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A beginner-friendly smart EAA setup, restated, Ver. 2

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357 replies to this topic

#1 Joey44

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Posted 24 February 2022 - 01:03 PM

This thread is intended as a forum to troubleshoot the popular setup proposed several months ago by Cuiv (https://youtu.be/0JdtL950RjQ). For many of us there have been various stability issues that have been addressed in a prior thread which has wandered from the original setup using a Skywatcher Evoguide 50 ED, Stellarmate OS and mobile app, and Az-GTI mount in alt/az mode. Updates by the Stellarmate developer to the OS and app have helped some, but many of us are still having various issues with app freezing, plate solving, etc.

 

For purposes of nailing down issues specific to this setup, while recognizing that minor hardware variations are likely compatible, please confine comments within the following setup guidelines:

 

Optical: Evoguide50 or equivalent, slightly larger small aperture refractors should be similar.

 

CMOS: ASi178MC or equivalent minimal FOV, in other words sufficient chip size for wide field views.

 

Mount: AZ-GTi or GTe, in alt/az mode only.

 

Mount connection: wireless in Stellarmate hotspot mode or direct connection with compatible cable. (I know some are using mount and device connection to existing home networks but since there have been issues with connectivity, I suggest we focus on a simplified setup, as per Cuiv's original description).

 

Software: Stellarmate device or RPi4 install of 32 bit Stellarmate OS or 64 bit beta, control with only IOs or android Stellarmate app on phone or tablet.

 

Community: Report results with your efforts and with descriptions of your setup to include: hardware specifics, how it is connected, what version of app and OS, any modifications of default settings in the app, any communications that you may have had with Stellarmate support.


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#2 Crist Rigotti

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Posted 24 February 2022 - 01:35 PM

I've been seeing my Android APP crashing lately.  While imaging, the App will just shut down.  I hit the icon and it starts right up and it shows SM is running.  However, it loses the image that it was capturing when it shuts down.  I've let SM know via a ticket.  They got back to me and asked if the App was shutting down or SM.  I told them it was just the App.

 

Also every so often, I will lose sync.  I have to shut down the App, restart and then continue on.  SM keeps on running while this happens.

 

My set up:

 

SW 72ED

SW .85 field flattener

SW AZ-GTI

ZWO ASI485MC

RPI 4 8gb with a 32GB card

I have a RF amp attached to the RPI4 case to boost the 5.8ghz signal by 20db and a "mushroom" antenna

I'm using a Samsung Galaxy S10+ cellphone

5.8ghz wifi

Model SM-110

Version 1.6.2

APP is Version 2.4.4 (bundle 136)

The mount is hardwired to the RPI 4 via a cable

AZ-GTI motor board 3.36.A5

SynScan App Pro 1.19.12

Attached Thumbnails

  • IMG_7306a.JPG
  • IMG_7307a.JPG

Edited by Crist Rigotti, 24 February 2022 - 02:31 PM.


#3 jimhoward999

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Posted 24 February 2022 - 02:23 PM

First,   Here is a picture of my set up which is described in my signature.   I think it qualifies for this thread.  My variation is that is that I am using an 80mm Svbony scope. But my whole set up, which is entirely battery operated only weighs 16.8 lbs complete and is easy to lift and move as a complete assembly with one hand.  With the focal reducer I am operating at F/5.6.

 

My issue is that I would like to improve my sensitivity.   One of the constraints that I have imposed upon myself is that I want my images within 5 minutes, or 10 minutes at the most.  Longer doesn't feel like real time to me.  It feels like AP not EAA.   That is just my personal preference.  So my integration times are a minute or less.  Because of field rotation, depending on where the target is in the sky,  I can't really integrate longer than that anyway.   If its west and low I could, but high and south, not.

 

With that constraint here is an image of M1 taken last week.  It was very high in the sky so there is field rotation every with a short integration time, and also the image size is compressed to low resolution.   And there is a lot of light pollution in my suburban skies.  So it amazes me that EAA allows me to see anything.     But, you can see the image is quite faint. 

