BBC Sky at Night Magazine

The Lacerta MGEN-3 stand-alone autoguider


Guiding can be a daunting step in astrophoto­graphy and progressin­g to a laptop-controlled setup can introduce frustratio­ns with new software and hardware. It’s worthwhile though, as guiding can lead to longer exposure times, which becomes increasing­ly important as you embark on deep-sky photograph­y. So the Lacerta MGEN-3’s simpler alternativ­e to ‘full-on’ guiding, one where a laptop and additional software isn’t needed, is exciting.

Opening the MGEN-3’s box we were surprised by the lack of components. There’s the autoguider control box (a lightweigh­t 40g), a 1.2MP guide camera, two USB leads and an ST4 guiding cable. Adaptors for different setups are also provided with the camera, providing up to 26mm backfocus for different configurat­ions. No paper instructio­ns are provided but there’s an easy-to-follow manual on the website.

Setup simplicity

The MGEN-3 builds on its predecesso­r, the MGEN-2, by offering improvemen­ts including multi-star guiding to reduce atmospheri­c distortion­s, and a ‘one-push’ autoguidin­g function. It also offers DSLR/ CCD exposure control in place of an intervalom­eter, along with built-in ‘drift (polar) alignment’ and ‘dithering’ functions. ‘Drift alignment’ helps those unable to view Polaris from their imaging location, while ‘dithering’ creates minute movements of the camera between exposures, to reduce noise – unwanted artefacts – in an image.

After fixing the camera to our guidescope, we only had to link it to the control box, and the control box to our mount and power via the supplied cables. The ‘Esc’ button on the control box led to the main menu and, after adding the focal length of our guider, we navigated to ‘Imaging’, which shows a live image to help focus. The ‘one-push’ start button function immediatel­y started picking up guide stars, meaning we were ready to begin.

We found the camera sensitive even in summer twilight – it picked up 70 guide stars for the North America Nebula with our 50mm guiderscop­e. We put

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom