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Astro Fi-6 - Looking to improve alignment

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#1 Mountain Got

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Posted 16 July 2020 - 07:55 AM

Good Evening,

 

I very recently bought a Celestron Astro Fi-6, which I am still working out what it does best, especially as I'm a total noob to astronomy.

 

One thing I have noticed, that even when I successfully align the scope, it seems to lose track of its targets fairly quickly.

 

Does anyone have any specific recommendations on improving longterm alignment?

 

I can see there are some generic alignment recommendations, but many of them involve the two-star auto align on the SE models, which I don't believe is an option on these Astro FI's.

 

Yes, I am also using batteries (small power pack should arrive next week).

 

Just to elaborate, I aligned tonight on Alpha Centauri, Acrux and Bcrux (I'm in Australia, so the Crux is pretty useful for alignment, and AC is right next door).

After successful alignment, go-to for Jupiter was way out, as was pretty much everything else. Granted, it was a long way to travel to get to Jupiter but I wasn't expecting it to be quite so far out.

 

So although I'm in noob territitory, and I'm not expecting this thing to be a mini hubble, what should my expectations be, and what are the main things I need to do to get the best out of alignment (noting that I don't think two star align is available for this model).

 

Thanks

 

 



#2 sg6

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Posted 16 July 2020 - 08:27 AM

Using batteries is likely the first problem, they do not have the output especially for a decent length slew to target.

 

Next is set up. Too easy to assume that a rough setup will be OK. The better the initial set up the better. Have said that the goto alignment is for the scope to determine all the errors that it has to correct for. And those errors are caused by the operator doing a poor job.

 

What data are you using?

Although if WiFi (I assume from the name) does the scope get GPS information from the phone/tablet ?

 

Unsure but reading your description I half guess that some stars may be too close together - thinking A and B Crux. They sound far too close to each other to be useful. You want 3 that are around 60-100 degrees apart .

 

Add where in Aus you are, answers will otherwise be almost 100% US related, and just about everything will be different. Probably 60% still will be US related but some people may realise.



#3 Mountain Got

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Posted 16 July 2020 - 05:21 PM

Using batteries is likely the first problem, they do not have the output especially for a decent length slew to target.

 

Next is set up. Too easy to assume that a rough setup will be OK. The better the initial set up the better. Have said that the goto alignment is for the scope to determine all the errors that it has to correct for. And those errors are caused by the operator doing a poor job.

 

What data are you using?

Although if WiFi (I assume from the name) does the scope get GPS information from the phone/tablet ?

 

Unsure but reading your description I half guess that some stars may be too close together - thinking A and B Crux. They sound far too close to each other to be useful. You want 3 that are around 60-100 degrees apart .

 

Add where in Aus you are, answers will otherwise be almost 100% US related, and just about everything will be different. Probably 60% still will be US related but some people may realise.

When you say "what data", I'm not 100% sure what you mean.

I'm using the SkyPortal app. Select Align, and then find any three stars. I wasn't aware of the stars needing to be so well spread out, so thanks for the advice.

All other data is auto-detected, such as location, date and time etc.

 

Do you know of a more advanced setup process for these Astro Fi's? Almost everything on here seems to be for the Nex.

 

Thanks again.



#4 Michael_Swanson

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Posted 17 July 2020 - 12:21 AM

Besides selecting widely spaced stars:

- Be sure to center the objects with the right and up buttons to match SkyPortal’s GoTo Approach directions of right and down (the up/down arrows normally reverse at slow slew rates).  If you overshoot, back up and approach again with final movements using the right and up buttons.  This is to eliminate the effects of gear backlash.

- Once the alignment is complete, you can add up to 10 total alignment stars to improve GoTo and tracking performance. In practice, 5 or 6 stars scattered around the sky provide the best performance.  Meaning, you can add another 2 or 3 alignment stars after your first 3.

 

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
https://www.NexStarSite.com



#5 Mountain Got

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Posted 17 July 2020 - 01:18 AM

Besides selecting widely spaced stars:

- Be sure to center the objects with the right and up buttons to match SkyPortal’s GoTo Approach directions of right and down (the up/down arrows normally reverse at slow slew rates).  If you overshoot, back up and approach again with final movements using the right and up buttons.  This is to eliminate the effects of gear backlash.

- Once the alignment is complete, you can add up to 10 total alignment stars to improve GoTo and tracking performance. In practice, 5 or 6 stars scattered around the sky provide the best performance.  Meaning, you can add another 2 or 3 alignment stars after your first 3.

 

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
https://www.NexStarSite.com

Thanks Michael,

 

I will put that information to use tonight.

