First I will discuss SkySafari software and what it can bring to your astronomy enjoyment. SkySafari is offered by Simulation Curriculum - the same folks who bring us the Starry Night application for PC and Mac. SkySafari is designed to run on a Smart Device such as an iOS or Android platform of devices.
SkySafari is a full featured dynamic star chart available for your mobile device. There are three versions available for purchase ($3.00 to $40.00) the cheapest version does not have telescope control, so your likely choices will be the $15.00 or full blown $40.00 version. Ultimately it is a choice between number of available database items you want access to, the larger version has unique features such as 27 million stars from the Hubble Guide star catalog. I recommend the pro version if your budget allows.
The platform you choose depends on what device you own (iOS or Android); I bought a copy for each; my iPAD and Android because it is just that good + the iPAD has a larger display. The app features touch control - obvious. So, if you have fat fingers?
Recommendation: Buy a stylus, it makes pin-pointing smaller object much easier than using a finger on mobile device sized screens.
SkySafari has over 620,000 solar system objects including comets and asteroids. Plus a Moon map based on NASAs latest LRO data. With SkySafari you have the ability to place your self anywhere on the earth's surface and with a touch the objects can be centered, with very detailed information available. The ultimate use is making your telescope respond and slew to the objects you select.
The many features of the SkySafari are astonishing below are a sample of my favorites;
- Se the magnitude of stars to show (I live in light polluted sky's) so this is nice,
- Create Bookmarks for a night's viewing session in advance
- Interface with Sky for the latest suggested events
- Have the app provide suggestions
- Full catalog search
- Day or Night (red) view
- Go into the future or past - To setup for the next Solar eclipse or lunar eclipse.
||Information About Object
||Whats Out Tonight
So, how do you interface SkySafari with your Gemini system? Pretty easy. Gemini 2 supports both Ethernet and serial port, while Gemini 1 supports Serial. If you are new to networking devices setting it up for the first time could be frustrating, but is well worth the effort.
- Animated move -
to selected object
- up close details -
Once you download and install the SkySafari app go to settings and set up your mount that you will be using, Losmandy was in the pick list. You have an option to connect via BlueTooth or a SkyFI device. I don't have a bluetooth interface so, I use SkyFi.
The Interface to my Gemini:
With SkyFi - Link is here it has both a USB and serial port; Gemini does not direct support USB, so in this situation we will use Serial port via GPS port. SkyFi acts as the wireless interface between the SkySafari APP and your mount, SkySafari fully supports SkyFi. Don't worry - you only need the GPS port for your GPS during initial setup, once your Gemini is ready, you can unplug the GPS and plug in the SkyFi.
For Losmandy Gemini one or 2, use the Serial Interface - very simple and reliable; here are the steps.
What you need: 1. The SkySafari app, a SkyFi device.
NOTE: SkyFi by default establishes an AD HOC WiFi Network -- Android Devices do not connect to Ad Hoc Networks, iOS does. If you use iPhones/ iPads no problem. More on the Android issue and workaround later.
What is SkyFi A small hardware device that connects to your mount via serial port to allow SkySafari to communicate wireless using your mobile device running the SkySafari app. SkyFi is the only WiFi device on the market specifically designed for telescope control. It can run using AA or DC power for field use.
By default the SkyFi creates it's own AdHoc network and you join your SkySafari device to it. First problem is Android does not support Ad Hoc (WEP) networks. Thus if you have an Android device you need a different approach. - I will cover this in a sec; If you have a iOS you can use Ad HOC the SkyFi creates.
Setting Up AdHoc: This is the default for SkyFi, just follow the instructions on their site, but be sure to set your own WEP key for a more secure setup. Basically, install the AA batteries in the SkyFI, power it up, wait a few seconds then use your Smart Phone / IPad to connect / use the new network.
Once your device is on the SkyFi network - your next step is to configure SkySafari to use the SkyFi; Open up SkySafari app, go to the settings, select your Mount, then set to connect via WiFi using SkyFi.
At this point you could begin using your Smart Device with the SkySafari App to control your telescope.
The benefits of using AD HOC - simplicity. The downside is Android will not connect to Ad Hoc & AD Hoc is less secure.
Second Option is setting up your SkyFI to use a common b/g WPA network that your SkySafari device can also connect to; lets stop here for a moment. If your setting up away from your HOME - chances are this may be a problem as your home network is not at the remote site! However, you can carry along a small wireless LAN router that all your devices can connect to out in the field such as HooToo HT-TM05. I suggest you configure or test this before heading out.
Setting up SKY Fi with a b/g network is not all that difficult and may be the better solution overall as all of your network devices can use it and share information such as images!!
I simplified the procedures to a few main bullets; If you set up a wireless router before it is all painless.
- Set up your mobile wireless router or use your home wireless system if you use your telescope near your house and have a signal at the Telescope site. You will need to know the WPA key.
- Browse to the web interface of your SkyFi device - Android devices? more work to do.
- Since the SkyFi is not yet on your Wireless network - you will be forced to find a way to connect to the AD Hoc network that SkyFI uses - This was a bit of a Pain since my windows 10 box will not connect to the AdHoc either; I used my ipad to connect then browsed to the interface of SkyFi and set SKY FI to use my Home WiFi network, then rebooted and finished the configuration using my Windows 10 PC.
- Set the SkyFi device to DHCP or an available static IP - suggest DHCP.
- DHCP has pluses and minuses
- Ensure you router is accepting new connections, reboot the SkyFi with the new configuration.
- Add you mobile device running SkySafari to the same WiFi network.
- Open SkySafari's settings and "auto discover" SkyFi, once it connects you pretty much are done.
At this point you can connect the serial interface to the Gemini Serial port.
Serial Cable: SkyFi uses a 4 pin cable that looks like an analog telephone cable; Please be aware, Gemini 1 and Gemini 2 may have different Serial Port wiring; I purchased a cable from Carbon 12 AstroSystems for my Gemini 2 to use with SkyFi. You could make your own for a few dollars if you had the parts and a crimper.
Once you have the SkyFi set up on your home network, and your SkySafari device on the same network - you are ready to really begin enjoying that Telescope, and not limited to the internal Database of the Gemini, now you have a hugh database along with touch go to, with a wealth of information about the objects you are looking at. This is the way it should be.