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Celestron 4se Annoyances

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#1 stevecoh1

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Posted 28 May 2022 - 03:23 PM

Another in my informal series on my (mostly) failed efforts to get some useful observing with my Celestron 4se. However, every failure brings a little success, and progress continues, and so do I.

 

I have recently obtained a Raspberry Pi, Astroberry, and necessary cabling to hook up to my mount in an attempt to start doing some astrophotography. I recently learned that without special cabling, the only connection option is through the handset, not ideal to this retired software engineer's mind (yes, I know there's the INDI-AUX driver and I may yet get around to that, but not now).

 

I live in a high-rise building in the light-polluted downtown area of a suburb of Chicago. I do have a pretty good, unobstructed view of the northwestern part of the sky. Cloudy Nights are the rule in my part of the country at this time of year, but last night, for once, we had clear skies. I felt that it was more important for me to get practice with my new equipment and software than to take great pictures, and so I stayed within the dubious comforts of home.

 

How light-polluted is my residence? This light-polluted: on this New Moon night, perhaps five well-known stars were visible from my west and a little-bit north-facing balcony. Castor, Pollux, Capella, Aldebaran, and Polaris. If I peered directly overhead, there were several more, but the scope would have a hard time seeing through the balcony above me. No planets were in view. This would not be an astrophotographical experience, but a learning experience.

 

I tried to do a polar alignment, just for grins, and experience.

 

And so, I leveled my mount, positioned it with the hinge pointing North, as close as I could get it, turned the scope straight up, opened up the wedge to the correct latitude and waited for dark, as indicated on p. 32 of the manual.

 

Here is where the manual falls short. In the section called "Wedge Align", you are told to align the telescope using either one of EQ AutoAlign or Two-Star Align. But EQ AutoAlign, described earlier on P. 15, relies not on the scope pointing straight up but on the Index-marker lineup. Confusing. A mistake, perhaps? So I decided to go with Two-Star. Star one was easy, Pollux. Wait, did I just say "easy"? Did I mention how small my balcony is and the contortions I had to make with my body in order to peer into my scope? Quite a deep-knee squat was required, which required Ibuprofen to get myself to sleep a couple hours later.

 

But, I lined it up, and went on to Star Two. Capella was my choice, on the same side of the meridian, but not too close to Pollux. Alas, Capella was not offered to me as a choice in the handset list. Castor was, so I tried it and the alignment failed, presumably because it was too close to Pollux, my star one.  How does Celestron's database decide what stars to offer in its alignment lists?

 

So, I decided next to try it with one-star alignment. I knew this would not be accurate, but that wasn't my aim at this point. I selected One-Star and once again aligned Pollux. But, Yes! My handset now announced that alignment was successful.

 

The next step is to "Select Wedge Align from the Utilities Menu and press Enter." (p.32)

But I'd recently installed the latest firmware, and Wedge Align is no longer an option on the Utilities Menu.  Oh well, there would be no slewing to where the mount thought Polaris should be.

 

But the mount considered itself aligned. So, if nothing else, I could now fire up the software (CCDCiel) on my Raspberry Pi and attempt to control the scope that way, which is my ultimate aim. I performed computer-generated GoTos to Capella and Polaris. Not close enough to be seen with my camera but, if nothing else, in the right general direction.

 

I'll call this a victory! Next clear night, I will port the scope to a less light-polluted area. I have one in mind.



#2 rcooley

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Posted 28 May 2022 - 03:58 PM

Oh, c’mon.  I had tons of fun with my 4SE back when that was my first scope.  Still remember first time I saw the crowned jewels of Pleiades thru the eypiece of that thing.  And I’ll match the light pollution of Los Angeles (where I lived when I started) with anywhere on the planet. Well, maybe not Tokyo.  Anyway, auto two-star alignment can be your friend.  It worked exremely well for me once I got it dialed in.  I was sure to always use Polaris as my first star, however.  As for connecting your berry-box through the hand controller.  Not ideal, I’ll grant you, but what do you expect from basically a windows based interface (talking about Celestron here).  By the way, I’m connecting my EVO thru the HC just so I can drive it and plate solve with my Asiair Plus and it works amazing. 

