Using NINA with TheSkyX (And Paramount Mounts)

| Last Updated: January 26, 2021

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how we use NINA with a Paramount MX+ and TheSkyX to control the mount. It is NOT required to use a Paramount mount for TheSkyX so we’ll try to cover the setup in a generic way so anyone using TheSkyX with NINA can follow along and use this amazing software combo.

FYI, We’ll shorten TheSkyX to “TSX” interchangeably through this post just for brevity sake.

Why use TheSkyX With NINA?

I’ve been asked how or why we use TSX with NINA, and the simple answer is that TSX acting as a mount controller is extremely powerful. Much of the capability that comes with the Paramount series of mounts from Software Bisque is nicely managed through this complex but thorough piece of software so it is required in that case. Otherwise, anyone can run TSX with any supported mount to take advantage of many of the TSX features.

At first, it did seem odd to have to install the entire suite of tools to get my mount working, but now that I have it running – and especially now that I’m remote, I’m not sure how I ran without it.

  • TSX Can be used as the Planetarium software for acquiring objects from in the Framing Wizard.
  • TSX Will show what you’re pointing at and slewing to for any telescope operation.
  • TSX T-Point modeling allows you to have powerful telescope guiding capabilities based on comprehensive mount modeling.
  • TSX With Direct Guide & PEC training on Paramount mounts allows unguided and very precise tracking.
  • TSX is required if you run a Paramount MX, MyT, or ME Mount.

Most importantly, TSX is very complimentary to NINA. With TheSkyX, you can image and do just about everything by running its built-in tools but, with NINA 1.11 and newer, the programmatic sequencer really extends the capability of TSX. It affords you robust imaging/sequencing automation, which wraps up the entire suite into a competent hands-off remote imaging system.

Again, You don’t NEED a Software Bisque Paramount MX, ME, or MyT to use TSX; you can run it to control any of your mounts and take advantage of many of its features we speak of in this guide.

Pre-Requisites

  • ASCOM 6.5 Installed – Download 6.5 SP1
  • ASCOM Mount Drivers for your mount. NOTE: If you run a Paramount, the Ascom support drivers will be installed later since they require TSX to be installed.
  • All Hardware/Camera drivers installed.
  • NINA 1.11 Installed – Download latest Nightly Build

We assume that you have some basic experience with Windows, NINA and TSX to a certain degree but I have tried to cover everything in as much detail as I can. Please refer to the NINA docs or the TSX docs for specific information about your gear/setup/mount.

Install TheSkyX

Go to your Software Bisque account, select Downloads and Download the two installers – FULL and Daily build.

TheSkyX Downloads

You should download the base install (Full Installer) and then the Latest Daily Build Installer.

Install TSX

  1. Install and setup TheSkyX – Just click through the wizards and accept defaults. Nothing special here.
  2. Install and run Upgrade to Daily Build.

When you install TSX Full installer and the Latest daily build, you may see warnings like this:

Install TheSkyX with NINA

You need to click the “More Info” link and then it changes to this:

Install TheSkyX with NINA

Now you can click “Run Anyway”.

I hope Software Bisque can start signing the Windows versions so we don’t need to do this but it’s safe to click Run anyway and get everything installed. You will get prompted again to allow the installer to make changes, click Yes and finally the wizard for TheSkyX should run.

Install TheSkyX with NINA

Click Next

Install TheSkyX with NINA

Click Accept agreement and Next

Install TheSkyX with NINA

Now click finish.

You need to install the FULL installer and the DAILY installer. Our example cites the daily build, but the steps for both are exactly the same. Just be sure to install the FULL and then the DAILY as the daily won’t install unless you have the full install done.

Configure TheSkyX

There are a few necessary steps to get the basics of TSX up and running to control your mount as well as operate as a supported planetarium for NINA.

Setup TSX Location

When TSX is open, just double click on the Location Description box at the bottom and ensure that your location and time zone is set up correctly. It is imperative that Time, Latitude, and Longitude as well as elevation be configured for each location you image from.

TheSkyX Configure Location

TheSkyX NINA Planetarium Setup

Click Tools -> Click TCP Server

Ensure that “Listening for connections” is selected. This allows NINA to talk to TSX.

TheSkyX TCP Server

Setup your Telescope

Click Telescope -> telescope Setup

TheSkyX Telescope Setup

Configure your mount by clicking Mount Setup.

These are the basic options needed to get up and running. You should follow TheSky’s T-Point and direct guider as well as PEC tuning guides to set up those advanced features.

Install Paramount ASCOM Support

TSX works with many mounts out there, however, if you are running a Paramount MX/MyT/ME it’s now time to Download the ASCOM Drivers here: Ascom2XMount Adaptor Installer – Software Bisque and get them installed. If you use TSX+Tpoint – This driver is still required for any mount since this is what communicates to TSX (which in return communicates to your mount via native or ASCOM drivers it uses).

Launch the installer (Ascom2XMount-Adaptor-Installer)

Asccom Installer

Click Next

Ascom Installer

Click Install

Ascom Installer

Click Finish – I suggest you leave the view The Sky Ascom driver checked just to see the short setup guide (it reflects much of what we’ll covered here)

Run as Administrator

Just once, we have to run TSX as an administrator, to do this, right-click and choose run as administrator. You don’t have to do anything but run as administrator once and exit. This is necessary for something to install a scripting engine that the Ascom interface uses.

Open Start Bar -> Software Bisque -> Right Click on “TheSkyX” -> More -> Run as Administrator

Run TheSkyX as administrator

Now that TSX is up and running, simply exit out. This run as administrator just lets TSX set up a scripting engine necessary for ASCOM drivers to work.

