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How to improve tracking of Star Adventurer (with/without Guiding)

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#51 mxcoppell

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 12:17 PM

I forgot about those screws and washers.  I replaced the existing washers with larger Nylon washers.  

 

I think we need some pictures.  There's the stationary lower base of the wedge, the upper AZ rotating piece and the Alt piece.  I lubed the place where the Alt and AZ rotating pieces meet.  I also inserted a very "thin" Mylar washer to fill the void between these two pieces.  In general I greased most places where plastic and / or metal rub together.  Except the RA and DEC clutch surfaces.

 

I will try to get some pictures together to show my modifications better.

Thanks Jim! Please show your modification. I am really interested to see what else I could do to improve my shots with the SA.


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#52 Aaron_tragle

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 12:21 PM

 

How do you do your PA? I personally use the sharp cap polar alignment tool and get it under half a arc minite

Aaron, I tried to search SharpCap PA tool. Most of the article on the internet is about doing it with Go-To mount. Not sure if it's easy to do with portable mount like SA (only RA axle could be rotated). Could you share more information about how to do SharpCap with SA? It will be a game-changer if I could use this method to redo the PA in 2-3 minutes. 

 

You wanted to do a PA check after you aligned on target right? I normally do a perfect one before I align and I am VERY  careful when I get on target. Doing the sharpcap PA, you would use your autoguider. The autoguider would show up in sharpcap under cameras. You need to have it pointing north towards the NCP and Polaris. Then you open the polar alignment tool under tools --> polar align. Then from there, you just follow the instructions. Hope that this helps.

 

-Aaron



#53 mxcoppell

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 12:27 PM

Get rid of those ball mounts!  They could very well be at the heart of all your problems.  They're not necessary, for any reason or any purpose.  They do only harm: they increase the level arm, so that more weight is  required to counterbalance and more effort is required by the mount to move everything.   They introduce additional flexure, so that your guide scope and camera are wiggling all over the place and no longer point to the same place in the sky.  They're just bad, bad, bad.  Take them off.  Now.  Go right now, and take them off.  I'll wait.  4.gif

 

Reached the same conclusion. Ball mount(s) banished. 

 

bow.gif  

 

After looking at my setup, the ball-head indeed increased the length of the arm a lot on the camera side. I think I will remove it.

 

But I do have a question though - without the ball-head, what's the best practice of doing "manual" go-to? I could imagine that by loosing the RA clutch, rotating the DEC Bracket platform - I will need to put the target on the same plate of the DEC bracket platform. Then rotate the platform to point the camera to the target. This is a 2-step procedure. The first one (put the target on the same plate of the DEC bracket platform) is not a easy job - it might require multiple times of loosing and tightening the RA clutch and give more shifts to the established PA.

 

If the first step could be achieved successfully, then it will be much easier to use the fine tuning knob to set the camera direction. 

 

Any suggestions? 



#54 mxcoppell

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 12:29 PM

 

 

 You wanted to do a PA check after you aligned on target right? I normally do a perfect one before I align and I am VERY  careful when I get on target. Doing the sharpcap PA, you would use your autoguider. The autoguider would show up in sharpcap under cameras. You need to have it pointing north towards the NCP and Polaris. Then you open the polar alignment tool under tools --> polar align. Then from there, you just follow the instructions. Hope that this helps.

-Aaron

 

Thanks Aaron, I will try it and report back (But winter here in Texas gives me no chance. bawling.gif)



#55 black metal

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 04:13 PM

hi I think these shots are amazing I have just recieved a skywatcher star adventurer and am still learning how to use it, may I ask you on your editing are these cropped shots from using a 200mm lens? and what software do you use to get this result thanks, john

No problem, John!

SA is pretty good. But it does take time to dig its full potential. I am still at the beginning of the learning curve here (with all the wonderful help from the forum members, Thank You All!).

The M31 was my first attempt with SA. It was shot at 200mm with Nikon 70-200/2.8 at f2.8. On a cropped sensor of D500 (not astro-modified). The subject M31 is about 1/6 width of the D500 frame - it's a very tight crop. I used Deep Sky Stacker for alignment and stacking, and Adobe Lightroom for post processing. I was not able to pop out the layers and colors of the wonderful M31. Will definitely visit it again later with more experience.
no problem your image's give me hope and yes thanks for sharing your info can't wait to get footage like this

#56 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 02:23 AM

Guys, finally got a clear night without the freezing cold wind (Dallas, Texas). 

