The Opticstar AG-131C CoolAir auto-guiding system includes everything you need to auto-guide any telescope with an ST-4 compatible port. The AG-131C CoolAir system includes the Shoestring GPUSB connectivity kit that interfaces the computer (USB 2.0 port) with the telescope mount (ST-4 port).
The auto-guider system includes the Opticstar PL-131C CoolAir color video camera that connects to your computer's USB 2.0 port. For auto-guiding, the camera is software controlled by PHD Guiding that is included in the package. The telescope is also controlled by PHD Guiding. It is possible to use alternative auto-guiding software such as Guidemaster that is also included. There is also support for AstroArt and MaxIm DL. Both of these software packages can be used for auto-guiding and/or imaging. Plug-ins are included for both of them. Nebulosity Lite is also bundled with the AG-131C CoolAir and it supports 2x2 binning, stacking and much more. Nebulosity Lite is well suited for image capture, lapse photography and basic image processing including frame stacking.
The PL-131C CoolAir is high-speed, a high-resolution 1.3 mega-pixel color camera that is sensitive and can be used to capture images of the planets, Sun and Moon. The camera is very easy to use and provides a quality, low noise affordable solution for viewing or capturing high quality digital video from the telescope and recording it to your computer at a maximum 1.3 mega-pixel resolution.
There is no infra-red (IR) filter in order to substantially increase sensitivity across the spectrum and the camera is thus well suited as a guider. The camera is cased in a robust metal body and can be connected to any telescope with a standard 1.25" drawtube.
A PC with a USB2.0 port running Windows XP/Vista/7/8 is required. The PL-131C CoolAir is powered by the USB port and therefore no power supply unit is required. The camera will operate at a maximum true resolution of 1280x1024 but lower resolutions of 1024x768, 640x480, 320x240 are also supported.
With the Guidemaster software provided, the computer can control your telescope mount and direct it's motion. Many telescopes come with a six pin port that looks like a phone jack. This is called an RJ-12 connector. Typically, a hand controller is plugged into the ST-4 port. However with the AG-131C CoolAir you can plug its RJ-12 cable to the hand controller which itself is connected to the mount. Depending on your telescope, you might have to plug the RJ-12 cable directly to the mount.
The PL-131C CoolAir camera operates in two distinct modes. In video mode the camera will show as a DirectShow/WDM device and will produce very fast frame rates with exposures limited to under half a second. This mode is ideal for solar and planetary imaging as well as for 'training' telescope mounts. It can also be used for guiding with less dim stars. The single shot mode supports longer exposures, in this mode a full frame is only sent to the computer once the exposure has been completed. This mode is ideal for guiding on dimmer targets. It is recommended that guiding exposures of around 1 second are used as this will even out any atmospheric turbulence, reveal fainter stars and improve guiding performance.
The PL-131C CoolAir camera requires a fully featured, full speed USB2.0 port to take advantage of all the camera's advanced features. Fully featured USB2.0 ports are rare in older laptops and not always present in entry level laptops. PCMCIA/CardBus USB2.0 cards typically do not deliver full USB2.0 speeds and will not work with USB2.0 high resolution video cameras including the PL-131C CoolAir. To resolve such issues an ExpressCard (with a USB2.0 port) could be used instead of a PCMCIA/CardBus card due to the ExpressCard's superior speed of 2.5Gbit/s (480 Mbit/s through USB 2.0) per slot. Express type cards use a 34mm slot where PCMCIA/CardBus cards use 54mm slots. An ExpressCard should be connected directly to the computer and not via a PCMCIA/CardBus card.
Computers with slower USB2.0 ports may still be able to capture at full resolution but may be able to only transfer a user selectable area (ROI 640x480 or 320x240) to the computer while sustaining image resolution and high frame rates. This does not have a real effect when imaging planets where video capture should ideally take place at the smallest ROI size possible, typically 320x240 at 220fps for focal lengths to around 6 meters for planets like Jupiter or Saturn.