Setup NINA

While 1.11 is currently still in preview release, it is the version of the software we’ll use in this guide. I find that even though there may be bugs, the capability and features introduced in 1.11 are absolutely necessary.

We’ll need to tell NINA our location, set up our planetarium link and configure out NINA ascom settings.

Configure location to match TSX

In NINA click Options -> General and fill in location under Astrometry setting

NINA Location Setup

Please be sure to always make sure your location is correct in TSX and NINA before you use your equipment.

Configure NINA to use TheSkyX as Planatarium

Open/Tab to NINA, Click Options -> Equipment and choose TheSkyX

TheSkyX Planatarium with NINA

Set up ASCOM Telescope driver for TheSky

There are a few things you will want to be aware of when configuring the ASCOM Driver for TheSky

If you want to take advantage of TSX TPOINT Models, you want to make sure that you disable Sync’s in NINA and as a preventive measure, ensure that TheSky driver inhibits syncs to protect your TPOINT Model.

Options -> Equipment -> Telescope

NINA No Sync from TheSkyX

Configure TSX Ascom

NINA Telescope driver for TheSky

Now that you have selected the ASCOM driver, click the 3 gear icon to open the ASCOM settings

Unguided Setup

If you run a Paramount mount, you can run unguided sessions with the following settings.

TheSky Controlled Driver Setup

Use DirectGuide should only be used if you have a Paramount mount and have enabled DirectGuide support. We explain what most of these checkboxes are down below in the Guided configuration setup. (It’s also in the PDF we recommended you read during install)

In NINA we’ll want to set up the Direct Guider.

Click Equipment -> Guider

Select “Direct Guider” in dropdown box and hit the power button to connect. (It will connect to scope as well.) We need to connect to complete direct Guider Setup.

Once you have connected, you can configure dithering. I do fairly large dithers of 20 pixels.

NINA Direct Guider for Unguided

The “Direct Guider” method allows us to run unguided sessions and have the benefit of dithering. NINA will run the dithers per your sequencing options by slewing the camera however many pixels you define in a gaussian distribution around the center of the target.

Guided

TheSky Controlled Driver setup for use with Guide cams. We’ll assume you’re running NINA and PHD2 in this configuration.

TheSky Controlled Driver Setup
  • If you don’t use a Tpoint model, you can uncheck that.
  • Can set tracking – allows NINA to start/stop tracking
  • Mount can be parked – Allows NINA to send parking command in the post imaging sequence
  • Slew start delay – is checked by default mostly because of cameras, I’m just leaving it default. YMMV.
  • Enable tracking offsets – Allows changes to the tracking rate to be applied to both axis if your mount supports it. Required for Guiding.
  • If you enable tracking offsets, you can enable PulseGuide – this is NOT required on Paramount mounts, but may be required on the popular EQ and CEM mounts.
  • Can get Pointing State – If your mount supports side of pier, this will allow NINA to know which side of pier the mount is on. It is not necessary for operations but you can have it enabled in NINA to report side of pier.

If you want to have side of pier support, open NINA and click Options -> Imaging -> Side of Pier

Be sure to configure PHD2 to use the TheSky ASCOM driver for its mount too

PHD2 ASCOM Telescope Driver for TheSky

Since you are setting up a new mount in PHD2, It is highly recommended that you run a full calibration run. You can find some great information in the PHD2 Best Practices PDF to fine-tune and tweak your guiding.

Sequencing with TSX & NINA

Now that everything is setup and connected, we’ll run you through the a basic sequence with NINA and TSX using TSX as our planetarium package.

The gist of using NINA with TheSky is as follows:

  1. Start TSX and Connect to Telescope
    1. Polar Align
  2. Start NINA
  3. Hit the power button to connect all devices
  4. Build sequence
  5. Enjoy

Launch TheSky and Connect Telescope

Click Startup -> Connect Telescope

Startup Telescope

Once telescope is connected it should show green tracking off

Connect Telescope

Polar Align

Please see the TSX Guide for polar alignment. The process is pretty advanced and beyond the scope of this guide. BTW, we love TSX Polar alignment, it really is the gold standard of getting set up if you ask me. Especially with Paramount Mounts!

Start NINA

Once NINA is started, click the Power button to reconnect everything

Connect Devices in NINA

Build a Sequence

You can build a sequence however you like, but for this example, I’ll show you how can find something in TSX and import it into NINA to show how the integrated planetarium software works.

Tab over to TSX

Open the “Find” Tab and lets search for Orion Nebula

Search for Item in TheSkyX

Click the Find button

It should show up as NGC 1976 with a Green icon like this

Find Orion in TheSkyX

Now that TSX has targeted the Orion Nebula, we can switch (tab) back to NINA.

In NINA, lets click on Framing, now we want to click the little Map icon next too Coordinates

NINA will now query TSX for the target and display it.

Import TheSkyX to NINA

Once you click the target icon (circled above) it will query the catalog and find the object. I use the awesome HIPS 2 FITS Sky Survey myself.

Now let’s add this item to a sequence. Click the “Add Target to Sequence Button”

Create Sequence from Imported Target

We’ll use “Simple Sequence” here so click “Simple Sequence”

Now the Simple Sequencer shows up and you can tweak settings as you wish or Just click Play to start imaging.

Basic NINA sequencer

Obviously, as I wrote this blog and did the screenshots my time is not the right time to image, so just be sure your sequence time matches the objects time 🙂

Summary

All said and done, I find TSX and NINA to be a great combination. Both tools are powerful and complementary. I honestly feel even if I didn’t use a Paramount that TSX affords capability and powers that are great and useful that I’d recommend it for those with other mounts it supports.

As always, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, let us know and leave feedback below. Clear skies!

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