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Using MC3 and MC5 with the Ursa Minor Program

The Ursa Minor Pro program fully supports MC3 and MC5 controllers. Even if you intend to use some other software, such as the Ascom driver, you might want to try the Ursa Minor program. The Ursa Minor program is an excellent tool for understanding, practicing, and configuring MC3 and MC5 controllers. Even if you prefer to use other programs there might be occasions when it would be recommended to use the Ursa Minor program, for example to making sure the park position is correct or the encoders are working properly. If you experience any malfunction (such as trivial misalignment), I always suggest that you first try to reproduce the error, understand its nature, and correct it with the necessary settings using the Ursa Minor program.

Both MC3 and OC5 have the ability to operate in two very different modes. I find it important for the user to understand the specifics of these modes of operation.

Operating modes:

Low level operation.
This means that the control electronics is actually downgraded to a "stupid" motor controller. In this case, we give him simple commands such as "Make x number of steps with y speed in positive direction with motor number 1". This requires some advanced device (computer or handset) to perform the relevant astronomical calculations, taking into account geographical position, time and considering the type of mechanics (Meridian flip for German equatorial mechanics)
High level operation.
This means that the control electronics itself performs astronomical calculations, manages the Meridian flip, and takes into account geographical position and time. In this case, we give the control electronics a command like this: "Go to the target whose coordinates are Ra = hh.mm.ss Dec = dd.mm.ss and follow its movement at sidereal speed!"

The electronics are capable of both modes. Therefore, two types of protocols are supported. One low-level and one high-level protocol. The operating mode depends on the protocol used to access the device. The truth is that there are three protocols, one high-level one binary and one ascii, but they do essentially the same thing.

Although the electronics are capable of both modes of operation, they can only be in one state at a time, that is, either low-level or high-level. For example, if you want to give both high-level and low-level commands, such as low-level commands with the hand control and high-level commands with the ascom driver, it can cause a lot of issues. Similarly, we will experience many problems when we are not aware of these and intend to use the tool in high-level mode whilst it is actually in low-level mode. To avoid this kind of problem, I recommend that you read the following instructions carefully, and set up and practice your system accordingly. You need to be aware of the OC5 mode you are using (low level or high level) and what settings are needed in each case and which component (OC5, hand controller, Ursa Minor program, Ascom driver, Ascom client program (such as MaximDL or Prism) or Hydra) is responsible. If we make a mistake here (for example, we think the hand controller is responsible for the exact time, while it is the responsibility of the Ascom driver), malfunctions will occur.

First case:

Low level operation with hand control.

In this case, only the handset is connected to the OC5 and there is no connection to the computer. You will then need to make sure the time and location are correct in the hand controller.

Second case:

Low level operation with Ursa Minor program.

Like the previous case, but a computer instead of a handset. In the Ursa Minor Program, we need to make sure the time and location are correct. You also need to use the program to initialize your system. (Init scope menu item)

Third case:

High level protocol with Ursa Minor.

The time and location are managed by OC5 itself. It is important to have a button battery in the OC5. It is a prerequisite that the geographical position is set correctly in OC5. The precondition is to set the exact time in the OC5.

Fourth case:

High level protocol with hand control. This is not yet possible. The hand controller will require new firmware. Then you will have full functionality in parallel: With Ursa Minor program and handset at the same time.

Fifth case:

High level protocol with Ascom driver.

It is advisable to try this only if the third case (High level protocol with Ursa Minor program) is already successful and you know how to set it up.

Sixth case:

A High Level case with encoders.

High level operation with Ursa Minor (as in the third case...)

Do not use the hand controller during initial setup and testing, and do not connect it to the controller electronics! In the next few steps, just connect the controller electronics to your computer with a USB cable, do not connect any other device! (Hand controller, autoguider)

Before using the device, make the following settings!

  • Use MCConfig to set the direction, speed, and acceleration of the motors.
  • Also use MCConfig to set the geographical position.
  • Save the settings with the "Save settings" button!

