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Alternatives to Celestron StarSense

beginner Celestron SCT Orion accessories
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#1 sstoiche

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 03:25 PM

I know this question has been asked before but I thought that I would ask it in terms of my current equipment/setup and get some ideas and feedback.  I recently purchased an Orion Atlas Pro AZ/EQ G Goto mount.  I really wanted to have an equatorial mount to satisfy my desires to do some astrophotography, but thought it would be nice to have an Alt/AZ mount for quick setups.  So this mount fit the bill perfectly for my needs.  My dad gave me his old Celestron Nexstar 8" scope (silver tube from 2000) and I promptly wanted to be able to use my Atlas Pro with this scope, so I removed the Alt/AZ arm from the scope and added a losmandy dovetail plate.  It fits on the Altas Pro like a breeze.

 

Since I'm a beginner, I have been intimated by going through the alignment steps since I'm still learning the stars.  After reading about Celestron's StarSense accessory, I thought this would be a great way to sit back and let it align my mount for me.  Well, after talking to Celestron's support team, they informed me that the StarSense is not compatible with the Atlas Pro / SynScan hand controller.  I was bummed.

 

Based on my setup and equipment, are there other methods (via software) to perform the alignment that StarSense provides?  And what about polar alignment when using the mount in EQ mode?  What kind of camera do I need to perform alignment?  I welcome all suggestions that will help me learn what is available and what others are doing.

 

I know there are a few that are going to say that once I learn doing the alignment the old fashioned way, then all will be good.  But I'm still curious to learn other ways to do this.  I'm attaching my setup with this scope too.

 

Thanks and clear skies,

Steve

Attached Thumbnails

  • WD_2.jpg

Edited by sstoiche, 01 February 2015 - 04:47 PM.


#2 James Cunningham

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Posted 01 February 2015 - 04:29 PM

Use a camera to do your alignment. A green laser pointer also helps a lot. When you slew to your first alignment star, if it not within your FOV, then use the green laser pointer to move the mount to get the star really close and you can then center it either using you eyepiece or a camera. Many softwares have a crosshair. Just make sure your scope is balanced on the mount and the mount is level.
Jim

#3 munchmeister

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 01:38 PM

In my humble opinion, hauling a computer out to your scope and learning to use that, coupled with some sort of camera for polar alignment is WAY more difficult than just learning to do alignment with whatever is built into your go to hand controller. The software and other stuff needed is more difficult to use or at least requires another learning curve for the specific software tracking program and computer. Too bad you can't use StarSense because it works well (for me, on my Nexstar 8SE) but there is nothing else like it out there yet. As important as alignment is, I would hope that Celestron continues to develop the StarSense but I have my doubts it will go any further.

 

That is a very nice mount you have, especially for a beginner, so I would recommend learning to polar align and fine tune using what you have. Once you have alignment, you should be able to track well and get some decent astrophotos. Just my two cents.  :crazy:



#4 Kevdog

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 03:05 PM

For alignment stars, if you have a smart phone you can download any of the free star charts and they will help you locate the alignment stars (which are always bright and not too hard to recognize).  Most have a "compass" mode where it shows you the sky where the phone is pointing, so it easily helps you find the stars.

 

Once you've done it a few times (each season, as the alignment stars will change throughout the year) then you'll know your common alignment stars by heart.   Even my 6 year old knew which ones I was aiming at after a few times out.  "That's Sirius, right daddy?"

 

Yes, the first few times are daunting and there will be some frustration, but that is soon over with and it become second nature.



#5 BigC

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Posted 03 February 2015 - 08:51 PM

Since your mount doesn't have Celestron's  method that allows using any three bright objects you are going to have to identify some stars. One of the tablet or phone apps may help or just plain old star charts or planisphere. If you viewing place is unobstructed ,learning just a dozen or so stars will get you aligned any time of year.



#6 dr.who

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 11:34 AM

To answer your question, there is no commercially available equivelent to StarSense for your mount. There are options like Astrotortilla but nothing that is self contained and packaged like Starsense.



#7 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 04 February 2015 - 11:41 AM

Yeah, just print out a star chart with the bright stars and dedicate an evening to learn the routine (and maybe a few star names). As you predicted we'd say: It's not that hard to use the built-in routine. If I can figure it out, I'm confident that you can too.

 

In a world of self-flushing toilets, sometimes you've gotta just grab the handle and pull.



#8 sstoiche

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 09:31 AM

Thank you very much for all of the great answers and suggestions!  I value each one and like the friendly, helpful atmosphere of Cloudy Nights.  My take on everything solidifies my need to learn the sky using charts and do routine observing and then I will feel comfortable with the sky and alignment will come easy.  I did take Jim's suggestion and bought a green laser pointer, which fit beautifully on my scope and I will pay special attention to balancing and leveling my scope.  And thanks for the suggestions about using a tablet or smartphone.  I have a sky app on my phone and that will certainly help to identify to what I am seeing and relate it back to the sky charts.  Again, thank you everyone for your helpful input, as it's better to learn from those who have been there!

 

Steve 



#9 Mryak

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 09:34 AM

Hey Lift Off, where & when did you get your mount? I'm looking for the same one and everywhere is back ordered for 5-6 weeks.



#10 gunfighter48

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 12:33 AM

The only alternative to the Starsense is a Meade Lishtswitch scope! :lol: :lol: :lol:  As you can see from my sig line I have the LS8 ACF scope and it works just great.  I have bought Starsense units for my ES AR152 and my C9.25 scopes.  But the weather hasn't cooperated so I can get them put on and dialed in!!!



#11 dziuggy

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 12:43 AM

since you have the mount the options mentioned is correct. 

