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Equipment recommendations for a newbie

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#1 Joey44

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Posted 11 September 2019 - 06:46 AM

I have enjoyed my new Nexstar 6 SE scope this summer, living in a Bortle 3 site and being getting good views from my back yard of the Milky Way, summer planets, and some of the DSOs that can be seen in the adjacent sky. I don’t have a view of Polaris without traveling, and thus have no intention of getting an EQ mount. I am happy with my equipment but am interested in being able to see more detail and some color from planets and DSOs. I am attracted to the potential that EAA offers for live viewing, and also the ability to share enhanced views with grandkids and friends. (Also, in fairness, my 70 year old eyes are not likely to improve the potential for visual going forward).

I have been reading this forum trying to get some ideas about what might work for me, and I think I am now ready to get some specific advice on equipment. I have considered the Revolution Imager, but think I want something with higher resolution. I am primarily interested in EAA, not likely to want to try any serious imaging, but maybe some simple imaging just to document things I have seen. I realize that my alt/az tracking mount has some limitations in this regard.

It seems that most people are using one of the ZWO cameras and Sharpcap for this purpose. I have a windows laptop and am computer literate, so don’t see a problem there.
My equipment: Celestron Nexstar 6 SE, standard goto alt/az mount (f/10). Celestron f/6.3 Reducer Corrector.

My questions:
Does the ZWO camera route seem the way forward for me, with the understanding that I am not interested in a new scope or upgraded mount? If so, what would be the best unit to take advantage of my scope’s capabilities?
Are there any other filters or other accessories that would be advised for my situation?

Any advice from the knowledgeable and helpful Cloudy Nights community would be appreciated



#2 ColoKid

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Posted 11 September 2019 - 02:47 PM

Joey44,  I am also a relative newbie using a Celestron NextStar 6SE and wanted to get into EAA to share amateur astronomy views with friends and family. 

 

In this vein I bought a Revolution 2 (R2) Imager Kit this spring to use with my 6se. The R2 comes with a 1.25” .5x Focal Reducer (FR), a “very bright” TFT display controlled by an “inline” hand controller, a 12v battery and multiple power and video cables. The R2 has a complicated cable set, especially if you add in the extra Digital Video Recorder (DVR) into the video loop (You can buy the DVR as an extra option with the system which I did).  I bought video/power extension cables to be able to power & control the camera from a distance.  I controlled the 6se scope over WiFi using Celestron WiFi dongle, Sky Safari, and an  iPad.

 

In short, I've had a poor experience trying to set up and use the R2 for EAA on the 6SE.  The R2 camera with its FR & extension tube installed and cables installed into the 6se diagonal is about 10 inches long.   If the imaging chain is set with the camera's back pointing vertically up & out of the 6se diagonal, the imaging chain may impact he base of 6se mount while slewing near or past zenith.  In fact, my 6se with R2 in the diagonal with its cables in this position jammed into the 6se mount base while I was running a Celestron StarSense auto alignment (ouch).  To clear the base, I had to rotate the imaging chain 90 degrees (horizontal to the right when the scope is level) obviously rotating the resultant image accordingly and move Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) as far forward on the mount as possible.  This meant the telescope was probably not well well balanced and it did align nor not track aw well as I wanted even using the StarSense system to align it.

 

Another concern is focusing.  The 6se focus point for the R2 is a good 6-8 turns from the Eye Piece (EP) focus point.  If you want to switch out the R2 for an EP during the night, focus becomes a major pain (this could be true with other cameras as well). I'd consider getting the Celestron SCT motorized focuser.  The focus changes with temperature as well.

 

Finally, the R2 camera hand control menu structure is very confusing and nonintuitive. The R2 is a repurposed security camera and the hand controller acts accordingly. Setting up the camera options is not straight forward nor obvious and the User Interface is "very poor" in my opinion.  The available R2 instructions are sparse & poorly written and rely a lot on YouTube videos.

