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Polar Alignment Methods for AP Mach 1 GTO

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#1 Greg S

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 08:46 PM

I recently got back into astrophotography and thought, what the heck, I'll try an Astro Physics mount. I saw that I could actually get a Mach 1 with no waiting list and the mount arrived last month. I outfitted it with the polar scope and put it on an Eagle portable pier.

I'm sure I don't need to go into the whole fit and finish thing as it's A+++ as expected. The Eagle Pier is really nice and light and I've had a custom ATS in the past. This is better since it adapts to rugged terrain better and is a bit lighter and easier to transport.

In the past I've been a Tak guy and I've got to admit that imaging f7 or below I never needed to drift align. I just used the wicked accurate Tak polar scope and it was off to the races!

I managed to get out to the Julian Star Fest this weekend with the kids (It's a very nice Star Party by the way; thank you organizers!).

Here's my impressions. The AP system is super easy to setup and align and visual performance was awesome with both a SV130 and a C11.

Night Two gave me some heartburn with polar alignment. I was able to get my QSI583 hooked up and focused pretty quickly on the SV130 operating at f7. I had just used the PAL on the Mach 1 figuring I would keep the images below 3 minutes. I could barely get 2 minutes before stars started elongating imaging M31 and Double Cluster. This was unguided, but I want to see at least 3 - 5 minutes unguided being possible at this focal length. No PE to speak up when I ran some 10 minute exposures to see if the stars would wander.

I guess it's time for me to actually learn how to drift align :( It's always looked so time consuming and hard. I guess I just want to know if there is any software or other aids to this process? I tried the quick polar align routine in the AP handcontroller and it worked pretty well but finding a star within 1 hour of Zenith is not the easiest task. Some waiting was inolved for me, around 20 minutes for Deneb to creep into position so my OTA didn't hit the mount on the flip side of the meridian. With a Tak I would have already had 15 minutes of imaging during this delay.

I know everyone will chime in with autoguiding. Yes, I will autoguide, but I prefer to really know how to make the mount work right before correcting it.

I have TheSkyX or the AP Handcontroller to control the mount. Any suggestions on software or methods that makes it easier to polar align this mount?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

BTW, the error would have been guided out very easily but field rotation would eventually creep into this which is why I always try to start with a mount very well polar aligned which just seems to lower the amount of problems and also eliminates the troubleshooting when guiding is not working well.

T-Point? Plugins for TheSkyX? Any CCDSoft Solutions?

Thanks!

#2 psu_13

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:03 PM

My favorite scheme for the Mach-1 is the so-called "quick drift" method. I use a Sky Safari to find a reasonably bright star (mag 2 or 3 is all you need) near enough to the meridian. It works for me.

I guess if you were setting up a camera anyway you could try the semi-automatic drift alignment scheme in PemPro. But you'd have to buy the software.

Edit: Also, FWIW, the QD scheme is accurate enough for me to get 2-3min unguided exposures at a 1000mm focal length that are usually pretty good. The tracking varies a bit depending on where you are pointing, but I think this is normal. Here's a stack of some 3min frames of M51.

http://www.flickr.co...157630154101860


#3 Dan G

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:12 PM

Greg -

You should have received a copy of PemPro SW with the mount. It has a very good PA routine that will dial you in quickly.

#4 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:34 PM

+1 for Quick Drift Alignment. See A-P version 4.17 Keypad supplemental manual for instructions. This is a second revision of QDA. Don't look at first revision of QDA in version 4.12 Keypad manual.

PemPro software is not included with A-P Mach1. It comes with A-P 900 or larger.

Peter

#5 Ray Gralak

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:37 PM

Greg -

You should have received a copy of PemPro SW with the mount. It has a very good PA routine that will dial you in quickly.

PEMPro is not included with the Mach1 GTO (but is with the larger mounts).

-Ray

#6 Greg S

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 11:00 PM

Thanks for the advice guys! Yes, I've been reading the 4.12 manual so I'll look at the updated version.

Also, PEM Pro is NOT included with the Mach 1. Is this a worth while upgrade? I'm not cheap, but I definitely have spent lots of coin on software that never lived up to it's billing.

I'm pretty sure my handcontroller manual has the supplements in the front, with the obsolete information presented in prose later. This is a terrible idea in general and really frustrating for teaching new people how to use this mount. Why can't they pay someone $300 to re-write and incorporate the changes into the actual instructions?

Nevermind! I've wrangled so many engineers in my day running master planned developments that I can extrapolate why this isn't getting done.

