Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo Mount - Control Options

Introduction | Overview of the Solutions | Preliminary Conclusions | Links

On this page, I describe how I tried to adapt my Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount so that it is able to carry heavier loads than the 5 kg that are listed by the manufacturer.

See also:

 

Introduction

When I purchased the Sky-Watcher Star Discovery mount, I never thought that I would want to control it with anything other than the handbox. I was used to this from my (un)happy Meade ETX times. But then I found out that SkySafari, which I ran and run on the Apple iPad and the Apple Macintosh, can be used to control this mount. This, of course, aroused my interest (I never took corresponding attempts with Stellarium seriously, as it was too tedious for me...).

My first attempt in this direction was the purchase of a SkyWire adapter, which requires a cable connection to the iPad. The corresponding WiFi solution (SkyFi 3) was and is unfortunately too expensive for me... Basically, SkyWire is a USB to serial adapter, like many others, but thanks to Apple this is the only one that works together with SkySafari and is accordingly expensive. I report about my experiences with it on page Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo Mount - SkyWire Information. After I bought the Sky-Watcher SynScan WLAN module in spring 2019 (see below), I gave away the SkyWire module, because I did not want to have a cable solution any more and both devices seemed a bit "redundant" together.

After experiencing some frustration with the GoTo behavior of my Sky-Watcher Star Discovery mount, I thought that buying a module called Celestron StarSense AutoAlign for Sky-Watcher would simplify my "observation life" in one fell swoop, as this module is able to find its way in the sky thanks to its plate solving algorithms. In the meantime, I was also on the backers list of the eVscope, which also uses this technology, but in an all-in-one solution. Unfortunately, my entry into this world was more than thorny, and it took me some time to get it all up and running (thanks to Celestron for its "super" documentation!). And then for about a year I did not use the module, the mount, and my 6"-Newton at all... First experiences (until the "breakthrough") can be found on page Celestron StarSense AutoAlign for Sky-Watcher - First experiences.

In spring 2019, a hobby astronomer drew my attention to the Sky-Watcher SynScan WLAN module. It seemed to be especially poorly suited to an Apple environment (as I have one...), and, after initial dissuasion, my dealer finally gave me such a module for "evaluation purposes." Here, too, my start was more than uneven, especially thanks to the crash-friendly app, which replaces the handbox and is used to control the mount. At some point in time, I found out (probably more by chance...) how to "survive" an observation without crashes. A coupling with SkySafari was described as possible, but I was not the only one who failed initially. At some point in time, I had also solved this problem, and so, apart from poor sky conditions, there was hardly anything standing in the way of observing with this configuration... First experiences (until the "breakthrough") can be found on page Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo-Mount - SynScan WLAN - First experiences.

Except perhaps new technology, which distracts one from the current toy! In this case, it was a hint from a hobby astronomer that the StarSense module should also be controllable with SkySafari. There are several options for this, some via WLAN and corresponding adapters, others via cable, serial or USB, depending on the version of the handbox. As a "fast" and inexpensive solution, only the wired solution came into question for me, namely via a USB cable, because I own a newer version of the handbox for the StarSense module. It should no longer be a big surprise for readers, when I write that I struggled with massive problems until I had everything up and running. Some problems, such as a failed connection between SkySafari and the StarSense module, can occur any time, and then I have to look at my "troubleshooting" list... My initial problems are described on page Celestron StarSense AutoAlign for Sky-Watcher - Connecting to a Mac (USB).

If you remember what I wrote above, you will notice that I once more own a wired solution... What do I care about my gossip from yesterday! I would also like to mention that the two most important WiFi solutions come from Celestron (SkyPortal) and Simulation Curriculum (SkyFi 3). But that is more or less all I know about this topic.

 

Overview of the Solutions

In the following, I would like to try to compare the different solutions in tabular form (without liability for correctness); I limit myself largely to what I own or owned, and in the case of the computer platform to the Apple world. I deviate from this only with respect to the WiFi solutions for the Celestron StarSense module.

Table

Configuration
With
Handbox?
Cable*
WLAN
SkySafari
SkySafari
App
App & SkySafari
Star Discovery (SD) yes (a)        
SD & SkyWire* ** yes (a) ja (iOS), device at handbox/iPad      
SD & SynScan WLAN** no     yes (a) yes (for Apple devices, two devices needed, alignment done in App)
SD & StarSense yes (a)        
SD & StarSense & Cable* yes (a) ja (Mac), cable at handbox/computer      
SD & StarSense & C-WiFi** yes/no   yes (a) (iOS), module at mount (handbox port or AUX port)    
SD & StarSense & SkyFi 3** yes (a)   yes (iOS, Mac), modul at handbox    

yes = Option (alone or together); yes/no = both possiblem; light gray = in my possession; darker light gray = was in my possession
further explanations below!

Explanations

Handbox and Adapter/Cable

The Sky-Watcher SynScan WLAN module is plugged into the handbox socket of the mount and thus replaces the handbox the functions of which are taken over by the SynScan app. It is therefore probably not possible to run SkySafari without the app (it would be conceivable, but this would mean some effort in SkySafari...). All other cable or WLAN solutions allow the parallel operation of the handbox and SkySafari. Almost always, however, the alignment must first be carried out in the handbox.

SnyScan WLAN

no) Because SynScan WLAN occupies the handbox socket in the mount, the handbox cannot be used together with the module. As far as I know, SynScan WLAN cannot be used in the Relay Box of the StarSense module for Sky-Watcher. When I tried this, it did not work - with and without handbox in the Relay Box.

Cable and SkyWire

*) You can use a serial (RS232) or a USB cable (which converts to RS232) - which one depends on the handbox. SkyWire is basically a USB-serial adapter for the Apple iPad, which is connected to the handbox.

WLAN-Module and SkyWire

**) C-WiFi = Celestron SkyPortal WiFi module (Smartphone, tablet); SkyFi 3 from Simulation Curriculum is another WLAN adapter (Smartphone, tablet or computer), ditto SynScan WLAN from Sky-Watcher (App on Smartphone, tablet or Windows computer; SkySafari for Apple devices on a second iOS device or computer); SkyWire from Simulation Curriculum connects to an iPad via cable.

Alignment

(a) indicates, where the alignment (at the start of the observations) has to be performed.

 

Preliminary Conclusions

On this page, I describe how I tried to control my Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo telescope mount with the handbox and more. I came across both, wired and WiFi solutions. In the introduction, I described solutions (in the Apple world) and in which order I came across them. My ultimate goal was always to control the telescope with the planetarium software SkySafari, even if this was not always clear to me.

As of the end of August 2019, I do not know, which solution I will ultimately prefer. Probably, this will depend on the amount of equipment I want to use for observing... In terms of effort, the SynScan WLAN solution is the easiest for me, as long as I limit myself to usind the app only.

 

Links

 

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gerd (at) waloszek (dot) de

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13.08.2020