Software Bisque Paramount MYT mount

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Magazine Verdict: 
4/5
Software Bisque Paramount MYT mount

Vital Stats

Price: 
£4998.00
Weight: 
15kg
Supplier: 
Ian King Imaging
Telephone: 
01580 212356
Website: 
www.iankingimaging.com
A high precision portable mount that justifies its hefty price tag. See an interactive 360° model of the mount here.
Reviewed by Pete Lawrence / Images: www.thesecretstudio.net

Paramount robotic mounts provide high accuracy pointing and tracking platforms. This comes from a synergy of precision engineering working with Paramount’s fourth generation MKS-5000 computerised control system. Where the larger mounts in the Paramount range are designed for permanent or semi-permanent installations, the MYT (pronounced ‘mighty’) is offered as a portable grab and go mount. Initially, this seems at odds with the precision that Paramount robotic mounts are so well known for. 

The MYT’s £5,000 price tag includes the mount head, cables, 9kg counterweight, control handset and control software, but you have to supply something for it to sit on. We used the wooden Berlebach Planet tripod (£498; £398 if purchased with the MYT), offering strength, excellent vibration damping and low weight. Visually, the MYT on the Berlebach tripod would definitely be a head turner at a star party.

Both components are easy to lift even when assembled. The tripod’s load limit is in excess of 80kg, making it a comfortable match for the MYT’s 23kg capacity or 46kg including counterweights. The MYT’s capacity is lower than larger Paramount models but still pretty generous, especially considering portable setups. The mount’s MKS-5000 controller connects to a computer via a USB cable; a supplied copy of Software Bisque’s TheSkyX planetarium software provides the user interface. 

The MYT’s aluminium body is solid and attractively finished. Rough polar axis elevation is performed by moving a bar in a set of slots machined into the body. A latitude adjuster wheel provides fine tuning. In use, it was necessary to select the slots carefully because in some positions the bar slipped out while turning the adjuster.  

A meaty 48V (80W) power supply plugs into a panel called the ‘electronics box’. This also incorporates the ports for the USB connection and handset. The handset itself is a solid affair with a thumb stick and four-speed selector. It feels very natural to use. Optional battery packs are also available to maintain portability.


Novel polar alignment

The mount has no polar alignment scope but thanks to some clever software, getting everything aligned is very easy to do. TheSkyX includes an integrated version of its TPoint add-on. This provides instructions to roughly align the mount. Next, you need to compare TPoint’s idea of where things are in the sky to where they actually are. Once we’d set everything up, we first homed the mount. This gives the controller a start reference and identifies whether you’ve put the telescope on the right way round. TPoint is taught how well the mount is aligned by slewing to an object in TheSkyX and adjusting the telescope, via the handset, to centre the object. Once done, this pointing sample is added to TPoint’s sky model database. 

For a portable mount, this must be done with every setup. We found that given six pointing samples, anything we slewed to via TheSkyX would be centred correctly. Camera exposures up to 60 seconds were fine, but anything longer showed trailing. With 25 points defined, unguided exposures of 300 seconds amazingly showed little sign of trailing. Increasing the count further takes you closer to the quoted unguided maximum of 1,200 seconds (20 minutes) – a seriously impressive figure for any mount, portable or not. Autoguiding and Software Bisque’s DirectDrive guiding, which connects directly to the mount controller, are also supported should you need them.

If you don’t fancy working through lots of pointing samples manually and have a camera attached, facility is provided to automate the process. Here, TheSkyX slews to selected targets, takes a photo via the included Camera add-on, and works out where it’s looking. This process can produce more than 100 samples per hour, leading to a highly accurate sky model.

From initially uneasy feelings about the marriage of high precision and portability, the MYT proved itself spectacularly. It’s true that £5,000 is a lot of money for a portable mount, but the ease of setup and benefits it brings are definitely worth it. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from buying the MYT and setting it up as a semi-permanent or even permanent mount. If this is done the TPoint model remains valid even after the mount is turned off, giving you superb accuracy night after night.

Incredible pointing accuracy

Coupling excellent engineering with advanced pointing models via TheSkyX’s integrated TPoint add-on gives the portable MYT the capability to exhibit impressive pointing accuracy. To maintain this level of accuracy, the MYT will only track for a maximum of two hours past the meridian. After this, a meridian flip is required. The TPoint model is further enhanced by an option called ‘Super Model’. This analyses the TPoint data and statistically optimises it to provide an even more precise pointing model. A ‘ProTrack’ software feature can be used to eliminate errors from physical effects such as refraction and flexure. These are the same pointing corrections used on large professional telescopes. With a good number of pointing samples supplied manually or via automated camera routines, the software models will confidently centre celestial objects selected from TheSkyX’s database, and up to 1,200-second unguided exposures. 


Balance/tracking selectors - The RA and dec. axes both have balance/tracking selector switches. Both can also be position locked for transportation. While balancing, an axis swings freely so it’s necessary to hold your kit carefully in case your initial balance is even slightly off. This setting is excellent for getting precise and accurate balance.

Versa-plate - Telescopes attach via the ‘Versa-Plate’ which natively accepts Losmandy and Celestron dovetails. Wires from power and USB couplings on the ‘electronics box’, feed up through the mount to an instrument panel at one end of the Versa-Plate. Cameras, focusers and other equipment can be directly connected to the USB, autoguider and 5V/12V ports.  

Berlebach Planet tripod - We used a Berlebach Planet tripod to support the MYT. Made from ash, this has excellent vibration damping characteristics and a load capacity of more than 80kg. Its height range is 90-138cm and the legs are ruled to let you know how far they have been extended. 

TheSkyX and TPoint - TheSkyX Professional is a feature-rich planetarium and equipment control program. It controls the position of the MYT with great precision and can operate other equipment such as cameras. It comes with the Camera and TPoint add-ons; the latter allows you to convert the MYT’s rough alignment model to one with impressive pointing and tracking accuracy. 

Altitude and azimuth adjusters - Altitude and azimuth adjusters play a big role in rough aligning the mount. TPoint can suggest how many turns of these adjusters will refine polar alignment accuracy. Designed for use between 0-64° latitude, altitude adjustment slots allow you to get in the right ball park for fine tuning polar altitude alignment. 


This review originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Prices right at time of going to press.

 

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