 

Other’s mileage may vary with respect to use of the Revolution 2 imager on the Celestron NextStar 6se but I had, and still have, many challenges using it. I readily admit some (maybe most) of my problems are newbie experience related.  If others have a good experience using the R2 on the NextStar 6se, please weigh in as I’d like to know how you set it up to get good results.

 

If I were to do it over knowing what I do now, I’d put the $300-$400 I have spent on the R2 into a proper EAA SCT F/R (e.g. Starizona Night Owl) and a good ZWO camera or equivalent and use a laptop and software to control, process and display on the 6se.  The 6se SCT is great for planetary and moon viewing but it isn’t as stable as an  Evolution series SCT or certainly a quality Equatorial mount for DSO.  Had I'd not bought a telescope yet, I'd go for getting a faster f5 refractor on a equatorial mount for my DSO EAA.  Again, others undoubtedly have other opinions but these are mine as a newbie to amateur astronomy.

  

Good Luck and clear skies.



#3 GaryShaw

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Posted 11 September 2019 - 02:55 PM

I also tried the RI2 and struggled with cables, clunky images and the frame grabber for 6 months before giving up and buying two ZWO cameras, the 178 mono and 294 color. Now I’m making real EAA Imaging progress and having much more fun. Go for it.



#4 roelb

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Posted 11 September 2019 - 07:49 PM

I think that the ZWO224MC is the route to go with your 6 SE.

These camera can be used for EAA DSO's and is a excellent choice for planetary imaging.

Note re. your Celestron f/6.3: the required back focus to achieve the 0.63 reduction is 105 mm.

This will cause imaging train interference with the mount base.

Using a 0.5 focal reducer (back focus ~50 mm) the imaging train clears the base.

Do purchase a Bathinov mask for initial focusing.

Good luck starting EAAwaytogo.gif



#5 biomedchad

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 06:35 AM

agree with all said above..been in and out of the hobby for years i recently came back in and grabbed a 6se and a 224.  it works but presents challenges.  theres just not enough room with the reducers and camera.  i ended up getting an avx mount.  easier to deal with and eq mounts are just better for everything..not needed for use but IMO needed for a good experience.  the older style cameras like the revolution and mallicams are just clunky.  now ive gone full in with the 294..the 6 inch tube on the avx and a f4 reducer..ill never need anything again :)  well maybe for a year or 2



#6 Joey44

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 12:57 PM

I think that the ZWO224MC is the route to go with your 6 SE.

These camera can be used for EAA DSO's and is a excellent choice for planetary imaging.

Note re. your Celestron f/6.3: the required back focus to achieve the 0.63 reduction is 105 mm.

This will cause imaging train interference with the mount base.

Using a 0.5 focal reducer (back focus ~50 mm) the imaging train clears the base.

Do purchase a Bathinov mask for initial focusing.

Good luck starting EAAwaytogo.gif

Thanks for this and all the others who have made recommendations. I have a question, however, about your issue with mount base interference. I am assuming that the back focus for the Celestron f/6.3 is designed to optimize the distance to eyepiece, assuming use of the standard visual back and 1.25 inch star diagonal positioned after the reducer. If I place the 1.25" nosepiece that comes with the ZWO224MC into the star diagonal in place of the eyepiece, would this not be the proper position for the spacing of reducer and camera? This would also improve clearance from the base as the 90 degree diagonal would place the camera in an up position.

It seems that there is an assumption that removal of the diagonal is necessary. Is there some advantage or requirement for this? Sorry if I am asking what should be an obvious question but I looked at the documentation from ZWO and they don't give any details about the best way to do this. If there is a preferred positioning for the camera or other spacers or adapters are advisable I would appreciate any info on this.



#7 biomedchad

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 01:14 PM

Thanks for this and all the others who have made recommendations. I have a question, however, about your issue with mount base interference. I am assuming that the back focus for the Celestron f/6.3 is designed to optimize the distance to eyepiece, assuming use of the standard visual back and 1.25 inch star diagonal positioned after the reducer. If I place the 1.25" nosepiece that comes with the ZWO224MC into the star diagonal in place of the eyepiece, would this not be the proper position for the spacing of reducer and camera? This would also improve clearance from the base as the 90 degree diagonal would place the camera in an up position.