Then use the Ursa Minor program to:

  1. Connect to Control Electronics with a High Level Protocol (Either binary or ascii compliant)
  2. Read the position of the controller to make sure that the setting in the controller has not been forgotten. To do this, in the Ursa Minor program, select "Setup" from the menu and then "Set geographic position".
  3. You will then see that it is divided into two panels. The left hand side contains the Ursa Minor program's own setting and the right hand side contains the controller electronics.
  4. In the latter panel, press the "Read from the telescope controller" button! The geographic position known to the controller will appear in the fields below the button. That must be correct! The following image shows how the screen should lokks like. (Clisck on the image to show it at the original resolution.)
    Ursa Minor Pro: MC5 initialization
    Explanation:
    • By pressing the button 1. we connect tot he telescope controller.
    • In the text field 2, we can see the selected protocol: Now it is the "High level binary protocol"
    • In the text field 2, we can see that the connection built successfully.
    • By the button 4. we read the geographic position from the telescope controller.
    • The geographic position displayed in the text field 6.
    • If these coordinates are not correct, press the button 5. The geographic coordinates will be transferred from Ursa Minor program to the telescope controller.
    • Press the button 4 again, and check the new coordinate values in text field 6.
    • In the text field 7. we can see, the timezone is zero. Now it is not a problem, as MC3 and MC5 (OC5) handles the time in UT, and does not care about the time zone.
  5. Let's read the time from the controller. This is to check that the internal clock of the controller is working properly (the button battery on the MC5 base panel is powered even when off). To do this, in the Ursa Minor program, select "Setup" from the menu and then "Set time".
  6. As in the previous window, we see that it is divided into two panels. The left hand side contains the Ursa Minor program's own setting and the right hand side contains the controller electronics.
  7. In the right panel, press the "Read from the telescope controller" button! The box above the button will then show what the controller says is the current time in UT. If you have not set the time, you will get an incorrect value here.
  8. Press the "Synchronize to program" button to set the time. At this point, the time given by the Ursa Minor program is transferred to the control electronics.
  9. To make sure this is successful, press the "Read from the telescope controller" button again! You should now see the correct time in the box above the button . After a while, press the "Read from the telescope controller" button again. We have to see that time passes properly according to the electronics clock.
  10. Just in case, let's break the connection, turn off the MC5, and turn it on in a little while and read the geographical position and time! We have to find that the MC5 did not forget its geographical position even after the power was turned off and its clock was turned off. The following image shows how the screen should lokks like. (Clisck on the image to show it at the original resolution.)
    Ursa Minor Pro: MC5 inicializálás
    Explanation:
    • By pressing the button 1 we read out the time from the telescope controller.
    • The time is displayed in text field 2. This should be equal with the time in thext field 4. (Small amount of difference is allowed.)
    • If the time in telescope contoller is incorrect, press the button 3! This will synchronize the controller's clock to the system time of the computer.
    • By pressing the button 1 again, we could see correct time in field 2.
    • In the text field 5, the local sidereal time is displayed.
  11. Then initialize the telescope! Enter the "Telescope / Initializing telescope" menu. Here, select "Start position: Counterweight points to the west, scope at the eastern side, looks to the Equator". In this case, no telescope movement occurs, only the system initiates the internal position variables.
    Ursa Minor Pro: initializing MC5
  12. In the Ursa Minor program, select the "Full Sky" view to display the total visible sky in the middle of the screen with Zenit.
  13. Move the telescope control window on the screen so that it obscures the star map as little as possible.
  14. Press the "Get position" button in the telescope control window! The program will mark the position of the telescope on the map with a crosshair symbol.
  15. Check that the position is correct! Both the Binoculars and the crosshairs on the star map must be on the Meridian, the Equator!
    Ursa Minor Pro: initializing MC5
    Explanation:
    • Press the button 1 to ask the current position of the telescope from the controller.
    • The croshair symbol shows the position on the sky map at the place marked by 2.
    • In the text field 3. the local sidereal time is displayed.
  16. After getting so far, let's try goto: Select a star on the screen (As a first try, choose where Meridian flip doesn't have to be executed!) and right click on it!
    Ursa Minor Pro: initializing MC5
    Explanation:
    • The star marked with number 1 was selected. This is indicated by the crosshairs.
    • In the pop-up menu for the right mouse button, we select menu item 2.
  17. Then, select a star on the other side (on the other side of the Meridian). Let's start goto this star! We have to see that the program also executes a Meridian flip during positioning.

Tip: In any case, if you experience a malfunction before getting deeper into troubleshooting, I suggest you perform the above test! The time and geographical position read by the Ursa Minor program must be correct!