First light with my new telescope this weekend. I am new to GOTO mounts and astrophotography with laptops, etc. I think I finally got everything mainly working, but I was going to post my findings in the event another newbie needs guidance (yes, great, the mostly blind leading the blind -- that's the internet for you).
IMPORTANT NOTE: the newest Skywatcher EQ6-R PRO mounts have a Version 5 Hand Controller (HC) with a USB port and the mount also has a USB port.
- Most of the threads and information on the web refer to setting up the older mounts that require a USB to Serial adapter.
- I found the Skywatcher website to also be a little confusing due to lack of clarity around the V5 hand controller (even the manual included with the mount does not reference the USB port).
- Please be aware that many owners of the the older Skywatcher EQ6-R without the USB ports are not aware of this recent change and while they clearly have good intentions in trying to help with questions, the new mounts are different, so the information provided is not always up-to-date.
This is a picture I stole of the new USB version of the hand controller and mount. This is how you know you have the newer mount and the V5 hand controller:
The good news is that this new mount is pretty simple to control from a laptop. This is what I did from a Windows 10 laptop:
1. Installed ASCOM Platform Version 6 (here).
- This provides the underlying infrastructure for applications like APT and PHD2 to control various types of equipment including the mount.
- This requires .NET 3.5 which was not on my Windows 10 laptop by default, so I had to add it as a Windows Feature through the Programs and Features in the old school Control Panel: Turn Windows Features On or Off.
- This can be a little hard to find, but if you search on "Control Panel" in the Windows 10 search bar and the go to "Programs," you will find it.
2. Installed the Skywatcher ASCOM Driver from the Skywatcher site (here).
- There are two drivers there. I installed the second one labeled "ASCOM Driver for SynScan Hand Controller".
- This lets apps like APT and PHD2 talk specifically to the Skywatcher mounts through the Hand Controller USB port.
- There is also a driver for Skywatcher mounts on the ASCOM website, but I read one advantage of the Skywatcher one is that the controller does not need to be in PC Direct mode for apps to control the mount.
3. Setup and aligned the Mount and connected the Hand Controller (HC) with the supplied cable.
- I upgraded the HC to the latest firmware version as well.
- This is done with the loader and firmware on the Skywatcher Website.
- While the loader app description mentions only the V3 and V4 controllers, it works for the V5 as well with basically the same instructions.
4. Connected the Hand Controller to the laptop with a USB cable
- I used the USB type A to type B included with the mount.
- I had already connected the Hand Controller to the mount with the supplied cable and had turned on the mount).
- This step in important because this is what makes a COM port available to the ASCOM driver. You will not see a COM port in the Device Manager until the HC is connected.
- The HC does NOT need to be in PC Direct Mode. Actually, ASCOM applications will NOT see the mount if it is.
- I found, however, that the SynScan Pro does see the mount with this driver if the HC is in PC Direct Mode, although the instructions say to use the other ASCOM driver on the Skywatcher website if you want to use SynScan Pro.
- I assume this driver is meant to be connected via the USB port directly on the mount, but I did not try it.
5. Ran the ASCOM Diagnostics tool to test it.
- I selected the Skywatcher telescope, configured it with the COM port and other information (mine was COM3), and then used Choose Device to test that ASCOM could connect to the mount.
- I used the Telescope Chooser (using .NET) from the Tool menu option first and then Choose Device to test it.
- There are two Choose Device options. Since everything I have it 64 bit, I did not use the 32 bit option.
6. Controlled the scope/mount with APT
- Once all of this was working, I purchased and installed APT (from here) and I was able to connect APT to my Skywatcher Telescope config via the Gear tab and move the telescope around.