PLAY astrophotography software allows you to control also equatorial mounts provided with ASCOM drivers, like computerized SkyWatcher ones. In this article we descrive how to connect SkyWatcher computerized equatorial mounts to EAGLE or standard Windows computer and how to use PLAY astrophotography software in order to remotely control them. Please note: in order to use PLAY to control SkyWatcher mounts, you have to use ASCOM Platform at least 6.5 version (mount’s ASCOM driver has to be tested with ASCOM 6.5) and you have to have at least ESATTO focuser, SESTO SENSO 2 focusing motor or GIOTTO flat field generator.
In this video, Filippo shows you how to connect SkyWatcher equatorial mounts to EAGLE or standard Windows computers and remotely control with PLAY:
In order to remotely control your SkyWatcher equatorial mount with PLAY, first of all please make sure you installed, in your EAGLE or standard Windows computers, latest ASCOM platform (you can download from https://ascom-standards.org) and mount’s ASCOM driver “ASCOM Driver for SynScan Hand Controller” (you can download from https://skywatcher.com/download/software/ascom-driver/). Then:
- turn on your SkyWatcher mount and follow the instructions you see in the mount handpad by entering your date, time, location, up to the handpad request to start mount alignment.
- make sure your mount’s tripod is horizontally levelled
- check that the counterweights are correctly positioned on the counterweight bar in order to provide a perfect weight balance (please refer to your mount user manual)
- make a polar alignment (if you are in the North Hemisphere, you should point the Celestial North Pole by using the mount’s polar scope)
- set your mount in Home position (with the counterweight bar pointing down as you can see in the below picture).
As an alternative way to connect your SkyWatcher computerized mount to computer, you can also use the EQMOD cable that allows you to directly connect your “handpad” port of your mount head to the computer, this way bypassing the SynScan handpad. In this case, instead of SkyWatcher ASCOM driver, you have to use the EQASCOM driver that you can download from http://eq-mod.sourceforge.net/eqaindex.html
Your SkyWatcher equatorial mount is now ready to be connected to EAGLE or standard Windows computer and to be remotely controlled with PLAY. Please follow these steps:
Launch PLAY and you will see the Configurator section.
Click on Mount on the left column, this will open a popup window with the mount selector.
Select “EQ” and the ASCOM driver of your SkyWatcher computerized mount, then click the gear icon to open ASCOM settings.
Here you have to select the COM port number associated to your mount (in order to check what COM port the EAGLE or standard Windows computer associated to your mount, you can enter in Windows Device Manager and open the COM devices list: usually SkyWatcher mounts are listed with Prolific driver). In the ASCOM mount driver please type the Latitude and Longitude values of your location and click on the OK button to confirm your settings.
In the mount selector window, please insert the same Latitude and Longitude values you previously inserted and click on the Connect icon to start connection to your mount. You will see the field to the right of “MOUNT detected” becoming green with the code of the mount you connected. Here you can select the “Add to CONNECT ALL” option if you want PLAY to automatically connect with these mount settings the next time you will launch PLAY. Finally, press SAVE button to confirm, this will close the Mount selector window.
Click the large PLAY button in the bottom-right part of the Configurator window in order to move to Capture section of PLAY.
Click on the TARGET tab to see controls of your mount. In addition to the Field of View calculator, camera rotation slider and field de-rotation field, here you can:
point and sync your mount to one of the many targets of the included database
- move your mount with the NSEW buttons and choose a moving speed (from 1 – slower – to 10 – faster)
If you want to control your mount position, and goto or sync to targets with a planetarium software (that allows you to have sky maps on your EAGLE or standard Windows computer) you can at the same time connect the mount also to Sky Charts software (that is free and that you can download from https://www.ap-i.net/skychart/start?id=en/start). Launch Sky Charts, you will see the first map.
First of all please make sure your time and location settings corresponds to the ones you already entered in PLAY. Click on Setup menu and then select Observatory to open the window where you have to type the same Latitude and Longitude values you inserted in ASCOM mount driver. Then click on the Apply and OK buttons to confirm.
Click on Telescope menu and then select Connect telescope to open a new window, here click on the Connect button to start connection to your SkyWatcher computerized mount. Click Hide button to hide this window.
If your telescope is currently pointed at the Celestial Pole since your SkyWatcher mount is still in Home position, you will see a double circle around the Celestial Pole, indicating the current position of your telescope. In order to point any of the objects you can see in the sky map, just make a mouse right click on one of them, then select “Telescope” and then “Slew: (object)”. Your mount will move toward the requested target and you will be able to use PLAY astrophotography software to record pictures.