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Setup for Skywatcher EQ6-R PRO with SynScan V5 Controller and USB Ports

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#1 magnetar68

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 03:16 PM

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:

 

SkywatcherEQ6RPRO_USB.jpg

 

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.

  • FLT-Astro, impateint_astronomer, TXLS99 and 1 other like this

#2 FLT-Astro

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 07:13 PM

Thanks for the post. Only thing that through me off was when navigating to the ASCOM site to download the software there seemed to be a lot of options available, but after a while I just installed the whole software package instead of specific drivers for my specific equipment.

 

I'm currently working through your setup steps. Your post motivated me to finally dive in and get the computer connected to the mount. I have been simply learning the mount through use of the handset and putting off the next step which, of course, is setting up the mount and using my laptop to control the mount/scope. 

 

I think you've listed everything needed to get the scope moving with laptop control, but now it's just a matter of using and learning the software...  Menus, icons, setup, what/where to click and when, etc. I've installed everything and was able to control the mount through ASCOM inputs, but haven't quite figured out how to make APT work the mount, but I'm reading and experimenting with it.

 

Eventually I'd like to use KStars to point, track, guide, although i really have no idea if that is possible. I seem to remember that I read somewhere about another user using KStars and liked it better too. So far, I've been very happy with the EQ6-RPro and I know it'll get better when I finally learn to use all it's capabilities. I'm using an 8' Newt on my EQ6-Rpro with a Macbook running Windows 10 through bootcamp and it seems to be fine, so far.  Okay, back to tinkering with APT, ASCOM and Computer control.

 

Thanks for a great post and hopefully a few others will join in and add to the post .  (Also wanted to mention the EQ6-R Owners Club is a pretty good read on another astronomy sight.)  Easily found with an internet search.


Edited by FLT-Astro, 17 November 2019 - 07:17 PM.


#3 Jeff Struve

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:40 AM

I believe that you can increase accuracy and dependability by using an EQ to USB cable such as those sold by Shoestring Astronomy... By using this cable, you can remove the hand controller from the chain and plug directly from mount to computer.



#4 3snows

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 09:24 AM

With the new mount pictured above with the USB-B connector on the mount, you can connect from PC directly to mount without the hand controller using a standard USB cable.

 

I just received my EQ6 mount last week and have connected directly to the mount using the exact same configuration above without a problem.  I did also play around with the hand controller just to learn how to use it (very different from a Nexstar menu) but plan on rarely using it.

 

I've tested this direct connection with APT, Stellarium Scope (and the new Stellarium ASCOM), NINA, PHD2, and SharpCap all without issue.  



#5 Teddythefinger

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 10:44 AM

Man thanks for this! My heq5 pro just came in and I saw it had the USB port on the HC too. Wish I had found that out before ordering the serial to USB cord because I had a printer cable lying around...

#6 impateint_astronomer

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Posted 09 February 2020 - 01:17 AM

Many thanks for this post! Very helpful....



#7 arrowspace90

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Posted 09 February 2020 - 08:57 AM

With the newer mount, I used EQMOD to bypass the clunky hand controller altogether.  I will control the mount via the session software on my old laptop, and eventually (when the corona virus subsides), from iPad via a ASIAIR PRO.
Whatever floats your boat, I had used celestron hand controllers on my CPC 8 and on the StarSense and found them difficult to both read and input in the dark.

My hand controller just stays in the box.


Edited by arrowspace90, 09 February 2020 - 09:00 AM.

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#8 arrowspace90

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Posted 09 February 2020 - 09:05 AM

Man thanks for this! My heq5 pro just came in and I saw it had the USB port on the HC too. Wish I had found that out before ordering the serial to USB cord because I had a printer cable lying around...

Same thing happened to me, you’re not the only one.



#9 ares53405

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 07:19 PM

 

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.

 

I received the newest Skywatcher EQ6-R PRO mount a week ago and it has a Version 4 Hand Controller (HC) with a USB port.  The mount also has a USB port.

 

Mark



#10 ares53405

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 07:57 PM

magnetar68...I misunderstood what you were saying so I need to correct myself. smile.gif   My SynScan version is Version 4.  The Hand Controller is indeed Version 5.  Thanks for making me aware of this.

 

Ckear skies,

Mark 



#11 HeavyJohnny

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Posted 06 May 2020 - 06:37 PM

Thank You for this post.

 

I just ordered this mount and was trying to order cables, Looks like they are in the box.

 

I am going to run it through a Pegasus Power Box Advanced along with a ZWO mini filter wheel, Celestron auto-focuser, ZWO AOG Guide camera, ZWO DSO. The problem is that the Pegasus Box only has 4 USB ports on it. I think I can run the guide camera through the hub hub on the ZWO DSO and then into the Hub on the power box.

 

I guess I omit the hand controller all together or do I plug it directly into the usb port on my PC?

 

We will see.

 

Any advice? 

 

 

GG

 

Kevin


Edited by HeavyJohnny, 06 May 2020 - 06:50 PM.


#12 magnetar68

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 09:57 AM

Yes, the guide camera connects to the ZWO Main Camera, so both cameras use only one USB 3.0 connection to your pegasus box.  I use the ZWO ASIair PRO and it only has 4 USBs as well (two 3.0 and two 2.0).