 

My only suggestion, is to get solid with alignment using Alt/Az before you drive yourself crazy with the (also not ideal) 4SE wedge.  It’s enough of a learning curve just to achieve that without the scope being upside down and backwards.  Cheers…

 

 

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#3 barbarosa

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Posted 28 May 2022 - 04:38 PM

I liked my 4SE. I bought a used one once  just to give it try. I would never, ever recommend to anyone the exercise of a polar alignment with that mount. It can be done, it has been done, it can be made better with a mechanical modification, and I salute those who use it that way every time, all four of them. 

 

Now if you dislike someone who has or is thinking of buying a 4SE then give the PA/wedge operation five stars and several thumbs up unless, that is, you believe in karma.

 

The 4 SE is what it is, an acceptable MCT on an SE style mount with SLT drive components all mounted on a very portable tripod. Acceptable MCT meaning that is is optically as good as the original made in the USA ETX RA at least to my eye. How it compares with a Questar is for someone else to say.

 

If you want to expand the capability of your 4SE do as already suggested and master and use it in the alt-az mode. Then buy a camera and give EAA (CN speak for live imaging) a try. Even in red and white light pollution zones, a basic camera will see much better than you. You can see very dim objects, you can see color in nebulae and stars.

 

SVBony cameras on Amazon. These are made by Touptek a maker of several private label astronomy cameras.

 

ZWO "Planetary" (uncooled) cameras.

 

Software is free or low cost. All of the Toupteck made brands come with some version of ToupSky. ZWO's ASI Studio (only for ZWO camera) is a free and well regarded software suite. SharpCap (free) and SharpCap Pro (not free) are popular. AstroToaster is free and has many fans and there are other free applications as well.

 

Because the 4SE gives you the option of PC mount control you can also use the freeware planetarium program Stellarium to select and go to targets.

 

Become the master of the mount is Alt az mode. Get a modern CMOS astronomy camera and enjoy your balcony.

 

If you want to see live imaging in action there are many videos on line and you can drop in on live broadcasts on the New. NightskiesNetwork.com. Free to watch, free to listen and free to join the conversation. Most broadcasters are happy to respond to questions, although posted questions sometimes get overlooked. The broadcaster has a busy display and usually is also listening talking on the audio. But posted questions get answered eventually.

 

I am a zealot about EAA, it saved the hobby for me.


Edited by barbarosa, 28 May 2022 - 04:45 PM.

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#4 stevecoh1

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Posted 28 May 2022 - 05:54 PM

I liked my 4SE. I bought a used one once  just to give it try. I would never, ever recommend to anyone the exercise of a polar alignment with that mount. It can be done, it has been done, it can be made better with a mechanical modification, and I salute those who use it that way every time, all four of them. 

 

Now if you dislike someone who has or is thinking of buying a 4SE then give the PA/wedge operation five stars and several thumbs up unless, that is, you believe in karma.

 

The 4 SE is what it is, an acceptable MCT on an SE style mount with SLT drive components all mounted on a very portable tripod. Acceptable MCT meaning that is is optically as good as the original made in the USA ETX RA at least to my eye. How it compares with a Questar is for someone else to say.

 

If you want to expand the capability of your 4SE do as already suggested and master and use it in the alt-az mode. Then buy a camera and give EAA (CN speak for live imaging) a try. Even in red and white light pollution zones, a basic camera will see much better than you. You can see very dim objects, you can see color in nebulae and stars.

 

SVBony cameras on Amazon. These are made by Touptek a maker of several private label astronomy cameras.

 

ZWO "Planetary" (uncooled) cameras.

 

Software is free or low cost. All of the Toupteck made brands come with some version of ToupSky. ZWO's ASI Studio (only for ZWO camera) is a free and well regarded software suite. SharpCap (free) and SharpCap Pro (not free) are popular. AstroToaster is free and has many fans and there are other free applications as well.

 

Because the 4SE gives you the option of PC mount control you can also use the freeware planetarium program Stellarium to select and go to targets.

 

Become the master of the mount is Alt az mode. Get a modern CMOS astronomy camera and enjoy your balcony.

