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Newbie Q: Celestron NexStar Evolution 6 OR Evolution 8 HD with StarSense with ZWO ASI224MC Camera

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#1 Darth Riker

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Posted 01 January 2020 - 04:25 AM

Hi there,

 

I'm looking to purchase to a telescope to being my journey into the world of telescopes and astrophotography. While I am a total beginner I am looking for a telescope and camera setup that can take me towards being not much more than an intermediate level hobbyist/enthusiast. I want to take photos (and, potentially, videos) to share on social media, for educational purposes (I'm a primary school teacher), as well as printing out the odd one or two (regular photograph to A4/A3 size). I also want to be able to look at all that lovely stuff in the sky with my son (now 4) by having the planet/star/etc the telescope is pointing at being displayed on the computer screen.

 

After literally hours of research I've decided to go with the ZWO ASI224MC camera.

 

However, I'm not sure which telescope would best suit it (and if I would need a Barlow).

 

The two telescopes are from Celestron (https://www.celestro...wifi-telescopes)

 

a: NexStar Evolution 6; OR

 

b: NexStar Evolution 8 HD with StarSense

 

Having read here (https://www.cloudyni...to-zwo-asi-224/ ... second post) that the focal length would need to be right to make effective use of the camera I'm not sure which telescope I should buy.

 

There is a massive difference in price (around AU $2500 for the Evolution 6 and AU $4000 for the Evolution 8 HD with StarSense). I guess my questions are:

 

1. Which telescope would people recommend for the camera I am purchasing AND what I intend on using the setup for?; and

 

2. Do I need a barlow? If so - which of these would work/be best:

a. https://www.curiousp...ith-barlow.html

b. https://www.curiousp...-25-barlow.html

 

Thanks for all your help.


Edited by Darth Riker, 01 January 2020 - 06:05 PM.


#2 Michael Harris

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Posted 02 January 2020 - 12:23 AM

Both of the telescopes you mentioned have the same focal ratio (f/10) and are mounted for primarily visual use. You will be happy with their performance either way, but if you can spend the money get the Evolution 8 and StarSense. For photography, you will limited to the Moon, plabets, and large bright objects like M42 due to the design of the mount. For lunar and planetary photography with the ASI224, the technique involves collecting short video files (say 3000 frames) and then using “stacking” software (several available free, like Registax) to break the video into frames and stack them to improve your data. With the NexStar mounts it is difficult to photograph faint objects that need long exposure times so you may need to wait on those objects. There are tons of text and video tutorials online for this process, and I am sure your family and students will enjoy your new system.



#3 Darth Riker

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 06:08 PM

Thank you. Appreciate the help.

Do you think I should pick up a barlow as well?

I'm looking at these two but don't understand the difference. Would they both work with the ZWO ASI224MC camera?

1. https://www.curiousp...-25-barlow.html

2. https://www.curiousp...ith-barlow.html

#4 Kendahl

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 11:18 PM

My wife's telescope is an Evolution 8 (not an EdgeHD) with a 0.63x reducer-corrector and a 2" diagonal. She does fine without StarSense. Her eyepieces are Explore Scientific 82° models. I bought her the complete set but three (30 mm, 11 mm and 4.5 or 4.7 mm) would be sufficient.

 

The Evolution mount is excellent for visual observing. The cheaper SE mount is pretty good, too. They can also be used for solar, lunar and planetary photography. However, because they are altitude-azimuth mounts, they are not suitable for deep sky photography. For that you need an equatorial mount.

 

The requirements for visual observing are quite different from those for deep sky photography. For visual, you want a large aperture. For photography, you want a fast focal ratio to reduce exposure duration. A focal length well under 1,000 mm makes tracking easier. An autoguider is necessary for exposure durations greater than about one minute. The usual recommendation for a first deep sky telescope is a triplet ED refractor with an aperture of 4" or less. A 6" SCT with a reducer-corrector on an Orion Sirius or iOptron CEM25 mount would be a reasonable compromise between visual and photo. A good set of eyepieces would be Explore Scientific 68° and 62° models with focal lengths of 24 mm, 16 mm, 9 mm and 5.5 mm.



#5 GoFish

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 12:21 AM

Taking pictures of planets (Jupiter, Saturn, and sometimes Mars) is completely different from taking pictures of everything else. An 8” or 11” SCT with a Barlow and an ASI224MC on an alt-az mount would do a really nice job on planets. For “everything else”, i.e. galaxies, globular clusters, nebulae, etc., that setup would not be very good. 

 

There is a rapidly growing segment of amateurs who practice “electronically enhanced astronomy”, or EAA. Essentially, EAA puts on your computer screen what your telescope is seeing in real time. Based on your stated goals, I think EAA might appeal to you. 

