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.
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
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!