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Celestron StarSense

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#101 neilson

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 11:51 AM

Hi,
I'm glad someone finally came out with this technology. And I'm really glad it was Celestron. They were first aiming at children beginers with the sky prodigy telescope. I find it hard to believe kids have problems centering a star. Most kids can operate computers, video games, and smartphones, remote control toys better than most adults. At least better than I can. I think most problems people have was from putting the wrong time/date/location type information. But non the less its a good ideal to make it easier for beginners. I think the best benifit is for astrophotographers. This device will improve accuracy and assure goto's to DSO's are centered on our imaging chip. Many of them can't be seen until after you image.

Besides I really like gadgets and automated things. And I will enjoy watching the starsense align my mount. I think the price is a bit high but I'm willing to pay it. I like that it comes with a new handbox.
I only have one concern. Celestron can't you make the included handbox's cord longer. I find it frustrating that the cord is so short and theres no connector on the handset so you can't replace it with a longer cord. Or make it wireless, this is 2013 not 1985.


neilson

#102 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 12:04 PM

...
I only have one concern. Celestron can't you make the included handbox's cord longer. I find it frustrating that the cord is so short and there's no connector on the handset so you can't replace it with a longer cord. Or make it wireless, this is 2013 not 1985.
neilson


Well you can.

Celestron has the Nexremote software and the SkyQ link. Bot h of those work together to make it essentilly wireless. Also you can use an iDevice withe their skyq app. Or you can use Sky Safari and SkyFi module to be wireless. The skyfi module also allows you to connect with most popular software. For me I have a usb hub on my mount that I plug the celestron serial cable into and I control my mount via a long usb cable. So to recap, if I am standing right at the mount I pick up the hand controller and use it. If I am doing outreach or walking around at a distance away I use my iPad for wireless control of the mount and if I am doing imaging I am controlling it via a long USB cable so I can be somewhere warm. As for making a longer cable there is nothing special about the cables. Perhaps you can buy an extra hand controller and make your own longer cable for it. Maybe Scopestuff sells them already made. I haven't looked.

Edit: I looked :) Cable

#103 neilson

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 01:21 PM

Hi,
Like I said it sure would be nice if the cable was a decent length. Its very short.
Those devices only make the computer connection wireless not the handbox. I have had a wireless handbox on my LX200R 10" for years. And on my TV, Vcr/DVD player Satalite box ect. I don't know of any modern device that still has a wired controller. But I would be happy with just a little longer cord.
Some time back I bought one of those extention cables and it fried my handbox. Now they say they test them but it would be nice if the one that comes with the mount was a little longer, or if Celestron offered an extension themselves. And I shouldnt have to modify a new handbox and make a longer wire just because they want to save 2 cents on wire. A foot or Two longer would do.
There are plenty of other people who complain about that wire being a little short too.

neilson

#104 wcstarguy

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 02:35 PM

The SkyProdigy mount software currently doesn't allow for external computer control...this is supposed to change, I'm guessing they are waiting to release the Star Sense attachment and update the software at the same time. I just ordered an extension cable from a different company, they have them up to 25' long, hopefully no frying of my hand control will be involved... link

#105 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 03:03 PM

Hi,
Like I said it sure would be nice if the cable was a decent length. Its very short.
Those devices only make the computer connection wireless not the handbox. I have had a wireless handbox on my LX200R 10" for years. And on my TV, Vcr/DVD player Satalite box ect. I don't know of any modern device that still has a wired controller. But I would be happy with just a little longer cord.
Some time back I bought one of those extention cables and it fried my handbox. Now they say they test them but it would be nice if the one that comes with the mount was a little longer, or if Celestron offered an extension themselves. And I shouldnt have to modify a new handbox and make a longer wire just because they want to save 2 cents on wire. A foot or Two longer would do.
There are plenty of other people who complain about that wire being a little short too.

neilson


Well you talked about it being 2013 not 1985. I was just saying that Celestron has addressed the wireless aspect in a different way. Having a true wireless, perhaps bluetooth, hand controller with a charging cradle would be great. I have recommended that to both Meade and Celestron in the past.