 

Personally, I quickly did as much planetary photography as I cared to. I took a few acceptable pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars and I was ready to move on. EAA, however, continues to fascinate me and offers great outreach opportunities.

 

Planetary photography is not a real time observing activity. Only after a lot of processing does the wow! image appear on the screen. With EAA, you and your observing partners can see the wow! shots of deep space objects in real time. It is also a simple matter to save the viewed image for sharing later. 

 

I think I would be in a better position to offer suggestions if I knew how appealing you find planetary imaging vs deep sky observing with EAA. Because I would suggest different systems depending on the response. 



#6 Darth Riker

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 07:15 PM

Taking pictures of planets (Jupiter, Saturn, and sometimes Mars) is completely different from taking pictures of everything else. An 8” or 11” SCT with a Barlow and an ASI224MC on an alt-az mount would do a really nice job on planets. For “everything else”, i.e. galaxies, globular clusters, nebulae, etc., that setup would not be very good. 

 

There is a rapidly growing segment of amateurs who practice “electronically enhanced astronomy”, or EAA. Essentially, EAA puts on your computer screen what your telescope is seeing in real time. Based on your stated goals, I think EAA might appeal to you. 

 

Personally, I quickly did as much planetary photography as I cared to. I took a few acceptable pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars and I was ready to move on. EAA, however, continues to fascinate me and offers great outreach opportunities.

 

Planetary photography is not a real time observing activity. Only after a lot of processing does the wow! image appear on the screen. With EAA, you and your observing partners can see the wow! shots of deep space objects in real time. It is also a simple matter to save the viewed image for sharing later. 

 

I think I would be in a better position to offer suggestions if I knew how appealing you find planetary imaging vs deep sky observing with EAA. Because I would suggest different systems depending on the response. 

 

Hmm. That's a good point. Never heard of EAA before. 

 

What would you recommend as a setup for EAA (that would, as you say, allow me to save ree image for viewing later)?



#7 GoFish

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 08:16 PM

Generally speaking, a scope with a focal length of 600-800mm and a focal ratio of f/5 or f/6 is the sweet spot, IMO. The pixels on CMOS sensors are generally 2.4 to 4.6 um (microns). A good pairing of sensor to telescope results in around 1 arcsecond per pixel image scale. 

 

One of my favorite configurations is a 150mm f/5 Omni XLT Newtonian with ASI294MC camera. The resulting pixel scale is 1.3 and the field of view is 1.5 x 1.0 degrees. 

 

A second configuration I use and like is a 200mm f/10 SCT with f/6.3 reducer with the 294MC camera. The image scale is a little small at 0.75 (oversampled) and the FOV is 0.9 x 0.6 degrees. A camera with slightly smaller pixels would be closer to ideal with that scope, but it works well enough. Or a scope with shorter focal length would fit the camera better. 

 

A configuration I have not used, but has very nice numbers and should be outstanding, would be a 150mm f/10 SCT with f/6.3 reducer and 294 MC camera. This gives an image scale of 1.0 and FOV of 1.2 x 0.9 degrees. 

 

A nice thing about EAA is that exposures are short. So most of the time the tracking of an alt-az mount is “good enough.” Even though that is true, I personally choose to use an equatorial mount for most sessions. Lots of different opinions on this matter, but it usually comes down to issues of cost and setup convenience. I also like that a GEM lets you put a different OTA on the mount if you want in the future. 

 

For you to kick around, I’ll suggest some options. 

 

Option 1:

  • Celestron 6SE (OTA only, no mount)
  • Celestron f/6.3 reducer
  • Celestron AVX mount (GEM)
  • ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera

Option 2 = Option 1 but substitute Evolution 6 for 6SE and AVX

  • You need to confirm there is enough clearance below the scope for the reducer and camera when pointed straight overhead - I am unsure

Option 3 = substitute ASI224MC camera and 0.5X reducer with either Option 1 or 2

  • FOV is reduced to only 0.37 x 0.28 degrees (pretty tiny = harder to find the object you are looking for, even with GoTo)
  • Big cost savings on camera
  • Not quite as sharp optically when using the 0.5X reducer (my experience)
  • Could do some non-optimal planetary imaging with a strong Barlow

Option 4 = Option 1, except with Celestron Omni XLT 150 f/5 Newtonian

  • Very nice for EAA
  • Not so good for visual due to awkward eyepiece locations (you can rotate the tube, though)

Use this site to try out some other options

https://astronomy.to.../field_of_view/

 

EDIT: I see that Celestron offers combos of AVX+6” SCT or AVX+6” Newt on their web site. So you wouldn’t necessarily have to buy mount and OTA separately. 


Edited by GoFish, 06 January 2020 - 08:30 PM.