 

Now I don't want to integrate longer, I don't want a bigger scope, and don't know of any high quality focal reducer/field flattener that will let me go faster.  So I am looking at the camera.

 

Departing a bit from CUIV's set up, I have ordered an ZWO ASI533MC pro which should here today or tomorrow.   That camera has bigger pixels than the 178MC and is cooled.  I know that is a very commonly used camera so I figure others have used it.  Do you guys think that camera will help?  Are there any drawbacks?

 

I'll know the answer within a few days or whenever the hopelessly rainy weather clears and will report.  But I just wanted to get some thoughts or opinions.

 

I hope this post is within the thread scope of "troubleshooting".  Just let me know if it is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • eaa set up.jpg
  • M1.JPG

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#4 Joey44

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Posted 24 February 2022 - 02:28 PM

For those who might be interested, there is updated firmware available for the Az-GTi and GTe, which I have used to update my mount. Even though I recently bought it new,  it did not have the most recent firmware. I don't know whether it has made any difference in my setup, but the release notes (attached) do claim smoother tracking in more recent versions. The Synscan app will tell you your current version. The firmware can be downloaded at https://skywatcher.c...ntrol-firmware/.

 

Attached File  Release Note.txt   3.52KB   73 downloads

 

Edit: It is recommended to update over a wired connection rather than wi-fi, so as not to risk bricking the mount.


Edited by Joey44, 24 February 2022 - 02:39 PM.

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#5 alphatripleplus

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Posted 24 February 2022 - 06:50 PM


 

 

With that constraint here is an image of M1 taken last week.  It was very high in the sky so there is field rotation every with a short integration time, and also the image size is compressed to low resolution.   And there is a lot of light pollution in my suburban skies.  So it amazes me that EAA allows me to see anything.     But, you can see the image is quite faint. 

 

In terms of troubleshooting, you have trailing in your image that is not due to field rotation, but rather due to poor tracking. Your star trails are uniform across the field of view - if they were caused by field rotation, they would be curved and would be centred on the middle of the frame. To eliminate the trails, you need to use either shorter sub-exposures or improve the tracking of the mount. A different  camera is unlikely to make a difference with regard to trailing.


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#6 jimhoward999

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Posted 24 February 2022 - 08:29 PM

In terms of troubleshooting, you have trailing in your image that is not due to field rotation, but rather due to poor tracking. Your star trails are uniform across the field of view - if they were caused by field rotation, they would be curved and would be centred on the middle of the frame. To eliminate the trails, you need to use either shorter sub-exposures or improve the tracking of the mount. A different  camera is unlikely to make a difference with regard to trailing.

Right of course.   And thank you for making that clarification.    The object was just about at the zenith, so the az-el mount has no way good way to track.  Called it field rotation even though it really isn't.  It is a slightly different geometry problem.  When pointing straight up, The mount just has no way to move in the direction the stars are.  I'd need a go to an equatorial to truly fix, which I really don't want to do in my "real time" EAA set up.   So I am trying to keep exposures short and then go to a more sensitive camera....I am hoping that will help.


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#7 jcheak

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Posted 24 February 2022 - 09:43 PM

I am having issues when live stacking where it seems to only update part of the screen. See pics below. Setup is Stellarvue SV60, AZ/GTi, Raspberry pi with StellarMate. ASI178MC. Guider not used.

 

BBFCC6E6 A95A 4FF2 A542 092B248CE0BE
DA2FBD6E E90D 4B08 A808 F06293B1974B

Edited by jcheak, 24 February 2022 - 09:44 PM.


#8 jimhoward999

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Posted 25 February 2022 - 12:04 AM

I am having issues when live stacking where it seems to only update part of the screen. See pics below. Setup is Stellarvue SV60, AZ/GTi, Raspberry pi with StellarMate. ASI178MC. Guider not used.