I would definitely have been using all four directional movements in the alignment, and also using closely grouped stars.

Plenty to go at.



#6 biggles

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Posted 19 July 2020 - 06:29 AM

I had the same trouble with mine ie not accurate with goto's. I finished up useing Starsence camera and handcontroller. 



#7 ProfHippo

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Posted 21 July 2020 - 04:36 PM

Out of interest, do you find the Astro-Fi-6 quite wobbly on its mount when you got out to look?



#8 RupertM

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 09:41 AM

Dear Mountain Got, 

 

I read your post with interest as, like you, I recently purchased a Celestron Fi 6 and am also struggling to align it, and I am an astronomy noob too. 

 

I found a Youtube video (here: https://www.youtube....h?v=CNWJMMVQ-4U) saying in Settings, Telescope, Set up and Control, the alignment should be set to manual but the default is always SkyAlign. So if, like me, you don't have SkyAlign you should set it to manual. 

 

This guy aligns his Fi 6 telescope in about 2 mins.

 

I have a power cable so am ok in that respect.

 

What I do not understand though is: 

 

- Is alignment something we need to do every time the telescope is used or is this a one-off exercise?

- Is there a way of knowing if the telescope has successfully aligned to stars? So far I get to press align but then the telescope and app go very quiet. Do you get a message saying successfully aligned? 

- Have you found anywhere in the app saying there are x many stars aligned? 

 

Honestly I find I am spending more time trying to understand the SkyPortal app than the telescope...

 

Regarding Prof. Hippo, your question on wobbliness, my garden is on a slight slope and yes I do feel nervous setting up the telescope and I worry it may tip over, but no disasters so far. 

 

Any insight would be gratefully received, at least I realise I am not the only person with this telescope struggling with the alignment, and good luck. 

Rupert 



#9 Michael_Swanson

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 08:20 PM

Hi Rupert,

 

If the telescope has been moved (for example, taken back inside), you must perform the alignment from scratch each time you use the scope.  Always start with the "Connect and Align" button as this clears out the previous alignment points (which would be invalid after a move) and starts over.  The "Connect" button is used if you walk away from an aligned scope (say, go inside the house for a break) and when you come back out, SkyPortal/SkySafari are no longer connected to the scope.  That said, if you have the scope in a permanent location that does not require moving it after each session, you can use the "hibernate" feature in SkyPortal/SkySafari and you will not need to align each time you use the scope; you just "wake up" from hibernation.

 

As soon as you have centered the required number of stars (just 2 for manual alignment, 3 if using SkyAlign), SkyPortal/SkySafari will display a success or failure message to let you know the alignment is complete. 

 

You can then add more alignment stars (up to a total of 10, but 5 or 6 is the practical number) to improve GoTo accuracy.

 

I can't think of anywhere in the system where the app reports the number of stars you have currently aligned to, but I seems to recall that if you later go to add another alignment star, it tells you what the count is at that point.

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
https://www.NexStarSite.com


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#10 RupertM

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 09:35 AM

Thank you Mike, 

That is good advice, sadly I don't have a permanent location so I'd better get used to aligning it for now, but it is getting easier as it becomes more familiar.

Best regards,

Rupert  



#11 Mountain Got

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 06:47 PM

I had the same trouble with mine ie not accurate with goto's. I finished up useing Starsence camera and handcontroller. 

Did Starsense remove these problems?

 

How long does it now take for you to align using Starsense?

 

Thanks



#12 Mountain Got

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 07:27 PM

Dear Mountain Got, 

 

I read your post with interest as, like you, I recently purchased a Celestron Fi 6 and am also struggling to align it, and I am an astronomy noob too. 

 

I found a Youtube video (here: https://www.youtube....h?v=CNWJMMVQ-4U) saying in Settings, Telescope, Set up and Control, the alignment should be set to manual but the default is always SkyAlign. So if, like me, you don't have SkyAlign you should set it to manual. 

 

This guy aligns his Fi 6 telescope in about 2 mins.

 

I have a power cable so am ok in that respect.

 

What I do not understand though is: 

 

- Is alignment something we need to do every time the telescope is used or is this a one-off exercise?

- Is there a way of knowing if the telescope has successfully aligned to stars? So far I get to press align but then the telescope and app go very quiet. Do you get a message saying successfully aligned? 

- Have you found anywhere in the app saying there are x many stars aligned? 

 

Honestly I find I am spending more time trying to understand the SkyPortal app than the telescope...

 

Regarding Prof. Hippo, your question on wobbliness, my garden is on a slight slope and yes I do feel nervous setting up the telescope and I worry it may tip over, but no disasters so far. 