 

And, I DID IT!

 

I will put up some writings tomorrow about the setup, guiding, PA and results - as always, along with questions!

Here comes the teaser...

 

240s (200mm + TC1.4 -> 280mm)

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.34.09 PM.png

 

300s (200mm + TC1.4-> 280mm)

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.40.15 PM.jpeg

 

600s (200mm + TC1.4-> 280mm)

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.52.36 PM.jpeg

 

Thanks to @Jim Waters, @Cajundaddy, @bobzeq25, @Betelgeuze, @GoFish, @dkeller_nc, @Aaron_tragle, @donlism and all other forum members helped me here. You guys ROCK!


Edited by mxcoppell, 06 January 2018 - 02:26 AM.

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#57 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 12:30 PM

Trying to sum up last night's test drive so others with SA could use it as a reference...

 

Setup

 

I tried to set the tripod lower and added a 20lbs dumbbell under the tripod. There are multiple benefits:

- Works better if there is certain level of winds. 

- Make the tripod much more stable when adjusting the camera to point to the new target. 

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 10.11.18 AM.jpeg

 

On the top payload, the ballhead used to connect the camera is removed (guys, I heard your shoutouts! :D). But I still keep the ballhead connecting the guiding scope in place - It's not a impacting factor. It's in the middle of DEC bracket and make pointing the guiding scope much easier. 

 

With this payload setup, with only one counter weigh, it's very easy to reach perfect balance - I could rotate the whole setup to any angle and it will just stay there. Very happy. 

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 10.12.21 AM.jpeg

 


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#58 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 12:51 PM

Polar Alignment

 

This is my soft spot. Because of the previous poor tracking records - I ALWAYS suspect if I did the PA correct. Really need a good test-run to confirm the method. Here is how I do the PA in the field. 

 

- Point the SA roughly to the Polaris direction. Normally I will try to play with the Horizontal Adjustment Knobs on the Equatorial Wedge to see if I have enough adjustment space on both side. So I don't have to move the whole setup for direction adjustment. 

 

- Before looking at the PA app on the phone, I need to make the '0'-'6' o'clock line vertical to the ground level with '0' at the top. To do this, I follow the instructions from the SA user manual as the following (page 23, item 2):

"2. Then rotate the Date Graduation Circle to align Oct 31 to the 0 of the Time Graduation Circle and turn Eyepiece/Mounting Platform to align the Time Meridian Indicator to the 0 of the Time Meridian Circle (Fig 27). This is the date and time when the orientation of Polaris is directly below the north pole (6 o'clock)."

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 10.47.35 AM.jpeg

 

By following the above steps, I could always make sure the mounting platform is at the right angle. 

 

- Set the Latitude on the SA Equatorial Wedge to the correct value (my case, is 32'58). Now look through the polar scope and use Latitude Knob and Horizontal Adjustment Knobs to find Polar and placed it at the right spot as the PA app indicated. 

 

IMG_3172.jpeg

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 10.49.46 AM.jpeg

 

- Start the 'STAR' tracking. That it for PA!


Edited by mxcoppell, 06 January 2018 - 02:01 PM.


#59 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 01:17 PM

Guiding & Shooting

 

First of all, removing the ball-head is the cure! Also, I followed @Jim Water's suggestion not to over tighten the RA clutch - After the PA and starting tracking, I could loose the RA clutch and rotate the RA platform freely. Believe it or not, I really enjoy rotating the whole payload freely with tracking going on! LOL. Without the over-tightened RA clutch, I could easily loose it up and re-tighten it. The good balance will hold the whole payload in position and won't give me any sudden rotating motion when the RA is loosed. 

 

I am using PHD2 with a 50mm Orion guiding scope and the standard Orion guider. Select a star, Calibration, then guiding kicked in.

 

Initially I still can only get 30-45s exposures with solid stars, then I found that I didn't put Polaris EXACTLY at the place PA app gave to me - it was off by 1 scale mark. Adjusted that, restarted guiding, then magic happened. 

 

180s exposure...

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.14.54 PM.jpeg

 

240s exposure...

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.34.09 PM.jpeg

 

300s exposure...

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.40.15 PM.jpeg

 

600s exposure...

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.52.36 PM.jpeg

 

The whole test-run lasted about 2 hours. I didn't stay outside in the backyard. I used Team Viewer to control the laptop out there and it was a great experience. smile.gif

 

At the end, to make sure the setup still could last, I did a 10-sub 180s run. The result is perfect. 