 

I have had that problem too.  But only once  So far an isolated case.   But no idea what caused it.

 

artifact.JPG



#9 Noah4x4

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Posted 25 February 2022 - 01:43 AM

The larger the sensor and the shorter the exposure, the greater the data to be processed, hence the greater the computing power, RAM and speed of connectivity required. When developing my ideal rig, all my challenges could be summed up by this one statement. Raspberry Pi and its O/S is more efficient than Windows, but I would suspect your issues possibly relate to this and dropped data packets or similar...

#10 Joey44

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Posted 25 February 2022 - 08:13 AM

I am having issues when live stacking where it seems to only update part of the screen. See pics below. Setup is Stellarvue SV60, AZ/GTi, Raspberry pi with StellarMate. ASI178MC. Guider not used.

 

The larger the sensor and the shorter the exposure, the greater the data to be processed, hence the greater the computing power, RAM and speed of connectivity required. When developing my ideal rig, all my challenges could be summed up by this one statement. Raspberry Pi and its O/S is more efficient than Windows, but I would suspect your issues possibly relate to this and dropped data packets or similar...

Are you using a RPI4 with at least 4 GB RAM? Are you using a recent model phone or tablet? IOs or android?

There have been no published minimum hardware requirements for this setup to my knowledge, and live stacking is a relatively new addition to the app and a work in progress. My hope is that Jasem (the Stellarmate developer) is getting feedback that will shed some light on this. This is the kind of issue that should be reported to him, along with the specifics of your setup.

 

I (and others) have had issues with the app freezing with an apparent disconnection and a "waiting to sync" message that can sometimes be fixed with a hard closure of the app and restart. I have had this happen both with the OS ver. 1.62 and 1.70 64 bit beta. When I reported this to Jasem he said he thought it was due to a communication issue with the app and that he would investigate it. I have a RPi4 with 4 GB RAM and am using an 8th generation Ipad (from 2020), so was assuming that my hardware should be sufficient.

 

If live stacking is processor, RAM, and data rate intensive, or if there are some connection issues with the mobile app, it makes sense that this could be an ongoing problem until it is fleshed out.
 



#11 jcheak

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Posted 25 February 2022 - 08:35 AM

Are you using a RPI4 with at least 4 GB RAM? Are you using a recent model phone or tablet? IOs or android?

There have been no published minimum hardware requirements for this setup to my knowledge, and live stacking is a relatively new addition to the app and a work in progress. My hope is that Jasem (the Stellarmate developer) is getting feedback that will shed some light on this. This is the kind of issue that should be reported to him, along with the specifics of your setup.

 

I (and others) have had issues with the app freezing with an apparent disconnection and a "waiting to sync" message that can sometimes be fixed with a hard closure of the app and restart. I have had this happen both with the OS ver. 1.62 and 1.70 64 bit beta. When I reported this to Jasem he said he thought it was due to a communication issue with the app and that he would investigate it. I have a RPi4 with 4 GB RAM and am using an 8th generation Ipad (from 2020), so was assuming that my hardware should be sufficient.

 

If live stacking is processor, RAM, and data rate intensive, or if there are some connection issues with the mobile app, it makes sense that this could be an ongoing problem until it is fleshed out.
 

I am using RPI4 with 4GB of Ram. My iPad pro is 2 years old (so obviously using IOS). I did report to Stellarmate back in January, concerning the same "waiting to sync" issue you had. Jasem requested that I check the latest update (v2.4.4 Bundle v99) It has updated since then too. Delete ANY profile you created and create new profiles and test. I did that and responded back that I am still getting the "waiting to sync" on and off and I also reported the screen freeze and how live stacking was only updating part of the screen after a few captures. That was Feb. 6th. I've had no response since. Just for reference I could not get the mount to connect to the RPI4 wirelessly with any consistency so I caved and have them connected with the cable. At least that piece is stable.

