As this chart shows, there are many options available for controlling your mount whether you are out for a night of observing your favorite objects without a PC (your Keypad serving as your handheld computer), conducting a public star party (imagine using an iPad to "WOW" the kids) or remote imaging (APCC will allow you to control your mount in the comfort of your home).
OverviewYour Astro-Physics GTO mount has a remarkable servo control system that combines with the precise mechanics of the physical components to give the mount its superb performance. Contrary to popular assumption, the brains of the mount is found in the GTO Control box, not in the kkeypad or computer program. Simply think of your Keypad or computer as an input device.
GTO Keypad OperationThe GTO Keypad (included with all GTO mounts) is a handheld computer with all of the features, functions and databases you need to tour the universe night after night. The vacuum-fluorescent display with a temperature range down to -40 degrees F (and C, they are the same in this instance), allows hardy observers to use the keypad on cold winter nights (please contact Astro-Physics if you wish to use the mount in severe temperatures below -20F). Additional information regarding the features of the keypad are at this link: GTOCP3 Control Box and Keypad for Servo Drive.
PulseGuide™ SoftwarePulseGuide is a stand-alone Windows (98, ME, 2000, NT4, XP, Vista and Windows 7) utility that provides complete remote control of the Astro-Physics Mach1GTO, 900GTO, 1200GTO, 3600GTO, 400GTO and 600EGTO mounts. It derives its name from its most distinctive feature, pulse guiding, which can improve unguided tracking. Specifically, it can help correct tracking errors caused by polar misalignment and atmospheric refraction. You can also train PulseGuide to track objects moving relative to the stars, such as asteroids, comets, and the moon. In addition to pulse guiding, PulseGuide also has many useful utility features. With just a few exceptions, it supports the entire serial Astro-Physics command protocol allowing full control of your mount through your PC. More information here ....
PulseGuide was written by Ray
Gralak of Sirius-Imaging. Please refer to his web
site http://www.pulseguide.com for
further developments and enhancements. All owners of any Astro-Physics
GTO mounts can download the software free-of-charge, courtesy of Ray. Many,
many thanks to Ray for this powerful program.
PulseGuide is compatible with all versions of the GTO Control Box: GTOCP1, GTOCP2, GTOCP3
Astro-Physics ASCOM V2 DriverAstro-Physics now offers a company-supported ASCOM V2 driver. This driver provides full mount control for all of the Astro-Physics GTO mounts and acts as a hub allowing multiple client applications to connect through a single serial port without the need for POTH. It has been developed with remote operation in mind and its functions were designed to be highly robust. The driver features a very user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI).
Astro-Physics Command Center (APCC) Software
Ray Gralak, the author of PulseGuide, is currently developing the Astro-Physics Command Center (APCC), which will incorporate all the features of PulseGuide and add many more advanced functions to the control system of your mount. Through the application of virtual serial ports, APCC will act as a hub for a number of other applications that can all communicate with the mount through a single COM port. As of this writing, in late May 2011, APCC is in the second beta testing phase. We anticipate that it will be available later in the summer 2011.
Planetarium, Imaging and Observatory Software from Other VendorsThere are a number of planetarium programs that can be used to control the Astro-Physics GTO Servo System. In addition, some software designed primarily for camera control and/or observatory control and planning also have limited ability to control your mount. Many of these use the ASCOM interface and will take advantage of the new ASCOM V2 driver mentioned above. Any software that can use the AP V2 ASCOM driver will have extensive mount control capabilities because of the driver's "virtual keypad" features. Other programs employ native drivers that the software designers wrote from our publicly available command set. The list that follows is certainly not exhausive, but contains software with which we have at least a little familiarity.
Resources for Mac usersIn addition to the Mac software mentioned above, check out this resource: The Mac in Astronomy by David E. Illig. Website: http://www.primordial-light.com/macastronomer.html
Mobile Smart DevicesWe have entered a new age of smart devices that offer amazing functionality at our fingertips without the need for a computer.
SkyFi is Southern Skies' patent-pending WiFi-to-Serial
adapter is designed for wireless telescope control. If you have a computer-controlled
GoTo telescope, SkyFi can use the WiFi capabilities built into your Mac, PC,
iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to point your telescope (via your mount) in
In 2010, Southern Skies' SkyFi and SkySafari (discussed below) were Macworld Expo 2010 Best of Show winners (both products were marketed by Carina Software at the time of the award). Check this link to see Tim Benedictus demonstrate these products at the Macworld Expo.
SkySafari from Southern Skies
As of this writing, SkySafari 3 is available in three different versions, two of them offering telescope control. All of these versions are available as iTunes Apps and require use of the SkyFi Wireless Telescope Controller, as described above . The GoTo mount control functions provided by this application are quite basic and most suited to visual astronomy. However, the graphical interface if your iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone offers some exciting possibilities to engage kids (young and old) at public star parties, as well as provide an enjoyable, informative evening for amateur astronomers on observing nights. Also, if the weather is cloudy, you can browse through the extensive databases to learn a great deal about the sky and plan your next session.
Please go to the Southern Skies website for the most updated information on SkiSafari and SkiFi.
Write your own computer programThe Astro-Physics GTO protocol for the GTOCP3 Control Box is freely available to those who would like to write their own computer program for controlling the mount. Please contact Astro-Physics for further information. Please note, however, that with our substantial investment in both the Astro-Physics V2 ASCOM driver and in APCC, we cannot also provide free technical support to anyone who wants to try their hand at mount control software. We strongly encourage all customers to use the available software options, if possible.
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This page was last modified: June 15, 2011
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