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Skyan Wireless Controller

24 July 2006
Updated 24 September 2006

How many times have you accidentally pressed the ENTER button when trying to slew your NexStar-driven telescope? Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to look away from the eyepiece to change the manual slew rate (1 - 9) on the hand control?  How would you like to have a single controller for manually slewing and for your motorized focuser?

Belsico Incorporated's Skyan answers all these questions and does it with a small, easy-to-use wireless controller.

In the box you'll find:
  • the receiver unit
  • the remote unit
  • two cables - one for connecting the receiver to the mount, a second for connecting the receiver to a focuser
  • a CD containing the manual
  • self-adhesive Velcro for mounting the receiver unit

Skyan at a Glance

What is it? A wireless controller for manually slewing most Celestron computerized scopes.  Also controls many motorized focusers.
Price: $178
Available from: Belsico Inc.

  • No cables between you and the scope!
  • Very easy to use
  • Integration of telescope slewing and focusing into a single controller
  • The ease of changing slew rate makes it more likely you will do so to match the FOV
  • Firmware upgrades require return to Belsico
Skyan works with any of the current Celestron computerized telescopes with an available Aux port:
  • CPC Series
  • NexStar SE
  • NexStar SLT
  • NexStar i Series
  • NexStar GPS
  • AS-GT (with use of the optional Auxiliary Port Accessory Kit - part number 93965)
  • CGE Series
  • CGEM Series
  • CGE Pro Series

Skyan was designed specifically to support the Technical Innovations Robofocus, but can control many other focusers with the correct cable.  Contact Belsico to inquire about other focusers or refer to the manual (available for download at their web site) for more details about the focuser port.

Remote - click for larger image

Setup was very easy - I had scanned through the manual (downloaded from their web site) the week prior and didn't need to reference it at all.  In fact, the next time I read the manual was when I was preparing this review.  That said, I have recommended to Belsico that they include a printed copy of a quick setup and operations guide with Skyan and they agreed and should be doing so by the time you read this.  The full manual is very well written and has ample illustrations and pictures.

Receiver - click for larger image

The manual shows the receiver unit (the white-faced box in this picture) attached to the tripod, but I would recommend applying the self-adhesive Velcro to the part of the mount with the Aux port as I have done here on my NexStar 102SLT.  Of course, on the CGE, CGE Pro, CGEM and AS-GT, the Aux port is basically on the tripod.  The receiver gets power from the mount's Aux port, so the only other cable consideration is to a motorized focuser.  The supplied cables are long enough to put the receiver unit on a stationary location like the tripod, but for this setup I intend to make a short cable that runs directly from the receiver to the Aux port with no slack.  Before selecting a location, see below about the effective range of Skyan.


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 magnification.

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.


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Michael Swanson
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