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Wireless Telescope Control for Celestron (and Compatible) Scopes

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#1 tom_fowler

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 11:51 AM

Wireless control of telescopes is quite handy as it frees the observer from being tethered to the scope mount by a wire. In fact it is clear that this is the wave of the future. Astronomy equipment tends to lag behind the technology curve—Celestron’s hand controllers are about 20 years out of date in terms of display, wireless capability, and other areas. (Vixen’s StarBook controllers are an example of a more modern design but they are not wireless). Fortunately it is possible to not only add wireless capability, but do so with equipment that most astronomers already have (smartphones, tablets) and that can handle observing lists, display planetarium views, give detailed information on objects observed, and even in some cases speak object descriptions. In this review I want to compare briefly the two major ways to implement wireless control of Celestron telescopes: (1) WiFi, using the Celestron SkyPortal (#93973) and (2) Bluetooth, using a serial Bluetooth adapter.

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#2 junomike

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 01:08 PM

I almost never touch my HC after initial alignment is complete (with the StarSense on my CGE It's silly easy).

I use a discontinued StarryNight BT adapter but those in the know can easily make one as seen in this thread.

Also, AFAIK Apple still hasn't allowed third party access to BT.

 

Mike


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#3 saguaro

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 01:36 PM

With the Skyportal WiFi device, you do have some limited use of hand control. For example, when I do my alignment routine using SkySafari, I can still use the physical direction arrows on the hand control to move the mount to the alignment targets. Once alignment is done, I use SkySafari for go-to's, and then use the hand control directional buttons if necessary to center my target in the eyepiece. 


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#4 Eric38

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 04:54 PM

I too have the Skyportal WIFI device. The Celestron app on a tablet for control. I agree that the limitations of a touch screen do come into play. Not having a physical button set makes looking at the tablet mandatory. I do like to use this set up though especially for public outreach events. It gets a lot more people interested and involved. I guess you could call it the Cell Phone Culture effect. I would like to see (or try to make) a send / receive pair of devices. One for the controller to plug into and one for the mount. As it is I opted for an extension cable that gives me a lot more freedom of movement around and from the main scope when not using the WIFI. There is another rather cool piece of hardware from Mallincam (99% sure about that) that transmits what you are imaging to nearby smart devices via WIFI.


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#5 Greg-O

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 08:25 AM

I use Simulation Curriculum's SkyFi for wireless control of my CG-5. It's the same company that publishes SkySafari and integrates with the software quite well. It plugs into the HC serial port with the adapter cable that came with the mount. The only "knock" is that you have to supply power to it, either 4-AA batteries, or the included adapter. The SkyPortal WiFi appears to be powered through the mount and I would be interested in purchasing it if I didn't already have the SkyFi. The range of the WiFi would be interesting to know. The discontinued Starry Night BT adapter appears to have been rebranded as the SkyBT (Simulation Curriculum also publishes Starry Night) so that's another option.



#6 ccrunner84

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 10:05 AM

Another option if you don't mind losing access to the serial port on the bottom of the handheld remote: 

 

http://www.cloudynig...bluetooth-cgem/



#7 captjwj

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Posted 04 June 2016 - 01:20 PM

Has anyone tried the Skyportal wireless interface with any other, "non-Celestron"mounts. I have an AS-CG-5 mount, I want try it on, but I also have a couple of old classic Meade LX200 mounts that I would like be able to conto via a wireless connection.  This looks like a very "clean"way of interfacing! I also, currently have Sky Safari 4 Plus running on Samsung Note tablet.


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#8 sonny.barile

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Posted 04 June 2016 - 06:42 PM

I have the Celestron device and use Skyportal on my iPhone. I like it but who at Celestron picked the aux port location on the Nexstar 8se? The device is in the path of the scope when viewing at zenith...........

 

This was either a decision made by an accountant or a very inexperienced engineer.......


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#9 marsbase

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 08:07 AM

I was going to look for a little extension cord for the aux port with my Skyportal wifi adapter to give it more room when at zenith. 

My problem is that I purchased the Skyportal device at NEAF this year and found out my older Nexstar 11 GPS may be the only Celestron Nexstar that is not compatible with the Skyportal.

Anyone know any ways around this?



#10 suvowner

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 09:11 AM

I got this with my first goto scope the cpc deluxe 800 hd, and it works flawlessly. I dont miss the hand controller, and in fact i never got used to one, so much easier to pull up object on the app rather than the hand controller. I have found that after only a couple of nights, I am learning to hit the alignment buttons on my iphone without looking, and its great to have a friend looking at say jupiter, and i can just use my phone while they are sitting there viewing and tell the scope to go right over to saturn without me getting out of my chair.  very cool and so easy.


