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  • Writer's pictureJames Paulson

ASIAir Autofinder

Imagine how cool it would be to have a telescope built for visual use under complete control from a tablet for pointing your telescope from object to object with high precision. Imagine using what you have on hand to build this project.

Perhaps the most revolutionary device to ever hit the market in amateur astronomy certainly has to be given consideration to be the ASIAir (std, Pro, Plus). The ASIAir continues to revolutionize astronomy, operating as a small standalone telescope and camera control system with built in polar alignment, plate solving, autoguiding, camera and telescope position control functions. Operating via WiFi, the ASIAir allows you to use a smartphone or tablet to control all of its functions without any wires.

So it was with this platform that I set about to make my Celestron Ultima 8 OTA a useful and simple visual telescope. Here is what I did to do that.

  1. I added an Orion 50mm mini finder/guider onto the Celestron Ultima 8

  2. I placed a high magnification eyepiece and an extension tube into this finder and aligned it with great precision to the main OTA

  3. I replaced the eyepiece with a ZWO ASI290MM mini camera, and hooked it via USB into a USB 3 port on the ASIAir

  4. I connected the EQMOD cable to my EQ6 and plugged it into the ASIAir

  5. I set the main camera in the ASIAIr app to be the ASI290MM mini, with no guide camera, and set the focal length to the FL of the mini finder/guider, 162 mm.

  6. I went through the basic polar alignment routine, starting from home position and got it reasonably close.

  7. I told the telescope to GOTO an object via the ASIAir app, and I let the plate solving resolve and center the object

  8. I viewed the object in the main eyepiece on the Ultima 8

Not only does this work, it works exceptionally well and is highly reliable. The plate solving routine built into the ASIAir far outperforms the standard multi-star alignment routine and the hand controller for accuracy.

As a bonus to this being a great visual assist, this also doubles to make an excellent system for positioning the telescope for planetary imaging. Just replace the Ultima 8 eyepiece with a planetary camera and hook it to your laptop and run FIreCapture on the laptop, using the ASIAir and tablet right next to it for positioning. You can set the slew speed down slow and really use this to get that planetary image centered in your camera with a high degree of accuracy without having to physically touch the mount. IT WORKS AWESOME!!!!

Hopefully this information helps someone else. Here is an image of this system on my OTA and mount.

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