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Help me set up my system for beginning astrophotography

astrophotography beginner Celestron dslr equipment imaging mount refractor
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#26 JP50515

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 05:18 PM

That's what I'm talking about!  Do I need a Windows based PC for processing?  I'm all Apple right now.

 

Todd

Alright bro I'm going to sideline you for just a minute here. I am the same way...I totally get it. 

However....There is a BIG difference in learning curve between a DSLR/cooled OSC camera as a total greenhorn, and a Cooled Mono cam with filters. Check my sig...I have a lot of the above mentioned gear...your results will be leaps and bound above a DSLR with a mono cam...but i'm telling you the processing, and acquisition is SO DIFFERENT (IE more challenging). DSLR/OSC you setup and shoot one. Mono you have to shoot for every filter, then combine it all in processing. There's a lot more to go wrong and to understand. You better have guiding figured out, as well as focusing as you'll need to re-focus constantly. Again OSC you focus once, point and shoot. It's the cooling you would benefit from as a newbie...not the mono/filter combo until you truly understand what you're doing. 

I'm going to take his list and make a couple adjustments purely so that you don't find yourself abandoning the hobby out of frustration trying to jump straight into monochrome imaging with filters and the processing involved.

Stellarvue 80mm (mentioned above), with flattener

EQ6-R Pro mount

ASI294 MC Pro

ASI290MM mini or 120 mini as a guide cam

Stellarvue 60mm guide scope

Polemaster or Sharp Cap Pro for $13 a year

Sequence Generator Pro - or N.I.N.A. (Free and nearly equally as capable)

Astro Pixel Processor

 

Yes you'll need windows. Get W7 or W10pro for easy remote access. 



#27 cfosterstars

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 05:37 PM

Alright bro I'm going to sideline you for just a minute here. I am the same way...I totally get it. 

However....There is a BIG difference in learning curve between a DSLR/cooled OSC camera as a total greenhorn, and a Cooled Mono cam with filters. Check my sig...I have a lot of the above mentioned gear...your results will be leaps and bound above a DSLR with a mono cam...but i'm telling you the processing, and acquisition is SO DIFFERENT (IE more challenging). DSLR/OSC you setup and shoot one. Mono you have to shoot for every filter, then combine it all in processing. There's a lot more to go wrong and to understand. You better have guiding figured out, as well as focusing as you'll need to re-focus constantly. Again OSC you focus once, point and shoot. It's the cooling you would benefit from as a newbie...not the mono/filter combo until you truly understand what you're doing. 

I'm going to take his list and make a couple adjustments purely so that you don't find yourself abandoning the hobby out of frustration trying to jump straight into monochrome imaging with filters and the processing involved.

Stellarvue 80mm (mentioned above), with flattener

EQ6-R Pro mount

ASI294 MC Pro

ASI290MM mini or 120 mini as a guide cam

Stellarvue 60mm guide scope

Polemaster or Sharp Cap Pro for $13 a year

Sequence Generator Pro - or N.I.N.A. (Free and nearly equally as capable)

Astro Pixel Processor

 

Yes you'll need windows. Get W7 or W10pro for easy remote access. 

Ok,

 

I will throw my starter recommendations list since this is fun:

 

SVX80 with flattener/reducer - you can always crop images but mosaics are a pain

Ioptron CEM40 or CEM60 if you can afford it or a EQ6-R - running EQMOD

ASI294MC-PRO - nice 4/3 sensor with deep well and lots of stops of Dynamic range - good camera

5 position filter wheel with a dual NB filter, UVIR filter, LP filter and opaque filter for darks

SV60 finder scope, 2X barlow, ASI290MM-mini for guider package

Windows 10 headless mini computer to mount at the rig with a 12V display and 2TB external hard drive to offload images and lots of USB3 ports

rigrunner and 12v power supply with powerpoles for power distribution

polemaster camera or PHD2 or sharpcap pro for polar alignment

Sequence Generator Pro for control and automation

Primaluce labs Sento-senso focus motor controller for autofocus

dew heater contoller and heater straps

pixinsight for image processing 

windows desktop with 32GB/1TB SSD/5TB HDD with at least an i7 core or better for data crunching

 

Lots of clear and dark skies - I wish I knew where I could buy them - they seem to be on back order for all sellers

 

UPDATE: I forgot Cartes du Ciel and PHD2 - VERY important and both free.