 

If you want to see live imaging in action there are many videos on line and you can drop in on live broadcasts on the New. NightskiesNetwork.com. Free to watch, free to listen and free to join the conversation. Most broadcasters are happy to respond to questions, although posted questions sometimes get overlooked. The broadcaster has a busy display and usually is also listening talking on the audio. But posted questions get answered eventually.

 

I am a zealot about EAA, it saved the hobby for me.

>> it has been done, it can be made better with a mechanical modification, and I salute those who use it that way every time, all four of them.

 

I have seen that mechanical modification in videos. I would do it if I could. But I would need a home workshop to make it, and I don't have one.

 

>> Now if you dislike someone who has or is thinking of buying a 4SE then give the PA/wedge operation five stars and several thumbs up unless, that is, you believe in karma.

lol.gif

 

>> If you want to expand the capability of your 4SE do as already suggested and master and use it in the alt-az mode.

Yeah, I should probably give polar a rest, especially from my balcony.

 

>> Then buy a camera and give EAA (CN speak for live imaging) a try. Even in red and white light pollution zones, a basic camera will see much better than you. You can see very dim objects, you can see color in nebulae and stars.

Yup, EAA is the path I'm on.

 

>>SVBony cameras on Amazon. These are made by Touptek a maker of several private label astronomy cameras.

I have the 305. I must say, even when the scope was manually aligned on a star, through the eyepiece, I could see nothing on the screen, when I swapped in the 305. I probably needed to twiddle with a few settings.



#5 barbarosa

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Posted 28 May 2022 - 07:36 PM

>> Then buy a camera and give EAA (CN speak for live imaging) a try. Even in red and white light pollution zones, a basic camera will see much better than you. You can see very dim objects, you can see color in nebulae and stars.

Yup, EAA is the path I'm on.

 

>>SVBony cameras on Amazon. These are made by Touptek a maker of several private label astronomy cameras.

I have the 305. I must say, even when the scope was manually aligned on a star, through the eyepiece, I could see nothing on the screen, when I swapped in the 305. I probably needed to twiddle with a few settings.

It is not often that a man gets to say with certainty, something like "You are on the right path brother, your reward awaits you." But this is one of those times.waytogo.gif

 

So about that camera. Top tips/pro tips seems over the top, but here is one. Focus. An eyepiece and a camera will not focus at the same point.  You can work this out in the daytime using a short exposure and low gain. Too short/too low = black screen, too long/too high = white screen. In daylight the auto gain mode might be useful to start.

 

I have a ZWO 290 trial and error soon gets you in the ballpark on gain and exposure.

 

Once you master focus and exposure and gain and get a target in view you are on your way. On your way to mastering color balance, offset, gamma or whatever controls are revealed in your software (camera makers decide what controls you can use) so my ZWO 290 and your 290 may have different settings.

 

The you can make use of stacking. This averaging of images in software is the key to EAA. Stacking reduces noise and improves detail and very important it will usually have the capability to align the stars from frame to frame, compensating for tracking errors and field rotation to a very useable degree.

 

A fellow in Germany who has his scope on balcony sometimes visits New.NightSkiesNetwork and shares some pretty good live images. Balconies can work.



#6 John Kocijanski

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Posted 02 June 2022 - 07:44 AM

I have a 4se and find it works quite well it a two star alignment.  I level the scope first then choose a first star making sure it is perfectly centered in a 32mm plossl before I tell the mount to go to a second star.  I try to choose a second star in the opposite part of the sky from the first.  When the mount goes to that star if the star is not in the field of view already I use the hand controller to center the star in the ep.  After the alignment is complete the mount does a good job of finding the objects I want to view and placing in the filed of view of a low power ep.  After I see the object in the FOV then I center it with the hand controller.  I found that the system works so well I upgraded the scope to a C5 making it a 5Se.  I find it is a great "grab and go to" scope.  What was amazing about the original 4se was that it was given to me for free.  The previous owners never could figure out how to use it and then let it set with batteries in it too long so they leaked inside the battery holder giving the mount no source of power.  Some spare parts are sold for the mount so I bought a new battery holder and cleaned up the inside of the compartment.  After that the mount worked perfectly.  I added an AC power cord to get consistent power.   




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