Sky-Watcher SynScan GoTo Upgrade Set for EQ3-2

I bought a GoTo upgrade for my EQ3-2 mount from Astroshop Warehouse Deals. The connectors for R.A. and Dec. cables are in inverse order with correct but upside-down labels. The defect appears not to affect the actual operation.

The Sky-Watcher upgrade kits do not contain installation instructions for the motors, and the handset manual was for a previous version. Fortunately, a blogger has provided self-made instructions, and Orion has a V5 hand controller manual. Orion also offers a manual for installing the motors, but the motors are different. Even so, the manual provides a couple of tips not mentioned in the blog: the setscrews in the gears should hit the flat part of the worm gear shaft, and the R.A. motor gears are more comfortable to align without the motor cover on the way. In the end, installing the kit was not too tricky, but getting the gears aligned required some trial and error.

To check if the device works properly, I made a dry using my iPhone and SkySafari as a telescope. On the first attempt, the GoTo was totally off, but after double-checking the setup (the controller wants the day and the month in reverse order), it was able to point to the general direction of the target. Later the sky cleared enough, and I was able to perform a real test. Unfortunately, no stars were visible, and I was not able to test alignment. Lunar tracking worked well enough for visual given the crude polar alignment.

So far, I have only used the hand controller, but Stellarium seems to be able to connect with the mount, and it should be possible to use SkySafari via SynScan Pro App for Windows. I am not sure if I want to go through the hassle of installing EQMOD at this point, but it has some exciting features like using a gamepad to control the mount or using any star for alignment.

The Moon 9.8.2019

Gibbous Moon March and April 2019

Equipment

  • Equipment:
  • Sky-Watcher Explorer 150P-DS
  • Sky-Watcher N-EQ3-2 with aluminium tripod
  • Olympus PEN E-PL7
  • 2x Barlow lens (Full disc shot without the Barlow)

Software

  • PIPP
  • Auto Stakkert! 3
  • Polarr Photo Editor
  • Adobe Premiere Rush CC

Music in the video: Ether Oar by The Whole Other

Quick astrophotos from the balcony

So far I have only done afocal moon photos with a smartphone, so a couple of nights ago I try prime focus photography with my system camera. Because I do not have tracking motors, I was able to use exposure times up to only 0,5 seconds. With the ISO turned up to the maximum I was able to capture the Orion Nebula. The quality of the images is not particularly satisfying as I only got time to capture a few frames. Also, the Trapezoid cluster seems overexposed, so I can probably tune the ISO down next time. Both of the photos above were stacked with Sequator and processed in Affinity Photo.

Copernicus crater through 150/750 Newton telescope

The final processed image shown at the end of the video is the one from My First Telescope. I used a trial version of Adobe Premiere Rush to compose the video. The user experience was much better than the open source editor I used for the previous Moon video, but the software was sluggish even on a Surface Pro with an i7. Also, all the premade titles and callouts look rather hideous.

The Moon through 150/750 Newton telescope

While figuring out which telescope to purchase, I searched for examples of how different targets would look through various telescopes. There are a lot of pretty heavily processed long exposure photos available, but it is harder to find examples of how things would appear when looking through the ocular. I found some videos of the Moon and planets which give a more realistic impression of the field of view and the atmospheric disturbance.

Now that I have my own telescope, I decided to try to make such videos my self. I used one of the quick videos I took during my first observation of the Moon. The final processed image shown at the end is the one from my previous post. I used OpenShot Video Editor to compose the video, and while it got the job done, the user experience was hideous. For my next video, I am trying to find an editor with better usability.

midwinter” by airtone
2018 – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0)

My first telescope

About a year ago I started to think about getting a telescope, and I have finally acquired one. After considering alternatives and consulting with the dealer, I ended up with a SkyWatcher Explorer 150PDS. It is a 150 mm aperture and 750 mm focal length Newtonian reflector instead of an achromatic refractor that I had in mind initially. Along with the optical tube, I also ordered an 8-24 mm zoom ocular, a 2x Barlow lens, a moon filter and a collimation laser. Along with the included 28 mm LET ocular these give me magnifications between 26,8x and 187,5x.