 

 

 

Ticket Summary:-

Subject:Version 2.4.4
Ticket reference number:OVBE-001649
Category:StellarMate App

Product:StellarMate 



#12 jkelly

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Posted 01 March 2022 - 09:56 AM

I have two identical older Air-2 iPads. One crashes every couple minutes with Stellarmate the other can go for an hour without crashing. Crazy?


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#13 seasiderht

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Posted 01 March 2022 - 10:14 AM

I am having issues when live stacking where it seems to only update part of the screen. See pics below. Setup is Stellarvue SV60, AZ/GTi, Raspberry pi with StellarMate. ASI178MC. Guider not used.

 

I've been having the same problem- it's intermittent and I haven't been able to isolate a cause.  I'm also noticing that my live stacking seems to stop stacking after a few images and just sits there.  Seems like a delay in getting the updated images into the stack.  Hoping that the rumored update in March is going to help with the live stacking feature.  



#14 seasiderht

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Posted 01 March 2022 - 10:23 AM

Had a couple nice clear nights in a row to continue trying to get the rig dialed in.  My tracking is still a bit off so limiting subs to 5-8 secs.  Shot of Bodes/Cigar from last night.

 

IMG 0020

 


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#15 seasiderht

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Posted 01 March 2022 - 10:27 AM

I have two identical older Air-2 iPads. One crashes every couple minutes with Stellarmate the other can go for an hour without crashing. Crazy?

@jkelly-unrelated to this issue, but I see from your signature you are using the Lefoto leveling base.  Have you found that useful in getting good tracking?  I'm assuming the tracking issue I'm having are a leveling issue so looking at adding a leveling base.  Thx!



#16 jkelly

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Posted 01 March 2022 - 04:02 PM

Instead of leveling the base by raising and lowering a tripod leg you just unlock the leveling base a little, level the mount and then tighten it - it’s so much easier then bending over and over. I’m getting lazy in my old age!


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#17 Joey44

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Posted 03 March 2022 - 09:02 AM

The initial promise of this “smart scope” setup is that rough alignment and plate solving make for easy setup. I noticed that using the default pointing model (point to north and level the mount and scope) method would lead to initial slews to an object that were not very close, maybe 20 degrees off in azimuth (I can’t see Polaris so was using a compass). Plate solving within the Stellarmate app could eventually center the object, assuming that the initial slew didn’t point to a group of trees. This got me to look at the Syncan app manual, where it notes that GOTO and AZ tracking is described as satisfactory when using this method, but if a prior alignment with 1-3 stars is done then GOTO and AZ tracking is described as good. I was having stars that were not very well formed, even with only 10 second exposures in my stacked images. I was hopeful that better tracking would occur with a better initial alignment.

 

I decided to do an alternative alignment before starting Stellarmate. Of course, there is no eyepiece, so to get a finder for the scope I purchased the clamshell adapter from Starizona (https://starizona.co...inted-clamshell), which has a mounting bracket for a guidescope.  Mounted to this is an adapter (http://www.scopestuff.com/ss_p2ff.htm) that allows connection to an inexpensive adjustable hunting rifle green laser sight. I like this laser because it has two-plane adjustable knobs.(https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B019Q05CNY).

I used plate solving in Stellarmate to center on a bright star and align the laser. Now before starting Stellarmate I attach the camera to my laptop and use ASIlive (with its centering reticle) to find and do a north level alignment with the Synscan app. Users of non-ZWO cameras will need to use another method for this. I believe that the free version of Sharpcap can suffice. Using the live stacking app with align frames unchecked, and 1 second exposures, the star can be easily centered. This alignment choice starts with north and level, then asks for two stars to select and center. Next, I hibernate and park the mount (Utility—Hibernate at home position, but keep mount turned on). Then, after reconnecting the camera to the RPi, I turn on Stellarmate and connect with its app. Stellarmate will show the mount as parked at the home position and will function normally.
Now, instead of 10 second subs in my stacked images I can do 20 seconds with much nicer round stars. I think the takeaway is that although plate solving can take care of finding and centering issues, it does not improve tracking accuracy.