#8 Darth Riker

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 07:37 AM

Generally speaking, a scope with a focal length of 600-800mm and a focal ratio of f/5 or f/6 is the sweet spot, IMO. The pixels on CMOS sensors are generally 2.4 to 4.6 um (microns). A good pairing of sensor to telescope results in around 1 arcsecond per pixel image scale. 

 

One of my favorite configurations is a 150mm f/5 Omni XLT Newtonian with ASI294MC camera. The resulting pixel scale is 1.3 and the field of view is 1.5 x 1.0 degrees. 

 

A second configuration I use and like is a 200mm f/10 SCT with f/6.3 reducer with the 294MC camera. The image scale is a little small at 0.75 (oversampled) and the FOV is 0.9 x 0.6 degrees. A camera with slightly smaller pixels would be closer to ideal with that scope, but it works well enough. Or a scope with shorter focal length would fit the camera better. 

 

A configuration I have not used, but has very nice numbers and should be outstanding, would be a 150mm f/10 SCT with f/6.3 reducer and 294 MC camera. This gives an image scale of 1.0 and FOV of 1.2 x 0.9 degrees. 

 

A nice thing about EAA is that exposures are short. So most of the time the tracking of an alt-az mount is “good enough.” Even though that is true, I personally choose to use an equatorial mount for most sessions. Lots of different opinions on this matter, but it usually comes down to issues of cost and setup convenience. I also like that a GEM lets you put a different OTA on the mount if you want in the future. 

 

For you to kick around, I’ll suggest some options. 

 

Option 1:

  • Celestron 6SE (OTA only, no mount)
  • Celestron f/6.3 reducer
  • Celestron AVX mount (GEM)
  • ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera

Option 2 = Option 1 but substitute Evolution 6 for 6SE and AVX

  • You need to confirm there is enough clearance below the scope for the reducer and camera when pointed straight overhead - I am unsure

Option 3 = substitute ASI224MC camera and 0.5X reducer with either Option 1 or 2

  • FOV is reduced to only 0.37 x 0.28 degrees (pretty tiny = harder to find the object you are looking for, even with GoTo)
  • Big cost savings on camera
  • Not quite as sharp optically when using the 0.5X reducer (my experience)
  • Could do some non-optimal planetary imaging with a strong Barlow

Option 4 = Option 1, except with Celestron Omni XLT 150 f/5 Newtonian

  • Very nice for EAA
  • Not so good for visual due to awkward eyepiece locations (you can rotate the tube, though)

Use this site to try out some other options

https://astronomy.to.../field_of_view/

 

EDIT: I see that Celestron offers combos of AVX+6” SCT or AVX+6” Newt on their web site. So you wouldn’t necessarily have to buy mount and OTA separately. 

Thank you so much for this.

 

Just curious - looking at the astronomy.tools website with the FOV calculator (set to Imaging Mode ...I'm assuming that's the mode I want for EAA):

 

1. Do I want as large a field of view as I can afford (for example - when looking at the Moon, or M42 (Orion Nebula), etc, seeing the area the "box" covers)?

 

2. When looking at a planet - I'm assuming I will be able to "zoom in" on the planet with my EAA setup (haven't decided on it yet - depends on availability and price)?


Edited by Darth Riker, 07 January 2020 - 07:39 AM.


#9 GoFish

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 12:21 PM

Thank you so much for this.

 

Just curious - looking at the astronomy.tools website with the FOV calculator (set to Imaging Mode ...I'm assuming that's the mode I want for EAA):

 

1. Do I want as large a field of view as I can afford (for example - when looking at the Moon, or M42 (Orion Nebula), etc, seeing the area the "box" covers)?

 

2. When looking at a planet - I'm assuming I will be able to "zoom in" on the planet with my EAA setup (haven't decided on it yet - depends on availability and price)?

There is no disadvantage (except camera cost) to a wide FOV. As you said, you would zoom in tighter for planets. These cameras also support setting a ROI (region of interest) using the camera driver to avoid dealing with the entire frame when a wide FOV is not desired. 

 

The ideal image scale for planetary (not deep sky) is typically obtained when the focal ratio of your optics equals approximately 5 times the pixel size of your camera. For a 6” f/10 scope, assuming the 224 camera (3.75 um pixels) this says you would need a 1.9X Barlow, and the image scale would be around 0.27 “/px. 

 

With the 294 camera (4.63 um), ideally use a 2.3X or greater Barlow to get a similar image scale (0.27). 

 

What’s behind this 5x rule of thumb is the Nyquist criterion for sampling so that you capture the smallest planetary details possible with your scope, given the limitations imposed by diffraction. In general terms, Nyquist says you should sample at 1/3 the diffraction-limited resolution of your optics, which is around 0.8” for a 6” scope. 

