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Mount for portable imaging setup

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#1 DRK73

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 09:15 AM

Years ago I used an Atlas and loved its performance, hated its weight - but decided to take a sabbatical from imaging and so (stupidly) sold the mount and picked up an AVX. Nearly five years later, I'm getting back into imaging but don't want to learn the hard way and waste time and money trying out gear I come to realize just isn't going to work (FWIW, I've burned through a Celestron AS-GT, AVX, and CGEM, then an iOptron ZEQ25, then an Atlas, and now back to an AVX). 

 

My AVX does work pretty well for my imaging purposes - once I get it going - and I've been able to get 10 minute subs pretty reliably for my ST-8300, though I have not attempted to image beyond the native 420mm focal length of my AT72. 

 

Here are the frustrations I'm having with the mount (which *may* be common, but really these are just issues that bug *me*):

 

1. What I REALLY don't like is that I have to first do an alignment with the handcontroller before connecting the mount to my laptop.

2. I've also found that (sometimes) I have to reinstall the Celestron drivers because the mount cannot be initialized by my control software (MaximDL).

3. I've also found that it's possible that even though my guide camera and mount are seemingly both properly connected and controlled by my computer/MaximDL, I cannot calibrate autoguiding in MaximDL. I switched over to PHD2 and was able to successfully calibrate my guiding and was good from there - but I really want to incorporate dithering into my imaging and unless I'm guiding with MaximDL then I can't program dithering into my imaging sequence...

4. The AVX alignment seems ephemeral. If I go to target #1 and image there for a while, then try to go to a second target, the alignment is *way* off. Like nowhere close. The best solution I've found (by trial and error) is to disconnect the mount, cycle the power, clear sync in the handcontroller, redo the 2-star alignment, REINSTALL the software driver, reconnect the mount to the laptop, connect mount to software, and then hope like hell that guiding can calibrate. If this sounds like BS, it definitely feels like BS when it's late, I'm tired, and frustration is starting to boil over....

5. Once a target has crossed the meridian, it might as well no longer exist. Stuff to the south likewise might as well not exist. This is disappointing, but manageable as long as the weather cooperates and I just learn to ignore anything south of Altair...

6. I know there are other imaging software programs out there and I've considered trying out a different one in the hopes that it will play more nicely with the AVX, but I'm also considering the more practical limitations of the Celestron mount in that I do want to use up to my AT115EDT for imaging (that is, when that scope arrives, which it hasn't yet), so I've already kind of resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to upgrade my mount...

 

I have no interest in doing DSO imaging beyond the native focal length of the AT115EDT - I purchased my ASI533mc camera with my two scopes in mind as I am satisfied with how the 533 will frame galaxies in the 115, and most emission nebula in either the AT72 or AT115. I just need a mount that can handle either. 

 

But I'm stuck in "analysis paralysis". 

What I want is a lighter weight mount (because I have to drive a while to do any imaging) that, once I do a polar alignment on (I've been using Sharpcap and really like it), I can:

 

1. Connect to the mount directly through USB, and not a handcontroller.

2. Slew/platesolve/slew to a target.

3. A track record of no-hassle or minimum hassle to connect to software (i.e. MaximDL). When I can't get out every clear night and have to travel on the ones that I can, I really don't want to waste any time on stupid shenanigans. 

 

I'm considering these:

 

1. The new EQ5 (because of the belt drives - also, I like the pier and the cable management scheme) - but the lack of a tripod spreader weirds me out. But is that an issue that I really need to care about?

2. The new EQ6 (again, belt drives are sexy) - but that thing is just so dang heavy, but I also am pretty confident that it'll just work...

3. An iOptron CEM40 - but on a 1.5" tripod?? Is that something worth worrying for a lightweight portable setup? 

4. An iOptron GEM45 - said to be optimized for my latitude over the CEM40, but otherwise functionally the same. 

 

$1500 is more or less my budget, though I can push up to the iOptron mounts if they really are going to be the better choice. The weight of the Atlas/EQ6 is more of a mental thing, probably, I'm not frail. It's just that my idea of "my" imaging rig is something that is closer to "grab and go" than "boat anchor."

 

If you're me and have got my money, what are you buying?



#2 jrschmidt2

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 09:26 AM

I'll just note that if you use the CPWI software interface with the AVX you can bypass the hand controller-based alignment.  At that point, you can add as many (or even ZERO) alignment points via CPWI and just platesolve and go.

 

Note that I have been actually doing the alignment process in conjunction with platesolving as well.  I have a script (from another user here) that allows you to add alignment points to the CPWI pointing model.  This allows you to calibrate by: 1) Executing a goto to a reference star; 2) Do a platesolve + sync; 3) Then add that reference point into the pointing model.  I can calibrate in minutes.


