Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet APO
Radian Raptor 61
Celestron Edge HD 8
Orion Skyline 10″ Dobsonian Reflector
Orion 6″ Intelliscope Dobsonian Reflector
Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro Equatorial Mount
Canon EOS Ra
Celestron X-Cel LX 2x
Celestron X-Cel LX 3x
Tele Vue Powermate 5
OptoLong L-eNhanced Dual Band Light Pollution
Optolong L-Pro Broadband Light Pollution
Astronomik ProPlanet 642 IR-Pass
Astronomik ProPlanet 807 IR Pass
Baader Moon-Skyglow IR Cut
Connecting Your Equipment
Taking images with a telescope and an equatorial mount can be fun but also challenging. First, you must choose whether or not you want to image using guiding or not, and if you choose guiding, how are you going to connect your telescope and guide setup to your pc or other device. In this guide I am going to explain several ways to setup to image based on the equipment that I have and use.
When I first setup my Sky Watcher EQR-6 Pro mount with my Meade Series 6000 80mm Triplet to image I did so without a guide camera or guide scope. This is the most basic way to setup your equipment but it comes with the heaviest caveat – your exposure time will be severely limited and without heavy manual input you can (and will for longer exposures) suffer from what is known as “Walking Noise.” Our tracking accuracy setting up this way is going to be solely based on how well you can polar align the mount and you can easily get up to 2+ minutes of accurate tracking with a widefield setup.
Tthis setup is suitable for widefield astrophotography with no filter or very “light” filters such as a normal light pollution filter or something like the Optolong L-Pro filter.
The longer your exposure is the more prone to “walking noise” being in your final stack will be. To combat this, limit your exposures to 60s or less and if possible, manually dither
- Dithering is the process of slightly moving the mount between exposures to reduce the amount of noise from your camera’s sensor being in the same location in every image. This only needs to be a few pixels, so very minor adjustments
How the setup looks:
Equipment: Mount, telescope, and camera
Mount will either be controlled by the hand controller or connected directly to the computer. Camera will be connected to the computer. I advise having a finders scope on the telescope / lens.
Setup the mount and scope. Connect the hand controller to the mount, connect the camera to the telescope and to the computer. Polar align using the methods on your mount or by using some sort of polar scope. Align your mount using its alignment features – Example: The EQR6-Pro has a 3-Star alignment process built in. Use your mounts built in tracking to track your target once centered, and then begin to take images.
Guiding – ST-4 Connection
Your setup is the same as above EXCEPT instead of a finders scope you will connect a guide scope with a camera attached for guiding. The camera will then connect to the computer AND to the mount. The connection to the computer is done by USB and the connection to the mount is done by the ST-4 cable – looks like a phone cable. This will allow your guide camera to talk to mount as well as communication to and from the computer to occur. You will then need to use guiding software, such as PDH2, to run the guiding for you and your mount.
Guiding allows you two things: Much longer exposures and the ability to dither. If you use PDH2, the settings allow you to determine the dither amount. Your capture software will most likely hsve a dither setting as well, BOTH should be set. An example setting, which is the one I use for focal lengths between 250mm and 500mm is a setting of 4 in PDH2 and a setting of 5 in my capture software (I use both Astro Photography Tool – APT and N.I.N.A.).
This way of connection only needs to be done if you are still using the hand controller to control the mount and not have it directly connected to your computer.
Equipment: Mount, Telescope, Guide Scope, Camera, and Guide Camera
Setup as before, again, the difference is you will be using the guide scope and guide camera instead of the finderscope. The guide camera needs to be connected to the computer – just like your imaging camera – and the mount with the ST-4 line. Guiding and dithering needs to be setup with your guiding software and your capture software.
Full Computer Control
This will require you to connect everything to your computer: The mount, guide scope and obviously your computer. There are many benefits to setting up this way: Full control of guiding, full control of your mount and platesolving for framing / centering your targets, all from your computer.
First, things your computer will need:
Capture software with optional platesolving
For ASCOM, download the latest from the website. For mount drivers, there are different ways to to go here, I personally use EQMOD and the driver suite for my setup is the EQASCOM. For capture software I use both APT and N.I.N.A. and the both have the ability to add in platesolving. For platesolving look at your capture software’s guide and it will specify what, where and how to get and install the additional software you will need for this feature. Guiding software stays the same and all your connections to it will as well, the main difference is you will no longer be guiding by ST-4 but rather by “pulse,” which is far more accurate and reliable.
Download the software / drivers to your computer. Settings for mount speed and connection (baud rate) speed will need to be set. I recommend finding and watching a video specifically for your mount and what settings to use. They may recommend something other then EQMOD, that is fine and totally acceptable! Note, you msy have to power on and connect the mount, etc to be able to manipulate these settings. I recommend this anyways to test and trouble shoot any issues that may occur from setting up for the first time.
Set up the mount and scope as normal. Your mount, camera and guide camera need to be connected to your computer by USB. I recommend a USB hub or something like the Pegasus Powerbox. I use the Pegasus Powerbox Advanced. Note: You will no longer need the ST-4 cable – with your mount and guide camera attached to the computer, they can both talk to each other.
If you use something like the Pegasus Powerbox, you will be able to connect everything to that and then run one cable to your computer. You will also be able to run power to your mount, camera (if needed) and optional accessories such as dew heaters while only running one power cable to your setup (minus the power for your laptop if you use one). This is very beneficial for cable management as well as being able to monitor your setups power output on your computer.
Assuming you have some sort of hub, this is how your setup will look (I will base this off using the Pegasus Powerbox Advanced)
Setup mount and telescope. Telescope will have the guide scope, camera, guide camera and hub attached. Cables will run from the camera, mount and guide camera into the hub – note: the camera cable will most likely need to be USB3 and plugged into a USB3 port on the hub. Power for your mount will run from the hub to your mount. Power for your camera, if applicable, will run from your hub to your camera. Any dew heaters will connect to your hub. One power cable – a 12v DC supply – will run to your hub. One cable, USB3, will run from your hub to your computer. From here, everything should be connected and beyond troubleshooting settings, you should be all set.
Some common issues:
Port for your connections – particularly the mount
Baud rate for the Port – typically effects the mount most
Mount speed – effects guiding mostly, setup in your mount driver software (the Toolbox for EQMOD)
Not having the imaging camera attached by USB3 – usually just put in the wrong USB slot on hub or computer
Finally, I recommend watching videos on the following: Connecting you particular mount to a computer, setting up guiding using PDH2 and setting up the particular imaging software you plan to use.