Skywatcher Star Adventurer

The Skywatcher Star Adventurer astrophotography mount is a lightweight portable battery powered astrophotography mount designed mainly for DSLR astrophotography with a 5kg payload.

The astrophotography side of the Skywatcher Star Adventurer mount is well implemented with a ST-4 port for guide camera correction and a battery life rated at 72 hours on 4 x AA batteries. The built illuminated polar scope helps with accurate polar alignment and the geared Equatorial wedge provides fine adjustment.  On my mount the polar scope reticle was very accurately aligned with the RA axis and required no adjustment. One negative of the polar scope mounting design is that the trackers needs to be aligned BEFORE mounting the camera to the tracker. The additional weight of the camera and slight movement of the tripod/tracker during the camera mounting will shift the polar alignment which might be an issue for long exposures with longer focal length lenses. To counter this issue it is possible to drift align the mount but it does take time.

This was a simple astro image taken with a Canon 5D3 and Canon 100mm lens after a visual polar alignment of the Skywatcher Star Adventurer mount.

The build quality is very good with a DC motor providing the motive power controlled by a 44 slot encoder disc for closed loop feedback. Information on the guiding capabilities can be found here.

What the Skywatcher Star Adventurer is lacking, imho, is the implementation of good camera control and timelapse functionality and this post will document the development and replacement of the in-built control system so that the mount can be used for Astro and Timelapse photography.

Hopefully it will provide some information to others that want to experiment with the Star Adventurer mount.

Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques) in Cassiopeia (23/08/14). Twenty x 40 second lights and darks stacked on the comet hence the star trails. Taken on a Canon 5D3 and Canon 100-400mm lens at 400mm FL.

Initial observations

Access into the mount is very simple. 4 x socket head cap screws need to be removed and the casing can be split open. Internally there is enough freedom in the wiring loom to allow the top case to be hinged back giving easy access to the main components.

The encoder mounted directly on the rear motor shaft is a 44 slot disk with 4 wires controlling the encoder generating the control pulses. Maybe power, ground, A and B pulses? this needs to be checked. A futher check on the encoder shows it is an IR transmitter/receiver pair so only a single pulse from each slot/post pair on the encoder wheel i.e 44 pulses/revolution. At sidereal rate the motor and encoder disc spins at approx 48rpm, giving a pulse rate of (48*44)/60 = 35 pulses per second which is easily within the capability of an arduino. Also I need to look at the nominal voltage, presumably PWM driven, going to the motor. The nominal voltage going to the motor is 5 volts PWM controlled.

The output from the motor goes into a direct coupled gearbox with a 24T brass spur gear on the gearbox output. The gearbox ratio needs to be determined during the initial testing.

The 24T spur gear drives a 42T brass idler gear which, in turn, drives a 37T brass spur gear coupled directly to the brass worm. The worm drives a 144T wheel for the primary rotation.

28/01/16 update: There is a new advanced firmware available for the Adventurer which addresses some of the functional shortcomings found in the original tracker.

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8 Responses to Skywatcher Star Adventurer

  1. So, what’s the update on this project please? Did you get it working in the end?

  2. Hi,
    Thanks fro the excellent review that helped me a lot in making my decision to get Star Adventurer. Please enlighten me on one thing. The battery chamber takes in 4 AA cells – thus it can supply max 1.5 x 4 = 6V to the circuitry.

    On the other side, the USB power port is designed for 5V intake.

    My question is- Will it be safe to give 6V DC from a dry Lead Acid battery through the USB power port?

    Thanks in advance-

    • photosbykev says:

      I don’t know is the answer, however I would not consider putting 6v in through the usb port as they have never been used for any voltage other than 5v. You would be safer using a standard external power pack with a usb charge socket.

  3. D. Pollock says:

    Autoguiding port without a DEC axis is pretty much worthless. Most of your error is in DEC not RA. The only error you should have in RA is periodic error. You could possibly guide that out but usually you have PEC ( periodic error correction ) for that kind of thing so you train it once and unless the PEC changes its done. I looked at the SA but went with the Losmandy. 16 speeds for terrestrial use plus the usual rates for astro work. You can add the DEC module if you want to autoguide. About 200 bucks more but once you see one you will think that is trivial.


  4. Mark says:

    Thanks for posting this – very informative. If possible, can you tell me what the diameter is of the base of the equatorial wedge? I’m giving serious thought to getting the Star Adventurer kit, but I’m not sure if it’ll fit on my old Vixen tripod (It’s got one of those “spurs” sticking up for azimuth screws to lock onto).

    I guess its nearest rival (price-wise) is the iOptron Skyguider, but I’ve yet to see a review comparing one against the other.


  5. ClaudeVH says:

    Hello Kevin,

    Could-you tell us if the PapyMerlin BT module work with the Star Adventurer ?


    • photosbykev says:

      Hi Claude, there isn’t a computer interface on the Star Adventurer mount. The only input features are an ST-4 guide port and a micro USB for firmware updating and external power.


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