Mach 2 basic operation


Roland Christen
 

From Cloudy Nights a user asks:

"After three years my name came up for an AP Mach 2, which I've ordered, and is due in October. During that three year wait, I ordered and happily use a 10Micron mount.  Of course I'm very familiar with the 10M mount, and I find it extremely easy to use. Even easier than most commercial mounts that don't use modeling.
 
Not having used an AP mount, and only having browsed the set of documentation available on the AP website including the quick start guide (which is 22 pages!), I already have the feeling the AP mount is more complicated to use.
 
So I'm really interested in hearing from current AP owners on what the basic workflow is to get up and running for a night of imaging (assuming you have to set the mount up from scratch). I image out of my back yard currently, and will disassemble/reassemble each time I want to image.
 
What's the basic set of steps I need to take to get up and running?
 
For my 10Micron, it's the following:
  • Assemble the mount
  • Balance
  • Polar align (three stars, or more if you want)
  • Make a model (or not), its totally optional and you can guide if you want. For modeling it obviously adds additional steps, but only one (load the modeling software, hit start).
  • Pick an object and start imaging
Not sure why he did not ask this on our gto user group. But since I'm a user of the Mach2, I can answer this quite easily.

Basic steps to get up and running a Mach2:

   * Assemble mount, scope and camera
   * Balance
   * Polar align (using any one of several methods)
   * Make a model (or not), it's totally optional. (For modeling, load APCC-APPM, which comes with the mount, and hit start)
   * Pick an object and start imaging

This is the workflow I use, and it's basically all I ever do when I want to image somewhere other than in my observatory.

Rolando

--
Roland Christen
Astro-Physics


Andrew Burwell
 

This was me. I honestly didn't consider asking here as I don't have the mount yet. But it's very nice to know that the workflow is essentially the same. I'm a bit overwhelmed at the documentation available. And maybe the complexity I'm seeing is just the initial software setup, though I'm not sure as I don't have it yet. I'm still very much looking forward to getting my hands on one and trying it out.


KHursh
 
Edited

Many features are really nice, but optional. Setting a custom horizon and meridian limits is nice, but not absolutely necessary to get going. Roland basically confirmed my workflow, with the following exception. If using NINA and you want to get going pretty quickly, you can do a DEC-ARC model which is around 30 points or so and somewhat limited to tracking one specific object. If your polar alignment is good and you guide, the model is unnecessary. Personally, I use a model and don't guide at 900mm focal length and up to about 5 minutes or so.

Ironically, the Mach2 is much easier to use that 'conventional' mounts even though it is premium. I would recommend it to new imagers if the price wasn't prohibitive.

Kevin


midmoastro
 

I agree, and although I may not have replied to this specific post, I have replied to others about how easy it is to set up my Mach2 to start imaging. I have used a model before but for my quick nights, its setup and balance, polar align, point to object and plate solve. I'm off and running. I am imaging under 800mm fl but I can easily get five minute exposures and have taken 10 minute. I have not tested anything longer than 10.

In the beginning I saw a few comments about the 1100 being easier to break down and transport and they talked about passing on the Mach2 notification. I am glad I did not heed that advice. The Mach2 is easy to setup and the weight doesn't bother me any more than the separate pieces of the 1100. It saves me a trip for the second piece. Now, I love my 1100 too, but its just too convenient to set up the Mach2 and I don't have to guide.  Easy decision for me. Excellent investment!


Roland Christen
 

Software setup can be as easy or as complex as you wish it to be.  Anything from simple setup and shoot in the backyard, to full automation over the internet.

I usually have some type of laptop available when I'm imaging. I use SkyX to find objects and MaximDL to both guide and take the images. So, that's 2 pieces of software, and they have to be set up no matter what mount you use. Setting them up is really quite simple. Both SkyX and Maxim are automatically connected to the mount when I press "Connect to Mount" on each of these packages. There's nothing else to do, really, except to start guiding and shooting.

Sometimes I don't have a laptop and just want to attach a consumer digital camera to the scope. I won't be using either SkyX or MaximDL. In that case I use either my keypad hand controller or something like Sky Safari on a tablet. With the hand controller there is nothing to set up (after a one-time setup when you first operate the keypad). You simply turn on the mount and go to the Objects Menu in the keypad. There you can pick out stars, deep sky objects, and solar system objects. You can go on a tour in a favorite constellation, or pick out an object by name, by co-ordinates or by M, IC, NGC number and a host of other ways. Pick an object, press enter and watch it slew to the object. That's it in a nutshell.