#106 WadeH237

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 03:33 PM

I'm glad someone finally came out with this technology. And I'm really glad it was Celestron.


Actually, I think that the Meade Lightswitch mounts were the first to do this.

#107 cn register 5

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 04:54 PM

Well, 2 mb isn't enough to get a catalog into it. It'd be cool if it was expandable via SD card or something.


It depends on the catalog. It holds the current 40,000 nexstar catalog database and the plate solve database with room to spare.. ;)

You are speaking very authoritatively about this Wolfman, do you have some sort of inside knowledge about the Sky Sense?

Chris

#108 Stew57

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 05:22 PM

I had asked the following on TeamCelestron when the engineer said there was no need for latitude, longitude, ot time to be saved into the star sense HC.

"How would starsense know what/where the first alignment star should be without latitude, longitude, and time? Am I missing something? You must have included a lot of room in the HC for a complete database for plate solve without starting reference point.


Here is the reply:

How would StarSense know what/where the first alignment star should be...It doesn't really matter which star you go to first. You just take a (random) picture of the sky, and solve the plate. Now you have a a set of RA/Dec coordinates for those motor coordinates. Then you spin the motors a while and take another (random) picture. Now you a second set of RA/Dec coordinate to go with your new motor position. After you do that one more time, you have enough information to figure out where everything else in the sky is located relative to that. Before you start your alignment the HC asks you to put your mount in the "home" position so it won't crash into itself or waste time taking pictures of the ground. And if you have an EQ mount you will want to point the mount close enough to true north that you can do the polar alignment once the sky align is complete.

You must have included a lot of room in the HC for a complete database for plate solve without starting reference point. About 2 megabytes. Which is big for an embedded microcontroller. That database takes more space than the entire star catalog, the application code, and the text databases for all 6 languages combined. (NOTE: I am not sure if SSA will be multi-lingual like the NexStar+ hand control at its initial release).

#109 Stelios

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 01:37 AM

I'm glad I found this thread, because this gadget (assuming it works as advertised) would be a godsend for me. As the years drag on, it becomes less and less pleasant to contort behind the finder in order to slew to and center the alignment stars--so unpleasant, in fact, that I only bother if I know I'll have time for an extended session.

But with StarSense, especially in the summer, I could just leave the scope in the garden, and then just pop out, start the gizmo, pop in for dinner, and then go out even for a short session. Five to ten minutes saved, plus achy neck and back--priceless.

And if Goto's deteriorate during the session as they so often do, it may be the difference between packing it up when faced with another manual calibration, or just hitting the StarSense button and admiring the sky while the scope gets itself ready again.

This is indeed the millenium!

#110 wolfman_4_ever

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 02:05 AM

:)

#111 freestar8n

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 02:11 AM

Actually, I think that the Meade Lightswitch mounts were the first to do this.



I think that Lightswitch is an automated version of normal alignment, in which the orientation of the telescope (level, north) and the lat/long of the location is known, so the telescope decides which bright stars to align with and finds them - as a user would - and it does so by 'knowing' where they are in the sky and can point approximately to them blind, based on magnetic north, etc.

I think Sky Prodigy is also based on finding bright stars - but it doesn't need to know lat/long or north - it just finds 3 bright stars - any stars - and does an automated 1-2-3 align with them.

StarSense then takes it to two new levels by not needing centered, bright stars at all - but just patches of sky that have enough stars in them to plate solve with a medium sized database. This also means there is no time spent centering the star before recording its position. I also think that, from my early posting in this thread, it will include more elaborate mount modeling based on many stars.

This is just my summary based on what I have read and what makes sense to me. The two technical concerns are what happens when it can't plate solve for some reason, and how does it deal with slight misalignment of the camera with the scope. For the first I assume it knows when a solve fails so it just goes to another part of the sky in some semi-random way. For the second, I assume there is a calibration procedure done once, with a human, where you center a bright star to let it know the offset of the plate solve from the true OTA direction.

So I think it is very different from other things, but at the same time wouldn't require magic or a supercomputer to work well. I look forward to reviews.

Frank

#112 WadeH237

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 06:59 AM

I've never used the Lightswitch (or StarSense) myself, so I went and looked at the Manual for the Meade LS Series scopes.

