General Questions about new AP1600


Scott B
 


Hello All -

I'm the proud new owner of an AP 1600. As I get started with it, I'm hoping some of the experienced observers and imagers can weigh in on a few questions.

Circumstances gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity to design and build a permanently housed observatory as part of a new home construction. We are going to have a Meade LX 850 OTA side-by-side with an AP 130mm refractor, mounted onto the AP 1600. This is all a big step up from my current rig, an AVX mount controlled by CPWI and PhD2 , SV70 OTA, ZWO 183 OSC camera, using Sharpcap for imaging.
I've used sharpcap for polar alignment and I'm reasonably confident that I'll be able to get the AP mount aligned accurately.

The plan for the new observatory is imaging only for the 130mm OTA, while the 16'' SCT will be used for visual as well as imaging small DSOs like planetaries and probably the planets too. Down the road I'd love to get into photometry when I have the time to dedicate to it.

I haven't chosen a camera yet for the refractor. A camera with 3.75 micrometer pixels would yield an image scale of about 1.33''/pixel for the 130mm (there is a focal reducer). I am near the Atlantic ocean - a block away - would the seeing over the ocean allow me to be more aggressive about a smaller image scale? FWIW I've yet to image in monochrome or use an autofocuser, so this will be another piece of the learning curve.

I plan to run the Pegasus Ultimate Powerbox 2 thru the mount to connect and power the cameras and accessories. Would any other cables need to go thru? I'd like to get everything setup in such a way that I can leave all the heavy parts of the mount in place permanently, so I'm trying to plan out cable management in advance.

Some other questions -

Do most users prefer APCC or ASCOM?

Do most imagers use PhD to guide, or other software?

I've never used an OAG - will this be a necessity for imaging with the LX850?

Finally, when it comes to this new mount and OTAs, I don't know what I don't know, so any experiences you consider worth sharing are appreciated. Thanks very much

Scott B


Bob Enouen
 

Hi Scott - I’m on a very similar path to what you describe below.  I’ve provided some answers below.

Thanks, Bob


Robert J. Enouen
Cell 513-504-4410

On Dec 14, 2021, at 5:49 PM, Scott B <biebs123@...> wrote:




Hello All -

I'm the proud new owner of an AP 1600. As I get started with it, I'm hoping some of the experienced observers and imagers can weigh in on a few questions.

Circumstances gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity to design and build a permanently housed observatory as part of a new home construction. We are going to have a Meade LX 850 OTA side-by-side with an AP 130mm refractor, mounted onto the AP 1600. This is all a big step up from my current rig, an AVX mount controlled by CPWI and PhD2 , SV70 OTA, ZWO 183 OSC camera, using Sharpcap for imaging.
I've used sharpcap for polar alignment and I'm reasonably confident that I'll be able to get the AP mount aligned accurately.

What is the status? What kind of observatory have you decided to go with?  I have a 16” RC on my AP1600 and there isn’t much room left under the dome to add another scope.  I plan to dual image at some point with an APM 152 refractor and ~100ish refractor tbd.  The RAPAS worked great for me, and then I removed it to avoid cable snags.

The plan for the new observatory is imaging only for the 130mm OTA, while the 16'' SCT will be used for visual as well as imaging small DSOs like planetaries and probably the planets too. Down the road I'd love to get into photometry when I have the time to dedicate to it.

I haven't chosen a camera yet for the refractor. A camera with 3.75 micrometer pixels would yield an image scale of about 1.33''/pixel for the 130mm (there is a focal reducer). I am near the Atlantic Ocean - a block away - would the seeing over the ocean allow me to be more aggressive about a smaller image scale? FWIW I've yet to image in monochrome or use an autofocuser, so this will be another piece of the learning curve.

I use a ZWO6200MM at 2x2 binning with a ZWO EF7 filter wheel.  I just tested it last night at 3x3 and I like the stars even better.  