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#11 RichA

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Posted 10 June 2016 - 09:37 PM

RS-232?  Is this 1995?.  Also, nothing like having fragile components sticking out of a mount, in the dark...


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#12 deximer

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Posted 11 June 2016 - 10:43 AM

Regarding using wireless and the hand controller together, I have a Celestron Evolution with the built in wireless. I am able to align using SkySafari 4 (on Android) and then use the directional buttons on the hand controller, seemingly without loosing alignment. I can observe SkySarafi updating its positioning based on input from the hand controller. Does this not work with the wifi adapter described here? I find this combination of SkySafari and hand controller quite ideal. I align and navigate using the phone and then fine tune and journey around the area using the hand controller. I'm not totally certain but I think I have determined that SkySafari needs to be open and active in order for it to keep track of the hand controller movements. But as the Evolution also has a usb charging jack I can keep the phone active all night.


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#13 solaman57

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Posted 12 June 2016 - 12:09 PM

Any posts on the StarSense by Celestron?


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#14 outofsight

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Posted 12 June 2016 - 01:00 PM

solaman57, just take the term "StarSense" and plug it into the Search Box at the top right of the page. Make sure the Search Box is showing Forums, to search through. So, yes, there are posts on StarSense. Good luck with your search.



#15 StarCurious

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Posted 12 June 2016 - 06:32 PM

I almost never touch my HC after initial alignment is complete (with the StarSense on my CGE It's silly easy).

I use a discontinued StarryNight BT adapter but those in the know can easily make one as seen in this thread.

Also, AFAIK Apple still hasn't allowed third party access to BT.

 

Mike

Mike,

 

I have Starsense on an SLT mount, SkyBT bluetooth, Skysafari 4 Pro for Android. After Starsense auto align, I use SkySafari to issue GOTO commands.  However, I don't know how to replicate the Starsense HC Option Sync process without using the HC, or the adding of Starsense alignment points to improve the model.  As well, there doesn't appear to be a "Precise GOTO" process in SkySafari. Any suggestions please?

 

Thanks,

Joseph



#16 junomike

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Posted 12 June 2016 - 06:58 PM

Joseph, I don't think there is any way to do those things with SkySafari/Android (no even sure with Apple/WiFi).

I rarely even do more than what the Starsense does initially and find my GOTO's/Tracking excellent.

If I did desire an additional "Plate Solve" (to Improve GOTO) I'd just do it when the Starsense was finished it's initial alignment.

From there I'd use SkySafri for all else as I normally do.

 

Mike


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#17 outofsight

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Posted 12 June 2016 - 07:39 PM

StarCurious, and anyone else interested. I'm pretty sure that what junomike said is basically true, some things don't come up in the StarSense menu, or don't come up the same way. For instance, Precise GOTO, precise goto doesn't come up, but SYNC does. From what I've just read, SYNC seems to be the same thing, or pretty close. It's on page 16 of the manual I just looked at. Just google StarSense Sync and the PDF manual should be your first hit. I've seen it mentioned on CN also. Not sure if that will work with your stuff or not, but hope it helps.

 

SYNC
Syncing on a star will shift the mount model to the
star position . It will improve GoTo pointing in the
region of sky close to the star you synced on . Sync
can also be used if the mount was bumped or the
clutches were loosened for either axis . Sync will
restore the position of the StarSense GoTo without
using the camera .
1. With a named star selected, press OPTION and ALIGN simultaneously.
2. Coarse center the star in your finder or eyepiece and press ENTER.
3. Fine center the star in your eyepiece, finishing in the UP and RIGHT directions and press ALIGN.


Edited by outofsight, 12 June 2016 - 07:40 PM.

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#18 StarCurious

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 12:51 AM

StarCurious, and anyone else interested. I'm pretty sure that what junomike said is basically true, some things don't come up in the StarSense menu, or don't come up the same way. For instance, Precise GOTO, precise goto doesn't come up, but SYNC does. From what I've just read, SYNC seems to be the same thing, or pretty close. It's on page 16 of the manual I just looked at. Just google StarSense Sync and the PDF manual should be your first hit. I've seen it mentioned on CN also. Not sure if that will work with your stuff or not, but hope it helps.

