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Advice on ultimate starter EAA rig for outreach/tour use

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#1 Mechanizoid

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 03:22 PM

To make a long story short, I guide local astronomy tours and participate in a lot of outreach in my area. After conversing with Dean at Starizona a couple weeks ago, I decided it was time for me to begin using EAA—specifically live stacking with a color cam on a fast system (<=F2). Budget is around 6k USD for the system, but flexible.

 

My goals for this system are thus:

  • Utilize live stacking to capture views of dim/extended DSOs to view on tablets/screens
  • Allow visitors to save images to their phones
  • Save some nice images for myself
  • Play around a bit with astrophotography (is the main distinction between EAA and AP post-processing?)

 

I will purchasing every part of the system, including scope and mount. Initially, I had planned to get a fork mount CPC-1100HD + Hyperstar 11 v4. However, Dean told me that a large scope is not necessary for EAA, and advised an 8" scope. After further discussion, he and Steve provided this list as his take on the "ultimate" portable EAA rig for my application.

 

  1. ZWO TC40 Carbon Fiber Tripod for AM5
  2. ZWO AM5 Mount
  3. Counterweight bar + 3lb. weight
  4. ZWO ASI 533MC Pro (Color) or ASI 2600 if I want to spend more
  5. Antlia Triband RGB Ultra Filter 2"
  6. ZWO ASIAIR Plus
  7. ZWO EAF
  8. HyperStar 8 v4
  9. C8-A-XLT (CGE) OTA

I like the look of everything (the AM5 is much smaller/lighter than the mounts I'm used to wrangling), and the images obtained by 6" and 8" Hyperstar rigs are very impressive. My ultimate goal is to use this system alongside some traditional visual scopes (large dobs and the like).

 

Before I take the plunge, I wish to understand all my options. I've seen people use the following for EAA/AP:

  • Fast APO refractors + reducer/flatteners
  • Newtonians + focal reducers
  • SCTs + Hyperstar corrector
  • Celestron RASA

My understanding also is that fast systems greatly benefit EAA by lowering the time required for exposures, so the <=F2 Hyperstar is very good for this.

 

I'm also looking at the RASA. The C8 + Hyperstar gives me the flexibility of utilizing it visually, or using it photographically at multiple FL (F2 with Hyperstar, ~F6 with focal reducer, native F10), but I'm not sure if I'll ever use it other than as an F2 astrograph. Dean told me that swapping modes takes only a few minutes, but trying to swap a secondary and Hyperstar lens in the dark sounds like a recipe for disaster. In my experience, it's best to follow the KISS principle when you have guests waiting to see something.

 

A new C8 OTA + Hyperstar will cost about three bills more than the RASA. The RASA is about 3.5lbs heavier, but still well within the AM5's stated weight limit. Would you recommend the RASA over the Hyperstar 8v4? I had the impression that the RASA gave better performance out to the edge of the field, but the v4 Hyperstar has narrowed that gap AFAIK.

 

Speaking of mounts, I know the mount is every bit as important as the scope. Honestly, the new tech in the AM5 is a big part of the reason I'm looking into this rig... it'll be a lot easier to transport and set up than the more traditional AP rigs I've seen, and I'd prefer to have an equatorial mount. I'm very curious to hear from actual AM5 owners though!

 

So... what do you guys/gals advise? Anyone have firsthand experience with these products, or use an EAA rig in a tour/outreach environment?


Edited by Mechanizoid, 08 September 2023 - 03:24 PM.


#2 vtornado

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 03:35 PM

I have seen some very nice results from a vespera unit for 1.5K.

This was at a public outreach event at MPAS 18.8. 

The Sunflower galaxy was a barely detectible whisp in a 12 inch dob. It had its core quite visible after a few exposures, and the spiral arms were visible in a few minutes.

It was completely hands off.  So the operator was able to tend to a manual visual scope while the vespera did it's thing.

 

I'm sure a much more expensive homemade rig would make a better image, but does the public care??

 

P.S. 

Public outreach is a dilema.

You can show the public the best available image and wow them,

or you can show the public what they can reasonabley expect from more modest equipment.


Edited by vtornado, 08 September 2023 - 10:10 PM.

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#3 Mark Lovik

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 04:38 PM

SCT Alternative

If you have access to the people of Starizona -- there may be another option.

 

1. The 8" RASA should be really fast.  It has a 1.94 pixel scale with a 533 camera.  So it is better tuned for larger wide field objects.  It is less tuned for fine details (globular cluster, planetary nebula, small galaxies)

2. The 8" RASA has a better pixel scale with a camera like the ASI183 series - 1.23" per pixel.  This does slow down the speed compared to the 533 camera.

2. I run my 8" SCT at F/4.23 with a Starizona Night Owl reducer. The working field of view is around 0.80 degrees.  Starizona has the incredible sliding dates for Night Owl availability.  This has a really nice pixel scale for fine objects - 0.9 with the 533 class camera. This configuration is about 55-60% the RASA/183 camera speed.  The speed difference is changing the pixel scale here -  more resolution for slower imaging.

 

Some people swap cameras with the RASA and take advantage of the larger working field of view.  Swapping between a 2600mc pro camera, and a 183mc pro camera provides the flexibility to tune the rig to optimize the scope for most common EAA targets in the sky. Doing this at a publc outreach event would be difficult.

 

------------------------------

There seems to be a threshold speed for outreach events - I seem to get good engagement with 2 minute views (or longer).  Anything faster is nice - but really not that important.  I use a refractor for outreach events because of the reasonable speeds and the incredible range of objects that can be viewed with one EAA configuration.

 

Refractors can be a good alternative.  I have done a number of public events using my ASI2600mc pro with my AT115EDT scope.  It is about 30% the speed of the high res RASA configuration - but it images showpiece objects (M31, M13, NGC7000, many planetaries, and many common galaxies, open clusters) that are immediately visible within 10 seconds, and surprisingly good within 2 minutes.  Since the object's view changes so quickly in this time scale - it is still not difficult engage the audience as the image progresses.  Since you are planning on a mount with better weight capacity - the AT130EDT is a very good alternative scope.

 

Most of my time moving the scope to different objects in the sky takes about 2 minutes (slew, platesolve to center, start viewing).  So a 2 minute minimum window on a DSO in the sky is very reasonable.  You spend half the time getting the object in view, then half the time viewing the object.  Most of the time the audience wants to look at the object a bit longer.  It also takes 10-30 seconds to fiddle with the zoom and histogram to get an object dialed in for display.  

 

Better scaled alternative

RASA 11 with a 2600mc pro class camera.  Reasonable pixel scale and field of view for a large range of targets in the sky.  This will be a bit more cumbersome to transport and setup.  If you use the same camera - the 11" RASA will have the same speed as the 8" RASA when generating EAA views.  The 11" RASA will just have a finer pixel scale to observe the objects in the sky with better detail.  It will still have a sufficient field of view for most objects in the sky.  This is optimized to view most objects in the sky (from M31 size to small planetary nebula)


Edited by Mark Lovik, 08 September 2023 - 04:56 PM.

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#4 alphatripleplus

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 04:55 PM

You won't be able to get f/2 with anything other than a RASA or hyperstar. However, a number of EAAers are happy using APO refractorsfor EAA; I am one of them. One of the advantages I have found with my refractors, including a 130mm triplet, vs my two SCTs is that I do much less focus tweaking through the night. In an outreach setting, I'm not sure you would want to spend a lot of time adjusting focus. Might be a time consideration with a fast f/2 system, even if you are using an automated electronic focuser. 


Edited by alphatripleplus, 08 September 2023 - 06:46 PM.

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#5 mgCatskills

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 06:12 PM

What you propose is a very good rig, no doubt.  Are you normally using this in a dark area, or a more polluted one?  If in a dark area, I'm not sure that F2 is really a requirement.  I routinely observe in Bortle 3/4 skies, and usually can see a good (if noisy) image of my target after one or or two images are stacked.  Here's an image of the Heart Nebula after 30 seconds (single capture) using my Askar V with 80mm objective and flattener (495mm f6.2) with an Optolong L-Enhance filter:

 

Heart Nebula | Single 30 Second Exposure | Bortle 4 sky

gallery_421617_21795_5956356.jpg

 

I'm a little confused about how you intend to attract attendees to watch what you're doing and share a view of the live stack on their own devices.  Is that a feature of the ASIAir?  Seems to me, even if it is, you need to consider a large screen monitor to get folks walking by interested in what's going on, and how you're going to power and connect it to the EAA device. Then, if there is a way to hook into some sort of group feed, interested attendees might be motivated to join it.

 

The ASIAir is limited to 1080p graphics, which is a weakness imo.  SharpCap has a two screen mode where you can display the image on a separate screen from the control system.  Graphics resolution is limited by the computer: in my case, it's 4K, which looks amazing on a largeish screen.


Edited by mgCatskills, 08 September 2023 - 06:24 PM.


#6 Darth Riker

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 07:21 PM

Hmm. Since you're after a portable rig then, in m my opinion, there's no point in going 4K. 1080p is fine for a projector or regular display/ monitor. I would say having a laptop - either running the ASIAIR App via Bluestacks 5 or Windows Subsystem for Android (on Windows 11) connected to a projector would allow for presentation to groups of people AND let them take photos.

The ASIAIR is great. That being said, in Live Stacking mode, it doesn't auto focus not does it auto meridian flip. So for EAA you'll do that manually. An EAF does mean that you don't have to be at the scope to focus it, though, so that's an advantage.