I plan to run the Pegasus Ultimate Powerbox 2 thru the mount to connect and power the cameras and accessories. Would any other cables need to go thru? I'd like to get everything setup in such a way that I can leave all the heavy parts of the mount in place permanently, so I'm trying to plan out cable management in advance.

I didn’t run any additional cables through the mount. I tucked my shuttle pc in the cubby hole between the polar fork assembly and I connected the mount and everything else that doesn’t move to it.  The dc converter for the pegasus sits there too.  The pegasus sits under the scope and zip tied wires connect it to the pc, camera, ef7, and focuser. 

Some other questions -

Do most users prefer APCC or ASCOM?

APCC Pro with a 300 point APPM model that allows me to get good 180 second Lights without guiding.  NINA has been great.

Do most imagers use PhD to guide, or other software?

I have used PHD in the past but don’t need to now.

I've never used an OAG - will this be a necessity for imaging with the LX850?

Finally, when it comes to this new mount and OTAs, I don't know what I don't know, so any experiences you consider worth sharing are appreciated. Thanks very much

I thought about trying to start with the dual setup you describe but decided that it was a bridge too far and I’d just take it one step at a time.  

Scott B


Emilio J. Robau, P.E.
 

Hello Bob,

I run three scopes on an AP 1600.  A 12" Truss GSO RC as the main scope and two slaves.   One of the slave scopes is a Tak E130D.  Soon one of them will be a stowaway.  Not sure which is going to get kicked off of the array.  The other is an Explore Scientific 127 FCD 100 holding a place for an AP 130 when my name is called.  I use PHD2 for guiding and I would say most people use that software.   I use ADM pointer for the slave scopes as rings tend to mar the finish on the tubes.   You need to align the scopes.   I use an OAG on the longest focal length scope the RC which is running at 2000mm.   The other two slaves are just ticking away subs.   Dithering, slewing, plate solving and guiding are done on the master scope.   Each scope is controlled by NINA software.   I use the recently published coordinated dithering plug in NINA to coordinate the dithering.   I run three instances of NINA.   Everything is running correctly for the past few weeks.   I am swamped with data.

I also use APCC and have a crude model built but the AP equipment is so good that the tracking is excellent even without a great model.

APCC is a super product and Ray is always lurking around and ready to help.

Congradulations on your 1600.


M Hambrick
 

Hi Scott

Roland has a good set of instructions on how to balance a side-by-side arrangement. I have been converting my 1100 setup from piggyback to side-by-side, and when you get to that point in your project, I can share some of my experiences balancing my scopes.

Per Bob's comment above, I suggest that you set your complete system indoors before you start designing your observatory so that you can design the dimensions where everything will fit.

Also, per Bob's comment I don't run any cables through my mount. With two scopes and cameras, focuser(s), dew heaters, etc., you will have a lot of cables. That is another good thing about setting up everything indoors. You can figure out the best way to manage your cables. I consolidate my cables into two separate bundles: one bundle for the power cables, and the other for the communication cables. I wrap each bundle with spiral, wraparound sleeves to keep them together. Cable snags are a bigger concern than pier crashes, and you will want to put a lot of thought into how you manage them.

Mike


Bob Enouen
 

Hi Emilio,

That sounds like where I’m trying to go.  I’m trying to figure out the saddle plates i would need.  Would you please share the saddle plate specs for your setup or a pic?

Thanks, Bob


Robert J. Enouen
Cell 513-504-4410

On Dec 15, 2021, at 12:04 AM, Emilio J. Robau, P.E. <ejr@...> wrote:

Hello Bob,

I run three scopes on an AP 1600.  A 12" Truss GSO RC as the main scope and two slaves.   One of the slave scopes is a Tak E130D.  Soon one of them will be a stowaway.  Not sure which is going to get kicked off of the array.  The other is an Explore Scientific 127 FCD 100 holding a place for an AP 130 when my name is called.  I use PHD2 for guiding and I would say most people use that software.   I use ADM pointer for the slave scopes as rings tend to mar the finish on the tubes.   You need to align the scopes.   I use an OAG on the longest focal length scope the RC which is running at 2000mm.   The other two slaves are just ticking away subs.   Dithering, slewing, plate solving and guiding are done on the master scope.   Each scope is controlled by NINA software.   I use the recently published coordinated dithering plug in NINA to coordinate the dithering.   I run three instances of NINA.   Everything is running correctly for the past few weeks.   I am swamped with data.

