Topics

Upgrading my equipment #iEXOS-100 #TECHNICAL #ASCOM #astrophotography


Jeff Snell
 

Thanks Bill.  I actually put the APO in one of the Rigids.  The Stanley supports the misc gear.  Don’t know why I wrote the other way...Just getting old I guess.

Weather was great first night and I took some great milky way shots and a shot of Neowise.  Clouds and rain the last two nights so never broke out the APO.  Moving to a different spot tonight though.  Fingers crossed!

Heff


On Jul 22, 2020, at 8:29 AM, Chris Tardif <christardif@...> wrote:

Koen, check out my walkthrough document in the files section under user contributions...It might help you,
--
Mounts: Explore Scientific IEXOS-100 w Celestron CG5 tripod, iOptron CEM 40
Scopes: Explore Scientific FCD-100 ED-102CF, Various Canon lenses, ZWO mini-guidescope, StarField 60mm guide-scope.
CameraASI120MM Mini (mono), Altair GPCAM 130
Control PC: Intel NUC
Loc: 44 -79


Chris Tardif
 

Koen, check out my walkthrough document in the files section under user contributions...It might help you,
--
Mounts: Explore Scientific IEXOS-100 w Celestron CG5 tripod, iOptron CEM 40
Scopes: Explore Scientific FCD-100 ED-102CF, Various Canon lenses, ZWO mini-guidescope, StarField 60mm guide-scope.
CameraASI120MM Mini (mono), Altair GPCAM 130
Control PC: Intel NUC
Loc: 44 -79


Bill Black
 

Jeff,
Nice set up. Love the ingenuity with the tool boxes. I was just thinking about getting some cases to transport equipment safely and your tool boxes are a great idea!
Hope you have a great camping trip and get some nice shots at the dark site.
--

Bill
Location: Dallas, GA
Scopes:
 Celestron C8, AstroTech 80mm APO

Mounts: EXOS II PMC-Eight, LXD75

Cameras: ZWO ASI294MCPro, ASI385


Jeff Snell
 

Thanks Vince!  I’ll give these a look.

Jeff


On Jul 18, 2020, at 9:31 PM, Vince White <vnwhite@...> wrote:


Hey Jeff,

I have a couple of quick comments on lightening your battery pack:

If you haven't actually measured the running wattage of all of your equipment, you might be surprised by how little something consumes versus the rated wattage of the AC-DC adapter.  Something like this is convenient to measure the running wattage of individual equipment, and generally handy around the house.  You might find that your total running wattage is lower than you think and that the 114AH battery may be oversized, certainly 70# is a lot to drag around.  Depending on your laptop and OS, you should be able to enable power-savings and significantly reduce its running power consumption. 

Also, I suspect that most, if not all, of your astro gear is DC powered.  Doing a conversation from the lead-acid 12VDC to 120VAC with an inverter, then back to DC via the individual AC-DC adapters is not very efficient.  Ideally you would just use the 12VDC of your battery straight to your devices (like the PMC-Eight) or do a 12VDC to DC conversion using boost or buck converters, which are very efficient (~90%).  The downside to buck converters is that if they fail, they tend to supply the full input voltage to the end device, which can be very bad, depending on how the electronics are designed.  A boost converter doesn't have the same issue, since it would either fail or just output 12VDC.  I'm currently using 3 small buck converters and I've built added overvoltage protection circuits (called a crowbar) to each of them, however, it was a fairly complicated process to do.  Some people risk using buck converters without overvoltage protection or double them up in series to tolerate a single failure.  You also might be able to find 12V versions of your current gear, for example, here's a 12VDC powered USB 3.0 hub you could power directly off of your battery.

-Vince

--
Mount: ES PMC-8 EXOS2-GT
Scopes: BRESSER 208mm f/3.9 Newt + ES HR Coma Corrector, Celestron C90 Mak, generic 50/191mm guide scope
Cameras:  Canon EOS RP, T7C (ZWO ASI120MC clone)
Misc: 2" Optolong L-eNhance filter, 2" Optolong UHC filter, Raspberry PI 4
Software: INDI + Kstars + EKOS, DeepSkyStacker, GIMP, Lightroom, Photoshop, SIRIL


Vince White
 

Hey Jeff,

I have a couple of quick comments on lightening your battery pack:

If you haven't actually measured the running wattage of all of your equipment, you might be surprised by how little something consumes versus the rated wattage of the AC-DC adapter.  Something like this is convenient to measure the running wattage of individual equipment, and generally handy around the house.  You might find that your total running wattage is lower than you think and that the 114AH battery may be oversized, certainly 70# is a lot to drag around.  Depending on your laptop and OS, you should be able to enable power-savings and significantly reduce its running power consumption. 

