March 2006

Using AIRcable for Wireless Telescope Control

by Jack Huerkamp

"I previously posted about my initial indoor testing of the AirCable USB and Serial Male setup to interface my laptop with SkyTools to my Argo Navis and ServoCAT equipped AstroSystems TeleKit. Last week I finally had a chance to test the system under the stars at the Kisatchie Starparty in West Central Louisiana - and it worked flawlessly. I used an old Radio Shack 12 volt to 3 volt adapter to power up the Serial Male AIRCable connected to the RS-232 ServoCAT connector, and I had the USB AIRCable device plugged into my HP Pavillion laptop that was about 20' from the scope. I aligned the Argo Navis, set the Catalog to "From Planetarium" and walked over to the laptop. I started SkyTools Real Time, made sure that the COM port setting for the AIRCable and for the ServoCAT configuration in STRT were the same (COM 5), and established a connection to the scope. I heard "Telescope Connected" audibly come from the laptop and then the real fun began.

I started slow, having STRT Slew the scope to M42, M78 and a few other bright objects. Each Slew worked perfectly. I then went to the Arp Galaxy list that I have been working on for my Astronomical League award. I would either right click on one of the targets in the list and do a Slew or I would open up the Telescope View, right click on the Arp galaxy and perform the slew from there. Over the three nights that I used the AIRCable system with the CAT, AN and SkyTools, I observed 53 Arp galaxies along with several other targets including Comet Pojmanski.

If anyone is considering a wireless system for interfacing their laptop running SkyTools to their telescope, the AIRCable system should be considered. For info on them, see the Serial Male to USB Cable Replacement Product Information. "

Jack Huerkamp