I think I'll head up to OPT this week and see if I can't convince one of those great guys to write a succint protocal and work with me on this and then I can edit it into something that is much easier for us (maybe just me) to use.

#7 Tom and Beth

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 11:26 PM

Hi Greg,

The Amended 4.17 Handpad instructions are easily downloaded from Astro Physics web site. Once you've done the procedure a few times you can do it by memory.

#8 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 11:28 PM

If you don't have MaximDL, CCDSoft, AstroArt or compatible video camera (Microsoft DirectShow), then PEMPro may not work with your equipment. But PEMPro next version 3 is supposed to work with ASCOM cameras so if your camera came with ASCOM driver, then PEMPro may work. Only Ray can answer.

Study PEMPro hardware/software requirements before purchasing it.

http://www.ccdware.c...ro/features.cfm

Peter

#9 CounterWeight

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 11:42 PM

Just curious which polar align you chose and did through the hand controller? I'm not perfectly orthagonal in my mounting (an unfortunate part of the A-P h/c assumption) but the 'N Polar' align does pretty well if I stick with the very small number of align stars mentiond in the manual. I don't have the polar scope they sold for it as I wasn't satisfied with it / inaccuracy.

#10 M13 Observer

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 11:42 PM

I recently got back into astrophotography and thought, what the heck, I'll try an Astro Physics mount. I saw that I could actually get a Mach 1 with no waiting list and the mount arrived last month. I outfitted it with the polar scope and put it on an Eagle portable pier.

I'm sure I don't need to go into the whole fit and finish thing as it's A+++ as expected. The Eagle Pier is really nice and light and I've had a custom ATS in the past. This is better since it adapts to rugged terrain better and is a bit lighter and easier to transport.

In the past I've been a Tak guy and I've got to admit that imaging f7 or below I never needed to drift align. I just used the wicked accurate Tak polar scope and it was off to the races!

I managed to get out to the Julian Star Fest this weekend with the kids (It's a very nice Star Party by the way; thank you organizers!).

Here's my impressions. The AP system is super easy to setup and align and visual performance was awesome with both a SV130 and a C11.

Night Two gave me some heartburn with polar alignment. I was able to get my QSI583 hooked up and focused pretty quickly on the SV130 operating at f7. I had just used the PAL on the Mach 1 figuring I would keep the images below 3 minutes. I could barely get 2 minutes before stars started elongating imaging M31 and Double Cluster. This was unguided, but I want to see at least 3 - 5 minutes unguided being possible at this focal length. No PE to speak up when I ran some 10 minute exposures to see if the stars would wander.

I guess it's time for me to actually learn how to drift align :( It's always looked so time consuming and hard. I guess I just want to know if there is any software or other aids to this process? I tried the quick polar align routine in the AP handcontroller and it worked pretty well but finding a star within 1 hour of Zenith is not the easiest task. Some waiting was inolved for me, around 20 minutes for Deneb to creep into position so my OTA didn't hit the mount on the flip side of the meridian. With a Tak I would have already had 15 minutes of imaging during this delay.

I know everyone will chime in with autoguiding. Yes, I will autoguide, but I prefer to really know how to make the mount work right before correcting it.

I have TheSkyX or the AP Handcontroller to control the mount. Any suggestions on software or methods that makes it easier to polar align this mount?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

BTW, the error would have been guided out very easily but field rotation would eventually creep into this which is why I always try to start with a mount very well polar aligned which just seems to lower the amount of problems and also eliminates the troubleshooting when guiding is not working well.

T-Point? Plugins for TheSkyX? Any CCDSoft Solutions?

Thanks!


If you like the Tak method of polar aligning then check the AP website for the new polar alignment scope. It will be available this fall and with the proper adapter for the Mach1GTO will be all you need. Apparently there is a notification list for it so sign up NOW - who would have thought?

#11 Ray Gralak

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 12:28 AM

If you don't have MaximDL, CCDSoft, AstroArt or compatible video camera (Microsoft DirectShow), then PEMPro may not work with your equipment. But PEMPro next version 3 is supposed to work with ASCOM cameras so if your camera came with ASCOM driver, then PEMPro may work. Only Ray can answer.

Study PEMPro hardware/software requirements before purchasing it.

http://www.ccdware.c...ro/features.cfm

Peter

Yes, V3 will have ASCOM camera support.

V2 also natively supports all versions of Meade DSI cameras.

-Ray






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