Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Using SharpCap's Polar Alignment feature
stephen2615
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Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:10 pm

Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by stephen2615 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:50 am

Greetings everyone,

Today I discovered SharpCap as a method of Polar Alignment and to be honest, it sounds like a lifesaver for my mental health and my back. I am in Australia and I have a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer. Polar alignment with the Sky-Watcher is difficult because the two stars furtherest from the middle of the view are not bright and I can never be sure they are in the correct position. If I use filters to reduce light pollution, I can take pictures in my backyard but I have difficulty with polar alignment as I have to point towards the area with the most light pollution. The light pollution is not overwhelming as I can still see the stars but those two outer stars are just too faint for my liking.

Someone said that I should use SharpCap for polar alignment as it takes all the guess work out of the equation. The only information I have is that I have to have a guide scope and a camera as well as SharpCap.

So my question is, what are this community's recommendations for a guide scope and camera that I can attach to the Star Adventurer. I realise that the cameras range from probably entry levels into a real enthusiast's realm so any guidance on lower end would be more helpful at this stage. I tried Googling some answers and as per usual, distractions wasted lots of my time.

I apologise if this has been asked before but doing a search of the forum did not offer an exact match especially for the south celestial pole.

Any information would be most welcome.

Regards

Stephen

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Rocket_Guy
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Location: Huntsville, Alabama USA

Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by Rocket_Guy » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:41 am

Hello Stephen,

I use an Orion Deluxe Mini 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser. It is pretty light and can be used as either a guide scope or as a finder scope. It is also not too expensive at $130. I am pretty happy with its performance. Orion also has a cheaper version for $80 called the Orion Mini 50mm Guide Scope. The only difference is that it lacks the helical focuser assembly. This is probably not a huge drawback but it will make the guide scope a little harder to focus exactly.

Bill (Rocket_Guy) Emrich

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Rocket_Guy
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Location: Huntsville, Alabama USA

Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by Rocket_Guy » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:54 am

Hello Stephen,

I forgot to mention that I use the ASI120MM Mini as a guide camera. It works pretty good and is only $150

SteveInNZ
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Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:56 pm

Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by SteveInNZ » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:51 pm

Kia Ora from across the ditch.
I use a QHY5L with a 25mm C-mount lens which is the same as the Polemaster (which you may have heard of). I use this to polar align my Star Adventurer and larger mounts/telescopes.
I mount the camera/lens on the Star Adventurer and then point it south(ish) which is halfway between the Southern Cross and Achenar (the bright star that the cross points to across the sky). Both are circumpolar so you can see them (nearly) all year and are bright enough that you can see them in town.
I pretty much just plonk it down, pointing in roughly the right direction.
I start up the SharpCap polar alignment function and if the pole is in the field of view, I usually get a solve in a few seconds at a dark site. Maybe give it 30 seconds in town.
If I don't get a solve, I pick up the tripod and rotate it left or right until SharpCap picks up the pole. The wide field of the 25mm lens really helps here because for us, those brighter stars are 30 degrees away from the pole. The hard part is getting in the ballpark.
Once the pole is in the field of view, you can proceed with the standard alignment process.

If you're not intending to guide your Star Adventurer, I wouldn't worry about getting a guidescope at this stage. You can buy small ring mounts for the QHY5 that have a tripod mount and fit into a guidescope mount if/when you progress to a telescope. Or the ZWO cameras have a tripod hole in the camera body and you can put that on to a ballhead so that it points at the pole. The camera is something that you'll continue to use if you progress further into bigger mounts, telescopes, etc so it's not dead money.

Steve.

stephen2615
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Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:10 pm

Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by stephen2615 » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:56 am

Thanks for the responses. The information was very valuable to me. SteveInNZ, you have already answered some of my polar alignment questions in a Facebook SkyWatcher Star Adventure group. Think of North Pole and Stephen and you will know who I am.

You introduced two things (QHY5L with a 25mm C-mount lens). Just out of curiosity, does the ZWO ASI120MC-S do the same as both of those bits of kit? I have so much to learn. I have USB 3 ports on my laptop so I was thinking that the better speed would be beneficial over USB 2 speeds but does it really make a difference? The ZWO seems easier to buy.

Bill, I looked at what you suggested. I might just start with the ZWO camera and see what happens. I don't have any current plans on guiding my Star Adventurer as light pollution is a problem here and if I can't use my kit at home, it does seem a waste to buy up big for only a few nights a year when I go to dark areas like my cousin's place near Griffith.

