Celestron StarSense AutoAlign, Autoguider and SkySync GPS – What’s the difference?

Celestron have threee different products to help setup, align and then maintain the position of your telescope and mount throughout the night. Here’s what they do and what are the differences between them.

First up – what mounts and telescopes do they work with?

These devices are compatible with just about all computerised Celestron telescopes and mounts produced in recent years.

They include the Celestron:

  • NexStar SE, SLT and Evolution telescopes
  • NexStar GT (with additional aux splitter cable)
  • CGEM and CGEM-DX Mounts
  • CGX and CGX-L mounts
  • CG-5 Computerised mounts (with additional aux splitter cable)
  • Advanced VX mounts
  • AstroFi telescopes

If you have a Celestron OTA (Optical Tube Assembly) on say, an iOptron or ZWO AM5, then these accessories won’t be of assistance. (There is a separate Celestron AutoAlign forSky-Watcher mounts, but we won’t be covering that in this article.)

They  essentially work with Celestron mounts and telescopes that you either setup with a Celestron hand controller or over Wi-Fi with an app.

Celestron SkySync GPS

This is the simplest of the Celestron mount setup accessories.

This plugs into a port on the Celestron mount.

It uses the GPS network to accurately enter your current location automatically, rather than  needing to key it into the keypad or manually into the Celestron app.

Local time and date plus GPS locate is available via you phone these days. From a practical point of view, the Celestron SkySync GPS will save you time entering details into your hand controller at the start of your observing sessions.

Celestron StarSense AutoAlign

This device bypasses the normal star or Solar System alignment that’s needed to orientate your Celestron telescope or mount.  You’re probably familiar with this process. You line up a few your telescop mount  with a few stars that you know the names of, or align with some bright stars. This allows the Celestron to know where it pointing and how it’s aligned.

Once this is done, you can “GOTO” an object and track it, or manually move to a location in the sky and also track what you’ve landed on.

The Celestron StarSense AutoAlign tell the telescope mount to move around a little and its small telescope and camera identifies patterns of stars it “sees”.  This is not to take photos to show you. It’s to tell the computer in the telsescope’s mount how to align itself.

Bottom line – no more aligning the telescope so you can use the GOTO or tracking feature. Once the Celestron StarSense AutoAlign has aligned the telescope, it doesn’t do anything else, unless you want to update or check the alignment.

Please note: this is the telescope mount aligment to orientate itself in the night sky, and nothing to do with polar alignment.

Celestron StarSense Autoguider

This is the newest Celestron mount accessory and some major addition features compared to the Celestron StarSense AutoAlign.

We also have a more detailed article about it  here.

First of all, the StarSense Autoguider has the same telescope mount alignment features as the AutoAlign and works much the same way. It moves the telescope mount around, scanning for patterns of stars and their location to set the mount’s alignment in the sky.

The major new feature in this new device is autoguiding.

Telescope mounts are fairly accurate and normally can be used to track objects in the night sky. For long exposure astro imaging, you need to keep objects exactly in the same postion for the sharpest possible results. The compensate for any small mount drift, astronomers use autoguiders. These are either small telescopes attached to the main telecope tube or tiny mirrors that peer into the optical train. Another camera attaches to these and “locks” onto a star in the field of view. If sees any tiny drift in one direction, it tells the mount to move in the opposite direction to keep the entire view steady.

The StarSense Autoguider uses its same small telecope that carries out the initial mount alignment for keeping the telescope centred on what it’s looking at via this autoguiding process.

While it’s mainly aimed at astro imaging, it also provides comfortable, extended visual viewing as well.

A final major feature of the StarSense Autoguider is that assists with polar aligment. This can be difficult in the Southern Hemiphere as we don’t have a nearby star to help, like those in the Northern Hemisphere.  The polar aligment feature will show you where to the move the mount itself , rather than the telecope on the mount.  Accurate polar aligment is not needed to visual observing but is essential for long exposure imaging.

To wrap it up…

  • Celestron SkySync GPS automatically enters time, date and location into your telescope mount
  • Celestron StarSense AutoAlign carries out initial mount alignment
  • Celestron StarSense Autoguider carries out initial mount alignment, autoguides and assists with polar alignment

If you have further questions, please contact us for a chat!


Earl White













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