 

I use the hand controller standalone without the USB cable to do the initial 3-star alignment (I plug the RJ45 cable that comes with the Mount and is meant to connect the Hand Controller to the Mount). I read that with my ASIair Pro setup that is the best way to use the ASI App on the iPad.



#13 magnetar68

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 10:09 AM

BTW, I have heard some people say that ZWO has said that the guide camera should not go through the main DSO camera. Perhaps that was true at one time, but the manual is clear that it should and it works fine for me.

 

https://astronomy-im...uide-cooled.pdf



#14 descott12

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 11:00 AM

Thanks alot for this post. Very helpful as I am looking at getting a new AZ-EQ 5 or 6. You are correct, SkyWatcher has done an incredibly poor job of explaining the different model with or without the USB port. Pretty sad really and very confusing with the different ASCOM drivers, hand controller modes and hand controller versions. And none of their web pages or the distributor's web pages tell you which you are getting. I have recently heard from SkyWatcher that the older models are no longer for sale but I find it hard to believe there aren't some still laying around that might be shipped either intentionally or accidentally.

 

Questions:

1) It seems the older models were the "GT" and the new ones with the USB port at "PRO"?

2) When you updated the  HC, was that via USB or the older phone jack connector?

3) Not sure if you will know this yet, but if you control the mount directly via USB and not with the HC, does the mount location and time get set via software (maybe ASCOM or EQMOD or your astronomy program)? Or do you still need the HC connected to set those. I would like to automate the entire process and I find setting the time and timezone every time a major source of human error.

 

Thanks again for the post.



#15 GrafikDihzahyn

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 11:18 AM

descott,

 

He (&you) can forgo the handcontroller and just use the USB with Ascom. Download ASTAP for platesolving, or Platesolve2, etc. Wish I had taken the platesolving leap earlier as it was insanely easy to setup and use. ASTAP works in less than a second, at least with NINA. I was using platesolve2 when I was using APT, just a bit slow. If you use a planetarium software like Stellarium, Cartes du ciel (spelling?), then you can browse, select, slew from there as well. I have to setup each time I image, but with just about everything automated, including polar alignment with the polemaster (can use PHD2, sharpcap, etc to perform same function) I can be setup in under 25 min and already imaging.


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#16 descott12

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 11:21 AM

descott,

 

He (&you) can forgo the handcontroller and just use the USB with Ascom. Download ASTAP for platesolving, or Platesolve2, etc. Wish I had taken the platesolving leap earlier as it was insanely easy to setup and use. ASTAP works in less than a second, at least with NINA. I was using platesolve2 when I was using APT, just a bit slow. If you use a planetarium software like Stellarium, Cartes du ciel (spelling?), then you can browse, select, slew from there as well. I have to setup each time I image, but with just about everything automated, including polar alignment with the polemaster (can use PHD2, sharpcap, etc to perform same function) I can be setup in under 25 min and already imaging.

Perfect. That is what I was hoping for. Thanks for the confirmation.  So no need for EQMOD??



#17 GrafikDihzahyn

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 11:24 AM

You'll still need EQMod and ASCOM, but not the shoestring cable. Those were more for the older serial cable mounts. The new versions have USB integrated already.


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#18 magnetar68

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 08:34 PM

I found this diagram (below) in the Synscan Mobile Command Set documentation which helps clear up a lot of the confusion for me.

 

It shows a few things:

  • Windows Applications that use the ASCOM interface can connect either through the (1) the Hand Controller or (2) Directly, depending on which ASCOM driver you install on the machine.
     
  • The "Skywatcher" ASCOM driver uses the SynScan Communication Protocol which can also go through either the Hand Controller or the SynScan App on a PC or Mobile Device. Therefore, this driver can be  either Hand Controller or direct connect.
     
  • The "SynScanMobile" ASCOM Driver does not need the hand controller and should be a direct connection, but since it is speaking the Motor Controller Command Set, I assume it would work via the PC-Direct mode on the Hand Controller.
     
  • Some 3rd party applications use the SynScan Communciation Protocol (e.g, SkySafari 5) which could therefore connect through the Hand Controller or direct connect.
     
  • While it does not show it explicitly, it is clear to me that the PC-Direct mode on the Hand Controller enables the PC to talk straight to the SkyWatcher Motor Controller Command Set as a pass through.
     
  • Some 3rd Party Apps (e.g. EQMOD) communicate directly to the Sky Watcher Motor Controller Command Set. This means they can use a direct connection or go through the Hand Controller in PC-Direct Mode. On the older mounts, this requires a USB to Serial cable (unless you have an older computer that can use a regular serial to serial cable) but on the newer mounts a regular printer type USB cable works.

 

Anyway, now I know why I was so confused about how this stuff can be setup. It is an example of how engineering flexibility can yield complexity. I am a very visual learner and if all of this was detailed in a manual, I would never of been able to make sense of it, but this diagram is definitely worth its thousand words!

 

SkywatcherInterface.png

 

 



#19 descott12

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Posted 07 May 2020 - 08:44 PM

Yes, that is very helpful. Thanks for posting. 



#20 2ndRecon

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Posted 30 July 2020 - 08:22 PM

Does anyone know if the newer handsets like the handset V5 will work with the older mounts like the neq , and the atlas which shares the same firmware and controller ?

Sure would be nice to have native USB on my ATLAS EQ-G.


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