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.