 

on the other hand newer celestron goto az mounts are alright and can be had very cheap second hand, after that it is only matter of home made wedge and it preforms nicely 



#12 sstoiche

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 06:41 AM

Hi Myrak, I got the Atlas Pro on Amazon for $200 off the regular price and free shipping.  It shipped straight from Orion.  Orion had the $1799 price for a while and jumped its price back up to $1999.  I got it in January 2015.  Mine arrived within a week.  Clear skies!  Steve



#13 dragoncity

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Posted 02 February 2016 - 09:10 PM

----------------------
Hi Steve, just came across your post, (from a year ago !) , when I was searching for info on StarSense.

After looking at your attached photo, I notice that your Orion is the same mount as my SkyWatcher AZEQ6GT ( not sure about the computer internals however :-)

I thought I might add some advice about setting using the AZEQ6GT ( ORION ) from my experience.

-- excellent mount BTW, have been very happy I purchased it.

 

1) From your photo, you have fallen into the same trap I fell into upon setting up the mount.

   When at 'Park', the Counter Weight Shaft should be over the tripod leg facing the appropriate        polar alignment, North or South, not opposite as shown.
   An experienced astronomer pointed out to me that if I added more weights for a bigger scope the probability of the mount ( and scope) toppling over was very high. So you need to remove the mount and reposition the square 'peg' into the opposite hole in the tripod head nearer the tripod leg. 

Of course you'll need to rotate the tripod so the leg its facing North/South as appropriate. The peg was delivered fitted in the wrong position.

This places the overall weight of the mount & scope inside the triangle of the spread tripod legs, not off centre as currently.

 

2) One 'tool' I found useful, is a short length of Aluminum Tube , about 150mm long and internal diameter to fit loosely over the pegs on the capstan lock on the counter balance rod. I've found that this capstan tightens up considerably with use of the mount. The short tube give you enough leverage without accidental shifting the mount if you need to adjust it.

 

If you like I have some useful techniques for rapid polar alignment, but I await your reply before knocking up a document :-)

Cheers,

Brett



#14 dr.who

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Posted 02 February 2016 - 10:07 PM

Since this topic was revived... Celestron is about to release StarSense for the Skywatcher AZ-EQ and EQ series of mounts.



#15 dragoncity

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Posted 03 February 2016 - 12:50 AM

Thanks Dr Who,

I have noted with interest the imminent  release of StarSense for SkyWatcher mounts, and will indeed

purchase one when available. Very exciting development, I think Celestron have stolen the march over SkyWatcher

with StarSense technology. Clever option from Celestron.

 

However I note , on another forum, that there is some doubt about StarSense working on Orion mounts.

I would have hoped so but it is possible that Orion have different computer hardware/software installed. I don't know.

 

So Steve might appreciate any Polar Alignment tips of the 'old school' type if StarSense is not available, or consider

a PoleMaster camera setup using a laptop computer. Using old school alignment only takes a few minutes, IF, the scope is close

to polar aligned physically, a SW 2 or 3 Star alignment simply fine tunes the alignment.

 

Superficially : SkyWatcher = White Paint, Orion = Black :  :lol:



#16 dr.who

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Posted 03 February 2016 - 04:12 PM

Cheers mate.  I saw the post by the Celestron representative. It struck me as odd. Odd because as far as I can tell Synta is the OEM for Orion mounts. Synta owns Skywatcher and Celestron. Thus the Orion is a Skywatcher with black paint as you note. Ergo what is the difference in the software that would stop it from working?



#17 davidmclifton

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Posted 03 February 2016 - 09:11 PM

Synta is a hardware manufacturer. To my knowledge Synta does not make the software, and these things are doubtless patented. Orion has synta make their hardware, but synta owns celestron - the relationship with orion is as a contract builder.

 

Not to say it won't work, but it is very likely that the "handshake" the system does to identify the mount it is working with could be problematic. I would want to have somebody test it before spending the money.



#18 dragoncity

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Posted 03 February 2016 - 11:30 PM

I was checking out a posting about Polar Alignment for the Orion Atlas Mount and there is a SubMenu option under

'Setup' -> "Alignment\Polar Align", this option does NOT exist on the SkyWatcher V3 Handset, so as David says above, the 'handshake'

might be problematic, but the menu commands mismatch will be the final "killer" :(

 

I think Orion Mounts might be out of luck at the moment. Pity. Looking forward to the SkyWatcher version.



#19 dr.who

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 01:47 PM

Synta is a hardware manufacturer. To my knowledge Synta does not make the software, and these things are doubtless patented. Orion has synta make their hardware, but synta owns celestron - the relationship with orion is as a contract builder.

 

Not to say it won't work, but it is very likely that the "handshake" the system does to identify the mount it is working with could be problematic. I would want to have somebody test it before spending the money.

 

I know the lead software engineer for Celestron. Celestron writes the code in house for both the StarSense and the NexStar. Synta owns Celestron. Same applies to SynScan and Skywatcher. Orion licenses it from Synta. Orion may or may not ask for some software tweaks as a part of the OEM agreement. I don't know and am trying to find out.



#20 dr.who

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Posted 04 February 2016 - 01:49 PM

I was checking out a posting about Polar Alignment for the Orion Atlas Mount and there is a SubMenu option under

'Setup' -> "Alignment\Polar Align", this option does NOT exist on the SkyWatcher V3 Handset, so as David says above, the 'handshake'

might be problematic, but the menu commands mismatch will be the final "killer" :(

 

I think Orion Mounts might be out of luck at the moment. Pity. Looking forward to the SkyWatcher version.

 

Actually it does as of version 3.35.




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