For AP (Autorun... and plan mode as well I think), auto focus and auto meridian flip work fine.

#7 mgCatskills

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 07:57 PM

Hmm. Since you're after a portable rig then, in m my opinion, there's no point in going 4K. 1080p is fine for a projector or regular display/ monitor.

 

If you've never seen a 27" 4K monitor delivering a 4k EAA image, you might think that.  I see one frequently (when I'm using my 2 screen mac-mini to control my scope via WRD) and it's gorgeous.  My Quieter 3 miniPC happily generates single- or dual screen 4k images and SharpCap is happy to put the live stack full screen on one of them.

 

I have a refurbished Dell laptop with 1080p graphics that I originally purchased for Astro use.  Even with a single screen, when I saw SharpCap on my 14" MacBook Pro screen with native XDR resolution of 3024-by-1964, I put away the Dell for good.

 

The screen is your eyepiece in EAA.  Saying "1080p is good enough" is like saying a plossl eyepiece is good enough.  There's a market out there for $1,300 eyepieces for a reason.

 

The irony is you can pick up a 4K 43" smart TV for about $300 and it's not heavy.  You can place it on a folding card table.  Lots of strategies for driving it... wired or wirelessly depending on your configuration.  You just need to plan for it. (and of course not use an ASIAir)!


Edited by mgCatskills, 08 September 2023 - 08:07 PM.

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#8 Darth Riker

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 08:46 PM

Well aware of your obsession with 4K (and potential anti-ASIAIR bias? Not sure about that one. Could be wrong there). And I know enough and have seen plenty and continue to see, watch and read.

Also, I'm pretty sure MacBooks don't have 4K screens - they have a retina display which is brilliant.

A lot goes into driving a 4K display as well as driving the content shown on a 4K display.

Just because you have a 4K display doesn't automatically mean everything is going to be 4K. Upscaling is a thing as well as a lot of other display tech going on these days.

Additionally, the material that goes to making a screen has an impact (OLED, micro-LED, etc). Refresh rate does as well (not so much for showing images from Live Stacking but it would for Video).

Also - the image you get to show depends on your camera, OTA, etc as well.

Point being - if you're after a portable rig to take around to outreach events - 4K is low on the list of priorities. Especially for a starter rig.

Power requirements are a key factor and you don't want to drain your portable power supply too quickly (4K is a larger power drain on portability).

A rig and setup that's at home, though, would be a different story.

Edited by Darth Riker, 08 September 2023 - 10:19 PM.


#9 astrohamp

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Posted 08 September 2023 - 09:37 PM

Mech':  Outreach with younglings enthusiastically surrounding you and your astro rig is going to be a bit nerve wracking.   My limited EAA outreach with some substantial tech has been rewarding, and hair raising to say the least. 

 

What I have experienced is the need for a 4 trip or less instrument that I can set up and level, compass declination align with knowledge of latitude to dial in and after 1-to-3 star alignment plate solve to be on target.   All run on a 24Ah LifePO4 battery to power mount, NUC Pc, wireless router, dew heater, cameras, and 2nd monitor.  This must be doable with eager minds in tow, answering "why no eyepiece" questions when stars are not visible and the insects begin to swarm. 

 

My last outreach a few days ago I upgraded the 7" 12v second monitor to 24" (also 12v) monitor with good visitor feedback.  This gave me some relief from the gaggle of youngling faces pressed into my control laptop-in-a-bin seated view station.  They are everywhere, crawling between open spaces, tripping over extended equipment, pressing in on the eliminated laptop, and must be noticed when slewing the 'robot' scope to avoid knocking them over with the strength of strain wave technology.

 

You must realize that YOU and your set up ARE the show until something appears on a screen.  Any peripheral, ancillary, supportive, or mundane is cannon fodder for the unknowing yet eager minds of the folks you are attempting to entertain...ah...educate.

 

That being said having an image of substance appear in 4 seconds or less is monumental although my lowly 102mm OTA has performed adequately in this regard.  Stepping back, or standing from my stool to approach the larger monitor provides me with a venue of increasing detail to discuss with onlookers as it is happening.  Just don't discount the fiddle factor of presentation using Sharpcap as the imaging medium since adjustment on the fly will be necessary.  

 

If you want fast then put a mono camera in the mix, else wise work on your 'stand up' routine to fill the exposure time between subs.  Just showing an incredible star field is wonderful enough to hold viewers.  The subsequent 3-8 sub exposures necessary to form detail on most large scale objects during those 6 seconds between will give rise to object discussion and viewer comments.


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#10 mgCatskills

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Posted 09 September 2023 - 07:00 AM

Well aware of your obsession with 4K (and potential anti-ASIAIR bias? Not sure about that one. Could be wrong there). And I know enough and have seen plenty and continue to see, watch and read.

Also, I'm pretty sure MacBooks don't have 4K screens - they have a retina display which is brilliant.

A lot goes into driving a 4K display as well as driving the content shown on a 4K display.

Just because you have a 4K display doesn't automatically mean everything is going to be 4K. Upscaling is a thing as well as a lot of other display tech going on these days.

Additionally, the material that goes to making a screen has an impact (OLED, micro-LED, etc). Refresh rate does as well (not so much for showing images from Live Stacking but it would for Video).

Also - the image you get to show depends on your camera, OTA, etc as well.

Point being - if you're after a portable rig to take around to outreach events - 4K is low on the list of priorities. Especially for a starter rig.

Power requirements are a key factor and you don't want to drain your portable power supply too quickly (4K is a larger power drain on portability).

A rig and setup that's at home, though, would be a different story.

Darth, let's start with first principles.  Mechanizoid, our topic starter, says he's considering investing in an ASI2600 camera.  It produces images at 6248 x 4176!  With an F2 'scope and a bright target he'll be generating EAA images worthy of that resolution within a minute or two.  So, in a public demonstration, you're suggesting 1920 x 1080 is good enough?  You're throwing away 92% of the resolution by doing that!  4K gives you 4x the resolution of 1080p.  It's still less than the camera, but it's practical even on a remote site.

 

As for "anti-ASIAir Bias" I didn't realize it was a protected class.  The truth is I dislike both platforms (ASI and Windows).  But there's no doubt that you can do higher quality EAA on a miniPC with SharpCap than you can on an ASIAir, which is a much better AP platform since you don't care about the real time screen image very much.

 

Once you're committed to having a monitor of any size on the site, then the difference in power draw between a 1080p and a 4K screen of the same size is negligible. 

 

If you're planning the "Ultimate Starter EAA Rig" you need to give some thought to the display.  How to power it is part of the consideration.  It will depend a lot on the specific circumstances of the site and your power options.

 

For my own situation it would be easy... I would go to Walmart and plunk down $2-300 on a 43" 4K smart TV.  They're light and easy to put in the back of a car.  I use my Macbook running WRD to view the Mele3 control computer as I usually do.  Then plug the TV into my Macbook as a second display using an HDMI cable, switch SharpCap into 2-screen mode, set them both up on a folding table, and it's done.  On a darksite, I drive an EV, so I can plug an inverter into the rear socket, and could run the display for a week.

 

My point isn't that what I would do is a universal solution.  The larger point is that getting high quality graphics display onto a dark site is very doable and way easier than many other aspects of EAA.  It just needs to be considered.

 

And I do believe there's a serious mismatch between the cameras under considerations and the graphics capabilities of the ASIair.  Call it bias if you'd like.  I call it common sense.


Edited by mgCatskills, 09 September 2023 - 07:57 AM.


#11 astrohamp

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Posted 09 September 2023 - 10:18 AM

Oh for sure 4k display is doable in-field as I take a 34" monitor with me dark sky star parties housed in my dark shed.  Works well as a single (NUC pc powered) although better (visual impact) as the second monitor using Sharpcap Pro set to dual view.

 

I sometimes use a 2k (1440p 2560x1600) laptop as control for EAA and now some outreach.  First using a 12v 7" 1920x1080 (HD) mini monitor just lately the 24" HD unit.   I'm not brave enough to set up the 34" UHD for outreach as it is a primary view screen. A much less costly TV well chosen for contrast, black level, low light operation, that looks good set to dim output is something I need to consider adding.  Mounting, powering, wiring, and keeping it from falling over are issues to address.

 

My 34" however is not directly 12v DC like the 24".  The trade off for using a 12-to-19v boost converter rather then a low output AC inverter may be less of an issue then I made it. One can usually get a bigger capacity battery to make up for conversion losses be it DC boost or AC inverter.  "What's in your wallet..."

 

I'm trying to put together a 'kiosk' like arrangement for the control PC/laptop.  Tote bin on a folding table kinda works.  Clamped the 7" monitor to the bin.  Substituted a folding (hooped) 2-step ladder putting the bin on the tray, hanging the 24" from the hoop facing off to the side.  Weighed it down for tip over avoidance (to side).  The bin works as a light shield and dew control for my laptop.  The 24Ah battery and tool box weigh down the scope tripod as I forgot to bring my 12" timber frame screws and driver.  Those screw each foot firmly in place if ground allows.

 

 

 

 

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#12 steveincolo

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Posted 09 September 2023 - 04:11 PM

I might be wrong, but I think OP was asking primarily about optics/camera/mount, not software.  I use both a refractor (AT130EDT) and a Hyperstar (C6 v4).  A refractor is easier to set up.  Hyperstar might work well if you've dialed in the collimation, and tightened the knobs so the collimation holds when you setup.  Otherwise you'll lose your audience while it gets dark.  