Thanks

Stephen

SteveInNZ
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Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by SteveInNZ » Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:37 am

I have a QHY miniGuidescope for the Star Adventurer. You can buy it with or without the camera if you want to get one with a different sensor and/or colour. I have both a mono and colour. Both are fine. Colour is handy if you plan to get a telescope and want to do planetary imaging in the future.
I particularly like it for the mount as the QHY5 camera body fits into it so I can put on the wide lens for polar alignment or as a finder and change to the longer lens to guide. The base fits into a standard finder base found on many scopes and has a 1/4" tripod mount hole in the base. So it's really easy to put on to the Star Adventurer for polar alignment.
There

Conversely, I think that the 1/4" tripod mount on the back of the ZWO camera and the T-mount make it a bit more inconvenient to use with the SA.
I own both ZWO and QHY cameras so I don't think I have a bias for either. The QHY5 and ASI120 use the same sized sensor so there's not much between them.
Have a think about how you would mount it all and select the camera that does the trick for you.

The faster USB3 is useful for planetary/lunar/solar imaging but is insignificant for guiding or polar alignment.
I buy QHY stuff from Cyclops (linked above).

Steve.
PS. Last time we were in North Pole, I did a couple of ice dives with "Test the waters" dive shop. It was January and a balmy -26C. :)

stephen2615
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Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by stephen2615 » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:01 pm

SteveInNZ,

Thanks for the extra information. I was so tempted to buy some stuff from Hong Kong a few minutes ago but I have to test my polar alignment acquisition with some new knowledge. There are SO MANY options that I need to calm down a bit and consider what I need v what I want. Currency exchange and our goods and services tax does make for about 13 % more than the price shown on the website.

I don't actually come from North Pole. I am Australian who lives in Canberra. I love the area around Fairbanks and have been to North Pole a few times. I went to Coldfoot and Wiseman especially to photograph the Aurora and I was not disappointed. We are going back to Alaska for our fourth trip in August minus the 5 kg of winter clothes and boots. Driving in Alaska in winter and on the wrong side of the road without proper snow tyres is umm, somewhat challenging. This time we are doing a cruise that visits the less travelled parts such as Dutch Harbour and Kodiak. The coldest I know about was -23C at Chena Hot Springs. My face nearly froze. I have also had -23C at Kirkenes in Norway and there were ice crystals falling out of the sky even though there were no clouds. Magical!

I rarely put real information on social media so you would have noted I am a CEO of Homeless Bums.

Cheers
Stephen

SteveInNZ
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Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:56 pm

Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by SteveInNZ » Wed Mar 20, 2019 1:12 am

That's a good plan. Test out your new knowledge and then spend money only if you need to.

Sounds like we share a similar level of crazy. We also went to Coldfoot/Wiseman for aurora and had great success. Coldest for us was -40C plus 40 degrees of windchill at the top of Atigun Pass. I have great respect for anyone that worked on that pipeline in the winter. In July '17 I got a permit to camp at Brooks falls while the bears were catching salmon. I got the shot but also had a bear come out of the trees about 30m in front of us. He paused, looked at us, sniffed and kept on going. That was a memorable moment.

Steve.

stephen2615
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Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:10 pm

Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by stephen2615 » Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:20 pm

I got as far as Chandalar Shelf (mainly because of the Ice Road Truckers issues with the climb up to it from the south and blowing snow) and our guide decided it was far enough north. It was a glorious day. What you never hear about is the need to visit any sort of toilet along the Dalton. Infrequent frozen long drops that had metal seats which were utterly disgusting. I couldn't even go inside and the females on our trip held it for over four hours.

About this time last year, I went to Antarctica. All I can say is that it was a MEH trip. Little wildlife and it was always cloudy. In comparison, Svalbard was much better. I took some pics in Antarctica but it was so damn dull all the time, very few of them were interesting. All the hills were covered in cloud. We never got near to any huge icebergs and that was a disappointment. We had the option to camp ashore for a couple of nights but it was cloudy and cold so the expedition cancelled it. We would not have gotten any good astro pics anyway. The Southern Cross looks VERY different at 68 degrees south as it is almost directly above you and it was upside down.

Kindred spirits eh?

SteveInNZ
Posts: 40
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:56 pm

Re: Recommendations on guide scope and camera

Post by SteveInNZ » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:04 am

That's interesting. We commented that the long-drops were better there as everything that smells was frozen. That was in contrast to China where it was summer and the drop wasn't that long.

You've got me envious with Svalbard. We decided to pass on going there for an eclipse a few years back and it's one that we're kicking ourselves for.

Steve.

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