Edited by cfosterstars, 22 May 2019 - 10:02 PM.

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#28 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 06:00 PM

The book!  Don't forget Charles Bracken's book.  Should be first on your list.  Get it now, before the rest of the stuff, and you may have a different list (or more faith in the one you have) once you read it.


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#29 Peregrinatum

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 06:57 PM

The book!  Don't forget Charles Bracken's book.  Should be first on your list.  Get it now, before the rest of the stuff, and you may have a different list (or more faith in the one you have) once you read it.

Nah, all he needs is Chris's (@cfosterstars) PI Workflow pdf, just as good as the book and he generously offers it free!

 

https://www.cloudyni...flow/?p=9222996



#30 miwitte

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 07:27 PM

While your figuring out your final list, get trials of the various processing software, and learn to process the data in the sticky at the top of this forum. This way once you collect the data you'll know what to do with it. Pixinsight is probably used by a majority here, a lot use photoshop since they already have it from doing terrestrial photography.

 

I started with the Stellarvue STO80ST they make quality stuff. Almost all optics are made in China and then repackaged into scopes by the various manufacturers. Stellarvue goes a step further and goes through rigorous optical bench testing of the optical quality. Also their focuser is very good, that's one of the things that sold me. Also the EQ6-R is great as its belt drive, they didnt have that when i bought so I had to  convert my mount to belt drive. If you dont have a camera your probably better off getting a dedicated astro for a little extra coin than a used Nikon or Canon. You can start with a color camera then move on to a mono and filters i wouldn't recommend filters to start with. 

 

My starting list came out around 4k about 2 years ago

-Stellarvue SVO80ST-25SV with reducer.flattener(they no longer make the reducer)

- Skywatcher EQ6

-ZWO 60 MM guidescope 

-ASI 120MM-S

-Polemaster for accurate Polar(Love it!)

-My Nikon 7200 with Backyard Nikon for sequencing

-$200 windows 7 laptop off ebay

-EQMod for mount control, Cartes du Ciel for Planetarioum program(find object and tell scope to slew to it) PHD2 for guiding.(These are free)

-Pixinsight for processing(i tried other platforms figured if i was spending time i may as well learn the best one)

-AstroZap controller and dew heater straps

 

The best advice is stick with what you see successful people have in their sigs, that way when you need help(and you will) more folks can help. And again start processing it costs nothing to get started with trials. Your on the right track with a small scope and a good mount its really hard starting out to get guiding working well and get round stars and a small scope and good mount does wonders for making that easier.



#31 WadeH237

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 08:10 PM

but i'm telling you the processing, and acquisition is SO DIFFERENT (IE more challenging).

I never understand it when people say this, especially in the processing part.

 

My workflow for mono with filters is:

 

- Calibrate

- Register

- Integrate

- Combine RGB channels for a color image

- Calibrate color channels

- If no raw luminance data, extract luminance from RGB

- Do initial processing of luminance and RGB separately

- Recombine luminance and RGB for finishing

 

My workflow for one shot color is:

 

- Calibrate

- Debayer to get RGB data

- Register

- Integrate

- Calibrate color channels

- Extract luminance channel from RGB

- Do initial processing of luminance and RGB separately

- Recombine luminance and RGB for finishing

 

The two methods are nearly identical.  Once set up, debayering is pretty much automatic.  Combining RGB channels from mono is pretty much automatic. And both workflows require color calibration.


Edited by WadeH237, 22 May 2019 - 08:11 PM.

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#32 JP50515

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 09:42 PM

I never understand it when people say this, especially in the processing part.

