Operation is quite simple - when you power up the
scope, Skyan is ready to go. Initially the unit is set to slew
rate 7. The current slew rate is always displayed on the receiver. Pressing any of the
four buttons around the circle of the remote unit slews the telescope in
that direction, working just as the hand control arrow buttons.
To change rates or control your motorized focuser, press the center
(Mode) button. The receiver will beep once to confirm the
change to "Command Mode". While in command mode, pressing the
"up" or "down" button will change the rate, confirmed by a single
short beep. If you attempt to go past rate 1 or 9, the
receiver will issue a long beep. Also while in command mode,
the "left" and "right" buttons control the focuser. Pressing
the mode button again will then return to "Normal Mode" and the
receiver will beep twice.
All of this is so simple that I found
myself changing rates much more frequently than I ever do with the
NexStar hand control. With the hand control, I rarely change rates
due to the need to look at the buttons to find Rate and press a
number. With Skyan, the change is simple and the auditory
feedback allows you to change rate while keeping your eye at the
eyepiece. Thus, I often selected a rate that best matched the
field of view - say 7 for a wide field and 5 for a higher
The remote unit is very small - you may want to attach a lanyard
or perhaps a bright ribbon to make it easier to find in the dark. It
is about the same size, and works on the same concepts, as an
automobile remote door lock. In fact, it looks a lot like a
keychain! The range I got was at times limited to 30 feet with
nothing between me and the telescope. At those times, the
mount had slewed around to where the fork arm was between me and the
receiver. To improve distance, you will need to mount the
receiver unit in a stationary location that is unobstructed from
your intended remote location.
The original version of Skyan did not allow for the up/down buttons
to reverse directions at rates 6 and lower as the hand control does.
All current models do allow reversal of both the up/down buttons and
also the left/right buttons at rates 6 and lower. Simply enter
the Command Mode, and press the up and down buttons simultaneously
to reverse the up/down button directions for rates 6 and lower.
The receiver will respond with a long beep to confirm. The
right/left buttons can be reversed similarly. The setting is
stored permanently for all future uses of Skyan. If you have
one of the original units (made before September 2006), contact
Belsico about a firmware upgrade.
As with the real hand control, you can immediately slew at rate 9
by first starting movement in the desired direction, then while
holding the directional button, press and hold the opposite button.
For example, to move up at rate 9, press and hold the up button and
then press and hold the down button. The rate set on the
receiver doesn't change, so the next slew movement will be at your
previously set rate.
Some of the Nuts and Bolts
Another nice feature is that anti-backlash compensation
works automatically with Skyan. Skyan communicates directly
with the motor control processors in the mount and the anti-backlash
settings are stored and utilized by the motor control. Thus,
the anti-backlash setting you have set via the real hand control
will be used by Skyan.
Each Skyan can be set to one of 256 possible addresses.
Changing the address is generally only required if you find there is
interference from another device in your house - other Skyan units
will almost certainly have a different address as shipped from the
manufacturer. Devices such as garage door openers and remote
car locks are likely suspects.
To change the address, you must open both the receiver and the
remote and physically cut one or more circuit traces on the circuit
boards. Naturally, both the receiver and the remote must
match. If you find that your Skyan is affected by a nearby
remote device and are nervous about this operation, contact Belsico
about sending the unit back to have the address changed.
The original release of the firmware had a problem for
alt-azimuth users (mounted directly on the tripod with no
wedge). In this mode, the NexStar hand control sends new
tracking rates to the motor control in the mount every 30 seconds.
With the original firmware, when you slew the scope with Skyan, after releasing the button,
tracking stopped until the next tracking rate commands were sent
by the NexStar hand control. This could be almost immediately
or it could be as long as 30 seconds. When I discussed this
with Belsico, they were very receptive to the difficulties this
would pose and quickly released updated firmware fixing the problem.
If you have one of the original units (made before September 2006),
contact Belsico about a firmware upgrade.
As mentioned, the firmware in Skyan can be updated as necessary.
To keep costs down, Belsico elected to leave out the additional
hardware that would allow users to update the firmware themselves.
Instead, if updates become necessary, you will need to send the
receiver unit back to Belsico. Fortunately it is very light
and mailing the receiver does not cost much at all.
If you've been looking for a convenient wireless solution
for simple imaging or visual work, your wait may be over. Keep
your hands in your pocket while observing on those cold winter
nights without sacrifice the ability to slew around or tweak focus.
Avoid that poke in the eye when you press accidentally press the
ENTER button instead of the up arrow. Change to the optimal
slew rate without looking away from the eyepiece. Manually
guide while watching a greatly magnified image of your guide star on
your laptop screen. Focus on the star remotely using the same
convenient remote controller. Skyan delivers basic control
functionality in a tiny and easy to use package - if simple
and powerful are your cup of tea, Skyan is for you.