Orion Starshoot Autoguider Review

After using my StarShoot autoguiding system for the first time, I realized that it was one of the best investments that I have ever made in astrophotography equipment. It was nice to produce a series of frames that didn’t have to be sorted through for the very few that were suitable for stacking and processing. Each frame was nearly identical to the next and they all contained nice round stars. Contrast this with my early days of unguided astrophotography where it was a challenge to get enough exposure time on an object and turn out enough frames for processing into a good quality composite image. 

Orion Awesome Autoguider System

With the purchase of the Celestron CGEM and Canon XSi, I decided that it was time to add autoguiding to the mix. Working off of a recommendation by Jeff Turner over at DaltonSkyGazer, I bought the Orion Awesome Autoguider system. The system is a complete autoguiding package that is very reasonably priced. And it runs off of the software program PHD Guiding which I knew was popular. PHD Guiding was developed by Stark Labs(as a freeware program) to be a simple but powerful way to guide your telescope. So the Orion Awesome Autoguider system appeared to be exactly what I needed to get started. I ordered it from Orion Telescopes & Binoculars. You can check pricing, availability, and details here: Orion Awesome Autoguider Refractor Telescope Package. The package included:

  • Orion ShortTube 80 refractor telescope
  • StarShoot AutoGuider
  • 1.25″ Extension tube (for camera focus)
  • Guide scope rings
  • Guide scope ring mounting bar
  • Mounting the Starshoot Autoguider and ST80 Refractor
  • PHD Guiding disk

I decided to piggyback the autoguider to my ED80 refractor. Using some adapters that I purchased from our good friends at ADM Accessories, the ST80 guide scope mounted nicely on top of my ED80 as shown below. It all makes for a nice setup with my Celestron CGEM!

M42 Example with Orion’s StarShoot Autoguider

One of my earliest photos produced while guiding with the StarShoot Autoguider was the Orion Nebula. I was blown away by the frame-to-frame consistency. Each photo looked like the previous one with no star trailing or blurring. Once the StarShoot locked onto the guide star, it tracked flawlessly for the duration of the imaging session. The result was a nice collection of light frames that produced the composite image below.

My M42 trial was composed of short exposures though:

  • 16 x 80 seconds at ISO 1600
  • 10 x 60 seconds at ISO 400

So it was not a serious trial of the StarShoot’s capability. My next trial of the Horsehead Nebula was more challenging since longer exposures were needed to detect the fainter nebulosity.

Horsehead Nebula with Starshoot Autoguider

This trial of the StarShoot Autoguider required much longer exposures than M42. I found that 6-minute exposures were necessary to reveal the faint Horsehead with my ED80 refractor. The image below is a composite of 8 frames at 6 minutes each. Again, the same result- the StarShoot locked onto the guide star and kept my scope tracking nicely during the long exposures. Unfortunately, I did not have time that night to take enough light frames and dark frames to minimize the noise in the final image. But it was a nice test of the StarShoot.

Conclusion

All of my testing with the Orion StarShoot Autoguider was conducted with the basic instructions for operation. So I haven’t tried adjusting any of the advanced autoguider settings yet. As I get more experience with the Starshoot, I may have to explore some of these options for better autoguiding performance. I plan to make further posts here at AstroPhotography Tonight as I gain more experience.

Were there any problems with the StarShoot Autoguider during my initial trials? There were a couple of situations to mention. One time it stopped tracking during a series of exposures. I noticed that the stars began trailing in the images so I went back to the PHD Guiding screen and saw that it stopped tracking on my guide star. It is hard to say what happened, but perhaps I chose a star that had borderline signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). I got back on track immediately by choosing another star in the field of view. To my surprise, I did not have to go through the calibration process again. The StarShoot tracked nicely for the remainder of the frames.