 

Guiding Stats...

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.54.37 PM.jpeg

 

Nothing could describe the excitement I got at the moment. Sure, I could go get a nice Go-to mount and PoleMaster to put all these trouble behind me. Actually I am in the process building a camera lens platform to install on a big mount. In the near future I will get the EQ6-R Pro for this summer.  But, it's a wonderful feeling of learning, experimenting, over and over again... then finally something impossible before became reality! I just love that.

 

Next step is to find a practical way of verifying PA after loosing the RA clutch, targeting the camera, re-tighten the RA clutch. What I did now is looking through the polar scope to see if Polaris is still on the circle. If it's off, I would restart the PA process (again, fairly easy with good payload balance). I will definitely try to utilize the SharpCap method to if I could do this step quickly. 

 

Forgot to mention the total payload (INCLUDING the counter weigh) in my test is 11.5lbs. And it worked well. Next step I will put the 200-500mm/f5.6 on it to stretch the SA a little - the 200-500/5.6E is just 1.7lbs heavier than the 70-200/2.8. Really want to see how well the SA could handle!


Edited by mxcoppell, 06 January 2018 - 01:29 PM.

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#60 Aaron_tragle

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 01:24 PM

I bet you could 15 minutes guided with a PERFECT sharp cap alignment. I am about to add guiding to my setup, this is giving me LOTS of hope.


Edited by Aaron_tragle, 06 January 2018 - 01:25 PM.


#61 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 01:44 PM

More Questions

 

I noticed some unexpected PHD2 behaviors during guiding. My setup is to use RA-only guiding and DEC guiding is turned OFF.

 

Along the time, I noticed that it still display the red line for the DEC adjustment and it's drifting off. Not sure if this impacts the RA guiding to the SA?

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.48.15 PM.jpeg

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.54.37 PM.jpeg

 

This concerns me is because I notice the guiding star I selected will also drift off (to south direction) from the center of the cross to the south of the center cross. My first 600s run was not that solid. Then I stopped the guiding, re-select guiding star, start guiding all over, the 600s exposure came out good. 

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.22.30 PM.jpeg

 

I am not sure this is due to the flaws of the EQ platform setup or certain configuration missed in PHD2? Really appreciate any suggestions.

 

@Jim Waters


Edited by mxcoppell, 06 January 2018 - 02:30 PM.


#62 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 01:50 PM

I bet you could 15 minutes guided with a PERFECT sharp cap alignment. I am about to add guiding to my setup, this is giving me LOTS of hope.

This is interesting. But with one-shot color camera, I would think 3 minutes per sub should be enough. 

Probably I would move to a decent Go-to mount for narrowband shooting. 


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#63 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 01:59 PM

Another I want to share is my experience with Optolong L-Pro filter (77mm). Got this filter a while back and it's the first time to use it. I did my test shots in my backyard. White zone. 

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 12.53.53 PM.jpg

 

With L-Pro filter:

7E228D92-93D8-4E4B-A2E9-186A06C10859-7685-0000079DF8EB1C55_tmp.jpg

 

Without L-Pro filter:

3A4B9D49-9FF2-4386-9FF6-6F20284FB129-7685-0000079E049BB5B2_tmp.jpg

 

Cheers.



#64 GoFish

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 03:30 PM

More Questions

 

I noticed some unexpected PHD2 behaviors during guiding. My setup is to use RA-only guiding and DEC guiding is turned OFF.

 

Along the time, I noticed that it still display the red line for the DEC adjustment and it's drifting off. Not sure if this impacts the RA guiding to the SA?

 

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.48.15 PM.jpeg

 

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.54.37 PM.jpeg

 

This concerns me is because I notice the guiding star I selected will also drift off (to south direction) from the center of the cross to the south of the center cross. My first 600s run was not that solid. Then I stopped the guiding, re-select guiding star, start guiding all over, the 600s exposure came out good. 

 

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.22.30 PM.jpeg

 

I am not sure this is due to the flaws of the EQ platform setup or certain configuration missed in PHD2? Really appreciate any suggestions.

 

@Jim Waters

This is almost exactly what I see when guiding my SA. I believe that the dec error results from residual PA error, and probably not much more can be done. I don’t see why this would affect RA tracking. 