 

My workflow for mono with filters is:

 

- Calibrate

- Register

- Integrate

- Combine RGB channels for a color image

- Calibrate color channels

- If no raw luminance data, extract luminance from RGB

- Do initial processing of luminance and RGB separately

- Recombine luminance and RGB for finishing

 

My workflow for one shot color is:

 

- Calibrate

- Debayer to get RGB data

- Register

- Integrate

- Calibrate color channels

- Extract luminance channel from RGB

- Do initial processing of luminance and RGB separately

- Recombine luminance and RGB for finishing

 

The two methods are nearly identical.  Once set up, debayering is pretty much automatic.  Combining RGB channels from mono is pretty much automatic. And both workflows require color calibration.

Because most newbie RGB processing doesn't look like yours. The whole "Debayer to get RGB data" is kind of a key element to your process that a lot of new imagers do not do. Take that out, and the entire rest of your process is gone with it. 

Most new RGB/DSLR imagers just stack and stretch dude. 



#33 cfosterstars

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 09:59 PM

Nah, all he needs is Chris's (@cfosterstars) PI Workflow pdf, just as good as the book and he generously offers it free!

 

https://www.cloudyni...flow/?p=9222996

WOW, thank you... As someone who has gone through all of this processing journey and still learning, I have spend a good fraction of my money and WAY more of my time and brain cells on the processing side. It should clealy NOT be neglected in the list. I am still way learning even after several years with Pixisight alone. BTY, I am working on another update to my flow with a much more detailed section on blending Narrowband data into RGB data for those interested. I hope to post it in the next few days.


Edited by cfosterstars, 22 May 2019 - 10:00 PM.

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#34 fewayne

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 10:04 PM

Hey Todd,

 

Welcome to the monkey house. I would be one of the more conservative folks advising you to go a little bit more slowly, and ramp things up as you master the simpler setups. Cannot say enough good things about Stellarvue, BTW, I love my little SV-70 to death.

 

I don't know if anyone answered your question about SGP, which is the acquisition software Sequence Generator Pro. Which AFAIK is not available for the Mac. (I'm a Mac guy, but as a software dev I have VMWare Fusion on all my Macs so I can use Windows if I have to.)

 

I use KStars/Ekos, so I can run the identical software on a Raspberry Pi in the field if I need to be miserly with battery power. The flagship processing program, PixInsight, is available for Macs, as is the open-source Siril and the newer Astro Pixel Processor. ($260, free, and $128, respectively.) The free Deep Sky Stacker is commonly recommended and is Windows-only, but my experience with both doesn't give DSS any advantages over Siril.

 

Having imaged for a couple years with a DSLR, I don't see anything wrong with starting that way. It's straightforward, it's a camera you already own and are familiar with, and you don't have to use a computer at the scope. If you front the money for a good mount, you can start imaging the first clear night by taking a ton of 30-second or 1-minute images of something big and bright (Orion, Andromeda Galaxy, etc.) and working through the basics of processing.

 

Of course you'll pretty much immediately want more, so you can add autoguiding into the mix. Computer control of your camera gives you plate solving, where the computer analyzes the image you just took and tells you exactly where the scope is pointed. (That's often a harder problem than you would imagine.) A mono cooled camera and filters give you the option to do high-quality luminance/red/green/blue imaging, or trying your hand at narrowband.

 

But that would be a metric bleep-ton to take on initially. People certainly do it, of course. But when you start, the more moving parts (in both the metaphorical and literal senses) that there are, the more things you have to debug simultaneously. Learning how to polar align, point, focus, expose, and PROCESS with relatively simple equipment will have you working from a solid foundation when you add more complexity.

 

Regardless, I wish you joy in the journey. There's certainly a lot of it to be had.


Edited by fewayne, 22 May 2019 - 10:06 PM.

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#35 JP50515

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 11:41 PM

Hey Todd,

 

Welcome to the monkey house. I would be one of the more conservative folks advising you to go a little bit more slowly, and ramp things up as you master the simpler setups. Cannot say enough good things about Stellarvue, BTW, I love my little SV-70 to death.

 

I don't know if anyone answered your question about SGP, which is the acquisition software Sequence Generator Pro. Which AFAIK is not available for the Mac. (I'm a Mac guy, but as a software dev I have VMWare Fusion on all my Macs so I can use Windows if I have to.)

