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Sky-Watcher Star Discovery Pro mount - AstroShop

Star Discovery Pro light-weight Alt-Az GoTo mount
A great new and highly affordable multi-function and celestial GoTo mount for small telescopes.


We've tested many low-cost Go-To mounts over the years including Meade, Celestron, iOptron and Sky-Watcher. Each have there pros and cons, relating to accuracy, motor noise, ease of use and load bearing. We welcomed the opportunity to test Sky-Watchers latest entry in to the low-cost go-to mount market and weren't disappointed.
In appearance and concept, the Star Discovery Pro shares a commonality with the likes of it's predecessors like Sky-Watcher's "All View" and "Multi-Function tracking" mounts or the old Celestron NexStar mounts. But what really interested us as with the classic All-View mount was the featured "Freedom Find" which is essentially the ability to move your telescope hand to another area of sky without upsetting the initial star alignment and pointing accuracy by utilising digital encoders.
 

Astro Shop Star Discovery Pro

Star Discovery Pro review My Astro Shop
Easy enough to assemble within 5 minutes, the mount head is affixed to the top of the tripod by 3 thumbscrews located on the underside of the tripod head platform. After locating the first threaded hole, locating the second was a little fiddly but once partially threading this thumbscrew thus setting the positioning, the third was of course no problem. As can be seen in the above pictures, it comes with the classic Sky-Watcher all metal eyepiece holder which also adds rigidity to the 1 inch stainless steel tube tripod legs. Unlike the above aforementioned mount designs, one attractive feature of the Star Discovery Pro and like the well though out design of the classic Vixen Porta mounts, is the tilted back carry arm to avoid a telescope banging into the base of the mount head. This ergonomic design means that most small telescopes may be point directly overhead and even a little further if need be.
 
SPECIFICATIONS
Height: 90cm to 130cm
Weight: 6.27 kg
Tripod: 1 inch stainless tube legs
Tripod floor width 76cm to 124cm
Load Bearing: up to 5 kg
Objects: over 40,000 plus programmable
Power: 8 x AA batteries or external 12VDC supply **not included**
Camera control: YES via optional cables
Includes:

 

 

Eyepiece accessory tray
SynScan 4 Control
GoTo mount head with dual axis position encoders
Hand control holder
Assembly Tool kit & User Manual

Star Discovery Pro battery compartment


TRACKING AND NAVIGATION

Above: After pointing to North (using a compass is best), use the simple altitude gauge for levelling the the mount / telescope then tighten the altitude clamp and turn on the power.

Enter your location, time zone and current time details into the SynScan 4 controller. Select a known star from the list then use the direction keys to manually slew and centre on that star. Select a 2nd star and the mount will automatically slew to it. Again, centre, press enter and your ready to tour the night sky.

After assembly, levelling and orienting northward, you simply enter the standard information required by the hand controller so that it knows where you are on Earth. Given it was still daytime I decided first just to see how well it tracked. Covering the apertures of the finder and the Sky-Watcher 80mm f/5 refractor with solar safety film, I loosened the altitude clamp and manually moved the mount sunward. Setting the controller to sidereal tracking mode, the Sun stayed well within the filed of view for the best part of 30 minutes from centred position in a 24mm eyepiece. Certainly good enough tracking without having done star alignments for use in safe solar viewing and imaging.


Touring the Night Sky

As darkness fell, it was time to use do the two star align process so I selected Alpha Centauri from the bright star list under southern sky star selections. Using the directional keys on the controller key pad one must manually move the telescope to the star, locate in the finder scope cross hairs then centre in the eyepiece and press the ENTER key. A second alignment star Vega in this case was offered by SynScan and after selecting, the mount slewed to its general position which was visible within the field of view of the finder. Centring it and pressing ENTER again, you're ready to go. It is important to make sure the tripod / mount is set perfectly level and telescope balanced to avoid possible slippage of the azimuth drive during slewing.

The Moon was in the west so selecting it using the Planets key (7 on the keypad) the scope whizzed off to locate it very nicely... almost perfectly in the centre of the eyepiece. Manually tweaking the alignment just a little and holding the ESC key for three seconds utilising the PAE correction function, it tracked very well until I was bored looking any longer. So where to now ?, hmmm, I'll be kind... Saturn is nearby... selecting from the planets list, bingo there it was in the eyepiece! Ahhh Mercury down in the low west... let's go there! Bingo again. Getting darker now, let go to NGC5139 in Centaurus. Again the little mount found its way very well requiring just a little re-centre correction. So, back to the Moon.. perfectly centred.

If you're wondering about the mounts quietness, I'd say it might be considered a bit noisy when in full slew mode particularly if your were observing from the balcony of an apartment block at 2am however not anymore noisy than most others we've evaluated and perhaps a little quieter that some.


Freedom Find

Satisfied that the scope was finding a few targets nicely I decided to try the so-called Freedom Find capability. So loosening off the altitude clamp (there is no azimuth clamp as this axis is pretty free moving) I swung the telescope by hand to Altair in the north west. Retightening the clamp I observed the star for a minute or two. I then selected the star Antares from the named star list... here we go... Press Enter... off she slewed and to my delight, in the correct direction. Bingo! Antares landed perfectly in the eyepiece. How good is this! As the clouds started rolling in I grabbed the remaining time to slew back to Alpha Centauri then Acrux and later to Shula in the tail of Scoprius and thereafter, Alberio. Needless to say, all fell nicely within the eyepiece each time.
 
A quickly acquired image using the ProStar LP-GUIDE-M video camera with a Vixen R130Sf Newtonian fitted to the Star Discovery mount.

As mentioned above, the mount tracked very well even with a load just over 4.3 kg with motor focus fitted and a heavy eyepiece.

 

 

 

 

 
Again using the ProStar LP-GUIDE-M camera with the Vixen R130Sf Newtonian, the Dumbbell nebula (M27) was selected from the Messier objects list. After landing on the target, it was slightly off centre in the narrow field produced by the camera but visible nonetheless. With a little re-centre and PAE correction, the image here is a stack of 15 frames taken from 5 second exposures. Although captured through thin clouds it reveals that the mount tracks well enough for doing some basic photography.
Even 10 second exposure showed round, un-drifted stars quite well.

While we did discover a minor anomaly relating to PAE correction for a couple of southern based objects south of the meridian, we have since fed this information back to the manufacturer who will no doubt have sorted in a new iteration of the controller firmware soon. After all, the unit is fully upgradable.

This is most certainly one impressive mount an extremely great value for GoTo technology under $700.00.

UPDATE 03rd October 2015 - An update from Sky-Watcher was tested and the PAE issue corrected based on our testing.

We'd like to thank Barry Smith of Tasco Sales Australia for making the mount available to us for testing.

We will continue to update this review as time and weather allows.


BUY IT NOW from AstroShop Australia  and ensure full protected authorised distributor warranty & support.

Note: AstroShop reviews are only intended to provide prospective purchasers our own first hand impressions of performance and build as has been our long time policy.

 

Copyright 2015:  AstroShop - Binary Systems P/L

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