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#3 DRK73

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 09:45 AM

I'll just note that if you use the CPWI software interface with the AVX you can bypass the hand controller-based alignment.  At that point, you can add as many (or even ZERO) alignment points via CPWI and just platesolve and go.

 

Note that I have been actually doing the alignment process in conjunction with platesolving as well.  I have a script (from another user here) that allows you to add alignment points to the CPWI pointing model.  This allows you to calibrate by: 1) Executing a goto to a reference star; 2) Do a platesolve + sync; 3) Then add that reference point into the pointing model.  I can calibrate in minutes.

I've never heard of that, I'll have to look it up - thanks!



#4 Sandy Swede

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 10:09 AM

#4 iOptron GEM45 on paper appears to be a significant upgrade to the AVX.  However, as you know, it is $2k without tripod.  The mount weighs only 16 lbs but supposedly can carry 45 lbs.  I would not load that beyond 30 lbs. for AP.  Another advantage to me is the traditional worm gear.  I can't wrap my head around the idea that a mount driven by a 'rubber band' could ever be a good thing, especially long term.  I seriously considered getting this mount before I decided to bite the bullet and put in an order for a Losmandy GM811G.  


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#5 Raginar

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 11:03 AM

You need to learn to platesolve. Most image capture programs sprout it. The modeling in those mounts just isn’t good. If you don’t want to platesolve, turn on precision pointing in the firmware.
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#6 DRK73

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 11:23 AM

You need to learn to platesolve. Most image capture programs sprout it. The modeling in those mounts just isn’t good. If you don’t want to platesolve, turn on precision pointing in the firmware.

Thanks, but that's not my issue. I use platesolving as part of my PA routine (Sharpcap) and I also platesolve using MaximDL (Pinpoint). What I said I wanted to do was to skip the Celestron alignment routine and go straight to slew/platesolve/slew once I've done my PA. 



#7 Raginar

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 07:10 PM

Thanks, but that's not my issue. I use platesolving as part of my PA routine (Sharpcap) and I also platesolve using MaximDL (Pinpoint). What I said I wanted to do was to skip the Celestron alignment routine and go straight to slew/platesolve/slew once I've done my PA. 

Thank you for explaining that; you wrote way too much in your initial post to make it worth reading.  To answer your question you can slew to three points and hit align on them without it doing anything since you're not using the pointing model.

 

I'm not sure why you use italics other than to be flippant.  It doesn't do anything for your argument and makes people less likely to help you.



#8 sctchun

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 03:46 AM

I have an NexSXW which uses a Celestron controller.  When Imaging, after I polar align using PoleMaster, I just fire up the remote controller (NEXRemote) for the mount do a blind single star alignment then from there just let platesolving do it's magic including correcting the initial single star alignment.

 

Steven



#9 DRK73

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 07:44 AM

Thank you for explaining that; you wrote way too much in your initial post to make it worth reading.  To answer your question you can slew to three points and hit align on them without it doing anything since you're not using the pointing model.

 

I'm not sure why you use italics other than to be flippant.  It doesn't do anything for your argument and makes people less likely to help you.

Well if you're not going to actually read my long-winded post, then why respond? 


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#10 Sandy Swede

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 09:04 AM

Gentlemen.  Gentlemen!



#11 Raginar

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 09:30 AM

Great point.  Good luck broski.


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#12 DRK73

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 09:09 AM

I'll just note that if you use the CPWI software interface with the AVX you can bypass the hand controller-based alignment.  At that point, you can add as many (or even ZERO) alignment points via CPWI and just platesolve and go.

 

Note that I have been actually doing the alignment process in conjunction with platesolving as well.  I have a script (from another user here) that allows you to add alignment points to the CPWI pointing model.  This allows you to calibrate by: 1) Executing a goto to a reference star; 2) Do a platesolve + sync; 3) Then add that reference point into the pointing model.  I can calibrate in minutes.

I wanted to update the thread because this advice was the most helpful in my circumstance. 

 

However, for whatever reason I cannot connect the mount to the CPWI software (which does look really cool) at the same time as a MaximDL connection - probably - although I no longer have a reason to try. The 'QUICK ALIGN' option in the handcontroller was all I really needed to do. My workflow is still kind of wonky, but it works and has gotten to be super quick, and might be helpful to other users.

 

1. Polar align mount using sharpcap. 

2. Power on mount, select 'UNDO SYNC', power mount back off. 

3. Power on mount, check time/date settings are correct, and do 'QUICK ALIGN'.

4. Open MaximDL on laptop. 

5. Re-install Celestron driver (has to be done each time, I suppose to clear previous session info?).

6. Connect laptop to mount handcontroller via USB. 

7. Connect mount via MaximDL telescope control

8. Slew to obvious star (I've been using Vega). Platesolve, sync to solution, slew again to Vega - and it's been holy crap bang-on in the middle.

9. Focus. slew to target, calibratie guiding, begin firing away. 




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