 

I use KStars/Ekos, so I can run the identical software on a Raspberry Pi in the field if I need to be miserly with battery power. The flagship processing program, PixInsight, is available for Macs, as is the open-source Siril and the newer Astro Pixel Processor. ($260, free, and $128, respectively.) The free Deep Sky Stacker is commonly recommended and is Windows-only, but my experience with both doesn't give DSS any advantages over Siril.

 

Having imaged for a couple years with a DSLR, I don't see anything wrong with starting that way. It's straightforward, it's a camera you already own and are familiar with, and you don't have to use a computer at the scope. If you front the money for a good mount, you can start imaging the first clear night by taking a ton of 30-second or 1-minute images of something big and bright (Orion, Andromeda Galaxy, etc.) and working through the basics of processing.

 

Of course you'll pretty much immediately want more, so you can add autoguiding into the mix. Computer control of your camera gives you plate solving, where the computer analyzes the image you just took and tells you exactly where the scope is pointed. (That's often a harder problem than you would imagine.) A mono cooled camera and filters give you the option to do high-quality luminance/red/green/blue imaging, or trying your hand at narrowband.

 

But that would be a metric bleep-ton to take on initially. People certainly do it, of course. But when you start, the more moving parts (in both the metaphorical and literal senses) that there are, the more things you have to debug simultaneously. Learning how to polar align, point, focus, expose, and PROCESS with relatively simple equipment will have you working from a solid foundation when you add more complexity.

 

Regardless, I wish you joy in the journey. There's certainly a lot of it to be had.

yes. Thank you. 

This is why I too am pressing OP to use his DSLR's that he already has, or drop the coin on a cooled OSC camera. 

If you jump into this trying to sprint before you learn how to crawl, you're almost certainly going to end up with your face in the dirt. Narrowband on a mono camera is awesome...but it's the endgame. 

It would be the equivalent of trying to fly an F16 when all you've been trained on is how to fold a paper airplane. 


Seriously OP. The list of skills involved, and tasks you need to learn just to get setup and successfully imaging is long, tedious, and not intuitive. Do not burden yourself with unnecessary complexity out of the gate. Learn how to image first...then decide if you're up for that challenge. 

Set yourself up for success. K.I.S.S. and thank yourself in a year when you have a fundamental understanding of how this all works, and some pretty pictures because you didn't try to dive into the deep end of the pool. 

One. Shot. Color. 


Edited by JP50515, 22 May 2019 - 11:45 PM.


#36 Peregrinatum

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Posted 22 May 2019 - 11:43 PM

Flying an F16 is way more fun than driving a VW Beetle.  Jus' sayin'



#37 Sven_Bortle5

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 12:27 AM

… how do you start an F16?  smile.gif 

 

Well, it all about the fun you have. If you get into it with a manageable abount of variables, you learn how to adjust everything for getting the good Picture. If you have 1000 variables and have issues, your search or time for try and error is long.

 

The funniest motorcycle drives have a superbike and are slow in curves.  smile.gif 



#38 carbean

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 03:23 AM

… how do you start an F16?  smile.gif

 

Well, it all about the fun you have. If you get into it with a manageable abount of variables, you learn how to adjust everything for getting the good Picture. If you have 1000 variables and have issues, your search or time for try and error is long.

 

The funniest motorcycle drives have a superbike and are slow in curves.  smile.gif

Funny you should say that.  As an indication of my personality type, I recently bought a Ducati Panigale V4S!  I usually just jump into things with both feet and figure it out as I go.

 

Todd


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#39 WadeH237

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 08:04 AM

Because most newbie RGB processing doesn't look like yours. The whole "Debayer to get RGB data" is kind of a key element to your process that a lot of new imagers do not do. Take that out, and the entire rest of your process is gone with it.

For someone with zero experience, I would agree that the whole concept of Debayering is foreign.  But after you get past that initial part, it's pretty much a one-click operation in most astro processing software.

 

Once you get past the very basic fundamentals, your workflow should look something like what I posted.  I actually left out the interesting parts of processing.  What I listed were the basics that, once you get going, are nearly automatic.

 

Most new RGB/DSLR imagers just stack and stretch dude.