I also use APCC and have a crude model built but the AP equipment is so good that the tracking is excellent even without a great model.

APCC is a super product and Ray is always lurking around and ready to help.

Congradulations on your 1600.


M Hambrick
 

Hi Bob

Here is the saddle plate and dovetail plate arrangement that I am using for my side-by-side setup with a 180EDT alongside a Tele-Vue Pronto.

In terms of numbers, the 6 plates shown in the sketch below are a basic requirement.

The base dovetail saddle is a DOVELM162, and I would expect that this is the saddle plate that you will want to use for any side-by-side arrangement. The SBD13SS side-by-side plate sits in the DOVELM162. Depending on the diameter of your scopes, you may need a SBD16SS.

The 180EDT sits on the SBD16 / DOVELM162, and the Pronto sits on the SBD12 / DOVEDV10. For the larger scopes I would suggest using the SBD16 / DOVELM162. The SBD12 / DOVEDV10 should be OK for smaller scopes.

Mike


Jeffc
 




On Dec 14, 2021, at 2:49 PM, Scott B <biebs123@...> wrote:

Do most users prefer APCC or ASCOM?


I believe the two are serve different purposes.   Ascom is a framework for software to interact with one another.   For example camera drivers written to the Ascom standard can be used with any imaging software that supports Ascom.  And there’s no need for each application to support all cameras. 
 
APCC is like “control panel” for the Astro-Physics mounts, which enables configuration, setup, and real-time monitoring and control of the mount.  There’s also an aspect of APCC that allows other software (eg planetarium apps) to get the pointing location of the mount OTA and slew the mount. 

Do most imagers use PhD to guide, or other software?

I believe this depends on the software used.  Eg MaximDL has built in guiding functionality.  PHD seems to be used in several image acquisition apps like SGPro. (Fwiw I used to use MaximDL, but now I use SGPro and don’t do any guiding — I just build a pointing model and that’s it.  I might hookup PHD in the future tho.)

I've never used an OAG - will this be a necessity for imaging with the LX850?

I use an SCT with locked mirror for imaging.   When guiding with this I have always used an OAG. 


Emilio J. Robau, P.E.
 

Bob,

The setup is quite simple.  I am at the office, so no pictures, but the saddle plate I am using is the AP Dove LM 162.  I rotated it 90 degrees.  I have a Losmandy 24" universal dovetail plate inserted into the saddle plate.   I used the holes in the Losmandy 24" dovetail plate to mount two additional dovetail plates, and one additional random ADM saddle perpendicular to the Losmandy 24" dovetail plate at varying distances as required to mount my three scopes.  The ADM saddle accepts the main scope, the 12" Truss RC.  The two other dovetail plates accept one set of rings (about to get changed out) and one ADM pointer saddle device.  I am about to eliminate the rings, because they are not as stable as the ADM pointer saddle device and there is the potential that the three bolts on the rings will mar the surface of the scope tube.


Bob Enouen
 

Mike and Emilio - Thanks so much for the advice on the saddle!  You’ve saved me (and George;-) a lot of time.

Thanks, Bob


Robert J. Enouen
Cell 513-504-4410

On Dec 16, 2021, at 9:17 AM, M Hambrick <mhambrick563@...> wrote:

Hi Bob

Here is the saddle plate and dovetail plate arrangement that I am using for my side-by-side setup with a 180EDT alongside a Tele-Vue Pronto.

