Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo Mount - Instructions

Introduction | Instructions for the 2-Star Alignment When Using the Handbox | Instructions for the Alignment When Using the SynScan Module and the SynScan App | Tips from the Manuals and My Experience | Instructions for the Celestron StarSense AutoAlign for Sky-Watcher Module | Conclusions | Links

On this page I compile instructions for the operation of the Sky-Watcher Star Discovery mount** using the handbox and the SynScan Wi-Fi module and also provide some useful tips from the manual. I conclude this page with instructions for using the mount with the Celestron StarSense AutoAlign for Sky-Watcher module.
*) The mount has the long name Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo telescope mount, so it is an azimuthal mount and in my possession since July 2016.
*) These Instructions are also valid for my Sky-Watcher AZ-GT mount as long as it is used in the AZ mode.

See also:

 

Introduction

Mount from one side

Mount turned around

Ditto with external power supply (Sky-Watcher Power Tank 12 V / 7 Ah)

In the following, I attempt to describe in simple words the most important alignment procedures that can be performed when using the Star Discovery mount, either with the handbox, with the SynScan Wi-Fi module and SynScan app, or with the Celestron StarSense module including its own hand control. I hope that reading these instructions will be faster than reading the manual. Some steps are omitted (often further pressing of the ENTER key).

I also pass on some hints from the manuals and from my experience.

The following table is an attempt to provide an overview of the different possibilities:

Mode Name Mount Position before Power on Procedure after Power on Typical Accuracy # of Alignment Stars First Action (after Power on)
Handbox Tracking Tracking In home position Nothing Tracking OK? -- You manually point to sky objects
Alignment 2-Star Alignment Home position not critical, but is helpful (I assume) Perform alignment GOTO and AZ tracking: Good 2 Handbox starts rough GOTO to the first star
Synscan Wi-Fi Default Pointing Model Tracking, rough GoTo In home position Nothing GOTO and AZ tracking: Satisfactory -- You manually point to sky objects
Non-Default Pointing Model 1-Star-Alignment Home position not critical, but is helpful Perform alignment GOTO and AZ tracking: Good 1 App starts rough GOTO to the first star
Brightest Star Alignment 2 You manually point to first the star
North-Level Alignment 2 You manually point the telescope level and to north
3-Star Alignment 3 App starts rough GOTO to the first star
Celestron StarSense with Hand Control Tracking Quick Align In home position Nothing Tracking OK? -- You manually point to sky objects
Alignment Plate-Solving Telescope tube level Perform automatic alignment (and calibration if needed) GOTO and AZ tracking: Good 1 (for calibration) Nothing

Home position: Telescope tube level and pointing to true north.

 

Instructions for the 2-Star Alignment When Using the Handbox

Note: I do not cover the Brightest Star Alignment method here.

Initialization

Power the mount on

Set the information of the observing site

Start mount alignment

Note: The alignment can also performed later (key "MENU" > "Setup" > "Alignment" > "2-Star Align.").

2-Star Alignment

First Alignment Star

Second Alignment Star

*) The speed can be adjusted manually to one's own needs (Press key "RATE" and a number key, then further number keys if needed)
**) This procedure should always end with using the UP and RIGHT keys (to minimize mechanical backlash); if you overshot, use the opposite key to return and then use the recommended one.

Repeat the Alignment

Press key "MENU", select item "Alignment" in the "Setup" menu using the scroll keys, and then the 2-star-alignment; continue as described for the 2-star-alignment.

You can also switch the mount off and then on again. Level the telescope and point it north before switching it on, particularly if you want to use tracking only.

 

Instructions for the Alignment When Using the SynScan Module and the SynScan App

Note: On this page, I only cover alignment methods for alt-azimuth mounts; therefore, the 2-star alignment is missing here, which is only available for parallactic mounts since an update of the SynScan app.

Box content (and glasses...)

The adapter module

Ditto, connected to the mount

Initialization

(1) Connect and start the app:

(2) Power the mount on:

That is, the mount is to be set to the "home position" before powering it on. The data for the observation (location, date, time etc.) is taken from the smartphone; if in doubt, check the location data in menu "Settings".