 

If you go Hyperstar, I think I would stay with the 533MC Pro to minimize tilt and collimation issues.  If you go with the 533MC, then the C6 Hyperstar could be a better choice than the C8, with its wider field.  The C6 Hyperstar/533MC has enough FOV to handle some of the larger showpiece objects.  

 

Saving some money on the scope and Hyperstar will give some budget for a dual narrowband filter, which is great for some showpiece objects.  The C6 will be just a little bit easier to handle than a C8 as well.  Just make sure you use a dewshield, so no one bumps into or tries to grab the Hyperstar and ruins your corrector plate! 

 

Re the mount:  With the Hyperstar, you can use short exposures for your subs, so you may be able to get away without guiding an AM5.  But you might also consider simply using an alt-az mount and keeping exposures at 20 seconds or less.  An alt-az mount will be faster to set up, so again less risk of losing your audience compared to an eq mount.  I find the C6 Hyperstar does pretty well on my iOptron AZ Mount Pro, but there are some spiffy new alt-az or combo eq/alt-az mounts.  Saving money on the optical train could let you get one of those.  Edit: Alt-az is less attractive, though, if you intend to get into AP.

 

Re software:  I may have missed it, but I didn't see any of the recommendations address how to let the public save images on their phone.  Neither SharpCap nor ASIAir seem ideal in that respect.  I think the public would have to install one app or another to connect to the miniPC or ASIAir.  (The alternative of the presenter texting or emailing saved images to the public is also not ideal.). But everyone with a phone has a web browser already, so a better solution might be web-based EAA software like Astro Live Stacker.  If it works the way I think it does -- and I haven't tried it myself, so caveat emptor -- the public would just have to connect to the network and point their browser at a URL.  


Edited by steveincolo, 09 September 2023 - 04:23 PM.

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#13 astrohamp

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Posted 09 September 2023 - 05:04 PM

In the past I have attempted to accommodate 'save a moment' visitors with phones at the eyepiece with poor success.

 

The posted image of my set up includes a 24" color monitor which some with phone cameras took pictures of to claim the moment, which works.

 

I have with limited in-field success attempted broadcast screen streaming although management, instruction, and hand-holding requirements were excessive at the time.  I am in favor of providing an event remembrance opportunity and am working one it.  Just know that all folks are not privileged with hand held devices that allow real time life logging.  No post cards are handed out.


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#14 Mechanizoid

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Posted 09 September 2023 - 06:35 PM

Wow, thanks for all the feedback everyone! You've all raised lots of good points, and directed my attention to things I need to consider.

 

Re SCTs vs RASA vs Refractors

I'm still seriously considering the Hyperstar, but I'll take a look at the refractor options too. Under my skies I'm sure I would get fine results with a small Apo, and ruggedness and insensitivity to collimation are big advantages. I will have to travel to observing sites, potentially down rough roads.

 

If I do go the Hyperstar route, I can ask Dean to help me with the initial setup (and he will collimate the C8 also). Hopefully that alleviates any collimation woes.

 

Still not sure about the C8 + Hyperstar vs RASA, so I will do some more research.

 

 

RASA 11 with a 2600mc pro class camera.  Reasonable pixel scale and field of view for a large range of targets in the sky.  This will be a bit more cumbersome to transport and setup.

@Mark Lovik  That's quite interesting. Dean did mention that the C8 + Hyperstar is capable of showing whole clusters of galaxies but not as optimized to show specific small DSOs. Does the pixel scale allow for us to zoom in a bit more on a specific DSO?

 

Re controlled chaos at the outreach/tour

 

Outreach with younglings enthusiastically surrounding you and your astro rig is going to be a bit nerve wracking.   My limited EAA outreach with some substantial tech has been rewarding, and hair raising to say the least. 

You are quite right! I've had a bit of experience in this kind of environment, but I was using traditional scopes with eyepieces at the time. Fortunately I do have some patter and a routine to keep everyone engaged until the scope has found its target.

 

Re 4k screens

I'm going to take a close look at this! I think a 4k screen will definitely help capture my audience's interest. If I go for an ASI2600 camera, I would like to not waste that resolution.

 

It seems to me that there are other factors with a monitor for EAA, though, like power consumption, how dark the darks are, and performance on dim settings. I think I will give B&H a call to see if they have suggestions for a suitable monitor.

 

Not having an EV, I will have to think about how I will power all this electronics.

 

Re ASIair vs miniPCs and software woes

 

Didn't know the ASIair doesn't allow for 4k resolution. I'm not a Windows guy (actually, a *nix guy... one of my laptops runs OpenBSD, of all things) so I'd have vastly preferred to use a FOSS solution on a miniPC running a Linux distro. My preliminary search hasn't turned up any cool open source live stacking software, though.

