Computer Control Your Telescope
If you have a GoTo telescope such as those from Skywatcher, they come with a built in database of thousands of objects. This may be fine if you know what objects are visible in the part of sky you have access to, but if you have your own observing program with some less obvious objects, then controlling the telescope from a computer could be a good option. This could also be handy if you are an imager and want to capture a few objects, but don’t want to be sat outside getting cold. By connecting and controlling your telescope from the comfort of your armchair you could achieve this. In this post I will briefly run through what is needed both from the setting up the scope and configuring the computer. This run through is done using a Skywatcher 127mm GoTo telescope pictured below.
Connect Up The Cables.
Here are the adapters and cables you will need.
These can bepurchased from USB Nowand are normally less than £10.
This cable normally comes with your scope when purchased new.
Connect them all together (you may not need the serial to USB adapter and extension if your computer has a serial port, but they are becoming rare on more modern computers).
Connect up the hand controller to the scope base and also connect up the telescope to serial cable like this:-
The telescope mount as usual like this:-
Set Up The Hand Controller
Go through the setting of date and time and align the scope as you would normally, but leave it as that. For Stellarium to work, you must not be in PC Direct mode on the hand controller as it will not be able to communicate.
Configure The Software
For this demonstration I am using Stellarium , which is free and can be downloaded from here.
You need to have the location and time settings in Stellarium set as the same as that in your telescope hand controller.
Firstly you need to enable the plugin for computer controlled telescopes.
Choose the Configure button on the left hand side.
Select the Plug-Ins tab and choose the telescope Control. Make sure the Load at Startup check box is ticked.
Then Save the settings
Now to configure the port that the software will listen on, so for this you need to go to the Control Panel in Windows.
Choose Device Manager under Devices and Printers
Find the Com port number, in the case above it is COM3. I am using a serial to USB adapter, so it will appear under USB Serial Port, but your control panel may show different.
You have to specify this port in Stellarium, so go to the bottom menu and choose telescope control
Configure the telescopes
Click on the Add button to add a new telescope
Make sure ‘Stellarium, directly through a serial port’ is selected and enter an name for the scope connection. Further down the screen you can enter the serial port number we found earlier.
Click the OK button
You can now Start the connection.
Control your Telescope with the Computer
Make sure the status is Connected, if not then start it.
Choose an object you want to slew the telescope to.
Select Current object, the RA and Dec will change to that of the selected object. Press the big Slew button and the scope should start to move.
As the scope gets nearer to the chosen object, you will see a circular icon with your scope name move closer to the chosen object.
Finally the telescope icon will be directly over the chosen object and you should be able to view the object through the scope.