Category : General

The NexStar Evolution and SkyPortal Users Guide

Nexstar Users GuideThe NexStar Evolution is a type of telescope made by Celetstron and the SkyPortal is a Wi-Fi control that allows the user to align and operate the telescope mount from a tablet or smart phone.

The book begins by looking back at the early digital telescope controllers including the Vixen Sky Sensor and the LX200 hand controller. Chapter 2 presents us with a look at all the latest Celestron computerised mounts that can be purchased today. Here we are shown nice full colour images of the telescopes and mounts as well as looking at their features, advantages and disadvantages. It covers all prices points from the more entry level Celestron 102SLT right up to the CGEM and CGE Pro mounts.

The book then mentions which telescopes can make use of the SkyPortal software as well as how to set it up, install it and use the features of the software. You will find step by step instructions here on how to complete tasks as well as detailed images and notes on all the menu options.

Chapter 5 leaves the software behind and we move onto just looking at the Celestron Nexstar+ hand controller which accompanies every Celestron Evolution telescope. This chapter again goes into great detail about how to align your mount, search for objects and use the in-built utilities menu using the hand control.

The major flaw in this chapter is that lots and lots of pages are given over to images of the hand controller at certain stages throughout a process. But the actual hand control screen in the image is too small to actually read. What they should have done was just image/photograph the actual screen part on the hand controller. We don’t need to see the actual buttons on the hand controller in every image – they serve no purpose.

Chapter 6 is about lessons the author has learnt whilst using the Nexstar Evolution and SkyPortal. This is a really good original chapter and you can learn a lot from this chapter. It gives tips on using the hardware in cold weather, how to cope with the Wi-Fi environment as well as a bit about troubleshooting.

Chapter 7 and 8 are all about the SkyPortal Wi-Fi module. These modules are plugged into the mount and allow the user to control the mount over Wi-Fi through the SkyPortal app. This chapter mentions compatibility of the SkyPortal Wi-Fi adaptor and there are also some advanced Wi-Fi tricks to try out.

Chapter 9 is nearly 30 pages on Celestron accessories that you can purchase to go with your telescope. Covered here are eyepieces, filters, binoviewers, diagonals, focal reducers, cameras etc.

Chapter 11 is a short chapter on maintenance and care for your telescope and mount, but this chapter does not go into any great detail.

This book contains tons of appendices, something like 8 appendices. These range from a troubleshooting checklist, Celestron timeline to the specifications of the Nexstar Evolution SCT. There are even a Messier catalog, Caldwell catalog and a Herschel 400 catalog. I feel these appendices have really been added to beef up the book, but they can be useful. But won’t you have most of this information in the SkyPortal software anyway – which is what this book is all about.

Overall it’s nice to see a book on one particular range of telescopes. The only downside is that sometimes information and content can be limited when dealing with a niche subject. I do feel this book doesn’t really provide you with anything new other than the chapter about the author’s own lessons learnt. But have a look yourself if you are a NexStar Evolution and SkyPortal user the next time you are in a bookshop or at an astro show.

James L Chen if you are reading this, please change the many images of the hand controller in the next edition, all we need to see is the hand controllers screen not the complete hand controller.

Where can I buy the NexStar Evolution and SkyPortal Users Guide?

You can buy the NexStar Evolution and SkyPortal Users Guide from Amazon UK




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New Geoptik Adaptor Videos

I have just uploaded 2 new Geoptik videos. There are now 4 in the series (so far).

1. Unboxing the Geoptik CCD to Canon Lens adaptor
2. How to set up the Geoptik CCD to Canon Lens adaptor
3. How to focus the lens on a Geoptik CCD to Lens adaptor
4. Setting backfocus and some example images using the Geoptik CCD to lens adaptor

You can view Geoptik videos here, or on my YouTube Channel or on my Geoptik video playlist on YouTube.

Ian King Advanced Imaging Day

On Saturday 13th November I headed on over to a small village outside of Rugby to attend an Advanced CCD Imaging Course run by Ian King. I did not know what to expect when it came to the venue, all I knew was that it was in a village hall. Well usually village halls conjure up visions of a dark, old and very cold hall where the local scout troop meets up. But I was very pleasantly surprised to find a 3 year old village hall with all the latest mod cons.

Advanced Imaging DayThe day began at 10.30am with a short introduction about what was happening in the course and then we went straight into learning about monochrome imaging with John Evans.

After a short tea break, John Evans then talked more about how he processed his monochrome images and the equipment that he uses. John was actually buying Hasselblad lenses from eBay and attaching them to QSI CCD cameras in order to take wide field images with Hydrogen Alpha filters.

Ian King then gave a talk on the latest active and alternative optics and how amateur astronomers can use them. Lunch followed the talk – which was included in the price of £35 per head for the day.
Ian then gave another talk on motorized focusers. It covered all the various models that can be purchased and what telescopes the motorized focusers fit. He also gave use a live motorized focuser demonstration by using Focus Max in Maxim DL which was connected to refractor with a motorized focuser which was pointing at an artificial star.

Advanced Astro Imaging DayNik Szymanek then took over and gave us two 1 hour lectures. His first talk included a discussion of RGB and LRGB imaging and processing and how he uses FITS Liberator. Nik took us all the way through his image processing regime, which was very insightful and really opened up for us the kind of ‘black box’ of imaging techniques the top astro photographers in their field use.

Nik’s second talk included more about processing narrowband imaging. This included processing Ha, OIII and SII images, as well as the Hubble palette and Bi-Colour image processing. He also covered the usage of the program Neat Image and other noise control programs and methods in image processing.

John Evans closed the day at 5.30pm with a short talk practices best avoided, how to progress your imaging and he also took questions from the group.

The day ran from 10.30am until 5.30pm, included lunch and all tea and coffees etc. and all for just £35 per head. We thought it was amazingly good value as we both learnt so much during the day about image processing.

Ian King runs these CCD imaging courses every now and again, and it is worth checking his website for more information. He also runs a beginners imaging day, and that is something I have now also booked.

Saturn Talk by Carolin Crawford

I went to my local Ely Astro Club on Friday night, at the Ely Museum. I had heard Carolin talk before a couple of times at the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and so I knew her talks are really good.

Tonight the talk was about everything to do with the planet Saturn. Carolin started by talking about the planet itself, and I had forgotten it was a gas giant, and that most of what we see is atmosphere, with the actual planet itself being a lot smaller.

The rings were the next thing to be discussed, and it was surprising that the rings are only about 100m in height. Carolin then thoroughly covered details of all of Saturn’s moons.

As usual the slides and images from Cassini were brilliant, altogether a great talk.

If you want to attend the Ely Astro Club in Cambridgeshire, the meeting is on every 2nd Friday of the month at the back of the Ely Museum – The Old Gaol, Market Street, Ely, CB7 4LS. For more details have a look at the clubs website here: http://sites.google.com/site/elyastroclub/

UFO Lands on my Lawn

I awoke on Sunday morning to find an unusual object on my lawn. A lot of people mistake these items in the sky for UFO. Of course they are chinese flying lanterns.

Chinese Flying Lantern

It’s the first one I have ever seen close-up, let alone one at it’s end of life state. But I was impressed by how bio-degradeable they are.

They are made up of a paper bag with not a metal circle at the base, but it’s actually a wooden made circle and the crosshair struts which hold the lighted area are made of string. I think the base of the area that you light is also made of cork.

After an hour or so it started to rain, and then the whole thing just broke down into a soggy mess.

If you are interested in trying one out, you can buy chinese lanterns from all over the web including Firebox,  Play.com and Amazon

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