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#18 jkelly

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Posted 04 March 2022 - 05:39 PM

Great idea - and great to gain 10 more seconds. You can do a lot with 20 seconds!

I'm wondering - since I VNC into Stellarmate (Kstars) a lot, I know there is a crosshair switch on the Main viewer and Fits viewer.

Can I use SynScanPro to do the 3 star alignment and vnc into Stellarmate from my laptop or iPad to view the stars to put them in the crosshairs?

 

Screen Shot 2022-03-04 at 5.27.34 PM_sm.png


Edited by jkelly, 04 March 2022 - 06:14 PM.


#19 jimhoward999

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Posted 05 March 2022 - 12:12 AM

The initial promise of this “smart scope” setup is that rough alignment and plate solving make for easy setup. I noticed that using the default pointing model (point to north and level the mount and scope) method would lead to initial slews to an object that were not very close, maybe 20 degrees off in azimuth (I can’t see Polaris so was using a compass). Plate solving within the Stellarmate app could eventually center the object, assuming that the initial slew didn’t point to a group of trees. This got me to look at the Syncan app manual, where it notes that GOTO and AZ tracking is described as satisfactory when using this method, but if a prior alignment with 1-3 stars is done then GOTO and AZ tracking is described as good. I was having stars that were not very well formed, even with only 10 second exposures in my stacked images. I was hopeful that better tracking would occur with a better initial alignment.

 

I decided to do an alternative alignment before starting Stellarmate. Of course, there is no eyepiece, so to get a finder for the scope I purchased the clamshell adapter from Starizona (https://starizona.co...inted-clamshell), which has a mounting bracket for a guidescope.  Mounted to this is an adapter (http://www.scopestuff.com/ss_p2ff.htm) that allows connection to an inexpensive adjustable hunting rifle green laser sight. I like this laser because it has two-plane adjustable knobs.(https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B019Q05CNY).

I used plate solving in Stellarmate to center on a bright star and align the laser. Now before starting Stellarmate I attach the camera to my laptop and use ASIlive (with its centering reticle) to find and do a north level alignment with the Synscan app. Users of non-ZWO cameras will need to use another method for this. I believe that the free version of Sharpcap can suffice. Using the live stacking app with align frames unchecked, and 1 second exposures, the star can be easily centered. This alignment choice starts with north and level, then asks for two stars to select and center. Next, I hibernate and park the mount (Utility—Hibernate at home position, but keep mount turned on). Then, after reconnecting the camera to the RPi, I turn on Stellarmate and connect with its app. Stellarmate will show the mount as parked at the home position and will function normally.
Now, instead of 10 second subs in my stacked images I can do 20 seconds with much nicer round stars. I think the takeaway is that although plate solving can take care of finding and centering issues, it does not improve tracking accuracy.

It is wonderful that you have been able to increase your subs from 10 seconds to 20 seconds that is a huge deal.

 

But a few things seem odd, so I hope you don't mind a couple of questions.

 

Why would your initial north estimate be off by 20 degrees in azimuth?  That seems gigantic if you are using a compass.  Using a phone compass or a hiking compass or both, I point to within 1-2° by eye while being sloppy.  Why would the error be so big as 20°?

 

Same question of level.   Laying a phone on top of the telescope should sets level with 1° easily again while being quite sloppy.  Any reason you would be off more?

 

Or maybe you mean that the mount is slewing 20° off even with the north-level only off slightly.   But that would be weird.  Assuming it knows your time, date and position on the earth accurately, the initial slew should off by the same angle that the mount is off. 