Also, I suspect that most, if not all, of your astro gear is DC powered.  Doing a conversation from the lead-acid 12VDC to 120VAC with an inverter, then back to DC via the individual AC-DC adapters is not very efficient.  Ideally you would just use the 12VDC of your battery straight to your devices (like the PMC-Eight) or do a 12VDC to DC conversion using boost or buck converters, which are very efficient (~90%).  The downside to buck converters is that if they fail, they tend to supply the full input voltage to the end device, which can be very bad, depending on how the electronics are designed.  A boost converter doesn't have the same issue, since it would either fail or just output 12VDC.  I'm currently using 3 small buck converters and I've built added overvoltage protection circuits (called a crowbar) to each of them, however, it was a fairly complicated process to do.  Some people risk using buck converters without overvoltage protection or double them up in series to tolerate a single failure.  You also might be able to find 12V versions of your current gear, for example, here's a 12VDC powered USB 3.0 hub you could power directly off of your battery.

-Vince

--
Mount: ES PMC-8 EXOS2-GT
Scopes: BRESSER 208mm f/3.9 Newt + ES HR Coma Corrector, Celestron C90 Mak, generic 50/191mm guide scope
Cameras:  Canon EOS RP, T7C (ZWO ASI120MC clone)
Misc: 2" Optolong L-eNhance filter, 2" Optolong UHC filter, Raspberry PI 4
Software: INDI + Kstars + EKOS, DeepSkyStacker, GIMP, Lightroom, Photoshop, SIRIL


Jeff Snell
 

Hi Koen,
What follows as far as purchases assumes you are in the US.  If not, I'm sure you can find substitutes.  

I consider my setup portable.  I break it all down and pack it in three tool boxes I bought from Home Depot/Lowes.  Here's a pic:
image.png
The Stanley holds my 80mm APO nicely.  I bought some 3" thick soft foam padding and cut it to fit the box and that keeps the APO pretty secure.

One of the two Rigids holds the EXOS 2 Mount.  I used the original shipping pack that the mount came in and just cut it to fit the box.  It slides in just like it was sent from the factory.  Once that's in, I even have enough room for the tray that came with the tool box to fit on top of it.  I put lenses, the counter weight and bar, and whatever else I think I need in there.  The other Rigid carries the remainder of gear (cameras, lenses, eyepieces, adapters, red light flashlight, misc, etc...).  The biggest part is of course the tripod.  I just pack that wherever it fits in the back of the Jeep.

Now, to the question of "portability."  This set up makes it easy to move around but of course "some assembly required" every single time.  I used a Sharpie marker on every part that has to be lined up or at a certain point (mostly all about balance of the scope)...the counter weight position on the bar, the position of the scope on the mount, even how far the camera had to go in the extension tube of the APO (that was for focus).  I'm "practiced" pretty well now so in about 15 minutes I can have it all hooked up and ready to go.  The biggest portability issue for me though was power.  If there is AC power on site at the campground, great.  But most of the places I go to camp have everything but power.  I tried to run the gear on a celestron power tank but just too much juice needed for the mount, laptop, and USB strip/accessories.  There may be a "power tank like" solution out there but I couldn't find one.  I had some great advice from folks on this forum including parts lists and instructions to build my own.  But as previously stated, I am not technically savvy and opted out of burning my house down or electrocuting myself.  I did some online searches and found this article (see page 50 from this link: https://issuu.com/amateurastophotography/docs/issue13s ).  This set me in the direction below. I ran the calculations from the article to determine what was needed then I built this:
image.png
Above:  A power pack consisting of a 114 Amp Hour Deep Cycle Marine Battery in the milk crate, and a 1500W power inverter mounted on the outside.  Bought it all at Walmart (~$300 for the battery, the inverter and the charger).  The inverter has all the outlets/USB charging I need.  I just use a single power strip to plug everything in, so I have ample outlets.  