 

Any insight would be gratefully received, at least I realise I am not the only person with this telescope struggling with the alignment, and good luck. 

Rupert 

Thanks Rupert,

 

I have seen that Youtube video, but if you watch it closely, he doesn't actually line it up.

He just picks a few stars (in broad daylight), and hits goto and lets it move around.

It's really just a demonstration of how you "should" be able to set it up. We all know reality is nothing like that.

 

Overall, I actually think we have been sold a bit of a dud.

It's a nice concept (wifi), but the underlying wifi hardware is definitely not up to scratch.

I have tried fresh batteries, and I've also bought a small 12V lithium power pack (3A output so plenty of power).

None of this has made a difference, although I would be interested in what cable I need though - are you saying you are powering from mains?

 

 

Other major issues are with the technology:-

 

Regular dropouts

Freeezing of the scope moving

Errors reported that a fine adjustment is in progress and you cannot move the scope until it completes.

Command Failure - Your alignment target is too far from the telescope's actual position.

Celestron SkyPortal can make a wireless connection to the scope, but the scope is not responding.

 

 

I am seriously considering chatting to the retailer today, with a view to a refund because although I'm happy to research, fine-tune and spend plenty of time trying to improve the situation, these technology issues should not be occurring and I'm genuinely thinking it may be faulty.

 

In answer to your questions:-

 

- Is alignment something we need to do every time the telescope is used or is this a one-off exercise?

I think you can save it somehow - maybe using either a feature of Skyportal of one of the plugins (maybe Livesky or something with a similar name?).

I haven't tried having not been able to actually use this scope as intended.

 

- Is there a way of knowing if the telescope has successfully aligned to stars? So far I get to press align but then the telescope and app go very quiet. Do you get a message saying successfully aligned?

Absolutely. When you hit enter, locate your star, once aligned hit "align". It should accept that (if you are lucky!) and report say 1 of 3 stars aligned. You then need to move onto star 2. Same process, enter, line it up, hit align .... it shoud, say 2 of 3 aligned etc.

When you have finally aligned all 3, it will clearly tell you the scope has aligned.

** make sure you have selected "connect and align" and not just "connect".  I made that  mistake too!

 

- Have you found anywhere in the app saying there are x many stars aligned?

Good question, and this ties into your second question.

From memory (and for the last 2 nights I have not even been able to align!), but once correctly aligned, then your "goto" function is fully in play.

So select a star from the app, hit goto and watch it slew to a random point of darkness!  Adjust your view until you find the star that you are supposed to be looking at and hit align once more.

This will add a fourth alignment. You can repeat this process (allegedly!) for up to ten stars, but by this point you are likely to be suffering from hypothermia and an exhaustion of all known expletives.

 

If I manage to be any more successful I will grab a few screendumps, maybe draft a document, but I'm not certain I'm actually going to keep it.

 

Hope that helps.

Likewise, if you find some miracle settings that give this thing a new lease of life, then please pass them on.

 

Thanks


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#13 RupertM

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Posted 26 July 2020 - 03:17 PM

Hi Mountain Got 

 

Interesting to read your thoughts as I have also wondered about whether it works as well as it should. Naturally I assumed it was me, but I have had connection issues while standing right next to the telescope. 

 

I have a shed with electricity and I run an extension cable from there to my viewing area so the telescope receives mains power but I still have the same issues you identified, ie: 

 

Connectivity problems 

Fine adjustment in progress that seems to go on forever. 

 

I might also put this to my retailer. The reason I got this telescope is that I am not hugely experienced and my son is very into stars and so having a telescope with which I can press a button and it tracks the target for a period of time (i.e. a planet) is very attractive. 

 

I'll see what he says and post it. So far I haven't really got stuck in as it is midsummer here in England and the sky isn't good to view except at about midnight. 

Thanks for this info though and as the days now shorten here I should have more success. 



#14 Mountain Got

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Posted 26 July 2020 - 09:52 PM

Hi Mountain Got 

 

Interesting to read your thoughts as I have also wondered about whether it works as well as it should. Naturally I assumed it was me, but I have had connection issues while standing right next to the telescope. 

 

I have a shed with electricity and I run an extension cable from there to my viewing area so the telescope receives mains power but I still have the same issues you identified, ie: 

 

Connectivity problems 

Fine adjustment in progress that seems to go on forever. 

 

I might also put this to my retailer. The reason I got this telescope is that I am not hugely experienced and my son is very into stars and so having a telescope with which I can press a button and it tracks the target for a period of time (i.e. a planet) is very attractive. 