 

If you were shopping for the ideal planetary imaging setup, you might consider an 11” SCT instead of 6”, and a camera with smaller pixels (say 2.4 um). An 11” SCT, even with no Barlow, would give you sampling of 0.15 “/px using a camera with 2.4 um pixels. In short intervals of nearly perfect seeing during the video capture, this level of sampling will show more detail than a 6” is capable of capturing. 

 

But an 11” SCT with a small pixel camera would be terrible for EAA observing nebulae and most bright galaxies. No single scope, mount, and camera can do everything in an optimal way 😢.



#10 Darth Riker

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 06:56 PM

There is no disadvantage (except camera cost) to a wide FOV. As you said, you would zoom in tighter for planets. These cameras also support setting a ROI (region of interest) using the camera driver to avoid dealing with the entire frame when a wide FOV is not desired.

The ideal image scale for planetary (not deep sky) is typically obtained when the focal ratio of your optics equals approximately 5 times the pixel size of your camera. For a 6” f/10 scope, assuming the 224 camera (3.75 um pixels) this says you would need a 1.9X Barlow, and the image scale would be around 0.27 “/px.

With the 294 camera (4.63 um), ideally use a 2.3X or greater Barlow to get a similar image scale (0.27).

What’s behind this 5x rule of thumb is the Nyquist criterion for sampling so that you capture the smallest planetary details possible with your scope, given the limitations imposed by diffraction. In general terms, Nyquist says you should sample at 1/3 the diffraction-limited resolution of your optics, which is around 0.8” for a 6” scope.

If you were shopping for the ideal planetary imaging setup, you might consider an 11” SCT instead of 6”, and a camera with smaller pixels (say 2.4 um). An 11” SCT, even with no Barlow, would give you sampling of 0.15 “/px using a camera with 2.4 um pixels. In short intervals of nearly perfect seeing during the video capture, this level of sampling will show more detail than a 6” is capable of capturing.

But an 11” SCT with a small pixel camera would be terrible for EAA observing nebulae and most bright galaxies. No single scope, mount, and camera can do everything in an optimal way .

Wow. Thanks heaps! I'm very much a rookie in this field.

I definitely want an EAA setup (since my main purpose is to share what I see now on a screen with family and friends ...in particular with my son for some nice bonding time!).

I guess at the end of the day I want a setup that will allow me to look at planets, nebulae, etc in a nice enough quality. It doesn't have to brilliantly detailed. Just good enough.

Would this be achievable with a set scope, mount and camera - but just swapping in and out a barlow/reducer and changing the eyepiece?

I was looking at the ZWO ASI294MC-Pro camera with either a 6" or 8" scope on a Celestron Advanced VX mount and tripod.

I'm looking at picking one of the ones listed here: http://www.sirius-op...ron advanced vx



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#11 GoFish

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 09:17 PM

I was looking at the ZWO ASI294MC-Pro camera with either a 6" or 8" scope on a Celestron Advanced VX mount and tripod.

I'm looking at picking one of the ones listed here: http://www.sirius-op...ron advanced vx

 

Either of those scope/mount setups with that camera would be excellent, IMO.

 

By selecting a GEM you’re getting more versatility in return for somewhat less ease of setup.

 

8” will give you better visual observation of planets, but with only slightly less FOV for EAA. A nice trade off. FWIW, I use 2x2 binning frequently doing EAA with my 8”, f/6.3 reducer, and 294 to avoid oversampling. Works nicely. 

 

An 8” SCT is a lot like a Swiss Army knife! 



#12 Darth Riker

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 02:18 PM

Either of those scope/mount setups with that camera would be excellent, IMO.

By selecting a GEM you’re getting more versatility in return for somewhat less ease of setup.

8” will give you better visual observation of planets, but with only slightly less FOV for EAA. A nice trade off. FWIW, I use 2x2 binning frequently doing EAA with my 8”, f/6.3 reducer, and 294 to avoid oversampling. Works nicely.

An 8” SCT is a lot like a Swiss Army knife!

Awesome.

Well, do you think the following setup will be a good balance for planetary & nebulae/clusters viewing (EAA and visual). Again, it doesn't have to brilliantly detailed. Just good enough.:

Celestron C8 SCT (http://www.sirius-op...ith-c8-sct.html)
Celestron AVX
Celestron f/6.3 reducer
ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera
Celestron SkyPortal WiFi Module (Do I need StarSense as well?)

Should I purchase a 2x Barlow as well? What other accessories do you recommend (eyepieces, filters, etc)?

How do you power your Celestron AVX mount? I was going to buy a Celestron PowerTank (or should I get the Celestron PowerTank Pro?)? Is there a cheaper option that would work just as well?