In terms of numbers, the 6 plates shown in the sketch below are a basic requirement.

The base dovetail saddle is a DOVELM162, and I would expect that this is the saddle plate that you will want to use for any side-by-side arrangement. The SBD13SS side-by-side plate sits in the DOVELM162. Depending on the diameter of your scopes, you may need a SBD16SS.

The 180EDT sits on the SBD16 / DOVELM162, and the Pronto sits on the SBD12 / DOVEDV10. For the larger scopes I would suggest using the SBD16 / DOVELM162. The SBD12 / DOVEDV10 should be OK for smaller scopes.

Mike


Scott B
 

Thanks to all the replies - I appreciate it and I'm sure I'll have more questions soon.


Scott B
 

Things are coming together slowly but steadily.  I am running an ETX 130 and a GTX 130 side by side and have used the rig for visual.  I have a couple more questions as I get the mount ready for imaging.

1 - I have connected to the mount with Stellarium.  I can use this, PHD2 and Sharpcap to do everything I would need (sharpcap can plate solve and sync, control my camera, filter wheel and focuser, and it has an effective PA routine).  Most AP users are employing different software (I see NINA and SGP mentioned a lot).  What are some of the main benefit that would come with learning to use these programs?  FWIW I am not imaging remotely other than from a few yards away.

2 - My mount came with an old version of PemPro 2 - old enough that it doesn't offer the free upgrade to PemPro 3.  The versions look similar - any opinion on whether it's worth stepping up to V3?

3 - I connected to the mount and controlled it via Stellarium, but I have yet to upgrade the software to the GTOCP4 or the keypad.  Everything is working and I always have that bit of fear that something can go wrong...the mount was made in 2016 - as far as anyone knows, what main changes would come from updating the software?

Thanks for the help.  Once I have this all up and running I will bring in some manpower to help replace the ETX with the much larger Meade.  That will require the 18'' side-by-side rather than the 13'' that I am currently using.

Some photos of the observatory and the side-by-side setup are attached


Kent Kirkley
 

Tell us about your observatory, especially the slide/roll off roof system. It seems unusual and interesting.
Thanks
Kent Kirkley



-----Original Message-----
From: Scott B <biebs123@...>
To: main@ap-gto.groups.io
Sent: Sun, Feb 27, 2022 11:29 am
Subject: Re: [ap-gto] General Questions about new AP1600

Things are coming together slowly but steadily.  I am running an ETX 130 and a GTX 130 side by side and have used the rig for visual.  I have a couple more questions as I get the mount ready for imaging.

1 - I have connected to the mount with Stellarium.  I can use this, PHD2 and Sharpcap to do everything I would need (sharpcap can plate solve and sync, control my camera, filter wheel and focuser, and it has an effective PA routine).  Most AP users are employing different software (I see NINA and SGP mentioned a lot).  What are some of the main benefit that would come with learning to use these programs?  FWIW I am not imaging remotely other than from a few yards away.

2 - My mount came with an old version of PemPro 2 - old enough that it doesn't offer the free upgrade to PemPro 3.  The versions look similar - any opinion on whether it's worth stepping up to V3?

3 - I connected to the mount and controlled it via Stellarium, but I have yet to upgrade the software to the GTOCP4 or the keypad.  Everything is working and I always have that bit of fear that something can go wrong...the mount was made in 2016 - as far as anyone knows, what main changes would come from updating the software?

Thanks for the help.  Once I have this all up and running I will bring in some manpower to help replace the ETX with the much larger Meade.  That will require the 18'' side-by-side rather than the 13'' that I am currently using.

Some photos of the observatory and the side-by-side setup are attached


Scott B
 

Happy to talk a bit about the observatory.

