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PHD2 Guiding w ZWO 290 Mini - Some Advice?

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#1 SkyHunter1

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Posted 13 September 2019 - 08:57 PM

Hello All,

I am flirting with the idea of auto-guiding after 2 years in the hobby. A mentor of sorts has suggested a 290 mini as a guide camera (I have a good 60mm guide-scope I acquired  a year or so ago). After speaking to him and watching some you tube vids, it seems that whereas I thought I could align my Atlas mount with my polemaster and align to 3 stars as i usually do (I get very good PA). I thought I could at that point now auto-guide using PHD2 with the 290 connected to the guide-port of my atlas and to my laptop.

 

What I'm being told is optimal (and I'm sure it is), is to get EQMOD, then SGP and PHD2 and use these to get alignment and guide. I thought it would be simpler... I didn't choose this hobby because it was easy mind you, but I thought i could get good PA and guide after learning PHD2 well using the auto-guider port on my mount. . 

 

It seems that the team at PHD don't recommend connecting directly to the mount auto-guider port, but using the handset port with a specialized cable connected to the laptop. All alignment and such would be done using EQMOD, SGP and PHD2. 

 

While I'm sure that the above mentioned configuration is optimal, if I were to just to PA as usual, connect the 290  to the auto-guider port on my atlas and learn PHD well, will it work? Wouldn't it be orders of magnitude better than not guiding at all? 

 

I get maybe 10 imaging nights a year at a reasonably dark, but not perfect site. One piece of software to tackle and the hardware issues with the guide-scope and camera seem daunting enough as a next step to improve my imaging, but more software, more hardware, more frustration... This hobby is frustrating enough at times... That being said, this is something I'm ready to attempt, but I'd like to keep it a little simpler and use the auto-guider port and learn PHD well. 

 

Does anyone just use the auto-guider port and phd and get good results? 

 

Thanks in advance to this amazing community.

 

Regards,

Skyhunter1



#2 DSOs4Me

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Posted 13 September 2019 - 09:31 PM

I use a 290MM Mini and it works great but I do control PHD through the handset. It works better and the cable is no big deal so I would get one. Mine is just a mini USB to a Standard USB. I control the mount through Stellarium, Capture with Sharpcap. I was considering SGP but I think I am going to go with NINA as it seems to be just as good and Free.


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#3 james7ca

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Posted 13 September 2019 - 09:40 PM

You can use the guide port (ST-4) and do your alignment with your Polemaster. The guide port may not be quite as versatile as using your mount's serial port but in most cases it will be good enough.


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#4 SkyHunter1

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Posted 13 September 2019 - 09:41 PM

I use a 290MM Mini and it works great but I do control PHD through the handset. It works better and the cable is no big deal so I would get one. Mine is just a mini USB to a Standard USB. I control the mount through Stellarium, Capture with Sharpcap. I was considering SGP but I think I am going to go with NINA as it seems to be just as good and Free.

Ok, so I'm trying to understand this configuration... You control PHD thru the handset? or the handset port on the mount? Where is the mini USB port? on the handset itself? Iv'e seen celestron AVX mounts with the Mini USB port in the handset, but my atlas is the older model with the old vixen style saddle (upgraded to ADM saddle). It's not more of the updated/recent ones which may have a handset with a mini USB port, I just checked to confirm. I would assume this wouldn't work for me unless i got an upgraded handset or the atlas?

 

Is the above correct?



#5 SkyHunter1

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Posted 13 September 2019 - 10:49 PM

You can use the guide port (ST-4) and do your alignment with your Polemaster. The guide port may not be quite as versatile as using your mount's serial port but in most cases it will be good enough.

Hmmm some hope :) That's what i was thinking... I would imagine that just doing my PA and having a guiding system that would improve tracking even 50% would be an improvement even if "sub-optimal". I would assume it would be even higher than that even just using the ST-4 port. I was concerned that it might not work at all... I can live with "sub-optimal' to keep some hair in my head, but not "non-functioning" lol

 

Can others confirm that the setup will work just using the ST-4 port, even if it might be less versatile for the time being until I'm ready to bite off a little more? I'm looking to add some guiding to the repertoire and improve my tracking for longer subs. I can live with not being able to "dither" at the moment if that function was lost for example.

 

I have been able to get 45 - 60 second subs unguided on my atlas with acceptable stars... I haven't tried more than that. This is using 350- 650mm approx of focal length. I do throw away subs, but i do get plenty of good ones with round center stars (I'm testing reducer spacing on the new ED140 apo so the edge stars are a little eggy in the subs i posted). The images in my gallery are all unguided with some sub-exposure examples as well. I know my processing needs work lol :). If I could throw away less subs and get pinprick stars for up to 2-3 min subs, I'd be happy for now. The area where I image is Jones Beach on long island NY, I believe its a green or a yellow bortle zone. I would think that I wouldn't be able to do much more than 2 or 3 minutes anyway. Even at 45 seconds, subs from targets to the north and west suffer from sky-glow (I'm 35-40 miles east of Manhattan). South and east and the zenith are very dark on the other hand... Those are the targets I focus on and luckily there are many. 

