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Orion Atlas v.2.05

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#1 PaulEK

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 12:31 AM

This mount has been sitting unused since I got my G-11 some time ago, and even when I was using it, I didn't use the go-to features very often. It had trouble acquiring targets even when I aligned it it the best I could. I now think that it had mechanical issues (see this thread, if you care). The mount is solidly stable now, so I hope it will have better target acquisition. I'm planning to use it in a quasi-public observatory that's nearing completion, and folks other than me will use it, so I'd like to get up to speed on the go-to features. (I remember much of it, but will practice.)

 

I got this mount for free from someone who hated it. He had, if I recall correctly, a mighty big Astrophysics refractor, and one day the mount just let loose in RA. Luckily, the scope hit his body rather than the ground or some other solid object. I had just written a wanted ad (here on CN, I think), asking if anyone had an old EQ mount sitting unused that they'd part with for a low price, and he PM'd me, saying I could have his for nothing. I was expecting an old AC-powered mount from a Cave or Meade reflector, but he offered a nearly-new (at the time) Atlas! I told him that fixing it would not be difficult, but he let me know that he wanted to get something higher-end, and that he wouldn't be allowed until he got rid of this one.

 

I got it running in about an hour.

 

My question has to do with the older, un-upgradable hand controller. It's working fine, but I'm wondering just what I've missed, and will continue to miss, in firmware upgrades that I cannot get. If I ever have the funds (doubtful), is the mount capable of being run with a newer hand controller? I know it can be run without the controller at all -- with a laptop, but as I said, others will be using it, and I want to keep it as simple as possible.



#2 jeff gill

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 06:51 AM

http://www.astro-bab...re Releases.htm

 

That shows the release notes.    Couple of big items, the improvement to planetary location calculations, and the addition of an algorithm to show only appropriate stars during the alignment routine.  The latter probably wouldn't be as useful if you're going to permanently mount it, the latter would be  big deal i should think, as one of the knocks i'm seeing on the original firmware is that the planetary calculations were sometimes badly off.  I *think* from everything i've ever seen about the atlas that the hand controllers are interchangeable with some features of the newer one not working on the older motor boards as they don't have all the hardware, i.e. polar scope led dimming not working on motor control boards older than version 2.



#3 PaulEK

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 09:46 AM

Thanks, Jeff! Maybe I should start saving up for a version 3 controller! I'll see how it goes with what I have.



#4 jdupton

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 10:08 AM

Paul,

 

My question has to do with the older, un-upgradable hand controller. It's working fine, but I'm wondering just what I've missed, and will continue to miss, in firmware upgrades that I cannot get. If I ever have the funds (doubtful), is the mount capable of being run with a newer hand controller? I know it can be run without the controller at all -- with a laptop, but as I said, others will be using it, and I want to keep it as simple as possible.

 

   I am not sure but seem to vaguely recall that the upgrade from v2.x to v3.x (or now 4.x) may require an upgrade of the motor controller board inside the mount also. If you can upgrade, I think only v4.x hand controllers are now available as new although an older v3.x hand controller can probably be readily found as used condition. The v3.x controllers were discontinued due to parts availability. The v4.x hand control is functionally identical to the v3.x controllers.

 

   Perhaps Ed Thomas (CN user EFT) of Deep Space Products will chime in here to give details of the upgrade path for this older mount (should you desire to do that). Ed makes a business of upgrading, repairing, and hypertuning these mounts.

 

 

John


Edited by jdupton, 20 February 2016 - 10:10 AM.


#5 PaulEK

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 10:41 AM

Thanks, John.

 

If an upgrade requires replacing hardware, I'll pass. The mount works well enough as it is. I read the dated upgrade rundown in the link Jeff gave. I don't have time right now to look through it again, but I thought I read that the version 3 controllers would work with any go-to Atlas/EQ6, which mine is. I'd be happy to be told that's wrong; it would actually make my decision easier!



#6 DuncanM

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Posted 20 February 2016 - 12:04 PM

The V3.x HC should work, as Skywatcher was initially just exchanging the V2 for a V3 HC.  