Edited by Darth Riker, 08 January 2020 - 03:01 PM.


#13 GoFish

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 10:34 PM

I would encourage you to consider other opinions as well (everyone has one, you know). With that disclaimer, I’ll offer this:

 

Yes, I think that would be a good setup. I have an identical rig myself that I use during summers in the mountains. I use it for visual and EAA. Have not used it for planetary imaging, though. 

 

I like the SkyFi3 WiFi module versus the SkyPortal. That’s a whole other thread, though. 

 

I have StarSense and like it very much on this setup. The GPS module is nice, too, and eliminates one of the setup steps each night. 

 

You do not need any of those, but they are nice to have. I would probably prioritize in this order:  StarSense, GPS, WiFi. 

 

If you plan to take beautiful pictures of Saturn using “lucky imaging” you will want a 2X or 3X Barlow. (EDIT: you won’t need a Barlow for visual or EAA with an f/10 scope). 

 

You will also want the Celestron camera adapter 93633-A. The camera comes with spacer rings to give you the right (105mm) spacing from reducer to sensor when you incorporate the Celestron adapter. Sequence is scope - reducer - 93633 - spacer rings - camera. 

 

Get an IR blocking filter. You should be able to use a 1.25” filter with the neat little 1.25” filter adapter ZWO provides with the camera.

 

For power, I use a Celestron PowerTank (the SLA variety). When I have some extra funds, I’ll look seriously at their new lithium PowerTanks. Get an aftermarket battery charger/tender for SLA. Don’t use the charger that comes with the Celestron SLA PowerTanks. It will ruin the battery. 

 

Eyepieces?  I think 40mm, 25mm, and 9mm would be adequate for starters. Again, a whole thread could be written for this. 


Edited by GoFish, 08 January 2020 - 10:40 PM.


#14 Darth Riker

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 02:38 AM

I would encourage you to consider other opinions as well (everyone has one, you know). With that disclaimer, I’ll offer this:
 
Yes, I think that would be a good setup. I have an identical rig myself that I use during summers in the mountains. I use it for visual and EAA. Have not used it for planetary imaging, though.


Fair enough. I guess - having done a bit of reading (hours ...I feel like it is a bit endless sometimes) - I do like the Celestron scopes (even if they are a bit more expensive in Australia).

I do need to make a decision at some point and, for me, this setup appears that it will do the job for now for me in the beginner working towards to intermediate experience.

 

I like the SkyFi3 WiFi module versus the SkyPortal. That’s a whole other thread, though.


Yep. Seen that thread in the forums. Good to know.
 
 

I have StarSense and like it very much on this setup. The GPS module is nice, too, and eliminates one of the setup steps each night. 
 
You do not need any of those, but they are nice to have. I would probably prioritize in this order:  StarSense, GPS, WiFi.


Ah. I was wondering about this. StarSense would replace the HC that comes with the Celestron AVX mount so I could, technically, use all three.
 
 

If you plan to take beautiful pictures of Saturn using “lucky imaging” you will want a 2X or 3X Barlow. (EDIT: you won’t need a Barlow for visual or EAA with an f/10 scope). 
 
You will also want the Celestron camera adapter 93633-A. The camera comes with spacer rings to give you the right (105mm) spacing from reducer to sensor when you incorporate the Celestron adapter. Sequence is scope - reducer - 93633 - spacer rings - camera. 
 
Get an IR blocking filter. You should be able to use a 1.25” filter with the neat little 1.25” filter adapter ZWO provides with the camera.


Ah. Thank you. Will definitely add this to the list and keep in mind the parts I need to use depending on what I'm doing. Will probably end up keeping a little notebook with handwritten notes about setup attached to the scope so I don't have to remember everything (I'm 40 - still a fan of the old book and pencil/pen).

 

For power, I use a Celestron PowerTank (the SLA variety). When I have some extra funds, I’ll look seriously at their new lithium PowerTanks. Get an aftermarket battery charger/tender for SLA. Don’t use the charger that comes with the Celestron SLA PowerTanks. It will ruin the battery.


Yeah. Think I will end up outlaying a bit more for the newer PowerTank Lithium (Pro might be needed if powering things like StarSense, GPS and WiFi).
 

Eyepieces?  I think 40mm, 25mm, and 9mm would be adequate for starters. Again, a whole thread could be written for this.

See similar advice elsewhere. Good point, though. Will read up a bit more. My aim is to just have three eyepieces (to start with) and combine that with a Barlow to, essentially, give me six eyepieces (with some dimming due to the use of the Barlow of course).

Edited by Darth Riker, 09 January 2020 - 02:40 AM.


