Enjoy taking wonderful Astrophotos with minimal effort.
If you want to take wonderful astrophotos a telescope mount that’s fast to setup and easy to use, is a great advantage. You don’t won’t to bother with complicates routines in the few dark moon free nights. Until know most simple and easy to use mounts have been of a low quality not suited for high quality astrophotography. With the TTS-160 Panther mount this has changed…
Precise tracking is a must..
To take great astrophotos the first important thing is perfect tracking. A top quality telescope and the latest astro-camera are useless unless the tracking is perfect over long periods. Until now, this has for amateur astronomers always been achieved with Polar aligned mounts – GEM’s or fork mounts. The professionals have used alt-az mounts for years and with the mounts from Track The Stars you can have the benefits too.
The advantage of using a Track The Stars mount for Astrophotography
Put shortly it’s a matter of speed and simplicity. The time and effort needed from you start setting up the mount and telescope until the first subframe is stored on the harddisk is shorter than for German Equatorial Mounts. This is because Leveling and Polar Alignment are not needed. Besides this, the mount design makes it very easy to transport and setup and the fact that you don’t have to bother with meridian flip is also a big advantage.
So if you feel you have too little time and too little clear sky to image the sky then speed and simplicity are important.
Equatorial tracking without polar alignment
Alt-Az mounts track objects across the sky by running two motors at the same time. One motor controls the Azimuth axle and one motor controls the Altitude axle. To track the objects precisely, the speed of the motors is continuously adjusted by the mount’s internal firmware. Based on a two star alignment performed when starting up the mount, the internal firmware can compensate completely for any non vertical setup of the mount. Hence leveling is not needed making setup faster and easier.
If you watch the first quarter moon rising in the East, the top will be tilted at bit to the left. When the moon passes South it will stand upright and when setting in West, the top will be tilted a little to the right. If you take pictures of the moon in these three positions through a telescope mounted on an Alt-Az mount, the moon will be rotated differently on the camera sensor as illustrated in the figure. This is known as field rotation.
When taking short sub exposures less than 30 seconds, this will not influence the individual frames but for long sub exposures field de-rotation is needed.
Traditionally field de-rotation is done by a camera rotator. The camera rotator is a device which is inserted between the telescope and the camera. It slowly rotates the camera while the telescope is tracking an object, compensating completely for the field rotation. This technique works very well and is used by all major professional telescopes. The disadvantage for amateurs using a camera rotator is that it is only possible to guide with an off-axis guider rotating together with the camera.
Track The Stars Telescope rOTAtor
As an amateur astronomer with a transportable setup, it is an advantage to have the possibility to guide using a piggybacked guide telescope. And sometimes it is a wish to take images with piggybacked telephoto lenses. With the Telescope rOTAtor all this is possible.
The Telescope rOTAtor rotates the entire Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) and everything piggybacked on the tube. When the Alt-Az mount tracks an object, the telescope rOTAtor will ensure the complete field of view is perfectly tracked.
The rotation speed of the rOTAtor is calculated by the internal firmware based on the alignment performed when starting up the observation run. Any non-level setup of the mount is handled by the software to ensure perfect tracking.
A typical setup for long exposure astrophotography
Step by Step imaging procedure
The procedure below explains the steps from unpacking the mount until the first subs are saved.
- Setup pier and mount head – do not bother to level
- Install rOTAtor and counter weights
- Install telescope, guide telescope and cameras
- Balance the system
- Power up and perform a two star alignment (commands on handpad)
- Focus the camera on the second alignment star
- Make a goto to the target object (command on handpad or via PC)
- Perform calibration of the guide system (from PC software)
- Rewind the rOTAtor (command on handpad)
- Start the guider (from PC software)
- Start the imaging camera.