Below:  A pic of the side of the inverter with two USB and three AC outlets.
image.png

Below: The top view of the setup on the charger since I'm taking it camping tomorrow:
image.png
Below: The inverter:
image.png

Most of the time I shoot from my backyard so all of my crap is kept assembled in a garage and I move it out when needed.  I have unobstructed southern facing sky.   I simply run a 50 foot extension cord to the gear so no battery necessary.  Easy peasy.  But, when I take this rig camping, the battery setup is the elephant in the room.  The deep cycle marine battery weighs in at around 70lbs.  I'm still in decent shape but time is catching up.  Don't know if you consider that portable or not, but I'm certainly questioning my logic on occasion :-)  I will say this though, this power pack is battle tested.  By the calculations, I should easily be able to image for about 6 hours each night for two nights in a row (maybe another if I'm lucky) without recharging.  I've tested the two night theory and it works.  I only imaged for about 4 hours each of those nights though.  Too lazy to stay up too late...

Hope this helps.  I'll let you know if it makes three nights.  My camping is a three nighter to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah.  10,000 feet altitude and dark sky new moon!  It'll probably rain...
 
Have a great one!  
Jeff

PMC-Eight w/Explore Stars
ES ED80mm APO
Celestron 8" Edge HD
Canon Ti-5 w/ Spencer Camera Astro-mod


On Sat, Jul 18, 2020 at 3:16 PM Koen M. <koen.molemans@...> wrote:

Hi Jeff,

The setup you have is kind of what i am looking for.
How "portable" is it?
Thing is i cant use my backyard because of blocked views so i have to go on location every time i want to do something fun


Koen M.
 

Hi Jeff,

The setup you have is kind of what i am looking for.
How "portable" is it?
Thing is i cant use my backyard because of blocked views so i have to go on location every time i want to do something fun


Jeff Snell
 

😆😆😆👍🏼


On Jul 17, 2020, at 6:29 PM, desert frag via groups.io <desertfrag@...> wrote:


Ha Trevor's pronunciation of the word 'out' is a dead giveaway.
On Jul 17, 2020, at 8:09 PM, Robert Hoskin <devonshire@...> wrote:
On Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 07:47 PM, Jeff Snell wrote:
I heard about the ED80 from Trevor Jones (Youtube channel: Astrobackyard) who recommended it.  By the way, if you haven't discovered him yet, Mr. Jones speaks our language too with a slight Canadian accent :-). 
Weird...  Pretty sure that Trevor's from Ontario, and we don't have accents. :-))

 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2 290M
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64


Brad Becker
 

Ha Trevor's pronunciation of the word 'out' is a dead giveaway.

On Jul 17, 2020, at 8:09 PM, Robert Hoskin <devonshire@...> wrote:
On Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 07:47 PM, Jeff Snell wrote:
I heard about the ED80 from Trevor Jones (Youtube channel: Astrobackyard) who recommended it.  By the way, if you haven't discovered him yet, Mr. Jones speaks our language too with a slight Canadian accent :-). 
Weird...  Pretty sure that Trevor's from Ontario, and we don't have accents. :-))

 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2 290M
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64


 

On Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 07:47 PM, Jeff Snell wrote:
I heard about the ED80 from Trevor Jones (Youtube channel: Astrobackyard) who recommended it.  By the way, if you haven't discovered him yet, Mr. Jones speaks our language too with a slight Canadian accent :-). 
Weird...  Pretty sure that Trevor's from Ontario, and we don't have accents. :-))

 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2 290M
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64


Jeff Snell
 

Hi Koen,
I'll jump first I guess. Disclaimer up front:  First forgive me if I am covering anything you already know, and know I'm in my rookie season.  But I'm confident the seasoned vets will jump in should I say something stupid or inaccurate.  I'm probably one of the closest to your skill level having only been doing astrophotography since last Sept.  Like you, I'm not technically savvy.  I'm from Alabama (note the southern accent), an old USAF fighter pilot (think knuckle dragger) and I need pictures (preferably with crayons) with things dumbed down to the lowest level possible. There are quite a few VERY savvy folks on this forum who can speak to our level (as well as a much higher dialect if needed) that will help you get the most out of the mount.

