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The Minor Planet Observer
Palmer Divide Observatory

2007 Shoemaker Grant Recipient

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SkyWalker II Support

by Robert Stephens

Connections controls the SkyWalker system through the SkyGuide software. Only the SkyGuide software can directly control the SkyWalker system.

Basically, the SkyGuide software is capable of accepting the Meade LX200 command protocols through a serial port. You configure which port you are receiving through. I use two computers. An old hand-me-down runs the SkyGuide Software. I receive LX200 commands from Connections (or even TheSky) through Comm2. I have and extra serial port card in it from which I output commands to SkyWalker via Comm4. I use an extra serial port card because the mouse is using Comm1. If it were a PS2 mouse, this would not be necessary

I set it up this way because, at least with the old SkyWalker, whenever the computer that controls the SBIG CCD camera would take an image, it would shut down all the interrupts on the computer. That is why the mouse becomes so sluggish when taking an image. The effect of this is to cause SkyGuide to lose connection to SkyWalker. The new version of SkyWalker holds these interrupts open, so that the software does not lose connection. Now, you can theoretically use one computer for all functions. You would still have to trick it by using a patch cable between Comm1 and Comm4, but it can be done on the same machine. I have not tried this.

Almost all commands from Connections are supported and work quite well. These include slewing, guiding, updating, focus etc. The only command that I have found that does not work is the manual slew buttons at the bottom center screen of Connections. Pushing these seems to go out at the wrong speed and they don't shut down properly. However, that is ok. You have the same buttons on the SkyGuide screen which you can use for minor centering. Even then, you won't use them because it is much easier just to point to a spot on the map and click 'Slew To'.

Bob Stephens is a member of "Team MPO", a group of dedicated beta testers for MPO Software. He is a member of the Society for Astronomical Science and Riverside Telescope Makers. He has published numerous asteroid lightcurves in the Minor Planet Bulletin as a result of using MPO Connections and Canopus


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This page was last updated on 01/19/11 16:04 -0700.
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