#15 Darth Riker

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 04:45 PM

Just a follow up query.

Let's say I have the following setup for EAA:

  • Celestron C8 SCT with Celestron AVX mount
  • Celestron f/6.3 reducer
  • Celestron camera adapter 93633-A
  • Spacer rings
  • IR Blocking Filter  (is this needed for EAA? I'm assuming I place it between the spacer rings and the camera)
  • ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera
  • StarSense connected to the HC port (replacing the standard HC that came with the mount)
  • Celestron GPS connected to an AUX port on the mount
  • A WiFi Module (Celestron SkyPortal/SkyFi3) connected to an AUX port on the mount

 

  • The ZWO camera is connected to a laptop running appropriate software.

Now, if I wanted to do some imaging, I would swap out the f/6.3 reducer for 2x/3x Barlow (and, potentially, change the the software I'm using on the laptop as well).

 

Would I want to do anything else? I'm assuming that I don't need an autoguider connected to the autoguider port on the mount since I could just use existing equipment/software to do that.
 


Edited by Darth Riker, 09 January 2020 - 04:46 PM.


#16 GoFish

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 05:42 PM

Just a follow up query.

Let's say I have the following setup for EAA:

  • Celestron C8 SCT with Celestron AVX mount
  • Celestron f/6.3 reducer
  • Celestron camera adapter 93633-A
  • Spacer rings
  • IR Blocking Filter  (is this needed for EAA? I'm assuming I place it between the spacer rings and the camera)
  • ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera
  • StarSense connected to the HC port (replacing the standard HC that came with the mount)
  • Celestron GPS connected to an AUX port on the mount
  • A WiFi Module (Celestron SkyPortal/SkyFi3) connected to an AUX port on the mount

 

  • The ZWO camera is connected to a laptop running appropriate software.

Now, if I wanted to do some imaging, I would swap out the f/6.3 reducer for 2x/3x Barlow (and, potentially, change the the software I'm using on the laptop as well).

 

Would I want to do anything else? I'm assuming that I don't need an autoguider connected to the autoguider port on the mount since I could just use existing equipment/software to do that.
 

By imaging, I take you to mean planetary imaging (DSO imaging is an entirely different matter). To do planetary imaging using that equipment I would:

  • (Remove the reducer, camera adapter, spacer rings, filter/filter adapter, and camera if you’ve been EAA’ing)
  • Restore the 1.25” visual back to the scope (the scope will have come with this installed - you will take it off for EAA config)
  • Install your 1.25” Barlow into the visual back
  • Thread a 1.25” nosepiece onto the camera (I think it comes with one.  If not, cheap to buy)
  • Screw the IR blocking filter into the end of the nosepiece
  • Slide the nosepiece into the Barlow
  • Refocus
  • Take videos using SharpCap, FireCapture, or other capture program

It is fine to use all 1.25” stuff for imaging planets. You can also use a small ROI setting in the camera. Planets are tiny compared to the available FOV. 

 

Maybe some planetary imagers can chime in here:  are extension tubes, simulating the optical path through the missing diagonal, advisable to keep the focal point of the scope in approximately the right location?

 

As far as IR blocking for EAA, I would say yes. The 294 has a very clever little adapter that lets you use a 1.25” filter with supposedly minimal vignetting. This adapter lets you place the filter up close to the sensor without interfering with the 48mm spacer rings. Hard to describe, easy to use. (My 1.25” IR filter is loaned to a friend, so I haven’t actually done this yet. Instead, I’ve been using a 2” filter instead and messing up my ring spacing). 

 

FWIW, the SkyFi3 attaches to the hand control, not an AUX port. I think SkyPortal connects to an AUX port, though. 

 

EDIT: you should not need guiding for EAA or planetary imaging. Guiding for AP is done using an ASCOM connection from computer to mount, not through the ST4 guide port on the mount. 


Edited by GoFish, 09 January 2020 - 05:45 PM.


#17 Darth Riker

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 05:52 PM

Thank you. I really appreciate all the the help you have given me. Very clear as well.
 
Yes - it would be planetary imaging.

 
Out of curiosity - what would I need to do for DSO imaging? Or would I need an entirely different setup (scope, mount, etc) for that?

 

EDIT: Looks like I would need a different scope and mount based on what I've read here https://www.cloudyni...e/#entry9904321 . I'm fine with that - since my main goal is actually EAA (with the rare/occasional-at-most planetary imaging). Fine going in knowing the AVX mount with the C8 is not good for more extensive imaging.


 

Maybe some planetary imagers can chime in here:  are extension tubes, simulating the optical path through the missing diagonal, advisable to keep the focal point of the scope in approximately the right location?


I'd be interested to know that, too.


Edited by Darth Riker, 09 January 2020 - 06:56 PM.


