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PC Guiding & Platesolving Questions

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#1 jzholloway

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 07:56 AM

First, my equipment and software I currently use:

 

Imaging: Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet & Canon EOS Ra

Mount: Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro (has the USB port)

Guiding: ZWO 30mm f4 Mini Scope & ZWO ASI224mc

Software: PHD2 & Astro Photography Tool (APT) - I have access to Starry Night Pro 7 and it's ASCOM software

 

I currently guide using the ST-4 connection between my guide camera and the mount. My typical setup is to find polar alignment with the built in polar scope in the mount (I use the PolarFinder phone app for assistance), then do a 3-Star Alignment with the SynScan hand controller, double check my alignment accuracy (usually slew to M45 or another target that is real easy for me to identify without taking a picture) and then go from there. I have had no issues with this once my mount figured out its error corrections in alignment a month or so ago (I have had the equipment since mid-October). However, this weekend I set up, went to the first star in my alignment process with no problem kids needed something real quick, went to go to my second star and the clouds had rolled in and I decided to wait instead of simply canceling my alignment. 15 minutes later was able to finish. I went to realign later because I was worried it wasn't right and then it would not go to the star I told it to. I'm assuming because I had the long pause in my original alignment I messed something up. If someone knows of a fix for this, I'd love to know! Anyways, because of this, I have finally begun thinking of connecting everything to my PC and using it to control the mount, as well as plate solve in APT, but I have no idea where to begin!

 

Here are my assumptions:

 

I need to still connect the guide camera to both the PC and the mount (PC with the USB and Mount with the ST-4 cable)

I do not need to connect the hand controller

I connect the mount to the PC with the USB cable (USB from mount to USB to PC)

I need to use the EQMOD driver in PHD2 instead of "On-Camera"

I can now use the connect to Mount feature in ATP

I can use ATP for platesolving but I think I need some other software installed?

I can use ATP to go to a target (Once plate solved), but again, I think I need some other software installed?

 

I can continue to polar align the way I do or I have heard I can use SharpCap to Polar align, is this possible with my current setup or would I need ot buy a polemaster to do this (I am not planning on buying a polemaster and I know my polar alignment and guiding up to this point has been decent enough for me to have no issues with at least up to 5 min long exposures  - I haven't tried for longer)

 

I know this is a lot, and I know the first inclination is to say Google it, but I am looking to see if I can get all the answers from one place from people who I know do it and have troubleshooted problems, etc.

 

Thanks! Also, if anyone has any tips, I'd be more then happy to here them!

 

Clear Skies!



#2 southerndandy

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 08:37 AM

Good morning. I'm sure someone who knows much better than I do will chime in, but I can give you some thoughts based on my experience.  First, I use an Orion ED80 on a Sirius (HEQ5) mount with and Canon DSLR and a ZWO 120 mini in an ST80A.  I have the cables from the mount, guide cam, and DSLR go to a powered USB hub so then there's one cable from the hub to the computer.   

 

- To use the polar alignment feature in SharpCap you don't need a Pole Master, it uses the guide camera.  (I happen to have a Pole Master and love it)

- Don't use the ST-4 cable.  Pulse guiding is much better, and one less cable.  You would have to set up PHD properly, and I think you'd need the ascom driver for the ZWO camera which i think you can just get from their website. 

- I still connect PC to mount through the hand controller (in PC Direct mode) because the Sirius doesn't have a USB port on the mount, so I'd have to buy a special cable to do away with the hand control.  I don't know if you's is different because you have a USB port on the mount but it probably is, it may tell you in the manual somewhere. 

- I use NINA and not APT, but in NINA you have to install a separate plate solver (I use PlateSolve2) and then you just tell NINA where it's installed and NINA will use it when you tell it to plate solve. 

- NINA has a built in catalog/atlas that you can search for and slew to objects with, so if APT has something like that then yes, you should be able to use APT to go to targets. 