My wife and I started the process of building a home near the ocean a couple of years ago.  It gave me a chance to design it with an observatory embedded.  It's a 3 story home and in the front (Southwest corner) we have open skies.  When the foundation was poured we also added a tapered concrete pillar that goes from the foundation to the base of the observatory.  Before the final section was poured, we climbed it on a sunny day at solar noon to use the shadows to identify North within a degree or so, so we could correctly orient the steel plate in which the Pier Tech 3 rests.  The observatory itself is about 11'x11', it's accessible from the balcony and from stairs from the 2nd floor of the house.  Our architect was (very wisely) insistent that we treat it just like outdoor space, so the floor is the same as the balcony floor, a type of fiberglass.  There is power running up there for the mount, the pier, plus a bunch of outlets for all the other goodies.

We didn't love any of the traditional roll-off roof coverings, for various reasons.  We are in an area that has seen hurricane force winds so we needed something rated safe for that.  We also need something that can handle a foot of snow if it comes.  Some of the options that are available through vendors like Pier Tech looked workable but expensive, and on top of that I don't need the ability to open/close remotely which comes with added cost and more failure points.  Anyway by total coincidence I was walking in the next town one day and there was a restaurant with a retractable sliding glass ceiling covering a large space.  I spoke with the owner, he showed me how easy it was to move the bays open and closed.  They are from a company called Pool and Spa Enclosures.  The product I'm using is primarily made to cover pools to keep heat in so that they are usable for more of the year.  It's stable enough to withstand wind and snow (so far), and it actually makes the space really magnificent to enjoy on cold but clear days.  So far the roof has been great, and the space is climate controlled for when it's closed, but the sun raises the temperature well above outdoor ambient so I am concerned about how we are going to deal with the greenhouse effect in the summer.

They do have options for motorized control of the sliding roof - I'm not sure if that would also be wifi-enabled though if, for example, someone wanted to use it for a remote observatory.  It's been pretty much watertight so far including during a couple of crazy rainstorms, but I still keep the equipment covered just in case water finds it way though the point where the bays overlap.  I'd rather not learn that the hard way.

Anyway, because we were designing it from scratch it felt right to go all-in on the mount size and then build/design around that.  It leaves me with a bit of a learning curve but a lot to look forward to.


Kent Kirkley
 

Thank you.
Most interesting, especially your use of the 'retractable sliding glass ceiling cover'. Yes, nice inside on a cold day but you'll have to find a way to deal with the green house effect. Also, gear and optical systems need to be at outside ambient temperature or there will be optical issues.
Kent Kirkley



-----Original Message-----
From: Scott B <biebs123@...>
To: main@ap-gto.groups.io
Sent: Sun, Feb 27, 2022 9:58 pm
Subject: Re: [ap-gto] General Questions about new AP1600

Happy to talk a bit about the observatory.

My wife and I started the process of building a home near the ocean a couple of years ago.  It gave me a chance to design it with an observatory embedded.  It's a 3 story home and in the front (Southwest corner) we have open skies.  When the foundation was poured we also added a tapered concrete pillar that goes from the foundation to the base of the observatory.  Before the final section was poured, we climbed it on a sunny day at solar noon to use the shadows to identify North within a degree or so, so we could correctly orient the steel plate in which the Pier Tech 3 rests.  The observatory itself is about 11'x11', it's accessible from the balcony and from stairs from the 2nd floor of the house.  Our architect was (very wisely) insistent that we treat it just like outdoor space, so the floor is the same as the balcony floor, a type of fiberglass.  There is power running up there for the mount, the pier, plus a bunch of outlets for all the other goodies.

We didn't love any of the traditional roll-off roof coverings, for various reasons.  We are in an area that has seen hurricane force winds so we needed something rated safe for that.  We also need something that can handle a foot of snow if it comes.  Some of the options that are available through vendors like Pier Tech looked workable but expensive, and on top of that I don't need the ability to open/close remotely which comes with added cost and more failure points.  Anyway by total coincidence I was walking in the next town one day and there was a restaurant with a retractable sliding glass ceiling covering a large space.  I spoke with the owner, he showed me how easy it was to move the bays open and closed.  They are from a company called Pool and Spa Enclosures.  The product I'm using is primarily made to cover pools to keep heat in so that they are usable for more of the year.  It's stable enough to withstand wind and snow (so far), and it actually makes the space really magnificent to enjoy on cold but clear days.  So far the roof has been great, and the space is climate controlled for when it's closed, but the sun raises the temperature well above outdoor ambient so I am concerned about how we are going to deal with the greenhouse effect in the summer.