(3) Start the alignment: Go to the "Alignment" overview screen and select one of the alignment methods offered there to start the alignment. In the following, these are described in short form.

Instructions for the 1-Star Alignment When Using the SynScan Module and the SynScan App

First action: The app starts a rough GOTO to the first star (from manual)

*) This only works if the mount was previously in the "home position" (mount and tube horizontal, tube aligned to the north), but you can move the telescope to the correct position (as with Brightest Star Alignment).

Instructions for the 2-Star Alignment (North-Level Alignment) When Using the SynScan Module and the SynScan App

First action: Manually point the telescope level and to north (from manual).

Instructions for the 2-Star Alignment (Brightest Star Alignment) When Using the SynScan Module and the SynScan App

First action: Manually point to first star (from manual).

Instructions for the 3-Star Alignment When Using the SynScan Module and the SynScan App

First action: The app starts a rough GOTO to first star (from manual)

 

Tips from the Manuals and my Experience

Some Things to Observe when Doing the Alignment...

Eyepiece for the Alignment

Sky-Watcher notes that is is important to put the alignment stars at the center (or the same spot) in the field of view of the telescope's eyepiece and thus, recommends to either use

Actually, my crosshair eyepiece (see above) also has a shorter focal length (12.5 mm), which makes it difficult for me to come up with a good alignment at telescopes with longer focal lengths, because the alignment stars move so fast. I therefore prefer to use eyepieces with longer focal lengths for the alignment process.

Update: In January 2020, I purchased an additional crosshair eyepiece with a focal length of 23 mm, which is better suited to tubes with a longer focal length, such as my Celestron C8.

Sky-Watcher also suggest to defocus the telescope, because the larger, defocused star shape (a disk...) is easier to center than a sharp star.

Avoiding Mechanical Backslash

Since all mounts have more or less mechanical backslash on both axes, Sky-Watcher recommends the following:

Rules for Choosing an Alignment Star

Sky-Watcher recommends:

Can I Use Automatic Tracking only (that is, not GoTo)?

With Handbox

The Star Discovery mount has an "easy tracking mode" for doing just this. The steps to enable this mode are as follows:

  1. First, the mount must be set up at a proper "Home" position:
    1. Level the mount base
    2. Level the telescope tube and point it towards the true north (not magnetic north).
  2. Connect the handbox to the mount (if it was not yet connected).
  3. Turn on the power to the mount and start the initialization process of the SynScan handbox.
  4. In the last step of the initialization procedure ("Begin Alignment?"), cancel the mount alignment by selecting "2".

Now you can directly point the scope to the desired target using the handbox, and the mount will track the target automatically. If you want to track the moon or the sun, you have to set the respective tracking speed in the "Tracking" menu (otherwise the sidereal rate is being used). For observing terrestrial targets, you can also stop tracking in the "Tracking" menu.

With SynScan WLAN

When no alignment has been done, the SynScan app uses the "default pointing model" (location related), which allows a roughly accurate GoTo and tracking. The accuracy of the "default pointing model" depends on how perfectly the mount was placed in the home position before power on. The following table from the manual describes the differences:

  Mount position before power on Procedure after power on Typical accuracy
Default pointing model In home position* Nothing GOTO and AZ tracking: Satisfactory
Alignment (non-default pointing model) Home position not critical, but is helpful Perform alignment GOTO and AZ tracking: Good

*) Home position:

Not all Handboxes are the same!

If you take a look at the Sky-Watcher and Celestron handboxes, they look very similar at first sight (I own a Celestron StarSense handbox as well):

Photo: Sky-Watcher SynScan handbox (left) and Celestron StarSense handbox (right)

At a closer look, however, you will notice striking differences! The same functions are named differently and/or are located in different positions, especially the general "navigation functions", which one can master "blindly" after some practice:

Functionality SynScan StarSense/NexStar Position Comment
Sub menu /Start an action ENTER ENTER left/center If you as a Celestron user want to press "ENTER", you end up in the setup menu (key "MENU"), this is "confusing"!
Back/Cancel ESC BACK left/right If one knows the "BACK" function, probably does not understand what "ESC" does (the same)...
Setup menu (includes the alignment)/Alignment MENU ALIGN center/left Similar, but not identical; the text "MENU" suggests to me something quite different from what the key actually does, namely a jump to the top-level menu.