 

I'll see what he says and post it. So far I haven't really got stuck in as it is midsummer here in England and the sky isn't good to view except at about midnight. 

Thanks for this info though and as the days now shorten here I should have more success. 

OK - Don't give up!!

 

I made two changes over the weekend and had a resounding success.

I am surprised that this one has been missed (by myself included), but there is firmware included with this telescope.

I had no idea.

But like anything else that is connected to technology, bugs and very poorly written code are everywhere, and telescope code is no different.

 

https://www.celestro...-update-history

 

The first change I made, was to invest in a small 12V battery.

The second change was to upgrade the firmware.

 

I can't believe nobody has been talking about the firmware.

 

"Bug Fix: WiFi would lock up if user lost connection to WiFi attempted to reconnect".

 

If you take a look at that url, you can clearly see a reference to this.

Which is basically saying our code was utter shite in the first place!

Any wifi drop-out or fluctuation will result in a whole range of unpredictable issues, and I have to admit it led me down many paths in the troubleshooting space.

 

It's highly likely that if your scope has been sat around for a while then it won't be on the latest firmware, so it will be carrying a few bugs.

My retailer informed me that their stock was originally intended for Australian Geographic who have since gone bust. So as far as I'm concerned there was a strong chance it was older, buggier firmware in play.

Anyhow...... long story short, I upgraded the firmware, and 

used power provided by my new 12v battery.

 

No word of a lie, not a single dropout, lockup or anyything remotely similar.

 

To be honest, if I'd been aware of firmware requirements in the first place, I would have upgraded and not bothered with new power.

It's a minor issue now but I will test with my old, smaller 12v Lithium battery and see how I go.

 

For the time being though I beleive I have fixed the dropout issue.

 

The one issue remaining is better alignment. I still could not get this to be accurate as I had hoped but I have to admit, we were guestimating if the scope was level or not.

Next time, we will try and find a way to level the tripod. I can also see this is going to a bit of trial and error and a bit of practise.

I was also using a 10mil lense to try and maintain accuracy. Maybe I should have aligned with the ten and then slewed with the 25, who knows?

 

Anyhow .... it's big progress.

 

One more thing to note, but I had to run the firmware upgrade from the cmd line, so hopefully you are comfortable with that?

If not .... drop me a DM  and I can help no drama's.

 

waytogo.gif



#15 Michael_Swanson

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Posted 26 July 2020 - 11:17 PM

 

I can't believe nobody has been talking about the firmware.

 

"Bug Fix: WiFi would lock up if user lost connection to WiFi attempted to reconnect".

 

We were busy answering your other questions that were not firmware related smile.gif   It wasn't until your post on Jul 24th (#12) that you mentioned WiFi issues.  Unfortunately I was pretty busy this weekend and didn't get to that message until today frown.gif

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
https://www.NexStarSite.com


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#16 Mountain Got

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 12:35 AM

We were busy answering your other questions that were not firmware related smile.gif   It wasn't until your post on Jul 24th (#12) that you mentioned WiFi issues.  Unfortunately I was pretty busy this weekend and didn't get to that message until today frown.gif

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
https://www.NexStarSite.com

My apologies, that was a bit of a clumsy post.

 

I more so had in my mind myself, the retailer and Celestron.

The retailer put me on to Celestron, but nobody had yet mentioned the firmware (retailer or Celestron Rep).

 

Those of us on here are obviously trying to help, and I hope I've also chipped in to this conversation having possibly discovered both mine, Rupert's and maybe a few other people's issues could well be firmware related.

 

Thanks.


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#17 RupertM

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 04:26 PM

Well done for working out the firmware update. I was wondering about firmware this morning in fact, and whether it might be something to check.  

I downloaded the CFM file, but it makes no sense, it has a photo of another telescope and some .jar files. So I have downloaded Java from Oracle (plus I have a Mac). I have installed it and java is enabled. 

But I cannot seem to open anything in the CFM file. 

How did you manage to update the firmware? 

I found a page on Mike's website - https://nexstarsite....pgradeHowTo.htm

 

This seems to be a good guide, I have to say though this is getting beyond my abilities though. 

 

Did you connect the telescope to your computer via wifi and update the firmware that way? 

 

Cheers, Rupert 



#18 Mountain Got

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 05:45 PM

Well done for working out the firmware update. I was wondering about firmware this morning in fact, and whether it might be something to check.  

I downloaded the CFM file, but it makes no sense, it has a photo of another telescope and some .jar files. So I have downloaded Java from Oracle (plus I have a Mac). I have installed it and java is enabled. 

But I cannot seem to open anything in the CFM file. 

How did you manage to update the firmware? 