In another trial, PHD Guiding locked up completly. The program froze during a guide session and all of my images were toast. But I was having problems with my computer during that time anyway and other programs were locking up as well. I fixed my computer since then and the problem did not reoccur. So it was likely related to a computer glitch and not PHD Guiding.

This review is based on my limited experience with the Orion StarShoot Autoguider. But overall, it has performed flawlessly. So far, I am please with this addition to my astrophotography equipment arsenal. Hopefully as I continue to put the StarShoot Autoguider to the test, it performs well and I can produce nice quality astro-images!

I put together a helpful quick start section below. Check out the video to see how easy it is to get started with the StarShoot Autoguider in PHD Guiding!  If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the “Leave a Reply” section below. Also, I have added a survey below to find out if this review was helpful to you.


Check pricing, availability, and details at Orion Telescopes & Binoculars here (disclosure: compensated affiliate):


Orion StarShoot AutoGuider

Orion Awesome Autoguider Refractor Telescope Package

Orion StarShoot Planetary Imaging and AutoGuider
Orion StarShoot AutoGuider Orion Awesome Autoguider Refractor Telescope Package Orion StarShoot Planetary Imaging Camera and AutoGuider

Quick Start Procedure

Here is the basic procedure for autoguiding with the StarShoot camera and PHD Guiding software. It assumes that the guide scope (in my case, ST80) is attached to the main imaging scope and the cables are plugged in (USB cable to computer and autoguide interface cable to the autoguiding port of the telescope mount).

1. Launch the PHD Guiding program.

2. Click on the camera icon to connect the PHD Guiding program to the StarShoot Autoguider

3. Select StarShoot Autoguider.

4. Select 2.0 seconds for the camera exposure duration.

5. Click on the looping exposure icon to see a live preview of the sky. Focus the guide scope (Orion ShortTube 80 refractor).

6. Focus your telescope on the live preview of the sky.

7. Once focus is achieved, click the Stop button.

8. Click on a bright star in the field of view. This will be your guide star. A green box should appear around it.

9. On the mount menu, select “On-camera”.

10. Click the telescope icon to connect the StarShoot autoguider to the telescope mount through the autoguiding port.

11. Click the PHD Guiding icon to begin the calibration process. Note that calibration may take around 15 minutes to complete.

12. Once the calibration process is complete, the text “Guiding” will appear at the bottom left.

13. Now you can begin imaging through your main telescope and camera!


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Comments

  1. Please feel free to add comments or ask questions here regarding my article: “Orion StarShoot Autoguider Review”

    Thanks!
    Ray Shore

  2. Hi..Ray….now your cooking on gas….sounds like a good system…over here it has good reviews in my monthly magazine……I want to see some good guided images now !!….Keith

  3. anyone had a review or experience on Orion’s other product – Orion StarShoot Planetary Imager & AutoGuider ?

  4. Ray Shore

    Roland- I haven’t tried the Starshoot Planetary Imager & Autoguider myself. I did see an excellent photo of Jupiter taken with it awhile back though. Ray

  5. hi, excellent site, great info. I just ordered GGEM too som I’m very excited about your experiences. What is weight of the guider please?

    Thanks for great site. Please keep continue

    1. AstroPhotography Tonight

      Thanks! The weight of the guidescope itself is 2.4 lbs. and the Starshoot Autoguider is only 4.4 oz. Light setup. Congrats on ordering a CGEM…you’re going to enjoy it!

  6. I have had the awesome autoguider package for about 6 weeks. The problem I have is that it keeps drifting off of the dec axis (at least I think that the vertical line on the screen is the dec axix) after about 90 seconds. The vertical line always drifts to the right I have checked my polar alignment and it is right on. I have the Celestron CGE mount with a C-8. The RA (horizontal line) stays locked on. I checked the balance of the OTA with everything attached and it appears to be balanced well. I have adjusted just about everything on the PHD software and the mount that I can adjust but it does not seem to help. Any ideas.