Sky-Watcher 150PDS astrophotography reflector on an EQ3 mount with an aluminium tripod


I ordered the telescope from Teleskop Spezialisten because they proof and collimate the telescopes they sell. Indeed, it arrived perfectly collimated, I have not yet tried the collimation process myself. I had placed the order for the smaller 130 mm version, but due to delivery issues, I got the bigger tube at the same price.

While it feels a bit bulky, it is still fast to set up, and I can store easily it in the apartment. The only downside is that the weight is on the upper limit of the N-EQ3-2 mount. Unfortunately, the bigger EQ5 was beyond my budget.
Of course, the skies have been mostly overcast since I got the telescope, but there have been a couple of clear evenings on which I have been able to make the first observations.

Planets

I was able to observe Mars and Venus only during poor visibility. Mars was just a small blip, but Venus’ phase was clearly visible. In both cases, the vibrations were fairly annoying even with low magnification. It will be a while before Mars is again in opposition, but I hope to have better luck with Jupiter and Saturn when they are back in the field of view.

Deep Sky

Of the deep sky objects, I have only had luck with the Orion Nebula. On the first two observations, only the brightest part of the nebula was visible due to the Moon being in the sky. On the third time, the Moon was yet to rise and could see the curved regions extending from the centre. Everything was still pretty faint compared to the background sky, and I am probably going get a light pollution filter. The vibrations were not a problem up to 93,8x magnification. Which I also found to be to most comfortable magnification since the visible nebula filled most of the field of view. Unfortunately, I was not able to try out deep sky photography since I am yet to acquire tracking motors.

The Moon

From the observations so far the Moon has been to most satisfying. Even if not strictly necessary the moon filter made viewing a bit more comfortable. It found it easier to see details when the moon surface was not massively bright and removed the chromatic aberration of the Barlow lens. The filter is adjustable, and it was easy to find a good level of filtering.
With the Moon, I did not find the vibrations too annoying even with the maximum 187,5x magnification. I also took a couple of quick videos with my smartphone and the resulting processed images can be seen below. Both images were centred and cropped with PIPP, stacked with AutoStakkert! and edited with Polarr.

Waxing gibbous Moon
Copernicus impact crater

Overall I am satisfied with the telescope. The biggest issue so far is that using the finderscope is not very ergonomic. Also, the field of view from my balcony places some limits on the possible targets. For example, while Orion was well positioned; the Plajades were too high. Hopefully, enough interesting targets pass the through the view during the year.

The Moon with Binoculars and a Camera

13 x 1/500 s, 45 mm, f/2, ISO 1600
Binned, centered, and cropped in PIPP.
Stacked and processed with Affinity Photo.

To get a more detailed picture of the Moon, I tried taking a photo with my system camera through the binoculars. While this was indeed possible, it was difficult to align the camera correctly, and even then the resulting image was blurry. I had to use 3×3 binning in PIPP to get a sharp image.  The result is not much larger than an image from a smartphone and binoculars, but it shows a bit more detail.

Scorpius

The constellation of Scorpius on 30. June 2018
60 x 1 s, 45 mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400
Stacked with Sequator and processed in Affinity Photo.

A big issue with this photograph was the net, which is installed on our balcony to keep the birds from soiling it. With binoculars, it  poses no problem, but with a 45 mm lens with a considerably larger view, the net was clearly visible although out of focus. Stacking averaged out the horizontal bands, but the vertical bands remained.

I managed to salvage the image by performing frequency separation so that most of the detail went to the high-frequency layer. Then I reduced the luminance of the low-frequency layer until the bands were no longer visible.

I intended to photograph the constellation, and I did not expect to see any deep sky objects, but closer inspection showed that several globular clusters are actually visible in the image. They appear just as few pixels wide blotches but are a nice addition to the photo.