I found a page on Mike's website - https://nexstarsite....pgradeHowTo.htm

 

This seems to be a good guide, I have to say though this is getting beyond my abilities though. 

 

Did you connect the telescope to your computer via wifi and update the firmware that way? 

 

Cheers, Rupert 

OK. I'm on Windows, and yes you need to be connected to your scope over wifi.

 

I also had to run it from command-line. There is a small readme file in the download which had some very basic instructions.

 

 

"To run CFM from the terminal window, navigate to the folder
containing CFM.jar and type:  java -jar CFM.jar"

 

So i had to do that (cmd line - make sure you are in administrator-mode (not sure how that works for MAc).

 

Worth noting, that it took a couple of attempts.

When you run it, you will see the software launch, and it will try and discover your scope, and the motor.

There is a second step to do with downloading packages, and a third one to do with the actual update progress.

 

To be honest, it did not inspire confidence, but after a couple of attempts, the update step (step 3) finally started to work.

 

Good luck. Let me know how you get on. If you get stuck, shout out and will get some screen-grabs for you.

 

Thanks



#19 RupertM

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 03:48 PM

Well much to my surprise I just managed to update the firmware. It took a bit of time and as in your case several attempts, but I connected to the telescope using Wifi and just needed to change the default CFM settings (under Connections). 

 

The CFM connection guide referred to a hand held device connecting physically to a Nextstar telescope but obviously this didn't apply.

 

So once the clouds clear outside I'll try this out  wink.gif

 

One thing I wondered, is if you or anyone knows how to check the current firmware version on the telescope? Perhaps it can be found via the SkyPortal app? 

 

I'll try and align the telescope this week (I haven't actually succeeded yet). Have you managed to lock onto targets and track them through the sky? 
Anyhow thanks for your firmware suggestion and help. 

Rupert 



#20 Michael_Swanson

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Posted Yesterday, 12:02 AM

One thing I wondered, is if you or anyone knows how to check the current firmware version on the telescope? Perhaps it can be found via the SkyPortal app? 

 

Unfortunately the SkyPortal app does not provide the MC version information.  You either need a physical hand control for that or just start CFM again and once it detects the mount, it will display the current firmware version.

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
https://www.NexStarSite.com



#21 Mountain Got

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Posted Yesterday, 01:26 AM

Unfortunately the SkyPortal app does not provide the MC version information.  You either need a physical hand control for that or just start CFM again and once it detects the mount, it will display the current firmware version.

 

Best regards,
Mike Swanson
https://www.NexStarSite.com

 

 

Well much to my surprise I just managed to update the firmware. It took a bit of time and as in your case several attempts, but I connected to the telescope using Wifi and just needed to change the default CFM settings (under Connections). 

 

The CFM connection guide referred to a hand held device connecting physically to a Nextstar telescope but obviously this didn't apply.

 

So once the clouds clear outside I'll try this out  wink.gif

 

One thing I wondered, is if you or anyone knows how to check the current firmware version on the telescope? Perhaps it can be found via the SkyPortal app? 

 

I'll try and align the telescope this week (I haven't actually succeeded yet). Have you managed to lock onto targets and track them through the sky? 
Anyhow thanks for your firmware suggestion and help. 

Rupert 

Unfortunately, no.

I have a had a couple of reasonable sessions, but I think I need to pay more attention to providing a level surface to mount on, as well as spreading my alignments right across the sky.

I have a very uneven lawn, and even throwing a large piece of mdf down or similar, will present a few leveling challenges which I haven't worked out yet.

One more thing I did notice, is that the female connection for the power cable is fairly deep.

I had to trim excess rubber off the male connector on a cable to my new battery, and I noticed on my 12V lithium (much smaller and more portable) I had a similar issue. Neither cable was quite sitting deep enough and I think it caused the odd fluctuation and dropout.

 

One thing I would also like to understand is how we can see your alignments, or even delete the odd one.

I think I realigned Jupiter about 5 times the other night, without realizing each re-alignment was a fresh alignment.

 

Anyway, good luck, let me know how you get on,

 

Thanks


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#22 RupertM

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Posted Yesterday, 03:26 PM

Thanks Mike, I think so long as I am on the latest version (as of now) then that is fine until I get a new firmware alert from Celestron. 

 

Thanks too Mountain Got about the power connection tip. I know there is an option to align and then 'lock' so I'll see if that works as the tracker. 

I have not properly aligned mainly because it is so **** late before I can see the stars, close to midnight when I first bought the telescope but a little better now. I am off on holiday for a couple of weeks so I hope to have some success and more time and I'll let you know how I get on. 

Cheers, 

Rupert 




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