 

The goto performance on the V2.05 HC isn't great and it has no sync feature to improve local pointing accuracy. OTOH, it autoguides very nicely. However, you can do the "poor man's sync" where you slew to a bright star near your desired faint fuzzy. You then unlock your clutches (one at a time is best) and centre the star in your FoV by manually (push to) moving the mount (this works best with a very well balanced OTA and a well aligned finderscope). Then lock your clutches and slew (goto) to the faint fuzzy which will now be close to centre of your FoV.


Edited by DuncanM, 20 February 2016 - 01:02 PM.


#7 PaulEK

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Posted 21 February 2016 - 05:08 PM

DuncanM (or anyone else): Could you say more about the pointing accuracy? This mount will be used by folks who are not going to have the skills or experience to do the 'poor man's synch' you describe. For the most part, the scope will be aimed at objects bright enough to see easily through the 12 inch aperture. Is the pointing good enough to see an object in a wide field eyepiece? The scope has a JMI moto-focuser that gives a true 2-inch aperture for the eyepiece, so I should be able to get a field of view of a degree or so, if I understand some reading I've done.

 

What you write brings up another question: If I use go-to to slew to a target, and it's not centered, do I mess up subsequent go-to targeting by using the hand controller to center the target better?

 

It seems I have a lot to learn!


Edited by PaulEK, 21 February 2016 - 05:13 PM.


#8 DuncanM

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Posted 21 February 2016 - 06:28 PM

I found the pointing accuracy to be on the order of ~30 arc minutes. It would normally put objects somewhere in the FoV of a 10in F7 scope using a 32mm 65d AFOV 2in EP (about 1.2 degree FoV). IOWs, not great, but not totally useless either. You had to start with a widefield EP before trying to find anything faint enough that it could not be seen in my 9x60 finder.

 

IIRC, there are astronomy programs that will allow you to error model the mount when controlled through the serial port and you could probably use one of these programs and a netbook to get better pointing accuracy.



#9 DuncanM

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Posted 21 February 2016 - 06:32 PM

 

What you write brings up another question: If I use go-to to slew to a target, and it's not centered, do I mess up subsequent go-to targeting by using the hand controller to center the target better?

 

It seems I have a lot to learn!

No, it doesn't mess up subsequent pointing because there's no way to sync it to the current object. When you use the HC to centre it the mount just assumes that you've moved off the target object.

 

I didn't find the goto to be a problem visually (start with low power widefield EP and then add power when object is centred) but it was a pain when using a DSLR that didn't have live view.



#10 PaulEK

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Posted 21 February 2016 - 09:13 PM

Thanks! For what I plan for the mount, the limitations seem acceptable. Once I get it polar aligned, properly balanced, and then use a three-star alignment, it should be fine. I know I won't need to do the first two again unless someone messes with mount or I change scopes, but does the go-to alignment ever need re-doing (I mean, as long as I always remember to 'park' the scope before powering down)?



#11 DuncanM

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Posted 22 February 2016 - 12:56 AM

Thanks! For what I plan for the mount, the limitations seem acceptable. Once I get it polar aligned, properly balanced, and then use a three-star alignment, it should be fine. I know I won't need to do the first two again unless someone messes with mount or I change scopes, but does the go-to alignment ever need re-doing (I mean, as long as I always remember to 'park' the scope before powering down)?

 

The HC doesn't have a real time clock so setting the correct time is crucial. What I found was that it was best to try and remove the cone error by shimming the OTA and then doing a one star alignment. I don't recall if the mount retains the cone error correction after a 3 star alignment and then a park.



#12 rmollise

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Posted 22 February 2016 - 01:05 PM

My experience with the older SynScan HCs? The pointing can be impressive one night and not so impresive the next. In fact, that is still true. Mostly it relates to alignment star choice. If you are careful and follow the rules (at least 3 hours of RA separating stars one and two, nothing too low or too high, do a three star alignment), you are often OK.

 

Even with today's improved firmware, you still can't depend on the first alignment star choices you are given by the Synscan HC to be the best. You still need to pay attention to those rules. In fact, you can use a set of stars, get a good alignment, and the next night use the same stars and get a poor alignment if one or more of the stars is less well placed than on the previous night). If one of the stars the HC offers doesn't follow the above rules, scroll to another one.

 

Do note that most versions of the HC include something called PAE, which basically allows you to add more alignment stars, more or less.