 

Regards,

Skyhunter1



#6 DSOs4Me

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Posted 13 September 2019 - 10:51 PM

Yes you are correct. As James said above you can do the guide port and may work out for you just fine. PHD is just more robust the other way.


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#7 bobzeq25

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Posted 14 September 2019 - 12:33 AM

Hmmm some hope smile.gif That's what i was thinking... I would imagine that just doing my PA and having a guiding system that would improve tracking even 50% would be an improvement even if "sub-optimal". I would assume it would be even higher than that even just using the ST-4 port. I was concerned that it might not work at all... I can live with "sub-optimal' to keep some hair in my head, but not "non-functioning" lol

 

Can others confirm that the setup will work just using the ST-4 port, even if it might be less versatile for the time being until I'm ready to bite off a little more? I'm looking to add some guiding to the repertoire and improve my tracking for longer subs. I can live with not being able to "dither" at the moment if that function was lost for example.

Yes, using the ST4 port works just fine.  This disadvantages of that are _frequently_ way exaggerated here. 

 

I used it for several months when I started out, no problems.  At some point you'll almost certainly want to connect the mount to the computer for another reason.  That's the natural time to move on from ST-4 guiding.

 

You can dither just fine.  Guiding accuracy is comparable, there's _nothing_ like a 50% loss.  Mostly, you just need to run calibration every time you change targets.

 

It borders on being an esthetic issue.


Edited by bobzeq25, 14 September 2019 - 12:44 AM.

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#8 Der_Pit

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Posted 14 September 2019 - 10:33 AM



Can others confirm that the setup will work just using the ST-4 port, even if it might be less versatile for the time being until I'm ready to bite off a little more? I'm looking to add some guiding to the repertoire and improve my tracking for longer subs. I can live with not being able to "dither" at the moment if that function was lost for example.

Not exactly this setup, as I have different mount(s).  But PHD2 and (camera internal) ST-4 guiding does work without much problems.  I tried it on an old Vixen GP-DX with DD-2 controller, same GP-DX with Synscan upgrade (probably the most similar to your setup) and a CEM60EC.

 

You lose (quite) some comfort, e.g., you'll have to calibrate for each new target as PHD won't get the pointing info.  

So you definitely can quick-start like that.  And then look into eqmod.  Because it is a lot more comfortable that way :)


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#9 SnowWolf

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Posted 14 September 2019 - 02:00 PM

Can others confirm that the setup will work just using the ST-4 port, even if it might be less versatile for the time being until I'm ready to bite off a little more? I'm looking to add some guiding to the repertoire and improve my tracking for longer subs. I can live with not being able to "dither" at the moment if that function was lost for example.

 

 

I did exactly this.  It worked fine until the cable began to fail, but by then, I was ready to move to the eqmod method.



#10 Stelios

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Posted 14 September 2019 - 03:11 PM

ST4 guiding works. *However*. It works less well if your target is near the Pole. It requires calibrating on *each* target. But yes, it's miles better than not guiding at all.

 

There are many benefits to using an acquisition program like SGP, but that's unrelated to mount connection (ST4 vs. ASCOM as the other method is usually called) *for guiding*. 

 

What you can't do without connecting the mount is automated plate-solving (and ASCOM guiding). So at some point it may well be worth your time to try this method which is not as hard as it looks, but for now, you can definitely get by without it.



#11 drd715

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Posted 14 September 2019 - 09:07 PM

I too am just learning to use auto guiding so will eventually get a little fancier with the connections. But I  am using the zwo290mini mono camera to guide. It is mounted in a 90mm 700mmfl guide scope. PHDll via computer into the 290 and 290 direct to the guide port on the mount  The mount is a CGEM-DX. the ppolar alignment is done with a "Polemaster " and the goto alignment is done using an illuminated reticle cross hair eyepiece for centering the alignment stars. It works very well!

  Maybe i should try going through the handset  But it is amazingly accurate just the way it is. The biggest challenge was refining the length of guide exposure and setting the correction rate all to get the smoothest tracking without a runaway overcorrection.  So simple is working for me  I will keep learning more about PHDll , setup, and tweeks as i play with it. 


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#12 SkyHunter1

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 10:26 AM

I'm glad this seems to be a way to keep it simple until I'm ready to move to eqmod or other software as my imaging progresses. :)

 

Thanks to this amazing community so much for your help!!!

 

Regards,

Skyhunter1


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#13 BoskoSLO

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 01:44 PM

When I started with astrophotography I skipped ST-4 and went directly to EQMOD. It thought it's super complicated but you just need to enter your correct location, altitude, time, daytime saving on / off, mount guide rate, your specific rig meridian limits, set mount to JNOW and that's it. And as long as you have either a guide scope + camera or an OAG + camera than you calibrate once in PHD2. Also adjust some settings in PHD2 but default settings should work. I'm switching to OAG because I have some flexture problems and probably buying the ASI 290mm mini as well.


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