#18 GoFish

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 10:10 PM

Cheapest thing, long run, would be to buy a better mount now. A great mount can still be used for less demanding stuff, like EAA, planetary imaging, and visual. But an average mount, like the AVX, could only take you so far with “real” astrophotography. (But a caveat — “great” mounts can be big and heavy). 

 

I think the 8” SCT would still make sense as a general purpose OTA to do the things discussed so far. But for AP you want an ED doublet or triplet APO refractor, 60-80mm, f/6 or thereabouts. 

 

Better mounts might include:

  • SkyWatcher HEQ5 (sold in the US as Orion Sirius)
  • SkyWatcher EQ6R Pro
  • SkyWatcher AZ-EQ5 Pro
  • iOptron iEQ30
  • iOptron CEM25
  • Celestron CGEM II

I only have personal experience with the SW HEQ5 (Sirius) and SW NEQ6 (aka Orion Atlas).  The HEQ5 is a nice little mount, not too expensive or heavy, in widespread use, and can get you started in AP. You can buy a StarSense for it, too, which keeps you in the NexStar hand control ecosystem for visual use and maybe EAA.

 

There is a nice, free mount control software system for the SW mounts called EQMOD that is good for EAA and AP. EQMOD makes the hand control unnecessary, so does not work with StarSense. 

 

You certainly would not be nuts to start AP with a short refractor and the AVX, as long as you understand the limitations of the mount. Many people experience trouble getting it to guide well. I haven’t guided mine enough to have a valid opinion either way. It works just fine for EAA and is great for visual.  

 

If you took that route, you would put off spending more money until you were sure that AP was your thing. Many of the serious AP mounts are beast-like and you’d probably still appreciate having the AVX for visual use and EAA.  If this is your first mount, you may not be prepared for how heavy they are (I wasn’t). 

 

The middle ground might be the HEQ5, possibly paired with a StarSense for SW system. Just about as portable as the AVX (the mount head is a few pounds heavier, the tripod a few pounds lighter). And by almost all reports a better mount for AP. 



#19 Darth Riker

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 07:15 AM

The middle ground might be the HEQ5, possibly paired with a StarSense for SW system. Just about as portable as the AVX (the mount head is a few pounds heavier, the tripod a few pounds lighter). And by almost all reports a better mount for AP.

Thanks for the advice. Did some reading and have decided to go with the SkyWatcher HEQ5 Pro mount here: http://www.sirius-op...o-to-mount.html and combine it with the Celestron C8 SCT scope here: http://www.sirius-op...embly-cg-5.html.
 
My setup preference is to use a StarSense for SW (http://www.sirius-op...xon-mounts.html) combined with a SkyFi 3 (connected to the HC) and a Celestron GPS.
 
This is because, for my EAA setup, I want my laptop to be reserved for the connection to the ZWO camera.
 
Hopefully the weight should be fine for the HEQ5. I haven't made the calculations yet.
 
Just need to the think about how I'm going to power everything. Don't really want to be running extension cords back into the house so will look into some decent portable battery that can handle the amps/volts load.
 
 
For AP, though,  I'm not entirely clear on how this works:

  • Would I need to disconnect everything, connect the scope to my laptop with EQMOD and use that for autoguiding?
  • Do I need a second "guide camera" if I'm using EQMOD for autoguiding?
  • Would my laptop be fine running EQMOD for autoguiding and running my choice of AP software connected to my ZWO camera?

Edited by Darth Riker, 10 January 2020 - 09:20 AM.


#20 GoFish

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 08:40 AM

For AP, though,  I'm not entirely clear on how this works:

  • Would I need to disconnect everything, connect the scope to my laptop with EQMOD and use that for autoguiding?
  • Do I need a second "guide camera" if I'm using EQMOD for autoguiding?
  • Would my laptop be fine running EQMOD for autoguiding and running my choice of AP software connected to my ZWO camera?

 

  1. For autoguiding you need an ASCOM connection to the mount. I think most people use EQMOD on the SW mounts. It may be possible, though, to create an ASCOM connection through the hand control using a Celestron driver.  But no real reason to do something different from EQMOD. 
  2. Yes, and a small guide scope. 
  3. Yes. Plus you would run a 3rd program for pointing. Maybe Cartes du Ciel, Stellarium, or similar. You will eventually end up using platesolving software, too, for precise object location. 

For a little more clarity:  guiding is done by PHD2. EQMOD provides the ASCOM interface to the mount for PHD2 to use. This ASCOM interface is also used by CdC, Stellarium, image acquisition software, etc. to talk with the mount. 


Edited by GoFish, 10 January 2020 - 08:47 AM.