 

I am more than willing to work a bit to get all the software and hardware working together. The Starizona guys really push the ASIair as a plug-n-play solution, but if it can't output 4k for live stacking I'll look at a miniPC instead.

 

Re sharing images

I'm not actually sure how to share the images, but I have observed numerous guests attempting to capture images of the Moon and such on their phones. They could photograph my monitor instead, but that seems rather less than optimal.

 

 

But everyone with a phone has a web browser already, so a better solution might be web-based EAA software like Astro Live Stacker.  If it works the way I think it does -- and I haven't tried it myself, so caveat emptor -- the public would just have to connect to the network and point their browser at a URL.

I feel this is likely the best solution.

 

My impressions so far

So far, I have the impression that either an SCT+Hyperstar, RASA, or refractor are all capable of what I want to do, and the AM5 appears to be a capable mount.

 

The 11" RASA is probably too much for me to mount and transport, though I do drool over it a bit.

 

I need to think more about matching the camera to the scope and objects I want to view, selecting the correct PC and software to drive it, and powering the whole shebang.

 

Would anyone be able to recommend good resources for learning more about AP and EAA? This is all a new realm to me, but I'm most eager to learn. Hadn't even considered things like pixel scale before this thread! Thanks again everyone.



#15 Tfer

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Posted 09 September 2023 - 08:07 PM

Hyperstar and RASA instruments are incredible for what they do.

 

However, astronomers have targets that can be roughly separated into 3 groups: big, small and small/bright.

 

F2 setups are unbeatable in the first group: big. 
 

They suck on an Olympic level at the other two.  The number of huge, extended objects can be counted on 2 hands. 
 

Where F2 fails is on the thousands of galaxies, planets, PNs, etc.

 

I’d go with a refractor setup alongside a reduced 8” SCT. 


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#16 Mechanizoid

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Posted 09 September 2023 - 10:37 PM

Hyperstar and RASA instruments are incredible for what they do.

 

However, astronomers have targets that can be roughly separated into 3 groups: big, small and small/bright.

 

F2 setups are unbeatable in the first group: big. 
 

They suck on an Olympic level at the other two.  The number of huge, extended objects can be counted on 2 hands. 
 

Where F2 fails is on the thousands of galaxies, planets, PNs, etc.

 

I’d go with a refractor setup alongside a reduced 8” SCT. 

Right away I knew that F2 astrographs are not applicable to planets and small DSOs. My current plan is to use a traditional visual scope for planetary targets.

 

You provide an interesting breakdown of the classes of targets I may wish to view. I already noticed that the Hyperstar specializes in big extended objects and clusters of galaxies. I don't want to end up being unable to properly view more compact DSOs.

 

That said I really want to have the ability to image those big extended objects on tour. It's very difficult to view those except with a good pair of binoculars or an RFT, and even then most are dim.

 

I'm not sure if I can afford to invest in two scopes at the moment. Given that I could change configurations between Hyperstar and reduced mode, perhaps adding a focal reducer to that initial list would be a good compromise?


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#17 Tfer

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 12:08 AM

Right away I knew that F2 astrographs are not applicable to planets and small DSOs. My current plan is to use a traditional visual scope for planetary targets.

 

You provide an interesting breakdown of the classes of targets I may wish to view. I already noticed that the Hyperstar specializes in big extended objects and clusters of galaxies. I don't want to end up being unable to properly view more compact DSOs.

 

That said I really want to have the ability to image those big extended objects on tour. It's very difficult to view those except with a good pair of binoculars or an RFT, and even then most are dim.

 

I'm not sure if I can afford to invest in two scopes at the moment. Given that I could change configurations between Hyperstar and reduced mode, perhaps adding a focal reducer to that initial list would be a good compromise?

I don’t have access to a hyperstar, but I’m an absolute stickler on SCT collimation, and I can’t see how removing the secondary mirror wouldn’t affect that.

 

Perhaps I’m too paranoid, but after tweaking it to my satisfaction, pulling it out and replacing it later seems like a recipe for disaster. 



#18 Darth Riker

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 12:37 AM

Who's your target audience? Kids <12/13? Teenagers? Adults? All ages?

What's the main goal?

Edited by Darth Riker, 10 September 2023 - 12:37 AM.


#19 EdFromNH

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 12:56 AM

I have nearly the same setup as OP is proposing, except "only" a C6 Hyperstar.  I also have a refractor.  I have done EAA with the C6 at either f6 or f2.  I use the ASIAir, and an iPad for showing the people at the outreach event.  Using the ASIAir and keeping the battery in the tripod sling means zero cables running round for people to trip on.  And even polar alignment only takes a couple minutes with ASIAir and AM5. 

