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StarSense vs. SkyPortal: one or the other, or both?

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#1 Aelfwine

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 02:51 PM

Does having one obviate the need for the other? Or do StarSense and SkyPortal work together to make for something even better than having just the one or the other?

 

 



#2 Aelfwine

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 02:56 PM

Also, does SkyPortal obviate the need for the SkySync GPS unit?



#3 crn3371

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 03:07 PM

No need for GPS with SkyPortal as it imports the time and location from your phone. StarSense is for alignment, SkyPortal for control.

Edited by crn3371, 24 April 2019 - 03:07 PM.

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#4 sandconp

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 03:51 PM

I used to use the free Sky Portal from Celestron but I now use Sky Safari since it’s more robust.  I also have a GPS Unit in case I am not using Sky Safari especially in the winter where my iPad tends to freeze up in the cold.  Star Sense will work on either the SS hand control or Sky Safari by performing a Star Sense Auto Alignment when I don’t want to freeze in the winter looking for stars to perform a manual alignment.

 

I like having multiple options because I ran into a severe bug with Sky Portal and Sky Safari where I could not get a good Star Sense alignment rendering those apps useless so I went back to using the hand control and the external GPS unit until I can verify the fix has resolved the issue.



#5 Aelfwine

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 05:06 PM

StarSense is for alignment, SkyPortal for control.

My understanding is that the SkyPortal app (for iOS and Android) can do alignment via the SkyPortal controller. If that's the case, that's part of why I'm asking the question.

According to Celestron: https://www.celestro...rtal-mobile-app

SkyPortal (module + app) provides:

"Fast and easy alignment options allow you to align your telescope in minutes without any prior knowledge of the night sky."

and

"All-Star Polar Alignment ... allowing you to easily polar align your German Equatorial or wedge-mounted Alt-AZ mount, without accessories that aid in polar alignment."

So it kinda sounds like if you have SkyPortal, you get WiFi, GPS, and “fast and easy” alignment all in one...

Edited by Aelfwine, 24 April 2019 - 05:37 PM.


#6 Lemonhawk

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:15 PM

I gave up on sky portal and sky Safari +, Be nice if they worked, but they simply failed too many times.  Its a shame because the HC is not a very user friendly device, but it works and the tablet apps were just a disaster with my Evo 9.25 and StarSense.

 

And until the Apps get rid of those slew buttons (the HC shines here) I'll probably never use them again.



#7 Noah4x4

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:23 PM

CPWI is a good alternative to the APPs.

 

Works with a Windows PC, hence proper keyboard and mouse!


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#8 Aelfwine

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:44 PM

So, thinking and reading about this more, it seems now to me that:

 

1) What StarSense provides that the SkyPortal system doesn't is _auto_-align (which makes sense because StarSense incorporates a camera, while the SkyPortal system doesn't have any way to "see" what is actually in the scope's field of view).

 

2) While SkyPortal can get GPS info from the companion mobile device running the SkyPortal app, this may not be very accurate, since mobile devices rely on cell-towers to refine their position info, which might be degraded or unavailable in good dark-sky locations. (Though it's vexing that the StarSense system still, at least in my experience, requires the user to specify a time zone, and whether DST is in effect, even when the SkySync GPS unit is attached, because that is eminently calculable from the date/time and location info!)

 

3) Nonetheless, the SkyPortal system is a more visual and user-friendly way, once alignment is established, to point your scope to what you want to see.

 

So, it seems to me, all three components (StarSense, SkyPortal, and SkySync) have a role to play in creating a fast, accurate, automated, and user-friendly observing system.

 

But by all means, if I've misunderstood any of this, please correct!



#9 Michael_Swanson

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 09:11 PM

So, thinking and reading about this more, it seems now to me that:

 

1) What StarSense provides that the SkyPortal system doesn't is _auto_-align (which makes sense because StarSense incorporates a camera, while the SkyPortal system doesn't have any way to "see" what is actually in the scope's field of view).