You are right that it depends on knowing its latitude and north (and level), but it determines these values automatically. So while the internal implementation may be different, the practical result is the same: You set up the scope and turn it on. After a few minutes, it is aligned and ready to go.

I think that the future possibility of a pointing model is interesting, but I question how important it is. For visual use, I've had multiple samples of CG5 and CGE mounts. Since the release of the v4 hand controller, I've never had any of them fail to put the desired object in the eyepiece. For imaging use, it would be more useful. But for the cost of StarSense, you are getting close to the cost of imaging software that already includes a plate solve solution. I know that I've been plate solve synced pointing for years already. I don't event think about it.

The other thing that would be interesting is to use this for a guiding solution. You, yourself have already outlined my concerns about this, regarding flexure, on the LX850 thread.

When I first heard about StarSense, I wondered if there was anyone willing to pay a couple of hundred bucks just to automate pointing alignment (which takes all of 5 minutes, and only needs to be done once per setting up of the mount). It doesn't even do polar alignment for that price. But I've seen enough posters here with interesting reasons as to why they'd want this, that I believe that there is a market and it will make people happy (and, more importantly, more likely to use their equipment to observe).

This is all good stuff, but I just wanted to point out that Celestron was not the first to get there with a consumer level system. Meade beat them to it.

-Wade

#113 freestar8n

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 08:05 AM

I agree with most of your points - mainly that the version 4 contoller does very well with 5 or 6 stars and a cge or cge-pro. If my equipment is already set up and hibernated from a previous imaging session - then there is almost zero time and effort getting right on target.

But any time I set up fresh it is a bit time consuming to find the initial stars for a 2+4 alignment - especially when using a ccd from indoors. I often use a video finder in such situations, which lets me do it all indoors using nexremote - but it still takes a while. If I were setting up repeatedly, as many do, and trying to get an imaging session going - the value would be even greater.

For new users I think there are many reasons scopes are hard to align - and big factor is not having a sense that the star in there is the one you think it is. The may think a 6th mag star in the sct is Sirius because they don't have the experience.

Another issue is that even with plate solving software - most of it needs to know the approximate location pretty well. I use maxim Pinpoint and it seems to require a pretty good starting position. But with this "where the heck am I" kind of alignment with starsense - there is a need for a blank slate alignment - and that would benefit from a plate solving system tailored to the optics and ccd in use. I don't know how many commonly used plate solving systems could do what this needs to do - so even having it on the laptop and paid for already - it may not work for the task.

Frank

#114 WadeH237

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 09:00 AM

After helping lots of people learn to use their equipment, I would suggest that the single biggest mistake that I've seen is that the finder is not collimated to the main scope. Countless times, I've seen someone point their finder at the right bright star, only to find it not visible in the eyepiece. When that happens, they tend to center the brightest star in the field, which is going to result in a poor alignment. They are always surprised when I align the finder for them and then align the scope, how obvious the bright alignment star is when it's in the field, The second most common error that I see on the Celestron mounts is that people don't realize the importance of using "up" and "right" to center the star. This results in pretty-close-but-not-great pointing performance.

StarSense will benefit users by avoiding these problems. But still, they are easily corrected user errors once they are known. The problem is, that without someone to help, it is difficult for new users to figure it out on their own.

As for plate solving with an imaging system, I have never had a 2+4 alignment result in pointing so poor that Maxim with Pinpoint LE could not solve it almost immediately.

-Wade

#115 neilson

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 01:20 PM

Hi,
I can't wait, I'm ready to buy one now but I'm confused about the release date. I had been reading it was march 2013, but now I looked on the Celestron site and it says preorders shipping June 2013. Which is correct.

