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Bizarre Problem with Orion Starshoot- defective?

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#1 Ron (Lubbock)

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 09:32 PM

I purchased an Orion SSAG (1.3 MP) about 5 weeks ago for use with a guidescope and PhD guiding. When it is working, it works nicely. However, I am experiencing an occasional, erratic guiding disturbance that is serious enough to destroy the image when it pops up. After several imaging sessions, I am pretty sure it is the autoguider device itself and not a problem with PhD or my mount (CGEM). Last night, it happened about 12 times during a 3 hr. imaging session. Losing five-minute subs is painful, but I cannot even take the risk of collecting 15 min. subs, because this disturbance appears randomly once every 5 to 20 minutes and would ruin all of them.

I am wondering if anyone here has had the same problem, or knows of a work-around before I call Orion and ask them if I can return it. Here are the details.

When guiding is proceeding normally, I get a guiding graph that looks like so:

Posted Image

The disturbance appears suddenly, as indicated by a black bar across the screen, and the guide star makes a massive jump to the right (see image- the displaced guide star is under the horizontal green line). The black bar fades after a few seconds, and the star moves almost back to its original position, but it's too late- the autoguider has tried to correct for the jump, and the image is ruined.

Posted Image

As a result of the attempts to correct for this huge offset (which is not real), the graph ends up looking like so:

Posted Image

My best guess is that my SSAG has a defective chip, and there is an occasional read error transferring the image to the PhD software. It could also be a bug in the SSAG driver for Windows 7 64-bit. I cannot rule out the possibility that it is some kind of communication problem with PhD, but due to the black bar appearing on the screen, I am sure it is a computer problem, and not a "real world" disturbance like a defect in the mount.

Any insights about this problem are appreciated!

#2 Phil Sherman

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 10:20 PM

The first thing I'd try is to plug the SSAG directly into one of the computer's USB ports using only the cable that came with it.

If you still have problems, see if you can find a program (maybe Maxim DL) that will use it as a camera and try taking 10-20 minutes of images at your normal exposure time and look to see if the same problem shows up. If it does, then it's probably a bad camera. You may be able to use a video capture program to make a video from the camera that'll also show the problem.

Phil

#3 luigis

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 11:27 AM

I just had the same problem last night! I thought it was "something weird" and forgot it but now that I see your post I'm curious about the solution.
It's exactly as you describe, vertical bar, jump in guiding, all the same.

I'm using the camera with the Orion 50mm mini guider scope.

I'm using the cable that came with the SSAG.

#4 Ron (Lubbock)

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 12:05 PM

I am also using the original cable. Glad to find another user who has the same issue. I called Orion tech support and they asked me to re-install the drivers, but I have my doubts that is going to help anything, as I just downloaded the software a few weeks back. This evening, I may try running it on Windows 7 32-bit, as I have an old laptop that can be put into service. That might rule out the driver problem.

I am concerned that if I return it, they will send me another one that does exactly the same thing. In any event, I cannot continue imaging with constant interruptions from this disturbance.

#5 luigis

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 12:13 PM

I was sure it was the mount (I use an EQ3) now I'm 100% sure it wasn't the mount as it can happen with two different mounts.

Has this ever happened to any other user of the SSAG ?

#6 Mary B

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 04:25 PM

Looks to me like another program may be interfering with communications.

#7 Ron (Lubbock)

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 10:11 AM

Mary might be on to something. It is possible that another program is conflicting with the Orion drivers somehow.
I re-installed the drivers for the Orion SSAG yesterday, and I was able to do imaging for 1.5 hours last night without encountering any error. I was pleasantly surprised. However, I am not sure the problems won't come back.

#8 orlyandico

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 10:34 AM

when it jumps to the right, it completely leaves the box. so then PHD will complain about star lost and not try to correct.

when it jumps back, is it in the same spot as before? if yes then PHD will be happy again.

#9 Eor312

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 10:42 AM

Ya know, I had mine (SSAG as well) jump on me strangely the other night as well. I must admit, i didn't really look to see a "black bar" or where the star was, because I didn't realize it until after I saw the preview image in BYE...by then it was too late to see anything but the PHD graph.

The graph, however, looked remarkably similar.

The only thing I can think of is this: I recently started using a different laptop for imaging, so i grabbed the latest version of PHD, 1.13. My old laptop had 1.12 and NEVER exhibited this behaviour.

Could we have found a bug in 1.13?

Has anyone reported this to Stark's support group on Yahoo Groups?

#10 Ron (Lubbock)

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 06:17 PM

I actually downloaded PhD 1.13 from the website instead of using the version that came with the SSAG. So there could be a problem with PhD, I suppose. It's easy enough to put the old version on another computer if I start having problems again.