What do these differences mean in practice? Unfortunately a lot! If, for example, your hand grips come "blindly" for the Celestron handbox, you will keep coming back to the "MENU" key on the SynScan handbox, when you actually wanted to press the "ENTER" key - because it is located in the middle of the Celestron hand box.

So you will end up in the "Setup" menu, actually at the first item date entry. In the opposite case, you will get back instead of forward...

Shortcut Key MENU (Handbox)

The "MENU" key leads to the "Setup" menu despite of its label. In my eyes, this labeling is simply misleading. I had expected that this key would lead to the top level of the menu system. I needed to consult the "thick" manual (needs to be downloaded from the Internet....) and find the page describing the shortcut keys to find out what this key actually is meant to do...

 

Instructions for the Celestron StarSense AutoAlign for Sky-Watcher Module

Note: On this page, I only cover alignment methods for alt-azimuth mounts.

Introduction

The Celestron StarSense AutoAlign for Sky-Watcher module contains an additional interface box, which is best attached to a tripod leg. For the cabling the cable of the SynScan handbox is required. Below, I describe how to make the connections!

If you want to use the StarSense AutoAlign module for the first time, the module must first "learn" how the StarSense camera and telescope tube are aligned. This requires a calibration. Before the calibration, an AutoAlign has to be be performed, as well as after calibration, before you can begin observing.

StarSense interface box and handbox on mount

Photos: StarSense on Explorer 150PDS and Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount

Initially, I found a lot of contradictory and wrong information as to the calibration procedure. I have therefore developed a "personal" procedure for my purposes, which consists of the steps described in the following. This has, however, been confirmed by videos and Michael Swanson's book (I also found a "fast lane" to the calibration that nobody seems to know...).

Connecting StarSense to the Star Discovery Mount

  1. Mount the interface box on a tripod.
  2. Connect the interface box (unlabelled wide plug) to the mount using the 8-pin SynScan handbox cable.
  3. Connect the StarSense camera to the interface box using the supplied flat 6-pin cable (any AUX plug).
  4. Connect the StarSense handbox to the interface box (any AUX plug).
  5. Turn on the mount as usual and operate the mount with the StarSense Handbox.

First Observation Session

Powering the Mount on

Check Time and Location

First AutoAlign

Calibration

"My" calibration procedure is different from that in the manuals (but similar to Celestron's video, other videos, and Michael Swanson's book) and as follows:

*) Alternatively, as shown in some videos (e.g. this one) and written in Michael Swanson's book, you can press "BACK" twice, then press the "MENU" key, where you will find the (undocumented) "StarSense" menu with item "Calibrate" in first place; press "ENTER" again to get to the calibration procedure.
**) Use the keys "UP" and "RIGHT" as last keys (after that, a small check mark appears in the upper right corner of the display; this procedure avoids gear backlash of the mount).

Note: According to the "latest" manuals, the StarSense module no longer needs to be switched off and on again, and the telescope tube no longer needs to be aligned horizontally before pressing the "ALIGN" key and selecting "Auto Align" for a second time.

Second AutoAlign

Further Observation Sessions

The next time, a simple "Auto Align" should be enough to get started. But always check the date and time first (menu "Time and Location") first:

Tracking

With the function "QuickAlign" it is possible to track without having to perform a complete alignment. The telescope uses its home position (tube level and pointing to the north) as the only reference point for calculating where the objects should be in the sky (based on the time and location inputs).

 

Conclusions

These instructions were meant to be simple, but it turned out that they became more complex than expected. Nevertheless, they helped me to find out the differences between the various alignment methods for the SynScan Wi-Fi module and also made clearer to me how to use the handbox. They furthermore helped me to clarify the usage of the Celestron StarSense module.

 

Links

 

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23.02.2021