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auto guiding for beginners

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#1 vivi

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 07:46 PM

Hello, I am hoping that I am at the right place, because I really need help.

 

After couple of months of unguided astrophotography (I am a true beginner, learning on her own), I am stuck when trying to guide to do longer exposures, and I am about to loose it. I am hoping somebody can offer advice.

 

First, my EQUIPMENT:

  • telescope: Sky watcher Evostar 100 ED
  • Mount: Skywatcher EQ35 pro
  • Camera: ZWO ASI 183GT
  • Guide camera: ZWO ASI 174 mini
  • Guider: ZWO OAG
  • connection is direct from ASI AIR pro to the mount with an ST4 cable, thus bypassing the Hand Controller.
  • Lately I have also tried an EQMod cable described to work both in Mac and Windows (and downloaded the driver, plus discovered the port)

 

second, my PROBLEM (I):

  • I can take fairly good pics of DSOs with the above set up, but with the ASI AIR pro, and guiding with it I can get at most 120 sec frames, and the guiding is awful.
  • My dec is continuously oscillating in large steps (more than 4 arc/sec steps) plus drifting until I cannot longer see the trace. My DEC trace has fairly low oscillations, but again, it drifts, until disappearing from the graph. DEC and RA traces are orthogonal when I can see them both.
  • I have tried adjusting the aggressiveness (every time waiting about 50 readings before changing and the changes are small (5% at the time). I have settled at 25% for RA and 20% for DEC, although with this I still get wild oscillations in RA
  • I have tried to play with the guiding speed; 0.75 helps; longer exposures ( 5 sec as opposed to 2 sec) also seem to help, but not for long
  • I do not have the ability to change the binning with ASI AIR pro (as far as I know; please illuminate me if there is), which I have read could improve guiding by increasing it.
  • I have also played with the gain of the guider camera, up to max, to no avail.
  • I have also calibrated the guiding with a star between the north pole and the horizon (and in this I also have doubts...sometimes it seems there are too many steps >50....I need to read more about this, but it seems excessive (??)
  • The above is all in the presence of guiding stars, which have good signal (ie, not saturated; with a nice and narrow bell shape curve)

SO, QUESTION (I) is: What in the world am I missing that would allow proper guiding with ASI AIR pro?

 

that brings me to PROBLEM (II):

  • Because of the lack of flexibility in the ASI AIR pro, I decided to see if I could use PHD2 instead. I realized that in that case I should use (in windows 10) EQASCOM and ASCOM, as well as the EQDIR cable from the mount to the PC, and download the EQDIR driver, ZWO camera driver and Syncam driver. 
  • OK, after the usual learning-curve frustrations, I managed to connect to the mount, but I could not get the guiding camera to being recognized. Note that the camera is connected to the auto guider port of the mount.

QUESTION (II) what I am doing wrong?

 

That brought me to PROBLEM (III):

  • Because I am not a "windows" person, but rather a Mac one, I felt that perhaps I was missing something in Windows 10 that I did not realized.
  • SO I went to the MAC, about which I am so much more familiar: I did everything through Cloudmaker apps: INDI, INDI console, Astroguider, AstroTelescope, AstroImager.
  • Again, my mount is recognized (synscan mount) but not my cameras.

I hope somebody out there can help, as I frreekin' love astrophotography and I refuse to give up! I guess I could still get some satisfaction with 120 sec exposures and frequently reseting the guide star....but there must be a better way!

 

Thank you so much

 

vivi

 

 



#2 fewayne

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 08:24 PM

Welcome vivi!

 

I'm not very familiar with the apps you're using, so please forgive ignorance/assumptions.

With ASIAir Pro, can you show the correction pulses applied in DEC and RA as well as the deviations? That might give you a clue. I assume that the software can slew the mount OK?

I am reeeeeally suspicious that such popular, widely-supported cameras aren't getting recognized on your Mac -- there are definitely INDI drivers for them (I use an ASI183MM myself). Do you have an INDI control panel? Can you connect to either camera all by itself?

 

I personally use the KStars/Ekos app on my Mac, which at least corrals all the moving parts in one place. Since it's free, you might try downloading it, setting up a profile for each of your cameras, and attempting to connect with that. (I actually mostly use it on my scope-side Raspberry Pi, but it's nice to have the same app on the Mac too.)



#3 cybermayberry

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Posted 18 April 2021 - 09:52 PM

For the Dec issue check the guide speed in EQASCOM the default is .1 which is way to slow for most Skywatcher try .5 instead.

 

Have you also installed ASCOM Platform drivers under additional drivers https://astronomy-im...ftware-drivers?

