Using Planetarium Software to Control a Telescope on a Macbook Pro

Here is a crash course on using the free planetarium program Stellarium to remotely control your telescope and automatically point it at any celestial object on the screen and found in the software’s vast database. The technical difficulties were a little bit of a pain in the ass to figure out, but after a couple of hours of research, trial and error, and a lot of cussing, I finally managed to get this setup to work. It should work with pretty much any telescope mount using the Synscan AZ GOTO Mount and a Macbook Pro.

  1. Get a USB to Serial adapter Cable
  2. Download the PL2303 Driver Software **IMPORTANT** – Make sure you get the latest driver available for your version of OSX from the PL2303 website:
  3. http://www.prolific.com.tw/US/ShowProduct.aspx?p_id=229&pcid=41
  4. Download and Install the FREE (Yes that’s right, FREE) Stellarium program: https://stellarium.org/
  5. Plug in your USB to Serial adapter Cable
  6. Verify it is working by looking for it using a terminal window and typing the command: ls /dev/*
  7. You should see a serial device in this list that you will choose when configuring the telescope in the Stellarium program (Something like /dev/cu.usbserial).
  8. **IMPORTANT** Align your telescope prior to using the software. This is important because the software needs to know where the telescope is located in the universe in order to point in the right direction and orientation!
  9. Go back to Stellarium and go to the telescope menu located on the bottom of the screen
  10. Set up a new telescope, using Stellarium as the control software and keep the default settings. Choose the serial port that was created by the cable (again it should be something like /dev/cu.usbserial).
  11. Hit the Start button and you should be good to go!
  12. Within the program you can select an object and press Command 1. The telescope will automatically slew to the correct coordinates in the sky. If your alignment is slightly off, just adjust using the hand controller. The scope should continue to slew and automatically track using the relative Right Ascension and Declination settings.

Chapman Jim

Jim Chapman lives in Windermere, FL President at Income Tax Wizard Inc Blogs about taxes, modern technology, and golf using modern technology

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