#11 nebultick

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 08:39 PM

Mine also did this the other night. But it happened when i was setting up PHD to get ready to guide, so i just closed PHD and reopened it and it was fine. I feel like its a software issue.

#12 wbb

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 11:58 PM

It's the "dreaded black bar effect". It has been discussed many times on the stark-labs-astronomy Yahoo group. It was happening to me a lot. Craig suggested reducing the search region number in the Brain tool. When I backed the search region down to 10 everything was fine. It's not the camera. He explained the reasoning behind it but I can't remember exactly.
Bill

#13 Ron (Lubbock)

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 12:57 PM

Wow, that is an interesting possibility. Thanks for posting. I will check out the Yahoo group postings.

The black bar effect came back with a vengeance on Monday night while I was imaging NGC 1579 in Perseus. It was so bad that could not even calibrate the Starshoot without the black bar popping up. Here are a couple more observations I made:

1) At first, I booted the computer, then plugged the SSAG into the USB. Windows told me it was installing device driver software, and it failed. This makes no sense, as drivers were already installed. The black bar effect was terrible when I ran PhD.

2) I rebooted the computer with the SSAG already plugged into the USB port. There was no "installing device drivers" message this time, and I ran PhD for 2.5 hours with only one disturbance from the dreaded black bar.

This is definitely looking like some kind of communication thing between the computer and SSAG, but I will try reducing the search area in PhD for sure. It's been at 15 pixels during all this trouble. In any event, I am glad to see that do not have a defective SSAG.

#14 wbb

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:19 PM

Ron, in my case before I changed the search region, every night would be different. Black bar every 8 minutes or so, then the next night, once every 20 minutes. Very strange, but as soon as I changed the SR, so far things have been great. I hope I did'nt jinx it :-)

Bill

#15 Ron (Lubbock)

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 12:52 PM

Yeah, I found the same thing with the inconsistency in timing between the black bar episodes. The worst night had a black bar about once every 60 seconds, and the best was about once during 2 hours. My search box size is getting reduced as soon as I get some time off from work to mess with the equipment.

#16 RRod

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 11:25 AM

I see this tread is kind of old, however, I would like to know if anybody solved the problem? I have the same settings (Orion SSAU + 50mm mini guider) and I am having the same graph and bad pictures. Now, the ST-4 port of the mount is fried. I will have to replace the motherboard.
Thank you
Rodrigo

#17 Ron (Lubbock)

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 04:48 PM

I still have black bar episodes that pop up at least once per hour. It is still not clear whether the SSAG drivers have a problem, or if there is some problem transmitting data between the SSAG and the computer. However, if the search box is made small enough, then PhD won't apply any corrections while the star is lost, and the disturbances don't affect the guiding too much. It's still a headache.

#18 RRod

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 09:34 AM

My PhD graph shows exactly the same RA disturbance you show in your graph while the DEC looks perfect. This problem started a month ago, and now I can't rally do more than 2 minutes exposures. In my case I am using the Orion Atlas, however I use the same guider and also Windows 7 64 bits. I also feel like this problem got worse from the moment I updated PHD. Have you tried to uninstall and install the driver? I did it last night so I will test it as soon as the weather lets me

Rodrigo

#19 tvoydan

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 10:17 AM

Just read thru the Stark-Labs yahoo group post. Look for message #30670.

Problem seems to be a timing issue in the camera/driver. Basically the image you get downloaded from the camera is cropped by the driver. For some reason, the camera/driver either times out or gets out of sync with the buffer causing the actual image to get offset 100 pixels.

Problem will occur regardless of the Orion camera or laptop in use.

Sorry for my basic understanding of the post, I'll have to search more to see if they actually fixed the problem or have a work around.

Tom

#20 RRod

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 11:56 AM

Hi Tom
Thank you for the information. Do you have an idea how I could fix that? Basically I can't do any long exposure although I have some hope that reinstalling the driver will fix the problem. What confuses me is the fact that it was working very well for a couple of months and now does not work anymore. Orion Technical support really seems very clueless about the issue
Rodrigo

#21 tvoydan

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 01:48 PM

Decrease the search region to a smaller value seems to be what people do to fix the problem.

#22 RRod

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 02:42 PM

Thank you. I will give it a try

#23 RRod

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 03:25 PM

After months of testing I found the problem. it was related with the mother board of the mount. I put a new one and the problem was gone

#24 blueman

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Posted 09 December 2013 - 03:09 PM

When a friend was having this issue a lot I suggested trying to use the Maxim DL guiding or CCDSoft that he got with his camera.

He had CCDSoft installed so he tried that. There were no more instances with this problem when PHD was not used.

So he Downloaded MaximDL and tried it, again no problems. Now he owns MaximDL and never has an issue with the SSAG.
Blueman






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