Success at controlling Scope with Mac

October 23 2010

Well, today I finally had chance to try out a suggestion from a member of the Stellarium family on how to get my mount controlled through Stellarium on my Mac. After several frustrating hours last month, trying to achieve just this and going through countless permutation and sequences the solution was pretty straight forward!!

So for reference and for anyone else who wants to know how this is achieved below are the steps taken. Firstly I am using a generic USB to Serial adapter (brought from Maplins) with a drive downloaded from Prolific ( - PL2303 Driver for Mac. This driver seems to be the best one around for controlling USB to Serial adapters. So what do you do?
The first thing to do is to start Stellarium and set up a new telescope connection. This is done by pressing ‘cmd+0’ and then clicking on ‘configure telescopes’
Click ‘add’ which will take you into the ‘Add New Telescope’ dialogue box. Once in here there are a few settings that need to be sorted out:
1. Under the heading ‘Telescope controlled by:’ click the radio button next to ‘Stellarium,  directly through a  serial port’;
2. Under the heading ‘Telescope Properties’ give the telescope a name (I chose NEQ6 as this is the make of mount I want to control.) Everything else under this tab can be left as default.
3. Under ‘Device settings’ you then need to tell Stellarium what and where the serial port is. At present the box will display /dev/. To fill in the correct information go need to go to terminal and type cd /dev followed by the return key then type ls this will list all the devices contained on your system. You are looking for something along the lines of cu.usbserial make sure to copy the cu.xxxxxxxxx and not the tty.xxxxxxxxx into Stellarium and paste it after the /dev/ so you will end up with something like /dev/cu.usbserial.
4. Under ‘Device model’ choose ‘Celestron NexStar (compatible)’ This will allow control over Sywatcher mounts.
This is as far as you need to go in Stellarium however under ’User interface settings’ you can set some FOV indicators.
Once Stellarium is set up you are ready to connect your mount. 
First start up the mount, enter the usual information, long / lat, date, time etc etc and perform your usual polar alignment. 
Once done you can then perform your star alignments or connect to Stellarium. In either case, before you connect to Stellarium it is important to note that you do not need to enter ‘PC Direct Mode’ which is rather counter-intuitive but works!
Therefore, when you are ready connect your cable to your Mac and handset and in Stellarium press ‘cmd+0’, it may be necessary to click on ‘configure telescope’ find the scope and click ‘start’. Now in Stellarium you should see a marker with the scope name next to it. If you have just connected after polar alignment then this should have the scope marker next to Polaris (assuming your scope is parked in this position.)
Now you are ready to go. Just find a target, click on it and press ‘cmd+1’ assuming you have one scope set up, this should now slew your scope to this target. You can have several scopes set up which will use the number 1-9 and 0 thus if you have a scope set up under number 4 then you will need to press ‘cmd+4’ to slew.

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