First Clear Night with Mach2

Wayne Hixson

Halleluiah - The skies opened up enough to run the Mach2, albeit with a very bright Moon in the middle of the sky area I can see! It was one of 4 new pieces of gear I was hoping to actually try after the long cloudy period - the QHY Polemaster, Optec Saggita OAG, QHY 268C OSC camera, and the Mach2. I'll focus (pun intended) on the Mach2. Note this is based on a very limited experience, but the mount has lived up to my expectations and even surprised me with some features

 - I got through all the testing I'd planned by 12:30 - a first!
 - The encoders' capability to keep track of the scopes position is a godsend.
 - The ability to loosen and tighten clutches and altitude by hand only is a pleasant unanticipated surprise
 - Motors are quiet and fast, even at 12v
 - Guiding seems improved

I run the system remotely (100 ft from the dining room to the deck) with a Primaluce Eagle 3S mounted atop a 130GTX. I'm using USB through-the-mount to connect to the GTOCP5. Did a rough alignment with the Polemaster - nice to have that built-in attach point. The altitude adjuster is easier to use than on my AP1100, being only two larger knobs instead of 4 smaller ones to loosen and lock the axis. No wrenches required.

I did a GOTO the Moon, but I saw from the APCC model that t was going the wrong way. I ran to the deck and found the mount stopped because the camera USB cable had impacted the top of the railing. Darn camera is really long! One pleasant finding was the USB cable on the camera was not bent or damages when it impacted  as I had set the clutches by hand only and the controller may have sensed the impact and stopped. And since the mount retains its location, I loosened the clutch and repositioned the mount and didn't have to do any manual re-park, unpark and re-sync operation.

I did some troubleshooting and found the Actual Mount Location showed 0 latitude and 0 longitude. I checked my site info and it was ok, but couldn't sync it to the mount. Probably missed something easy. Restarted CP5 and PC and all was OK again. Even after all that, a GOTO the Moon put the moon in the camera FoV. Note: I had a similar issue with the CP4 and the AP1100 in that sometimes it would show an altitude of zero when the mount was in Park 3. This always seemed to be on initial start up and was rare.

The rest of the evening was spent first in camera testing (plate solves, V- curves, focusing and live image stacking). The mount responded to all demands. My software (Voyager) does precise GOTOs for targets and focus stars. Never once did it require more than one extra plate solve to pinpoint the location and mostly it was close enough the first time. 

Finally connected to PHD2 and used default settings. I know Roland had some suggested settings but I didn't have them handy so just rolled with it. I use an Ultrastar guide camera. Did a calibration in several different locations and always got RMS of under one arcsecond. 

Finally ran Sharpcap and did some live stacking of M53. Ran about 30 minutes with guiding and even though the sky was really washed out by moonlight every frame stacked

Parked and shut everything down. Very pleased with this first admittedly limited experience. Hope to try more tonight!


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