osogordo
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2020 8:01 am

Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by osogordo »

Thank for the replies, everyone. I really appreciate the forum here and I'll be looking to make those changes and hopefully get things working smoothly.

Couple more questions:
- I can control the mount when it's directly connected via the frontside USB port. In other posts it was recommended to use the USB port on the handset instead. Is this still valid or is ok to control the mount directly through the front USB port?
- Also, I would like to try the v4 software but I do not have a traditional key and the "Register..." option is greyed out in my programs.

Side note: Does anyone have R coding experience? I had the idea that I could create post processing scripts once I can reliably source quality data.
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aaron
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Location: Upstate New York, US
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Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by aaron »

osogordo wrote: Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:13 pm - I can control the mount when it's directly connected via the frontside USB port. In other posts it was recommended to use the USB port on the handset instead. Is this still valid or is ok to control the mount directly through the front USB port?
I can answer this one. I have a very similar mount, the SkyWatcher EQ6R-Pro. I connect directly to the USB port on the mount. Throwing away the hand controller was one of my happiest milestones!

If you have access to a Windows PC, or an emulator, I'd recommend checking the firmware on the mount. My mount wasn't running the latest firmware, and I was having USB issues until I updated.
http://skywatcher.com/download/software ... -firmware/
metagawd
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Joined: Wed Nov 11, 2020 1:35 am

Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by metagawd »

Does the SynScan App work on that mount?
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aaron
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Location: Upstate New York, US
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Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by aaron »

metagawd wrote: Mon Nov 16, 2020 7:09 pm Does the SynScan App work on that mount?
Not sure what you mean. I use AstroTelescope on the mount, with the built-in SynScan INDIGO driver.
metagawd
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Joined: Wed Nov 11, 2020 1:35 am

Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by metagawd »

I'm sorry; I was asking if the SynScan IOS/Android App worked with the mount; after my post (and at lunch hour for me) I confirmed it can, using a wi-fi dongle.

My main GTG is on a SKywatcher AzGTI mount, which I wanted for the wifi capability and control via handset or mobile app (as well as INDI/ASCOM via USB/FTDI-serial).
ThatsMyCoffee
Posts: 80
Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2019 4:59 pm

Re: Complete Beginner: Starting from scratch

Post by ThatsMyCoffee »

Welcome to our crazy hobby!

I highly recommend that you forget altogether about aligning with the handset. Turn on communication to AT, then 'sync' (align) only with that.

Download Astrometry (mac, free) and "plate-solve". Once you get the hang of that, your life will get SO much better and you won't spend half the night just aligning and adjusting. NO offsets or other nonsense. You'll stay within AI and AG entirely and it will just WORK. For a bonus, set up SkySafari and control the scope through it. Amazing experience when it's all working together.

Feel free to write me privately if you get stuck on any steps, I am also a mac-only user and have the HEQ-5 w/synscan so most of the troubles you'll have, I've encountered before. But it sounds like you're doing GREAT. Keep at it!
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