 

2) While SkyPortal can get GPS info from the companion mobile device running the SkyPortal app, this may not be very accurate, since mobile devices rely on cell-towers to refine their position info, which might be degraded or unavailable in good dark-sky locations. (Though it's vexing that the StarSense system still, at least in my experience, requires the user to specify a time zone, and whether DST is in effect, even when the SkySync GPS unit is attached, because that is eminently calculable from the date/time and location info!)

 

3) Nonetheless, the SkyPortal system is a more visual and user-friendly way, once alignment is established, to point your scope to what you want to see.

 

So, it seems to me, all three components (StarSense, SkyPortal, and SkySync) have a role to play in creating a fast, accurate, automated, and user-friendly observing system.

 

But by all means, if I've misunderstood any of this, please correct!

First off - please note that SkyPortal is both an app on Android/iOS and a physical WiFi device you can add to your mount.  The WiFi device has very little function beyond providing a way for an external device (smartphone, tablet or laptop/desktop computer) to connect to the AUX port of the mount.  In the case of a smartphone/tablet, you will use either the SkyPortal or SkySafari app (found in Google Play or the App Store).  In the case of a laptop/desktop you can use CPWI or a little application called SkyQ Link PC coupled with NexRemote, all from Celestron.  These apps/applications take the place of the physical hand control and alignment is completed in the app/application.  More general details here at my website:

https://www.nexstars...m/PCControl.htm

 

 

1) When using StarSense with SkyPortal or SkySafari, the SkyPortal/SkySafari app takes the place of the StarSense hand control and uses the StarSense camera to perform a mostly automated alignment.

 

2) Most smartphones and many tablets have a built-in GPS receiver which is used for location when you are out and about.  If Google Maps follows your current location as you drive around town, your device almost certainly has a GPS receiver.  In any case, SkyPortal/SkySafari work just fine if the location they are using is within 50 miles or so.  This will not affect GoTo accuracy at all, it just may cause some alignment attempts to fail, particularly if the mount is significantly mis-leveled.

 

3) It is also possible to use SkySafari (or dozens of other possible applications on a laptop) by connecting to the port on the bottom of the hand control.  In that case, you would perform the alignment with the hand control and extend control via SkySafari.  That page I linked to above discusses this as well.

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
Author of "The NexStar Users Guide II"
Author of "The NexStar Users Guide"
Author of "NexStar Observer List"
https://www.nexstarsite.com



#10 Aelfwine

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 01:47 AM

First off - please note that SkyPortal is both an app on Android/iOS and a physical WiFi device you can add to your mount.

Yep; that's why I referred to it as "SkyPortal (module + app)" and "the SkyPortal system".



#11 crn3371

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 02:30 PM

I’m a new user and so far I’ve only done alignment via SkyPortal, and in that regard it works fine. What I did notice the other night is that there is apparently no communication between SkyPortal and the hand controller. I had set up my 4se and aligned via SkyPortal as usual, when I was done observing I wanted to try hibernating the scope so I could do some early morning viewing, what I noticed is that the hand controller was still asking to start alignment and wouldn’t let me hibernate the scope. So it appears that it’s best to do the original setup and alignment via the hand controller, then pass off control to one of the mobile apps.
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#12 Exotics4fun

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 02:59 PM

New user here with maybe a dozen observing sessions using my current equipment, but here's my observation. I use StarSense for all alignments and the SkySafari 6 app for all navigation (my 9.25 evo already has wifi and I started with skyportal but since upgraded to skysafari). 

 

For me the setup has been a dream, I must be one of the lucky ones. StarSense usually aligns on the first try once a handful of stars are visible. The app and wifi control work together in a way that is awesome, it lets me select targets with ease and will provide both written and audio descriptions of what I'm seeing. Also has various settings to prevent cord wrap, control maximum rate of slew, lunar vs. star tracking, etc. Amazing. I only use the hand control for manual slewing if necessary as the buttons feel great from a tactile standpoint, otherwise I'm 100% tablet driven and don't miss the hand control one bit. Note that a couple times I accidentally hit buttons on the hand control and it completely screwed things up, had to reboot the scope and tablet. Best I can tell it's probably worthwhile to master one or the other ecosystem first, either app or hand control, as both at once don't play well together other than for directional control.


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