#65 Jim Waters

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 05:44 PM

What release of Open PHG Guide 2 are you using?  Even though DEC Guiding is turned off PHD Graph may still show the overall DEC drift.  Only RA errors are being corrected.  If PA is very good the DEC may not drift much.  If the graph shows a large drift in DEC when auto-guiding its time to redo the PA.  For me I would like PHD to show the DEC drift.

 

I really don't see the value of taking a "Light" sub past 5 or 6 minutes if you are using a OSC or DSLR.  At my Dark Sky site (Dark Gray Zone) I can't shoot longer than ~5 minutes at f/4 without running into sky background noise.


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#66 tkottary

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 05:55 PM

I hope you have seen the icon left to bulb on your polar scope align pro app , which lets you input the RA rotation and validate the polaris position  

 

 

 

Next step is to find a practical way of verifying PA after loosing the RA clutch, targeting the camera, re-tighten the RA clutch. What I did now is looking through the polar scope to see if Polaris is still on the circle. If it's off, I would restart the PA process (again, fairly easy with good payload balance). I will definitely try to utilize the SharpCap method to if I could do this step quickly. 

 

 



#67 Jim Waters

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 06:20 PM

FYI - https://www.cloudyni...-modifications/



#68 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 09:51 PM

Thanks Jim!



#69 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 09:53 PM

 

I hope you have seen the icon left to bulb on your polar scope align pro app , which lets you input the RA rotation and validate the polaris position  

Interesting. Yes, there is one. But how do I read on the Star Adventurer to find out the angle of the RA rotation? It will not be easy to get accurate reading from the polar scope. 



#70 mxcoppell

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 09:58 PM

What release of Open PHG Guide 2 are you using?  Even though DEC Guiding is turned off PHD Graph may still show the overall DEC drift.  Only RA errors are being corrected.  If PA is very good the DEC may not drift much.  If the graph shows a large drift in DEC when auto-guiding its time to redo the PA.  For me I would like PHD to show the DEC drift.

 

I really don't see the value of taking a "Light" sub past 5 or 6 minutes if you are using a OSC or DSLR.  At my Dark Sky site (Dark Gray Zone) I can't shoot longer than ~5 minutes at f/4 without running into sky background noise.

I believe I am using PHD2 2.6.4. Yes, I turned off DEC guiding. But I think because of the PA accuracy and/or the mount limitation, the guiding star is actually moving along DEC axle in the guiding frame. So maybe restart the guiding in between the shooting sessions is a good idea.

 

For DSLR lens shooting, maybe when I am using f5.6 lens + TC, I need to have longer sub exposure. Need to try it out in the field. 



#71 Jim Waters

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 10:52 PM

Try running 2.4.6 Dev 6.  They have made changes to the PA / Drift Alignment and other processes.

  

https://openphdguidi...ment-snapshots/



#72 mxcoppell

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 07:32 PM

Just an update - I loaded the following items on the DEC bracket:

 

- Nikon D500

- TC1.4E III

- Nikkor 200-500/f5.6E 

- Guiding Camera (Orion 50mm) + Ballhead

- Two counter weighs (one is definitely not enough).

 

This route is no-go. 

- When 200-500 is fully extended at 500, the camera+lens itself won't be able to find balance without adding additional plate. 

- With such a big lens profile, It can't be balanced. 

- The total weight is 17.5lbs. That's way too much. 

 

Looks like 70-200 is the only one I could use for now. 

 

Cheers...



#73 Aaron_tragle

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 11:14 AM

Your results in guiding and an amazing deal in the classifieds made me pull the trigger on a guide scope and camera. I want to get over 2 mins with my SGP.



#74 mxcoppell

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 12:33 PM

Your results in guiding and an amazing deal in the classifieds made me pull the trigger on a guide scope and camera. I want to get over 2 mins with my SGP.

Great!

 

My expectation is to have stable 3-minute subs for, let's say, 4 hours. 

 

Did a test last night for 2 hours - 2 minutes subs - very stable, the PHD2 reported RA errors always < 0.35. The stars were round and solid from the first shot to the last shot. Before I started the shooting session, I turned the RA payload around multiple times trying to locate the target. It was not easy at all.. But the PA stayed. 

 

Are you going to mount your Z61 on it? But does the iOptron SkyGuider Pro have ST-4 guiding port?


Edited by mxcoppell, 09 January 2018 - 12:40 PM.

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#75 Aaron_tragle

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 12:35 PM

I use the iOptron SkyGuider Pro, which is very similar to the SA. The iOptron has a guide port.


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