- You just need to make sure you have all of the right ASCOM drivers installed for everything, that PHD is set up correctly, and it's all talking to each other.  I realize that's generalizing it a lot, but that's basically what it is.

 

There's a lot of drivers to install (cameras, ascom, eqmod, etc.) and you have to take the time to make sure each piece is configured right.  So for me, I had to get everything set in PHD, then set everything in NINA, then there's some settings in Eqmod, and now they all work together.  Hope that gives you a little insight, please ask questions if you want. 


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#3 jzholloway

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 10:20 AM

Good morning. I'm sure someone who knows much better than I do will chime in, but I can give you some thoughts based on my experience.  First, I use an Orion ED80 on a Sirius (HEQ5) mount with and Canon DSLR and a ZWO 120 mini in an ST80A.  I have the cables from the mount, guide cam, and DSLR go to a powered USB hub so then there's one cable from the hub to the computer.   

 

- To use the polar alignment feature in SharpCap you don't need a Pole Master, it uses the guide camera.  (I happen to have a Pole Master and love it)

- Don't use the ST-4 cable.  Pulse guiding is much better, and one less cable.  You would have to set up PHD properly, and I think you'd need the ascom driver for the ZWO camera which i think you can just get from their website. 

- I still connect PC to mount through the hand controller (in PC Direct mode) because the Sirius doesn't have a USB port on the mount, so I'd have to buy a special cable to do away with the hand control.  I don't know if you's is different because you have a USB port on the mount but it probably is, it may tell you in the manual somewhere. 

- I use NINA and not APT, but in NINA you have to install a separate plate solver (I use PlateSolve2) and then you just tell NINA where it's installed and NINA will use it when you tell it to plate solve. 

- NINA has a built in catalog/atlas that you can search for and slew to objects with, so if APT has something like that then yes, you should be able to use APT to go to targets. 

- You just need to make sure you have all of the right ASCOM drivers installed for everything, that PHD is set up correctly, and it's all talking to each other.  I realize that's generalizing it a lot, but that's basically what it is.

 

There's a lot of drivers to install (cameras, ascom, eqmod, etc.) and you have to take the time to make sure each piece is configured right.  So for me, I had to get everything set in PHD, then set everything in NINA, then there's some settings in Eqmod, and now they all work together.  Hope that gives you a little insight, please ask questions if you want. 

Thank you!
 



#4 don314

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 08:54 PM

I use SGP, not APT, but procedure should be similar.
Software: SGP, (Platesolver2 setup in SGP, but you can use several others), Sharpcap Pro for PA, and PHD2.
Use ASCOM to control the mount, you get better guiding than with ST-4, and ASCOM will allow PHD2 and APT to both control the mount.
My equipment setup is Imaging camera, filter wheel, guide camera (in OAG), and focuser connected to USB 3.0 hub on OTA, hub connected to laptop.  Mount connected direct to laptop. 

My workflow:
Beforehand make a sequence in SGP for the night’s targets.
Set up the mount, with counter weight down, OTA pointing at north star, great accuracy not required.
Find focus (start SGP, connect equipment, use “frame & focus” to adjust focus to get close, then run autofocus)
Do a cold start on mount and start tracking (don’t do a 3 star alignment, it’s not required when using plate solving).
Polar align using Sharpcap Pro using OTA and imaging camera (or polemaster). (I switched to sharpcap from Pole Master).  Use mount software to slew scope 90 degrees in RA (no had controller required) (do not manually loosen clutch to slew) .
Then use mount software to slew to near +1 degree DEC near meridian, and calibrate PHD2, then run guide assistant in PHD2.
In SGP select target, and select “center target”.  SGP will slew, take an image, plate solve, calculate error, then repeat till on target.  I typically get on target in 2 or 3 platesolves.  Plate solve is getting coordinate information through ASCOM.
Once on target, I do an SGP autofocus, then start SGP sequence.
That’s it.  Of course, PHD2 an SGP (or APT) software need to be setup, and that is a bit daunting when first starting out, but once you get it configured for your equipment, its pretty straight forward




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