 

A small error in initial pointing of North and level should have no measurable effect on tracking accuracy.   It only affects the go-to performance.   But yet you are showing a big improvement.  Do you have any theory as to why?    Do you think it is due to you initial north-level alignment being off a big rather than small amount?   Or is it possible the mount doesn't know the time and date and location accurately?

 

Thank you very much for your insights.

 

 

    .



#20 Joey44

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Posted 05 March 2022 - 08:07 AM

Why would your initial north estimate be off by 20 degrees in azimuth?... 

Same question of level.... 


Is it possible the mount doesn't know the time and date and location accurately?

The time and location are accurate-received from Ipad. I think part of my problem was that I didn't realized how difficult it is to level the mount with that small bubble level. At night, shining a light on the level and trying to avoid reflections while centering is problematic for my 72 year old eyes. That level doesn't allow for precise adjustments under best conditions. I have paid more attention to leveling since starting star aligning, and maybe some of the improved tracking is related to that. I would love to find a more accurate way to level.

Another benefit of improved alignment now is that plate solving is almost immediate and with higher accuracy compared to before.


Edited by Joey44, 05 March 2022 - 08:08 AM.


#21 seasiderht

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Posted 09 March 2022 - 10:58 AM

Great idea - and great to gain 10 more seconds. You can do a lot with 20 seconds!

I'm wondering - since I VNC into Stellarmate (Kstars) a lot, I know there is a crosshair switch on the Main viewer and Fits viewer.

Can I use SynScanPro to do the 3 star alignment and vnc into Stellarmate from my laptop or iPad to view the stars to put them in the crosshairs?

 

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2022-03-04 at 5.27.34 PM_sm.png

JKelly- I've done exactly this and it worked well.  Sysncan on my iPhone and Ekos on my laptop.  

 

As an aside, I recently upgraded the mount firmware to the new version to enable me to use a wedge and run the mount in EQ mode.  I experienced all the nightmares that you hear about on the upgrade (and can assist if anyone needs to try to do it on a Mac), but was ultimately successful getting it installed.  Once it was installed it seemed that the tracking accuracy was improved even in Alt-Az mode.  


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#22 jkelly

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Posted 09 March 2022 - 01:06 PM

I have emailed the software author to add a crosshair switch on the camera screen on the tablet app. We’ll see if he does it.



#23 DarrylS

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Posted 11 March 2022 - 06:06 PM

Instead of leveling the base by raising and lowering a tripod leg you just unlock the leveling base a little, level the mount and then tighten it - it’s so much easier then bending over and over. I’m getting lazy in my old age!

Holy... This just went from something I never knew existed to something I absolutely need lol.gif

 

Thanks!


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#24 alphatripleplus

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Posted 13 March 2022 - 07:22 AM

Sounds like a good tip.



#25 Crist Rigotti

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Posted 15 March 2022 - 06:35 PM

I've been seeing my Android APP crashing lately.  While imaging, the App will just shut down.  I hit the icon and it starts right up and it shows SM is running.  However, it loses the image that it was capturing when it shuts down.  I've let SM know via a ticket.  They got back to me and asked if the App was shutting down or SM.  I told them it was just the App.

 

Also every so often, I will lose sync.  I have to shut down the App, restart and then continue on.  SM keeps on running while this happens.

 

My set up:

 

SW 72ED

SW .85 field flattener

SW AZ-GTI

ZWO ASI485MC

RPI 4 8gb with a 32GB card

I have a RF amp attached to the RPI4 case to boost the 5.8ghz signal by 20db and a "mushroom" antenna

I'm using a Samsung Galaxy S10+ cellphone

5.8ghz wifi

Model SM-110

Version 1.6.2

APP is Version 2.4.4 (bundle 136)

The mount is hardwired to the RPI 4 via a cable

AZ-GTI motor board 3.36.A5

SynScan App Pro 1.19.12

Still no word from SM on this.  I've opened a ticket 1 month ago.  I'm getting fed up with SM.  I've been ripped off on their software!  Their APP is terrible.




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