  7. Ed,

    Get PA as close as possible, if you notice loosing DEC like I did in past. Increase the max DEC guide correction in the brain, default is around 100ms or so, jack it up to 1000ms. Same with RA. This will allow PHD to calibrate quickly, overcome backlash quicker. It will make few initial longer corrections, but will settle in quickly. I also increase max sidereal setting in my cgem up to about 70% of sidereal.

  8. Hi, Nice vid. I’m new to the astronomy and certainly the astrophotography thing.
    I have an HEQ5 pro and a Macbook computer that I can use to go with my Takahashi TSA102 and was wondering, Does the PHD guiding program run under the latest MAC X environment?
    And does it Automatically correct for errors in the gearing on the HEQ5 mount? OR do i sit there manually adjusting to keep the tracking star “centred”.
    I presume if it does correct then you have to adjust, thru trial and error to determine the right amount of correction…Is that true? Do you also pick a star to track that is in the same field of view as the object you wish to capture on the CCD or DSLR. Somebody suggested to me that you track something up to 5degrees off (seem a long way). thanks in advance.

    1. AstroPhotography Tonight

      Hi Peter,

      I can answer some of your questions. Although I’m not as familiar with the MAC side of things, the PHD software is supposed to run on MAC according to their website. You may want to contact Stark Labs to be sure it works on the latest MAC environment: http://www.stark-labs.com/help/contact/contact.php.

      After calibration, it will automatically send commands to your mount to track on the star. You shouldn’t have to do any manual adjustments to keep it centered. Generally you pick a star that is in the same field of view. My guidescope is aimed pretty close to the imaging scope. It’s not perfect though and still works. Not sure how far off it can be though. Ray Shore

  9. Robert Zelonis

    What a great find your website has been! I just begun to purchase & assemble an all new telescope and astrophotography system: the Explore Scientific ED127 refractor and the CGEM mount. The next big step is to add an autoguider to supplement my Canon DSLR and modified off-the-shelf Gigaware webcam from Radio Shack. Ray, your article about the Orion autoguider was just the good news that I needed to put me “over the edge” to buying the Orion autoguider.

    1. AstroPhotography Tonight

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the feedback about my website! Autoguiding made a big difference for me. I was taking perfect 20 minute exposures!

      Ray Shore

  10. Robert Zelonis

    Serious astrophotography is a new endeavor for me. Previously, using a semi-homemade 10″ reflector on a Cave Astrola mount driven by AC motors, I only dared to take snapshots of the moon and also a video of the moon using a modified webcam. I’m so excited about my potential achievements with an up-to-date system. I’ll post back when I have something to show.

    1. AstroPhotography Tonight

      Robert,

      Looking forward to seeing your work with a newer system in place!

      Ray Shore

  11. Nelson Cristi

    Hi, i have a celestron nexstar 8se on a cg5 mount. Can i use orion autoguide with this system ? do i need to buy some adaptors ?. Thanks.

    1. AstroPhotography Tonight

      Hi Nelson,

      Do you have the CG-5GT mount or just the CG5? The Orion Autoguider is compatible with the CG-5GT (both with ST4 interface) but the basic CG-5 does not have an autoguiding port. I’m not sure if you can find adapters to use with the basic CG-5.

      Thanks,

      Ray Shore

  12. Good review. I have a new cpc1100 and have been playing around with astrophotography. Will the mounting bars and camera work on my telescope or will I need more or different accessories to go with it?

  13. Joe Sheppard

    Thanks for posting the review. Its clear that most astrophotographers have few problems with Orion’s “Awesome Autoguider” kit. I wish I was in their company. After 8 nights of trying to get one decent photo, I’m close to giving up. The PHDufus sfw recognizes the camera, scope and calibrates successfully, but then seems to stop tracking after about a minute, with no error message. Twice, after successful calibration, and no errors while guiding, my 1 and 2 minute exposures should obvious star trails (that don’t show up when I stop autoguiding). My mount (Celestron ASGT) is perfectly aligned and balanced in both axis. I am using a HP Laptop running 32-bit Vista. Maybe something on the laptop is causing interrrupts? Glad your enjoying your autoguider!