 

Our events are not huge (edit, at least the ones I've been able to attend), so showing the iPad to the six to eight or so people at any one scope at a time isn't a problem.  I have only a normal iPad, but you could get a larger tablet.  Even in the slower configurations, even 10 second exposures turn the dim fuzzies from the visual setups into something people can really appreciate.  And by the time you've described what's happening, another 1 or 2 exposures have been stacked.  Yes, of course f2 is faster, but with modern cameras you can still get by with the f6 config or a refractor.

 

I wouldn't suggest trying to switch configurations during an event.  Galaxy season gets f6 and everything else gets f2.  Or refractor.  Even smaller targets can be shown with the pinch and zoom.  Sure, the resolution isn't there from a technical perspective, but it's still 100x better than what most people have ever seen, and I'm not hung up on it.

 

Other peoples situations may be different, but I would be hesitant to use a TV of any size with people using visual scopes nearby.  But if you had to, then put the TV away from the scope on a separate battery (again, no tripping), and mirror your tablet/phone screen to the TV  (Airplay or whatever Android equivalent).


Edited by EdFromNH, 10 September 2023 - 01:03 AM.

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#20 Mechanizoid

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 02:15 AM

Who's your target audience? Kids <12/13? Teenagers? Adults? All ages?

What's the main goal?

This EAA rig is for a mobile astrotourism business permitted to operate on forest land. The target audience is adults and older children. Kids <12/13 aren't necessarily unwelcome... but the dark sites we operate at can be a scary and unforgiving environment for the really little ones, so we recommend 12 and up.

 

Some of the situations pertaining to public star parties doesn't apply to our situation, since we will be the only ones out there and the guests arranged to meet beforehand.

 

Being mobile, we can also arrange to come to your venue/event. In that case we don't have as much control over where we set up, so light pollution can be a factor.

 

Planets, double stars, and clusters (both open and globular) are favorable targets with traditional "eye to the eyepiece" observing. Galaxies and nebulae are more challenging. The end goal is to increase customer engagement and satisfaction with views of faint DSOs, while eliminating wait time at the eyepiece. And honestly... folks these days love gadgets, grew up on Hubble photos, and often just aren't impressed with "faint fuzzies". I need an alternative.

 

The outreach is more of a pet project... I'm volunteering with the local school district. That's purely noncommercial but I'll be bringing my company rigs.


Edited by Mechanizoid, 10 September 2023 - 02:37 AM.

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#21 Mechanizoid

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 02:33 AM

I have nearly the same setup as OP is proposing, except "only" a C6 Hyperstar.  I also have a refractor.  I have done EAA with the C6 at either f6 or f2.  I use the ASIAir, and an iPad for showing the people at the outreach event.  Using the ASIAir and keeping the battery in the tripod sling means zero cables running round for people to trip on.  And even polar alignment only takes a couple minutes with ASIAir and AM5. 

 

Our events are not huge (edit, at least the ones I've been able to attend), so showing the iPad to the six to eight or so people at any one scope at a time isn't a problem.  I have only a normal iPad, but you could get a larger tablet.  Even in the slower configurations, even 10 second exposures turn the dim fuzzies from the visual setups into something people can really appreciate.  And by the time you've described what's happening, another 1 or 2 exposures have been stacked.  Yes, of course f2 is faster, but with modern cameras you can still get by with the f6 config or a refractor.

 

I wouldn't suggest trying to switch configurations during an event.  Galaxy season gets f6 and everything else gets f2.  Or refractor.  Even smaller targets can be shown with the pinch and zoom.  Sure, the resolution isn't there from a technical perspective, but it's still 100x better than what most people have ever seen, and I'm not hung up on it.

 

Other peoples situations may be different, but I would be hesitant to use a TV of any size with people using visual scopes nearby.  But if you had to, then put the TV away from the scope on a separate battery (again, no tripping), and mirror your tablet/phone screen to the TV  (Airplay or whatever Android equivalent).

Very interesting! I was impressed by the images captured by the "mere" C6 Hyperstar when I visited Starizona.

 

How do you like the AM5? The folks at Starizona spoke quite highly of it. It seems so light compared to its rated capacity that I initially found it hard to believe.

 

Using separate batteries and WiFi to avoid tripping is an excellent safety measure. I'm putting that in my notes. I also like the idea of tailoring the config to the season. I wouldn't want to try to change out a Hyperstar in the dark either.

The digital zoom is interesting too. I know folks will ask for a closer look, and it just has to be good enough. Most folks aren't counting pixels.


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#22 Darth Riker

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 07:43 AM

I think you can have up to 3 devices connected to the ASIAIR showing the same screen? That being said - I'm not sure how this will go.

There's nothing stopping you from having an ASIAIR setup with either the iPad or the computer also connected - in whatever way - to an external screen.

 

It's quick to get going and having something to show.

Additionally, it does easily allow you to let others control the scope (with your monitoring of course). I know my 8 year old son loved being able to hold the iPad and use the arrows to control the scope and just hit capture in Preview mode. He also enjoyed looking for a target to capture and telling it to GoTo it.