Rolando



-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Burwell via groups.io <andrew_burwell@...>
To: main@ap-gto.groups.io
Sent: Mon, May 23, 2022 6:44 pm
Subject: Re: [ap-gto] Mach 2 basic operation

This was me. I honestly didn't consider asking here as I don't have the mount yet. But it's very nice to know that the workflow is essentially the same. I'm a bit overwhelmed at the documentation available. And maybe the complexity I'm seeing is just the initial software setup, though I'm not sure as I don't have it yet. I'm still very much looking forward to getting my hands on one and trying it out.

--
Roland Christen
Astro-Physics


Andrew Burwell
 

Thanks for all the comments. This mount sounds like it works exactly the same way as the 10M mount. 

I did not order the hand control, so I assume everything the hand control does can be run through APCC? Is there a virtual hand control  window available?

I usually use Nina and Stellarium, though I’ll sometimes do research for an object through sky safari. I also own Voyager but have not ever imaged with it.

Regards,
Andrew


W Hilmo
 

APCC does not provide planetarium services, but since you use Stellarium, you are set for that.

You'll be fine without a keypad.  It's been many years since I plugged the keypad into an Astro-Physics mount for imaging.  I do use the keypad for visual, but if you like SkySafari, you can just use that for visual.

-Wade

On 5/23/22 5:39 PM, Andrew Burwell via groups.io wrote:
Thanks for all the comments. This mount sounds like it works exactly the same way as the 10M mount. 

I did not order the hand control, so I assume everything the hand control does can be run through APCC? Is there a virtual hand control  window available?

I usually use Nina and Stellarium, though I’ll sometimes do research for an object through sky safari. I also own Voyager but have not ever imaged with it.

Regards,
Andrew


midmoastro
 

And if you already use NINA, just use the sky atlas to point to something. For my quick nights, if I already know what Im going to image, there is no need to connect stellarium or other software. Enter M106 in SkyAtlas and 'slew'.


M Hambrick
 

Hi Andrew

In addition to what everyone else has said I think you would do well to set your new mount up indoors to get familiar with it, and most importantly to do the balancing. The time that you spend doing this inside where you have good lighting, no bugs, and (depending on where you live) heating or air conditioning will be well spent. If you have a side-by side arrangement you should get a copy of Roland's instructions for side-by-side balancing.

When I first got my 1100 mount I only used the keypad. Now that I have started using APCC, I seldom if ever use the keypad, but I still keep it connected as a backup and for use as an emergency stop if I am making a complicated slew where there is a risk of snagging a cable or crashing into the pier.

Mike


AaronW
 

I also use Stellarium to command the mount when slewing to objects and it couldn't be easier.  Provided you are properly polar aligned, simply return the mount to its home position and slew to your object.  I image with SGP and use PHD2 as a supplement for guiding.  I have not yet built a model APCC.  My workflow is as follows:

1. Polar align
2. Calibrate the mount in PHD2 (couldn't be easier).
3. Run my imaging sequence within SGP.

The mach2 gets you so close to the framing I programmed into SGP on the first try that it rarely has to plate solve more than once.

If I could figure it out, anyone could.  I hear building a model is just as easy - I just haven't tried that yet.


On Mon, May 23, 2022 at 5:39 PM Andrew Burwell via groups.io <andrew_burwell=me.com@groups.io> wrote:
Thanks for all the comments. This mount sounds like it works exactly the same way as the 10M mount. 

I did not order the hand control, so I assume everything the hand control does can be run through APCC? Is there a virtual hand control  window available?

I usually use Nina and Stellarium, though I’ll sometimes do research for an object through sky safari. I also own Voyager but have not ever imaged with it.

Regards,
Andrew


Jeffc
 

If you are mainly imaging… and portable…. I suggest getting a polemaster for polar alignment, and use it with SharpCap.

The pole master + sharp cap does polar alignment in about 5 minutes with some simple tweaking the alt and az on the mount.
Alternatively a guide scope can be used with sharpcap… but on the mach2 I didn’t bother with the guidescope.   I’ve not compared this approach to the (iirc) NINA three star approach.

The other alternative for polar alignment is the RAPAS, which I use with other mounts when doing visual.
(I do some outreach work at the local observatory).

I do have a keypad, but never use it when imaging… I do use it for visual tho.

There’s a couple options to creating the sky model when “portable”:
- I’ve done a 52 point model which takes about 30 minutes to run.. and is appropriate for portable operation.
- NINA has a plugin (the author is on this list), which will do a “Dec Arc” model and (I think) is more precise, but only covers the portion of the sky you are imaging for a specific object (RA / Dec)

Anyhow.. the mach2 is great.  Initially I didn’t use APCC/APPM and stuck with my “old workflow”… but then when I spent the time to learn APCC/APPM and realized it is a big plus.   

One of my configurations is a 12” Meade ACF with a Lumicon GEG / Reducer for about 1500mm focal length, and a fairly heavy camera + focuser… I think I might be at about the weight limit cuz there isn’t much room for more counterweights.   This setup seems to work just fine.   