So first, here's a picture of my setup.  
image.png

This is my EXOS2 GT PMC Eight Mount.  The scope is an Explore Scientific ED 80mm Apochromatic (APO) Telescope (~$699 when I bought it).  Great for wide-field shots (Nebulas, starfields, clusters and galaxies).  For planetary, I think you will want something bigger but I'm not there yet having a preference for the wide-field shots.  I have a Celestron 8" SCT thought that I am going to bring on soon.  I heard about the ED80 from Trevor Jones (Youtube channel: Astrobackyard) who recommended it.  By the way, if you haven't discovered him yet, Mr. Jones speaks our language too with a slight Canadian accent :-).  I watch his videos religiously and have learned quite a bit from his tutorials.  Also take a look at Dillon O'Donnell from down under (Youtube channel: Starstuff).  He's easy to understand as well (also accented :-)).  The smaller scope on top is an Orion Starshoot Autoguider and 50mm guide scope combo (~$250ish).  The camera is an astro modified Canon T5i.  I bought it used ($300) and then had it modified by Spencer Camera (~$275) to remove the IR cut filter (that helps bring in the reds of the Nebula/night sky).  You can do the mod yourself (think youtube videos) but I'm unlucky at that kinda thing and didn't wanna ruin my $300 camera investment.  Spencer Camera does mods for NASA so there ya go. Here's the link: (https://www.spencerscamera.com/index.cfm).  Attached to the front end of the T5i is a Field Flattener to round out the stars at the edges of the image field (~$250ish), and there are three extra extensions (maybe ~$15 each) along the image train to get the right focusing length for the ED80.  Also on the mount itself you might notice a rose colored ring (NE corner above the counterweight).  That's an adapter that is holding a QHY Polemaster Polar Alignment Camera (again,  I think around ~$275ish).  Of all the additional/optional things I bought, I found that item to be most useful for me, and the guidescope combo to be indispensable to increasing exposure time and eliminating any elongation of stars in my photos.

Here are a couple more closeup photos for you.
image.png
Autoguider and scope.
image.png
Starshoot Autoguider.
image.png
Polemaster Camera and adapter ring for the EXOS2GT.

Below is my ad hoc cable setup using a USB Hub velcroed to the PMC eight.  Works like a champ.  The USB hub is connected to a Lenovo Thinkpad (again recommended by Trevor from Amazon for ~$300).  This is where my serial connection (the left most gray/blue USB) from the Thinkpad flows to the PMC eight (big blue connector on the right).  You will be advised to switch to a serial connection from wi-fi to control the scope at some point.  The middle black USB is to my T5i, the gray plug to its right is to my guide scope connection and the other gray USB sticking out the right side is my Polemaster camera setup (long story as to why thenUSB is connected there.  I won't bore you with it).
image.png
Cable Management via a USB Hub.
image.png
Above are the programs I currently run on my laptop.  Cartes du Ciel is my planetarium program, APT controls my camera (and can do quite a lot of other things that I am still learning or will eventually learn, including plate solving), the Polemaster program for polar alignment, PHD2 (which literally stands for Push Here Dummy) for sending minute pulses to the mount to keep the stars from trailing, and ASCOM POTH which in my layman's brain means a translator enabling all the other programs, and parts and pieces talk to each other.  All of these programs, with the exception of the Polemaster Program were free downloads.  BTW, the plate solving available via APT (or whatever program you choose) essentially eliminates the need for having to sync the PMC eight to any stars for slewing.  Again, the way my Alabama brain thinks about it is that you tell the PMC where you are and what the date/time is via your selected planetarium program, then the camera takes a picture through APT, compares what it sees then solves the puzzle.  It then knows precisely where it's at in time and space and where it's pointing and can now be slewed to a target easily.  No syncing required.  I have yet to use plate solving because I'm inherently lazy, have some additional things to download and configure, and have a way around it via a single star sync after a good Polar alignment via Polemaster.  Since getting good at that method, I have yet to have the target not be centered when I slew to it. Of course I am using a widefield telescope so a little error is OK.

All the above said, There are a thousand little nuances/issues I've had to learn/overcome but everyone here is very generous with their time and expertise.  Have fun, be patient, dive in, and let the good folks on this forum help you get it all up and running.  It wasn't all that tough.  The toughest part to me was and still is the tweaking you need to do to get a good/great finished product.

