Astrophotography – the Basics pt.2

There are a lot of queries on what to buy and how to connect the various pieces of astronomy hardware and software for guided astrophotography so I thought I would take a stab at it here based on my limited experience over the last 6 months.

Any, and all, corrections are welcome

The basic EQMOD layout for a Synta mount

The layout above assumes you are going to be using a laptop for guiding and image capture.

Software
The core software, called the Ascom v5 Platform, is available from here Download Center as well as the EQMOD software from here http://eq-mod.sourceforge.net/. This software allows all the other software and hardware to talk to each other.

The free navigation software I use is Stellarium and Sky Chart / Cartes du Ciel

PHD Guiding is available from StarkLabs. This allows the mount tracking to be improved by monitoring the position of a star using the guide camera and guide scope.

I use Astro Photography Tools or AstroJan Tools, which is still under development, for Canon DSLR control and image capture. There is a programme called NKRemote for Nikon users.

Hardware
HitecAstro EQDIR adapter – this USB/Serial device connects the laptop to the NEQ6 mount and allows the EQMOD software to control the mount.

Serial Shutter Control from Astronomiser – this device controls the DSLR camera shutter from the APT software allowing the use of Mirror Lock Up to minimise vibrations.

The GPS, Joystick and TemperHum humidity sensor are useful but not essential for basic astrophotography.

SynScan Handcontroller users (thank you for the information Merlin66)

For direct control from the PC, it’s very straight forward. The handcontroller is connected to the mount as usual and:

1. The serial to RJ45 cable connects between the PC and the second socket on the handcontroller.
This cable is usually supplied with the HEQ/NEQ mount to allow updating of the firmware.
Obviously if there’s no serial port on the PC you also need to add a USB>Serial adaptor.

2. With Synscan firmware > V3.2 the communications mode is automatic – no need for the user to do anything other than connect the cable. With V2 or V3.1 firmware you need to set the “RS232 comms” via the utility menu on the handcontroller.

3. A guide camera with a ST-4 port can still be used and the direction buttons on the handcontroller still used to move the scope.

4. Telescope control is provided via Stellarium/CdC etc with the selected telescope drivers (Celestron-Skywatcher).

EQMOD, the EQDir module, cabling and joystick control shown are not required for this type of comms connection.

***Using PCDirect and EQASCOM***
please read the caution note from chrisshillito before you use this method

and this EQMOD pdf showing all of the PC control options for Synscan users

I hope this helps because it took me some time to sort it out, with a lot of help from the Stargazers Lounge forum, when I was starting down the astrophotography road. I would also point out this is just one of many schemes available and there are plenty of alternatives that work as well, if not better, than this method.

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