 

This is all about the experience for them that will create those memories and, possibly, some future astronomers (and maybe even encourage them to go to careers they hadn't even considered).

I've been really happy with what I've managed to do with my setup for EAA (even with my not-so-great calibration frames).

Are they the best quality images ever? No. Does it matter to me? No. Am I having a blast doing it? Yes. And most importantly - does it provide another avenue for memories for my son? Yes.
 

Have a look (I'll be adding more after tonight): https://www.cloudyni...eg-heq5-pro-aa/

 

You could, potentially, also have a way to swap out your EAA imaging train for an eyepiece train. I'm not sure about that, though.

And of course - there's nothing stopping you from also going a 4K setup that doesn't involve the ASIAIR for yourself or other types of events.


Edited by Darth Riker, 10 September 2023 - 08:59 AM.

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#23 EdFromNH

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 01:12 PM

Very interesting! I was impressed by the images captured by the "mere" C6 Hyperstar when I visited Starizona.

How do you like the AM5? The folks at Starizona spoke quite highly of it. It seems so light compared to its rated capacity that I initially found it hard to believe.

Using separate batteries and WiFi to avoid tripping is an excellent safety measure. I'm putting that in my notes. I also like the idea of tailoring the config to the season. I wouldn't want to try to change out a Hyperstar in the dark either.
The digital zoom is interesting too. I know folks will ask for a closer look, and it just has to be good enough. Most folks aren't counting pixels.


The C6 is great in my opinion. In addition to being more portable and less expensive, for both the OTA and Hyperstar, it produces a wider field of view. This is great for some of the showpiece objects that would overflow a smaller FOV. But then not as good for others obviously.

I love the AM5. I did buy the counterweight and bar for the mount, but it isn’t needed for the C6 (they are for my refractor which is much heavier). Setup is super fast with the ASIAir. I know many people are anti ASIAir, and I appreciate their reasons, but I just need it to work. I know many people say guiding isn’t necessary for f2 and EAA but I get great numbers with the cheap little zwo mini and the 224mc. The higher periodic error typical of strain wave mounts makes it a good idea.

Make sure the filter you buy is capable at f2. The normal Antlia alp-t doesn’t work (I already had it for my refractor). Band shift. I bought the IDAS NBZ for the Hyperstar. I don’t know about the tri-band you’re considering.

I hope you end up with a great setup.
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#24 steveincolo

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 01:16 PM

I don’t have access to a hyperstar, but I’m an absolute stickler on SCT collimation, and I can’t see how removing the secondary mirror wouldn’t affect that.

 

Perhaps I’m too paranoid, but after tweaking it to my satisfaction, pulling it out and replacing it later seems like a recipe for disaster. 

I tend to leave my Hyperstar on the C6 for this reason.  I wouldn't quite call it a disaster to have to collimate again, more like an unwelcome PITA.  laugh.gif


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#25 mgCatskills

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Posted 10 September 2023 - 02:13 PM

Tripping hazards are tripping hazards, and need to be taken seriously whatever their source...

 

That's why I would recommend setting a monitor up on a strong, folding table rather than on a stand.  You can run fluorescent gaffer's tape around the edges of the table and, along with the light from the monitor itself, people will see it.  You can keep battery packs under the table, and run cables up the legs taped on with more gaffer's tape.  If you're set up next to a car, the car will provide a barrier on one side of the table, making it even safer.

 

Wireless to the telescope can be accomplished multiple ways.  The easiest, if you're controlling via miniPC, is to mount it on the OTA itself.  I love my MeLe Quieter 3, but there are lots of others.  Key is to have Windows Pro OS running on the control computer...  You then can have windows create a Hotspot and log into it using Windows Remote Desktop to control it from a laptop or other device.  The client side of WRD can be virtually anything.  I normally use various Macs... At home it's either my MacBook Pro or my 2-screen Mac Mini.

 

Patriot Astro and Cuiv both have detailed videos about setting up a control PC.  They're both useful and walk you step by step through a very similar installation.  I followed Patriot's Astro for installing a faster hard drive and windows on my MeLe, and Cuiv for most everything else.  The hardest and most useful part of Cuiv's video is he walks you setting up a Hotspot that will work in the field with no Internet available.

 

SharpCap will support 2-screen use as will WRD.  Of course, in the field I would plug a second monitor into my Macbook.  You could then tape the HDMI cable from the Macbook to the TV onto the table (no tripping hazard need be created).  SharpCap now defaults in two screens to: 1) a screen with everything (image plus controls for use by the operator) and 2) the target-image in full screen.  The 2nd image-only screen is whichever one was blank at the time you switched SharpCap into 2-screen mode, and wants to be the bigger, higher resolution one.




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