 

SYNC
Syncing on a star will shift the mount model to the
star position . It will improve GoTo pointing in the
region of sky close to the star you synced on . Sync
can also be used if the mount was bumped or the
clutches were loosened for either axis . Sync will
restore the position of the StarSense GoTo without
using the camera .
1. With a named star selected, press OPTION and ALIGN simultaneously.
2. Coarse center the star in your finder or eyepiece and press ENTER.
3. Fine center the star in your eyepiece, finishing in the UP and RIGHT directions and press ALIGN.

outofsight,

 

Sync does come up in Starsense HC. That wasn't my concern.  I was hoping that SkySafari 4 Pro offers a Sync function without using the HC.

 

While Precise GOTO is not available in Starsense HC, a similar feature is.  In Starsense HC, choose an object and GOTO it, then press HELP (the "8" key), the scope will slew to a (bright) star near the target object - we don't get to pick nor do we know which star, and Starsense would ask us to center it, then press the BACK key and Starsense would use the centered bright star to more precisely GOTO the chosen target object.  I don't know of an equivalent feature in SkySafari.  What I would do is to send GOTO from SkySafari to target object, then look at the SkySafari display to find a nearby bright star, then GOTO that bright star, then center that bright star in the FOV, then press Align in SkySafari, then issue another SkySafari GOTO for the originally targeted object.  What I would like to know is whether the SkySafari Align is used by Starsense (or NexStar HC) to Sync with the Starsense Sky Model. 

 

I don't think a SkySafari Align will trigger a Starsense image capture and plate solving to create an additional Starsense Alignment Reference (up to 10 total).  I hope that such feature is added in future.

 

Thanks,

Joseph



#19 outofsight

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Posted 13 June 2016 - 12:41 PM

StarCurious, sorry I misunderstood your question in reference to SkySafari. It seems like you have as good an understanding of this as anyone possibly could.

 

That is a good point about being able to "trigger a Starsense image capture and plate solving to create an additional Starsense Alignment Reference (up to 10 total)." StarSense implementation in SkySafari 5 is only in it's infancy so maybe that will come along.

 

It would be nice to be able to trigger a plate-solve whenever you wanted to, that should be a button on the hand controller and software.



#20 JHollJr

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 01:30 PM

I bought the Skyportal yesterday to use with a Celestron NexStar 8i SE that I bought in 2007 and SkySafari 5 for iOS. I can't get it to work with either my iPhone 6S Plus or iPad Pro 9.7. I can get SkySafari to connect to the wifi, but I get a message that it can't see the telescope (or the equivalent).

 

I've tried both direct access and access point with no luck and am thinking that Skyportal may be incompatible with old C8i SE's.

 

Any thoughts? Thanks.


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#21 outofsight

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 01:52 PM

Compatibility is an essential question, but barring a compatibility problem, is your SkySafari 5 (SS5) set up correctly? And I'm not even sure what "correctly" is for your C8i.

 

But I'm a little more sure than I was a minute ago. There is a setting for the 8i in SS5. Is that checked? Also, is your SS5 Plus or Pro? Is Alt-Az GoTo checked under Mount Type?


Edited by outofsight, 14 June 2016 - 01:54 PM.

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#22 JHollJr

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 04:27 PM

Thanks very much for responding. Yes I've tried all the settings for the 8i in the telescopes in SS5 Pro, both on my iPad and on my iPhone. I've come to think that there is a compatibility issue with the 8i. It might be fixable with a firmware update, but I'm an "if it ain't broke" type.

 

I think I'll just send the Skyportal back to Amazon. I use the SS 5 Pro on the iPhone, then punch in the info I need in the HC for the 8i. I was hoping to eliminate a step, but I guess I can't.

 

Cheers,

 

Justin



#23 JHollJr

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 05:25 PM

Tried a connection with my MacBook Pro, was able to connect to the Celestron wifi, but still got the message that the scope was not responding. I give up. :-)



#24 outofsight

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Posted 14 June 2016 - 06:28 PM

When it works it is quite cool, when it doesn't work it's an aggravating and frustrating waste of time. Without being able to see the the whole setup the only thing else I can say is check updates and try resets.

 

I've never had any software or computer problem that I couldn't fix with a hammer, not exactly kidding, but ignore me and try not to use a hammer.

 

Sorry it hasn't worked out. Also, you might want to call Celestron tech support, they usually do try to help, doesn't always work out but I've never talked to them when didn't try to help me.


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#25 JHollJr

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Posted 15 June 2016 - 06:40 AM

Once again thanks. I returned the Skyportal via Amazon. Then went outside with my Questar and just enjoyed tooling around the skies. That's really what it is all about.

 

Justin


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