  14. Joe,

    If you have troubles with PHD loosing guiding try the following tips.

    1. Adjust max ra guide correction in the phd brain settings to about 1300ms
    2. Adjust the dec max correction up to higher number also.
    3. In the cgem mount think under utilities set the max guide pulse to about 65% to 70% of sidereal rate.

    You should notice that PHD calibrates quickly, and all backlash is removed quickly. Good guiding still requires excellent PA and careful attention to balance on the cgem. Pay close attention to balance of the Dec axis with cgem. Check balance 3x with all cameras and gear attached.

  15. Hi, I just bought the Orion Autoguider. Someone can explain me the bigourdan method with this autoguider and PHD guiding or other mac software? Sorry for my english, Carlo

  16. Thanks for your efforts and sharing information on the Orion Autoguider. I finally have my astro imaging kit together and the only thing holding me up at this time is my laptop, its in the shop. You mentioned RA and Dec values, also mount sidereal adjustments for those cases where the user is having issues with the program for one reason or another is loosing touch with the guide star. Under normal circumstances what would be the baseline values for the above adjustments? Seems to me you would imput on the side of higher percentages, but is there a side effect with going too strong? Thank you.

  17. Bryan Shumaker

    After 18 mo with the Celestron NexGuide, I purchased a used SSAG on Cloudy Nights. it has worked extremely well– at least an order of magnitude better! Even tracking with a C8, where the long focal length magnifies any error, I have been happily surprised just how well it works. I have not yet had a need to change the default settings. Sure wish I had purchased this at the beginning! Now, I just need to sell my NexGuider…..
    Dr. B. Shumaker, NASA/JPL

  18. Hi Ray,

    I’m just getting started with Astrophotography, but if i’m right, this Autoguide, and any
    other autoguide will keep track of any object in the nightsky, (except for planes, copters etc), and keeps them centered
    during long exposures.

    If that’s what it does, it’s the must have for any astrophotographer!

    Very usefull article!!
    Simon

    1. AstroPhotography Tonight

      Hi Simon,
      Thanks for the feedback. Basically, the autoguider camera locks onto a star in the field of view and keeps it centered. It sends commands to the telescope mount to counteract any drift. I agree, it is good to have when you’re doing astrophotography!
      Ray Shore

  19. Hi Ray,
    I’m using the Orion Starshoot on a Meade Schmidt-Cassagrain with an SBIG camera. I am having trouble focusing the Autoguider once I get the SBIG in focus. Do you know what the distance/spacer needs to be between the camera and autoguider to get the autoguider within focus range?

    Monte

    1. AstroPhotography Tonight

      Hi Monte,

      So sorry I haven’t responded yet. I sure wish I could help but my setup is much different. Did you figure it out already? Thanks, Ray Shore

  20. Hi Ray,I bought the deluxe autoguider with the 50mm helix scope..I finally had time to try it out with my cgem mount.I polar aligned and balanced my 6′ reflector, did star alignment, decided to go to Saturn the cgem went right to it. With Saturn centered in the ep,I turned on the autoguider set the camera,and pressed the guide button…What happened?? Saturn went out of the ep within 30s..reset Saturn tried it again..same thing..I decided it must be calibration problem..so ..the rest of the night ,I just trusted my cgem,which allows about a 30s shot on its own..over that I get star trails..my orion pics look just like yours..only with star trails!…lol

  21. Stephan Butler

    Hello,
    PHD software do nor recognizes the orion auto guider on my mac ( El Capitan ) i just get the message ” no Camera found “.
    The Camera by itself works , (testet with orion film software ). So the Hardware is oK.
    Please Help !!!
    Thanks a lot Stephan

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