neilson

#116 LTE

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 02:45 PM

:DI have used the Sky Prodigy and the Meade LS (6in and 8in) and both have their good and bad points. I find both are very effective for visual observation of variable stars, using the 130 mm Newtonian on the SP for a wide field view of brighter stars. The light mount and the telescope are not well suited to high powers. The self-align and subsequent GoTo performance is excellent.
I really enjoy using the LS telescopes, especially since the firmware was improved. The hardware design is great, even if it was done by a bricklayer as someone joked! There are a couple of alignment problems: the motor training seems to need redoing rather too often (signalled by alignment failures) and the 8in appears to have a compass offset, so it points too far clockwise. The camera is quite sensitive and will, for example, fix on the much fainter star preceding Arcturus and so mess up the alignment. Also, as with other telescopes such as the Celestron GPS series, it will sometimes select alignment stars which are too close together to give a satisfactory solution for all-sky use. I stand over it during alignment, ready to head off unsuitable second alignment stars. For these reasons, I prefer the Celestron SP system and look forward to retrofitting it to my 8in GPS and CG5 (now with a Meade 8in).

Tom.

#117 turtledude1

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 04:55 PM

Neilson, I ordered mine 3 days ago and the site said shipping in April. Today I checked and it depends where you go some say June and some say July. Celestron must have discovered a couple bugs. Meade would have shipped it anyway. That's what I like about Celestron and Orion they at least try to have as few bugs as possible before releasing a new product.
Russ

#118 Raginar

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 09:23 PM

I suppose Wolfman could be right. I was thinking UCAC is like 8gb... but GSC is pretty small (~1 gb).

Either way, platesolving to a desired location would be cool hardware implemented.

#119 frank17601A

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 08:26 AM

Folks,
Keep everything in perspective..... so what if you have a trillion stars in the plate solving database.....the limiting factor here is the size of lens (it is small in this case)..... if you can not see the trillion stars....they do not matter. So a database of a couple thousand of the brighest stars is probably good enough.

#120 Raginar

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 12:45 PM

Good point Frank. :) My only experience so far has been with my various scopes so I didn't take that into account.

#121 palmer570

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 06:48 PM

It doesn't even do polar alignment for that price.


Looks to be similar to the new controllers, it should be able to do a ASPA after it scans and you have it properly calibrated to the OTA's FOV. I imagine thats a feature that would appeal to people that own mounts without it.

#122 Ain Soph Aur

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 01:43 PM

I had been reading it was march 2013, but now I looked on the Celestron site and it says preorders shipping June 2013. Which is correct.


Celestron web site now showing July 2013.

#123 will1384

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 01:42 PM

I have got one on pre-order, I need something like this because I am surrounded by trees, I have to hunt through the list of stars that the hand controller lists, to find the few I can see, takes a good 20 minutes or more to do the alignment, what I hope is, that after I use the Celestron StarSense
to do the GOTO alignment, I can find a star with the Hand Control, then do the Align--Polar Align--Align Mount, and be done with the entire process.

Here is my setup routine:


(1) Carry all the equipment, cases, and tripod out to the only place I can see Polaris, takes 4 trips, point the tripod north, level the tripod, setup two aluminum work platforms that I use to set my equipment on, mount and balance the Telescope. - Part (1) takes 15 to 20 minutes to finish.

(2) I then use a polar scope, takes about 5 minutes or less to finish this part.

(3) Then do the alignment I enter the time and date into the Hand Control, I get the date and time from my Android phone, I then have to find some stars, so I use SkEye Planetarium on my Android phone, I hold my phone up towards the sky, and compare what I see on my phone with the list of stars in the Hand Control, most are blocked by trees, I find a few, then I do the the Align--Polar Align--Align Mount. - Part (3) takes takes 20+ minutes.

It takes just about an hour for me to setup the telescope, anything that shortens that time is a miracle.

#124 Qwickdraw

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 05:31 PM

It takes just about an hour for me to setup the telescope, anything that shortens that time is a miracle.


And then your scope is relatively cool and ready to go. :grin:

#125 astro-vert

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:41 AM

Hi Will1384,

Some info to share since i am in a similar situation... I contacted Celestron about Starsense because my observing spot in the yard is also obstructed by trees. The spot I use is great, but somewhat limited on getting alignment stars. I was asking them if I am able to select which stars Starsense will use to do its magic and the response was no. The device selects the stars on its own and the user is not able to input any specific stars to use.

So I ended up canceling my preorder, but still am interested in it, so once they are out there being used and reported on, I may pull the trigger.

Andrew






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