-Jeff




On May 23, 2022, at 4:44 PM, Andrew Burwell via groups.io <andrew_burwell@...> wrote:

This was me. I honestly didn't consider asking here as I don't have the mount yet. But it's very nice to know that the workflow is essentially the same. I'm a bit overwhelmed at the documentation available. And maybe the complexity I'm seeing is just the initial software setup, though I'm not sure as I don't have it yet. I'm still very much looking forward to getting my hands on one and trying it out.


midmoastro
 

Jeff may be correct about Polemaster and Sharpcap and I dont want to detract from that, but what I found when using Sharpcap is I did not like to connect my camera to that app, then disconnect if I am going back to NINA for imaging. I found NINA/TPPA to be a replacement for SharpCap PA and now I dont have to switch my camera back and forth with different apps. TPPA has worked well for me so far and its very quick. If you are using NINA for imaging, I would at least give it a try first.


Andrew Burwell
 

I am mainly imaging and portable for now. But have started the process for a remote observatory which is supposed to start being built mid summer. I’ll have two piers, one for the Mach2 and one for the 10M. I’ll be running an EdgeHD 11 at 2800mm on the Mach2 until I decide to get PW12 to replace it. I assume, based on the specs, it should have no problems with that scope. 

I can’t really run a full model with the 10M right now due to my back yard field of view. But I can run a partial model, or and object specific model. And if APCC supports custom horizons that will make it easy for me. I need to delve into that manual to check out all the features.

-Andrew


Andrew Burwell
 

I would likely use NINA for this. I have a Polemaster on one of my Rainbow Astro mounts that I could borrow, but I suppose the software versions of polar alignment are good enough for a dual tracking mount.


Jeffc
 

I will need to give PA in NINA a try.. I’m fairly new to NINA… I’ve been using SGPro for the past year and Maxim before that.  

(But yeah, with the polemaster, no need to disconnect the other cameras… I agree that would be ridiculously painfula.)

-jeff


On May 23, 2022, at 8:13 PM, midmoastro <teche70@...> wrote:

Jeff may be correct about Polemaster and Sharpcap and I dont want to detract from that, but what I found when using Sharpcap is I did not like to connect my camera to that app, then disconnect if I am going back to NINA for imaging. I found NINA/TPPA to be a replacement for SharpCap PA and now I dont have to switch my camera back and forth with different apps. TPPA has worked well for me so far and its very quick. If you are using NINA for imaging, I would at least give it a try first.


eckhard.voelcker@...
 

I am using NINA and the Mach2. The mount is transparent - once set up it is not there. 

I have the pole master camera attached to the mount. After a decent polar alignment I switch to NINA. I use the NINA sky catalog to look for my target and use the NINA "slew and center". The slew will not be perfect (I have no model), but with plate solving it takes 2 or 3 slews to have the telescope point perfectly to the target. Then I do a NINA PA at the position I am at! I then slew to the traget again and switch back to APCC to start the Model Builder. I can see the current position of the telescope in the graphical interface when I build the model, so with just some clicks I have selected a couple of points on my targets course through the sky. It takes approximately 10 minutes to build a small model. Afterwards it is just imaging and letting the mount and APCC Pro do their thing. This small model is perfect for mobile use because it gives you excellent tracking in a short setup time. 

Here is a link to the online APCC manual that explains the model:  APCC Pro DEC Arc tracking.

With NINA you can even automate the model building process and control APCC through NINA: astro-physics tools for NINA. 

APCC supports horizons and as NINA uses the same file format, they share the horizon file. 

Clear skies,
Eckhard


ernie.mastroianni@...
 

I've had a Mach2 for a couple years now, but I was a Mac user and connected directly via SkySafari or using my hand controller. I'm now using a PC, so I can run APCC pro. Is there a way that I can get APCC and Stellarium to communicate? 
Best,
Ernie Mastroianni


 

Hi Ernie

>>>Is there a way that I can get APCC and Stellarium to communicate? 

Assuming you want to use Stellarium to point your telescope, just use Stellarium's ASCOM driver for telescope connection. 

Make sure to configure APCC and ASCOM V2 drivers so ascom connects through APCC and you will be good to go

I keep it simple and start APCC and the ASCOM V2 driver before starting other software such as stellarium

Brian


On Mon, Jun 13, 2022 at 9:51 AM <ernie.mastroianni@...> wrote:
I've had a Mach2 for a couple years now, but I was a Mac user and connected directly via SkySafari or using my hand controller. I'm now using a PC, so I can run APCC pro. Is there a way that I can get APCC and Stellarium to communicate? 
Best,
Ernie Mastroianni




midmoastro
 

Yes, I can echo Brian, I have connected this way, so it does work.
Todd