I'd say that most complete newbies don't even know how to stack and stretch properly (actually, stretching is a pretty complicated topic - much more so that anything in the workflow that I posted above).  There's nothing wrong with that.  We all start somewhere.

 

Also, you are pretty much optimizing your purchase recommendation for someone who knows nothing about the hobby and doesn't intend to learn.  The processing differences between mono and one shot color are pretty trivial, compared to all the other stuff.

 

There are some good reasons to go with one shot color, but ease of processing is generally not one of them. 



#40 Sven_Bortle5

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 08:37 AM

Funny you should say that.  As an indication of my personality type, I recently bought a Ducati Panigale V4S!  I usually just jump into things with both feet and figure it out as I go.

 

Todd

I have been racing 2-strokes in the late 80s and have been riding one superbike off-track since then (currently an ZX10R)… beside one other, less extreme bike. And I think this relates to my entry into astrophotography:

 

Since I started, I had a limited number of good nights, in which I could really produce images which are suitable for processing. Over last winter, I have been able to collect 5 hours on M42 and 10 hours on Bodes Galaxy. I remember 3 nights which were complete losses, because I could not figure out why I had star-trailing, why the pointing or alignment of the mount didn't work or why the guidecam did not see any undecided.giftongue2.gifconfused1.gif -ing star.

 

These experiences are part of the game and I am happy that I could learn a lot from this forum, from astrobackyard, from star stuff, … to avoid more and more errors.

 

So I guess nobody wants to inhibit or slow down your way or into that hobby. If you have the money - cool. But let me use that motorcycling picture again: If you learn riding on an 200hp superbike, you are more likely to crash or die than having all the fun it could bring in tight curves. If you have a mid-range naked bike and superbike, life is a lot easier.

 

So, plan your steps and buy the best parts for each step. Think about how you may upgrade certain parts in future steps. I deem you will have more successful nights of imaging in total... while your ultimate rig may be yours in maybe 12 months.

 

… and be careful with that Ducati. 


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#41 fewayne

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 11:11 AM

Heck, flying a 152 is way more fun than driving...well, certainly anything I've ever driven.

 

One other thing Todd, it would seem from the context here that expense may be somewhat less of a concern for you than for some of us. So some of our customary penny-pinching advice may be beside the point. However, the learning curve arguments are every bit as valid, unless you have unlimited time to burn as well. Maybe I'm just a slow learner, but I found that shooting and processing images with just a DSLR and a camera tracker felt absolutely like jumping in with both feet. Into a raging torrent. In a rocky canyon. On fire.



#42 Peregrinatum

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 11:12 AM

WOW, thank you... As someone who has gone through all of this processing journey and still learning, I have spend a good fraction of my money and WAY more of my time and brain cells on the processing side. It should clealy NOT be neglected in the list. I am still way learning even after several years with Pixisight alone. BTY, I am working on another update to my flow with a much more detailed section on blending Narrowband data into RGB data for those interested. I hope to post it in the next few days.

Looking forward to the update, Chris!  I a looking at this topic now.



#43 JP50515

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 11:35 AM

To join the game. I'm on a Yammy XSR900 over here. I'd take you and your ducati up on a little race any day off the week... I say that... Because I know how to ride it...and because it's a fire-breathing demon from hell...but you can be dang sure this isn't the first bike I've owned.

Point and case, I've seen guys on superbikes get smoked by guys on dualsports... Because the DS rider understood the dynamics of how a motorcycle works instead of relying on pure technology and power.

It's more fun to ride a slow bike fast, than to ride a fast bike slow

Edited by JP50515, 23 May 2019 - 11:36 AM.