It seems that there is an assumption that removal of the diagonal is necessary. Is there some advantage or requirement for this? Sorry if I am asking what should be an obvious question but I looked at the documentation from ZWO and they don't give any details about the best way to do this. If there is a preferred positioning for the camera or other spacers or adapters are advisable I would appreciate any info on this.

https://astro.ecuado...-dslr-on-c9-25/

 

all you need is in google



#8 donstim

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 02:28 PM

The back focus distance for the Celestron 0.63x reducer/corrector was probably intended to provide the correct working distance for a typical DSLR having a back focus distance of 45mm, a specific camera adapter length of 10mm, and a universal T-adapter length of 50 mm. For imaging purposes, having the correct working distance within a mm or 2 will not only provide the intended focal reduction, but also avoid image aberrations that the flattener is there for.  For visual use, the working distance is not so critical.

 

The mount base interference issue is most difficult when trying to maintain a large light cone with a minimum of glass.  This would entail using neither a star diagonal nor a 1.25-inch nosepiece for the camera.  Using the Celestron T-adapter plus sufficient spacers can maintain that larger light cone all the way to the camera.  For example, for the ASI 294MC Pro camera, I use the Celestron T-Adapter (50 mm length) + 21mm extender + 16.5 mm extender + 11 mm T2 extender ring + camera's 6.5 mm back focus to achieve the 105 mm working distance from the Celestron 0.63x reducer/flattener to the camera sensor.  (All of the extenders come packaged with the camera.  Only the T-adapter needs to be purchased separately.)  Used with my Celestron Evolution 8, it will contact the mount at altitudes greater than about 60 degrees.

 

For imaging at higher altitudes, I have to use a star diagonal.  That means the visual back has to be used also, and since I only have a 1.25-inch visual back, that immediately constricts the light cone.  I can, however, completely mitigate the mount clearance issue if I mount the visual back to the reducer, then the star diagonal, then the necessary extenders, and then the camera.  The star diagonal body itself is the lowest part of that imaging train, and if I move the telescope tube nearly all the way forward on the dovetail, I get unrestricted clearance.  I use a Baader star diagonal from with the eyepiece mount can be removed such that my extenders and camera can be directly screwed onto the diagonal without the need to further reduce the light path by using the camera's nose piece.  To achieve the correct spacing (or at least as close as I think I can get it since measuring the light path travel through the diagonal is not easy), I just use the 16.5 mm extension coupled to the 11 mm extension ring between the star diagonal and the camera.

 

Edit:  I looked up the length of the light path through the Baader diagonal on the Baader website.  It is 35 mm just for the diagonal (i.e., no nosepiece or eyepiece holder).  The length of the visual back to the start of the diagonal is also 35 mm.  Combined with the 16.5 mm spacer and the 11 mm extension ring, I get 104 mm working distance.  Close enough!

Alternatively, if it's an object I don't really need the reducer for, I can mount the camera (with the 11 mm T-extender ring) directly to the T-adapter and get very close to the zenith before hitting the mount.

 

I don't know how much shorter the uncooled version of the 294 camera is, so I don't know what impact that would have on the mount obstruction issue.  I do have an uncooled 224MC camera.  While I have only used it without the reducer (either with a barlow or nothing) for planetary imaging, if I were to use it with the reducer, I can get almost to the zenith without hitting the mount even at the 105 mm working distance from the reducer.  The 224MC uncooled camera back focus is 12.5 mm behind the front of the camera, so with the Celestron T-adapter, it needs 105 - 50 - 12.5 = 42.5 mm of additional extension.  I can use the 21mm and 16.5 mm from the 294MC Pro kit plus a 5 mm extension I bought separately.

 

Hope this helps.  Yes, mount obstruction can be an issue, but there are potential mitigations without buying a different mount or optical tube assembly.


Edited by donstim, 13 September 2019 - 12:29 AM.

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#9 Joey44

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 05:26 PM

wonderful explanation, donstim. Thank you!




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