#21 Brass Hat

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 09:43 AM

A good setup for eaa is the revolution imager sold by Orange County telescopes. I’ve had version one and two. You got great advise in the posts above. I started with a celestron c8 and added starsense. Great for visual use. I added the revolution imager and liked it too. Then I got an evolution 9.25. Even better for visual and just ok for dslr astrophotography. Lots of short subs due to the tracking. I still have it. Next was the cgem 2 with a 9.25 ota with a explore scientific 80 mm triplet mounted on top. I also added starsense. Love that set up. 



#22 Jeff Lee

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 09:45 AM

For more information about EAA look in the specialty forums here on CN's.

 

A c8 can be a life long scope.

 

I have both a 224 & 294. For EAA you can get by with the uncooled version of the 294. The 224 is good but even the FR6.3 won't get you where you will want to be regarding area that is captured. A used Mead focal reducer FR3.3 or the new f4 FR (lots of posts about this new FR and its manufacturer in the EAA forum). With software called SharpCap you can get printable images from a SE or Evolution setup. If you want to cover your all bases the SW or Orion AZ-EQ 5 (Sirius PRO Orion) can do both AlAZ or EQ (for AP) - it's what I went with.

 

If it were me I'd go for one of the versions of the 294 and then decided if EAA got me "good enough" images. Beware of the 294 cooled on the Evolution mount as the length of that camera can interfere with view at the higher elevations (Zenith).

 

I'd spend a few hours in the EAA forum and get a lot of information needed to make this purchase decision IMHO. 


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#23 GoFish

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 10:01 AM

If you want to cover your all bases the SW or Orion AZ-EQ 5 (Sirius PRO Orion) can do both AlAZ or EQ (for AP) - it's what I went with.

 

 

Happen to know if StarSense for SW is smart enough to know about the alt-az mode?  I started to include this mount with my other suggestions, but stopped b/c I wasn’t sure about SSSW support. 



#24 Jeff Lee

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 10:46 AM

I don't know as I tend to get aligned very quickly in AZ and use plate solve in SharpCap to make sure I have the target on the sensor. I have limited sky access and generally have to align on my choices of few stars. SS I think would require a more open sky IMHO.



#25 Darth Riker

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 01:45 PM

Happen to know if StarSense for SW is smart enough to know about the alt-az mode?  I started to include this mount with my other suggestions, but stopped b/c I wasn’t sure about SSSW support.


From what I've read it appears to be the case.
 

For more information about EAA look in the specialty forums here on CN's.
 
A c8 can be a life long scope.
 
I have both a 224 & 294. For EAA you can get by with the uncooled version of the 294. The 224 is good but even the FR6.3 won't get you where you will want to be regarding area that is captured. A used Mead focal reducer FR3.3 or the new f4 FR (lots of posts about this new FR and its manufacturer in the EAA forum). With software called SharpCap you can get printable images from a SE or Evolution setup. If you want to cover your all bases the SW or Orion AZ-EQ 5 (Sirius PRO Orion) can do both AlAZ or EQ (for AP) - it's what I went with.
 
If it were me I'd go for one of the versions of the 294 and then decided if EAA got me "good enough" images. Beware of the 294 cooled on the Evolution mount as the length of that camera can interfere with view at the higher elevations (Zenith).
 
I'd spend a few hours in the EAA forum and get a lot of information needed to make this purchase decision IMHO.


I did look at the AZ-EQ5 mount. Unfortunately, this takes me out of my budget. My initial equipment purchase will be (all in $AUD since I'm in Australia):

So yeah - that's enough money for me to be spending initially.

 

Although - I am considering holding off on the camera for the initial equipment purchase as well and just going visual to start with then purchasing the camera when I have saved a bit more money to start EAA (and, after some more time, spending a bit more money to do some basic AP).

 

Couple of questions for all (sorry in advance):
 
1. Do you still recommend an f/3.3 or f/4 FR with the 294 or will the f/6.3 with the 294 be enough?
 
2. Would I also need a moon filter??
 
3.a. Is a cheaper alternative to the ZWO ASI294MC Pro that work as a nice EAA camera but also provide beginner to intermediate level AP (planetary imaging mainly with basic level DSO)?
 
3.b. If not - what would recommend for use as an EAA camera (with maybe beginner level AP at most if at all) that doesn't have the price tag of the ASI294MC? Would there be a cheaper DSLR option?
 

And yes - I've spent quite a bit of time over at the EAA forum as well (and will be spending more time there). I have plenty of reading time under my belt (probably won't be making my equipment purchase until around March due to the wife's need to buy a new car tongue2.gif ) to save up the money and do some more reading (and annoying very helpful people on this forum with my questions).


Edited by Darth Riker, 10 January 2020 - 06:41 PM.



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