Aiming Your Telescope

Aiming a telescope cannot be illustrated easily in simulation, but a few pointers are in order.

Once the telescope is in focus, the biggest challenge can be finding your the target. Unlike DSLRs, low-light imaging cameras do not have a viewfinder, and it can be very frustrating to aim if the images take more than about 20 seconds to appear. It can also slow things down if you have to keep changing exposure settings. There are a number of things you can do to greatly speed up the process.

  1. Most cameras will be faster and more sensitive if operated Binned. Binning combines adjacent pixels together to make a bigger "super-pixel". Most cameras download more quickly, and the sensitivity increases for a given exposure time. In most cases, faint deep sky objects can be seen with only 5-10 seconds of exposure time with a Binning of 2. This makes centering much easier.

  2. Define a set of Presets containing your favorite find, focus, and Autosave sequence exposure settings. This allows you to switch back and forth quickly.

  3. Calibrate your focus images; at the very least use the Simple Auto-dark mode. The Camera Control window remembers previously-used auto-dark frames, so you can switch back and forth quickly without reshooting for different exposures or binning.

  4. The PinPoint Astrometry feature can be used as a digital finderscope. Slew to the approximate position of your target, take an image, and PinPoint solve it. You now know the exact center of your image to a fraction of an arc-second. Next Sync the telescope to that position. Now a second GOTO command will bring the telescope to the exact correct coordinates. PinPoint now has the capability to perform an all-sky solve through, if an internet connection is available; this means you do not even need to roughly know where your telescope is pointing.

  5. You can automate the above process of using PinPoint to refine your telescope position, using the Slew Refinement feature. In the Telescope tab Target Coordinates section, click the Options menu. Turn on Refine via Sync or Refine via delta RA, delta Dec. You will also want to set up the Refinement Exposure, and the Auto-Reset Distance. Now whenever your telescope has to move more than the Refinement Distance, it will automatically take a pointing refinement exposure, solve it, and use that as a reference point for a final slew to the correct position.

  6. Consider using MaxPoint, which can improve your pointing accuracy to one or two arc-minutes over the whole sky. This will ensure that your target is in the field after a slew.

  7. Overlay your image on the Observatory control window Zoom Tab. This will show you the position and orientation of your image on the real sky.

  8. Use the Auto-Center feature, available on the Observatory Control window Telescope Tab, or the image buffer right-click menu. You simply point the mouse to the position you want centered, and the telescope is automatically moved to center that point.