Good luck!

Jeff

PMC-Eight w/Explore Stars
ES ED80mm APO
Celestron 8" Edge HD
Canon Ti-5 w/ Spencer Camera Astro-mod
Orion Starshoot Autoguider/50mm Guidescope
CdC, Polemaster, APT, PHD2, ASCOM POTH Hub


On Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 2:06 PM Koen M. <koen.molemans@...> wrote:

Allright, so it seems i am going to have to start guiding...
My current setup is the iEXOS100 PCM8 with my camera mounted on top of it. and thats it.

I am planning to get a telescope to mount my DSLR on, but that wont be the biggest issue.

I want to go deep space, i want nebula's i want planets i want the whole "shabang"
But i have been told that that is impossible with what i have unless i go and start guiding.

Now technically i am as dumb as fu...
So, is there somebody that can explain me in baby language and baby steps what items i will need (guiding scopes, extra cables, ....)

If possible with pictures :p (like i said i am a dumb fu..., so half of what is being typed is not comming in :p (and english is not my native language :D )

Thx guys 


 

Koen,
 
Perhaps it will help you figure out what to do, if we spend a moment on the "why's".
 
You've been told that you need to guide, because the mount's natural periodic error will cause your image to bump around a bit over time, and nobody likes streaky, lumpy stars.  The fix for this is, indeed guiding.  Basically, the guidescope + guide camera + guide software use a guide star as a proxy for the target that your imaging camera is trying to shoot, and in a perfect world, the guiding system sees a change and corrects for it, before the imaging camera notices (and messes up your stars).  
 
As to what guidescope and guide camera are right for you, well, that gets into a longish post.  The right answer will probably depend on the scope and camera you choose for DSO imaging.  More on that if you want it.
 
You will need a mount computer, if you want to guide.  Perhaps a laptop, or a Raspberry Pi, or one of the 'appliance' devices.  You'll run either ASCOM or INDI as platforms, and some mix of client astro-software on it.  Things to ask about and decide on.  Your PMC8 mount is flexible and it is unlikely to pose a limitation.  
 
You probably don't need to guide, if you want to image planets, but you probably will want different scopes for planetary vs Deep Space Objects's.  And perhaps a different camera as well.  The reason for this is that DSO's are usually wide, dim targets usually shot with longer exposures, and planets are tiny, bright targets usually shot with video (lucky imaging).
 
This leads people to use different scopes for DSO vs planetary, as well as different cameras.  Kinda like screwdrivers - one needs to pick the tool that suits the job.  
 
So you probably will want a scope with a wider field of view for your DSO's (and guiding), and something with a much longer focal length (and narrower field-of-view) for planets. 
 
We do have people her that do both here - on iExos100's, and I hope they chip in - but it will probably simplify things if you think of DSO's vs planets as two different problems that likely require different solutions.
 
Coming back to guiding, do figure out what scope you'd want to use for DSO imaging.  Small refractors are popular, but there are other options.  Once you have that sorted out,  this site can help you work out a guide ratio that meets your needs:
 
 
Some say a guide ratio of 1:3 is fine, but I was happier close to 1:2. YMMV.
 
No, none of this has to do with cables - those are things that come after deciding your imaging resolution vs guiding resolution, the software you will guide with, and the device you will run that software on.  Only after that, do you know what your cable needs are, because those things are what you connect your cables to.  :-)
 
Hope this helps...
 
- Bob
 
 
 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2 290M
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64


Koen M.
 

Allright, so it seems i am going to have to start guiding...
My current setup is the iEXOS100 PCM8 with my camera mounted on top of it. and thats it.

I am planning to get a telescope to mount my DSLR on, but that wont be the biggest issue.

I want to go deep space, i want nebula's i want planets i want the whole "shabang"
But i have been told that that is impossible with what i have unless i go and start guiding.

Now technically i am as dumb as fu...
So, is there somebody that can explain me in baby language and baby steps what items i will need (guiding scopes, extra cables, ....)

If possible with pictures :p (like i said i am a dumb fu..., so half of what is being typed is not comming in :p (and english is not my native language :D )

Thx guys