#44 cfosterstars

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 11:40 AM

I agree with taking a slow approach, but I have spent a LOT of money on wasted hardware and software along the way. I started with the wrong scope on the wrong mount with a POS camera. I still had a HUGE thrill with my first image of M42. I was stoked and totally crack cocaine addicted at that point. However, I personally wish I had asked the same question as the OP at the point he is at before I made my first purchace. I did not even know about CN and would not have even know what question to ask. For somethings, regardless of where you want to go, you should spend wisely. That is primarily the mount. Make the wrong choice or a limited choice at that point is a mistake that should be avoided if possible. Remember that the three most important things in AP are Mount, Mount, Mount  followed by mount. So my advice is go with the recommendation for the mount here or even buy up from what has been recommended at the EQ6-R. That will be money well spent. Everything else is debatable in my opinion.  If you have an inexpensive DSLR, then use that for now to learn and put the money that you would have spent on it into the mount. The OTA that you pick is a good one - a really good one. You could probably save money there and still have good images. I gave a list earlier that would be my list now with all that I know that would be a bullet proof system and get you great imaging - IN MY OPINION. That is just it, there will be lots of opinions. Mostly I would like the OP to avoid as many painful and expensive lessons as possible, but at the end of the day, you learn best by doing.

 

I am 100% sure that I would not be as skilled at this madness as I am without all those painful and expensive lessons. I learned so much about mounts, PA, guiding, and what not to do because of the POS LX200 Meade fork mount that I started with, but I would not do it again if I could have avoided it.


Edited by cfosterstars, 23 May 2019 - 11:43 AM.

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#45 carbean

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:10 PM

Thanks so much for all the sage advice. I don’t have, can’t find my DSLR so I think I’ll go with a one shot color CMOS. The Ducati is not my first or only bike. I learned on dirt. I think I’ll go with the EQ6R Pro mount and the original scope. Thank you all so much for your help.

Todd (carbean)
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#46 carbean

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:19 PM

Another thing. I’ll get the EQ6R mount as recommended instead of the Celestron VX but I’m going to miss the StarSense functionality of the Celestron mounts. I Use it on my CGX and my smaller visual mount. Does the Sky-Watcher mount have some automated functionality to orient itself to the sky like the StarSense system that Celestron uses?

Todd

#47 JP50515

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:21 PM

Thanks so much for all the sage advice. I don’t have, can’t find my DSLR so I think I’ll go with a one shot color CMOS. The Ducati is not my first or only bike. I learned on dirt. I think I’ll go with the EQ6R Pro mount and the original scope. Thank you all so much for your help.

Todd (carbean)

Solid setup mate. You will not be disappointed. 

Like mentioned, we're not here to dissuade you, but instead try to prevent you from over-encumbering yourself and leaving the hobby. 

I think your plan is a solid one that you will be quite happy with. Like also mentioned...if you're looking for somewhere else to put your money put it into the mount and buy up from an EQ6-R Pro. You're pretty much looking astrophysics and paramounts after that but if you've got a hole burning in your pocket...would be money well spent. 

Let us know what you end up getting and post some pics up of your first images! 



#48 JP50515

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:25 PM

Another thing. I’ll get the EQ6R mount as recommended instead of the Celestron VX but I’m going to miss the StarSense functionality of the Celestron mounts. I Use it on my CGX and my smaller visual mount. Does the Sky-Watcher mount have some automated functionality to orient itself to the sky like the StarSense system that Celestron uses?

Todd


Absolutely man. It has alignment routines but more effective is what's called plate solving where you hook it up to your computer click one button, it takes a picture of figures out where it is in the sky, tells the mount, and from there you can get anything you want

#49 JP50515

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:28 PM

Also feel free to p.m. me if you have questions when you get the gear. I own a lot of the same things you're looking to purchase I would be happy to help. Do yourself a favor and head over to shoestring astronomy.com and pick up the heq5 to USB cable. This will let you connect your Mount directly to your computer without having to use the hand controller

#50 Glass Eye

Glass Eye

    Explorer 1

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  • Posts: 65
  • Joined: 30 Jun 2018
  • Loc: Ft. Bend County, Texas

Posted 23 May 2019 - 02:03 PM

Another thing. I’ll get the EQ6R mount as recommended instead of the Celestron VX but I’m going to miss the StarSense functionality of the Celestron mounts. I Use it on my CGX and my smaller visual mount. Does the Sky-Watcher mount have some automated functionality to orient itself to the sky like the StarSense system that Celestron uses?

Todd

Quick question. Why are you not using your CGX mount?




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