 

This maybe of help

https://www.youtube....ym0AZSUo&t=775s



#4 vivi

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Posted 19 April 2021 - 08:17 AM

Thank you so much for the info. I think I downloaded the proper drivers, but I will revisit this in case I skipped some. I did not look into additional drivers under the ASCOM platform. I agree that the camera issue is most likely a driver that I am missing.....

 

I will also change the guide speed (once the camera is recognized).

 

Otherwise the software can slew the mount OK. I will try all the helpful tips and report back.

 

Many thanks!



#5 Skysmacker

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Posted 19 April 2021 - 01:00 PM

I have recently began using the ASI Air Pro and guiding with it. Like you, I had some weird stuff happening with the guiding that sounds very similar to your stated issues. 

 

I found this guide for it very helpful and shared it in another post. Hope it can help you as well.

 

https://eastwindastr...ession.html?m=1

 

Comb through your settings carefully! My guide graph was doing similar things as yours and it didn't make any sense. It was all over the place and would time out trying to calibrate, etc.  As I was combing through my settings, I noticed I had mistakenly entered my guide scope APERTURE (30mm) in the guide scope FOCAL LENGTH setting on the Air Pro, yikesblush.gif !

 

Once I discovered that and corrected it, it worked like a champ. I have now successfully guided a few multi-hour sessions.

 

Hope this can help you!


Edited by Skysmacker, 19 April 2021 - 01:43 PM.


#6 vivi

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Posted 19 April 2021 - 03:51 PM

ohhhh my goshhhhhh! I think I am doing exactly what you did (cannot believe it!!). What a thoughtless mistake! I guess this is the way you learn, but it hurts!

I just did not think about it! I guess, as I am using an OAG, then the focal length is the same as my main scope!

 

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

 

I will check how it goes tonight, if the clouds would just go away. I will also read the link, which seems helpful.

 

Will let you know...

 

by the way, what kind of parameters do you use for guiding (speed, aggressiveness, exposure) and calibration? Given the poor quality of ZWO manuals, it has been a steep learning curve.

 

All the best!

 

vivi


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#7 Skysmacker

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Posted 19 April 2021 - 04:49 PM

ohhhh my goshhhhhh! I think I am doing exactly what you did (cannot believe it!!). What a thoughtless mistake! I guess this is the way you learn, but it hurts!

I just did not think about it! I guess, as I am using an OAG, then the focal length is the same as my main scope!

 

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

 

I will check how it goes tonight, if the clouds would just go away. I will also read the link, which seems helpful.

 

Will let you know...

 

by the way, what kind of parameters do you use for guiding (speed, aggressiveness, exposure) and calibration? Given the poor quality of ZWO manuals, it has been a steep learning curve.

 

All the best!

 

vivi

Ha, yeah, these types of mistakes are those "pains for gains" type. We all have them and, don't worry; there will be many more in this hobbygrin.gif

 

As far as my parameters go, I based them off of the info in the link.

 

Speed - I mostly use the default 0.5x, but have used 0.75x during a session and that helped during that particular session.

 

Calibration Step - You will see he states that the calibration step will depend on the Focal length of your guide scope, and with you using the OAG, that will likely be much smaller than mine. 

 

Aggressiveness - I start each session on 50% and then adjust after it gets going.

Tip: let it guide for a full frame of the guiding graph after each adjustment. It will take some time for the numbers to change, but you will see them, AND, YES, sometimes too aggressive will make that line hop up and down!

 

Exposure - As far as I understand, that really can be affected by the seeing conditions. I find that 3 seconds is pretty sweet for me, but play with it. You will see the difference on the graph as you adjust.

 

I use the EQMOD cable from Air Pro to mount and USB from guide cam to Air Pro. No hand controller or ST4. If you can, go that route. It's very streamlined! However, ensure you have the correct EQMOD cable. There are other cables that look like they should work, but it needs to be specifically for this application. 

 

Cheers and clear skies!


Edited by Skysmacker, 19 April 2021 - 04:52 PM.


#8 vivi

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 01:35 AM

Thank you! I am imaging as we speak, and I am taking 4 min exposures NO PROBLEM! the guiding is wicked good. Unbelievable. That link that you gave is also extremely useful. Next I will try the EQMod cable. I don't know how to thank you.

I am hoping for clear skies for you too!


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#9 Skysmacker

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 09:06 AM

Good to hear! I know the feeling once you saw that graph settle down and just go; so exhilaratingwaytogo.gif

One more tip if you haven't already: now that you are guiding, be sure to dither during your sessions! 

 

Enjoy and cheers! 


Edited by Skysmacker, 20 April 2021 - 09:06 AM.


#10 vivi

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Posted 20 April 2021 - 10:28 AM

Ah yes! before I wouldn't even think about dithering. Now I think I am ready- Thanks




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