 

If I wanted a GEM to use for a lot of visual or video work, this one would not be my first choice. The similar CGEM would be. Alignments are easy and precise with it. The Atlas is really quite fine if you are an imager and will only be doing a few targets a night (at most), and targets that are likely in the same general area of the sky.

 

;)


Edited by rmollise, 22 February 2016 - 01:11 PM.


#13 DuncanM

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Posted 22 February 2016 - 01:20 PM

That's generally what I recollect however V2.05 doesn't have PAE.



#14 rmollise

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Posted 22 February 2016 - 01:41 PM

If I had this mount in a permanent observatory, I'd probably not worry about buying a v3 hc, which should work; I'd just use EQMOD.



#15 PaulEK

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 01:13 AM

DuncanM: Thanks once again for you input. You're right, it does not have PAE.

 

Thanks, Rod, for chiming in.

 

As for choosing the mount, this one sort of chose me, and for now it's what I have. If I find that it's just too difficult or unreliable to use, I may be able to get funds for a different choice, but not until I can show the Atlas is not working well enough.

 

I asked this question above, but I'll ask it again: If I get a good three-star alignment, and park the scope properly before powering down each night, is a new alignment needed in a permanent set-up?

 

Even if pointing is not spot on, if targets can be seen in a widefield eyepiece, or even through one of the finders (I have both a Meade 9 x 50, and a Lumicon 80mm f/3.75), and users can then zero in with the hand controller, that could well be good enough. If targets are too small or dim to be seen in the finders, and don't show up in the main scope, then folks can just be trained to look for another target that's bigger and/or brighter when they don't see anything obvious.



#16 rmollise

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 09:36 AM

Yes, you should just be able to hibernate the scope and resume the next night. I've never done this over extended periods, but for a week or so, which is as long as I've done this, seems to work well.

 

The same would be true of EQMOD...do a however many star model, save it, and load it back up the next night.



#17 PaulEK

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 11:00 AM

Thanks, Rod!



#18 DuncanM

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 12:26 PM

Yes, you should just be able to hibernate the scope and resume the next night. I've never done this over extended periods, but for a week or so, which is as long as I've done this, seems to work well.

 

The same would be true of EQMOD...do a however many star model, save it, and load it back up the next night.

Rod, IIRC you have to keep power to the mount during hibernation. Is this what you recall?



#19 rmollise

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 01:11 PM

 

Yes, you should just be able to hibernate the scope and resume the next night. I've never done this over extended periods, but for a week or so, which is as long as I've done this, seems to work well.

 

The same would be true of EQMOD...do a however many star model, save it, and load it back up the next night.

Rod, IIRC you have to keep power to the mount during hibernation. Is this what you recall?

 

 

No...after you are parked ("hibernate" in EQ-6 speak), you will be instructed to turn the scope off. Next time you power on you will be given the option to start over or use the stored alignment/PAE data. ;)



#20 DuncanM

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 03:00 PM

I found the V2.05 manual online:

 

http://ca.skywatcher...01316546651.pdf

 

It doesn't have a hibernate function. Only a Park function and this doesn't retain the alignment data (alignment has to be repeated upon start up), after the power is turned off.


Edited by DuncanM, 23 February 2016 - 03:01 PM.


#21 rmollise

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 04:08 PM

Hibernate has always been called "park" with the SynScans, but from the manual, it looks like that was all it was in this early version, "park."

 

That being the case, EQMOD is the way to go.



#22 PaulEK

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 10:13 PM

Well, though it's something I needed to know, it's not what I wanted to hear.



#23 PaulEK

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 01:54 AM

Again, though EQMOD would make a lot of sense, I'm trying to keep things as simple as I can for others, so I've put ads up in the S&S Mounts forum, and in the classifieds, for a v.3 controller. If anyone reading this has any ideas where I might look for one elsewhere, I'd appreciate hearing about it! The new version 4 costs $350, which is beyond my means right now. I've put more than I can really afford into this school/public observatory already.



#24 rmollise

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 10:14 AM

You don't need version 4. Not even sure it would work with your MC board. Version 3 is still "current" for the EQ-6, and continues to have its firmware updated.



#25 PaulEK

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 11:29 AM

Good to know.

 

I did a fair amount of searching last night for a version 3 controller, but found zilch.




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