They do have options for motorized control of the sliding roof - I'm not sure if that would also be wifi-enabled though if, for example, someone wanted to use it for a remote observatory.  It's been pretty much watertight so far including during a couple of crazy rainstorms, but I still keep the equipment covered just in case water finds it way though the point where the bays overlap.  I'd rather not learn that the hard way.

Anyway, because we were designing it from scratch it felt right to go all-in on the mount size and then build/design around that.  It leaves me with a bit of a learning curve but a lot to look forward to.


Charles Thompson
 

Are there some general guidelines/settings to start with in phd2? My Mach2 arrived and I have clear skies tomorrow!





Thanks,
Charles

Sent from mobile device.


-------- Original message --------
From: "Kent Kirkley via groups.io" <kgkirkley@...>
Date: 2/27/22 11:43 AM (GMT-06:00)
To: main@ap-gto.groups.io
Subject: Re: [ap-gto] General Questions about new AP1600

Tell us about your observatory, especially the slide/roll off roof system. It seems unusual and interesting.
Thanks
Kent Kirkley



-----Original Message-----
From: Scott B <biebs123@...>
To: main@ap-gto.groups.io
Sent: Sun, Feb 27, 2022 11:29 am
Subject: Re: [ap-gto] General Questions about new AP1600

Things are coming together slowly but steadily.  I am running an ETX 130 and a GTX 130 side by side and have used the rig for visual.  I have a couple more questions as I get the mount ready for imaging.

1 - I have connected to the mount with Stellarium.  I can use this, PHD2 and Sharpcap to do everything I would need (sharpcap can plate solve and sync, control my camera, filter wheel and focuser, and it has an effective PA routine).  Most AP users are employing different software (I see NINA and SGP mentioned a lot).  What are some of the main benefit that would come with learning to use these programs?  FWIW I am not imaging remotely other than from a few yards away.

2 - My mount came with an old version of PemPro 2 - old enough that it doesn't offer the free upgrade to PemPro 3.  The versions look similar - any opinion on whether it's worth stepping up to V3?

3 - I connected to the mount and controlled it via Stellarium, but I have yet to upgrade the software to the GTOCP4 or the keypad.  Everything is working and I always have that bit of fear that something can go wrong...the mount was made in 2016 - as far as anyone knows, what main changes would come from updating the software?

Thanks for the help.  Once I have this all up and running I will bring in some manpower to help replace the ETX with the much larger Meade.  That will require the 18'' side-by-side rather than the 13'' that I am currently using.

Some photos of the observatory and the side-by-side setup are attached


midmoastro
 

Charles, I have not used PHD2 with my Mach2 yet but that may depend on what you are doing/using. I have only polar aligned, slewed to target, and let it track. My five minute unguided exposures have been excellent for objects high in the sky and I have not used a pointing model yet. Pretty exciting. I used Horizons last night to track 19P/Borrelly for three to five minutes. Also exciting.
Maybe start a new thread for this so we don't sidetrack the 1600 thread. My Mach2 is new as well and I would be interested in other input that is dedicated to the Mach2.


Marcelo Figueroa
 

On Mon, Feb 28, 2022 at 10:08 PM, Charles Thompson wrote:
Are there some general guidelines/settings to start with in phd2? My Mach2 arrived and I have clear skies tomorrow!

One of the first things I learned when I got my Mach 2 was how to build a sky modeling (quite easy by the way) and be able to dispense the guiding. I don't remember the last time I opened PHD2. :D