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Hinode Solar Guider

Hinode Solar Guider

The AstroHutech Hinode Solar Guider is the first autoguider designed for casual solar viewing as well as photography. It does not require precise polar alignment, allowing for quick, convenient setup-and-go for public outreach or quick viewing with a grab-n-go solar scope and eliminates the tedium of keeping the sun centered over a long observing session.

For imaging, long-term autoguiding on the sun simplifies post-processing for projects such as time-lapse movies.

Hinode hand controller

Features include:

  • Quick setup -- precise polar alignment is not required.
  • Built-in coarse finder makes lining up with the sun easy and safe.
  • Guides on the solar disk -- No requirements for sunspots to be used for tracking.
  • Optics, filter, and sensor are integrated in a single package along with guide electronics. No additional guide scope, filter, or computer required.
  • One-time easy calibration with no additional calibration necessary for a fixed setup. Just select AM or PM tracking.
  • No PC required. All functions are controlled through the attached hand controller.
  • Universal mounting block allows attachment to virtually any telescope. Compatible with conventional finder dovetail bases available in the market.
  • Audible cues and hand controller LEDs eliminate the need to exactly center the sun with an eyepiece or PC monitor.
  • 5V DC operation via USB mini-B cable. When used with a PC no power supply is necessary
  • Compact and lightweight at 106mm x 67mm x 28mm, 270g, and compatible with a grab-n-go solar viewing setup.
  • User-friendly PC interface, including upgradeable firmware.
  • NEW - Windows PC Software for monitor and control of the Hinode Guider
  • Compatible with any mount with ST-4 / Losmandy-type autoguider input port.
  • Made in USA.

Hinode kit The Hinode Solar Guider is supplied with these components -- optics/electronics assembly box, hand-controller, USB cable, hand-controller cable, autoguider cable, and choice of mounting base as pictured below:
Hinode Base Options

Hinode review in ATT magazine

Hinode Solar Guider review in Astronomy Technology Today magazine.


Tracking the Sun for Public Outreach

The Hinode guider is a "must-have" accessory for public outreach as it allows for quick setup with no need for accurate polar alignment, and no need for a computer in your setup. Constant, accurate tracking allows the you to concentrate on discussions with an audience rather than spend time insuring that the sun is centered for viewing. In addition, the guider will audibly alert you if the scope is accidentally moved away from the sun or if clouds are blocking the sun.

Tracking the Sun for H-alpha Imaging

Serious solar imagers will find the Hinode guider useful for tracking the sun over a long interval while frames are collected for lucky imaging and/or creation of timelapse movies, even when the target is just a portion of the sun (i.e. high magnification views).

Demonstration of solar guiding effectiveness.

While guiding effectiveness is dependent on the entire telescope and mount system, plus external factors such as atmospheric effects, the Hinode guider can detect position errors on the order of 1 arc second with a lab light source, and the smallest correction it will make is 100ms (programmed into firmware with typical mount electronic and mechanical limitations in mind). This corresponds to 1.5 arcseconds at 1x guide rate (correction speed at 1x sidereal drift) and .75 arcseconds at 0.5x guide rate.

This high-resolution time-lapse video clip demonstrates the accuracy of the Hinode solar guider. This video was taken over a 3-hour time period and spans 10 arc-minutes from top to bottom of the frame. The mount used was a stock Celestron AVX mount, aligned approximately to north.

Transits of Mercury and Venus

Transits of the inner planets are good targets for application of a Hinode solar guider. The Hinode guider can accurately keep the sun centered in your frame for the duration of a transit (typically several hours), making it easy to assemble a timelapse movie of the event:

Mercury Transit 2016 from Ted Ishikawa on Vimeo.

Scope: BORG 89ED with 1.4x teleconverter
Filter: IDAS 82mm UHD5.2 solar filter
Camera: Panasonic GX-8
Duration: About 5.5 hours. 3 minutes interval
More about the Mercury Transit "expedition"

In cases where a transit is already in progress at sunrise and you are unable to polar align prior to the event, the Hinode solar guider will still allow you to accurately track the sun with no manual adjustments necessary.

More Hinode-guided transit photos from the 2019 Mercury transit:

Solar Eclipses

In preparing for a solar eclipse, you may have questions about how the Hinode solar guider will help during the eclipse. In a total solar eclipse, during the totality phase (between contacts 2 and 3), the guider will not be able to track the sun while it is behind the moon, so tracking is left to the mount for the short duration of totality for this eclipse. However, the Hinode guider can provide the following benefits:

  • Give you assurance that your mount is aligned reasonably well for unguided tracking during totality.
  • Free you from manual tracking adjustments during partial phases.

During the partial phases, the guider will insure that visible portion of the sun will be kept in view, allowing for hands-off tracking of the sun for visual enjoyment and/or photographic sequences, even if exact polar alignment can't be achieved during setup. Below is an example taken during the 2014 partial solar eclipse. In the left video, the raw video, guided by the Hinode SG is shown. The solar image wanders in the frame, but is always kept in view despite the lunar shadow. In the right frame, the raw frames have been easily post-processed with PIPP to keep the sun centered in the frame.

[Above] 21 Aug. 2017 - Partial phase solar eclipse tracking example -- raw video, guided by Hinode Solar Guider.

Total Solar Eclipse Recommendations

Since observing a total solar eclipse is often a rushed setup of a mount during daylight and poor tracking during an eclipse is very frustrating and distracting, here are some recommendations for the upcoming eclipse:

Before leaving for the eclipse:

  • Set up your mount, level, and polar align it (reasonably) well.
  • Mount your eclipse observing setup on the telescope mount and balance it well.
  • Calibrate the Hinode Solar Guider for both morning and afternoon operation and save the calibrations in the Hinode memory.
  • Check your tracking to verify that guiding is operating normally. After allowing a few minutes of operation to allow backlash to be taken up, there should be no large corrections in only one direction.

Upon arrival at the observing site:

  • Level your tripod and mount.
  • Set the mount's latitude (altitude) adjustment to match your location.
  • Set the mount's azimuth adjustment to North as closely as you can, using a magnetic compass and geographic North offset from magnetic North, or smart phone application such as Living in the Sun (Android) which can show you geographic North based on the sun's current position.
  • Point your scope and Hinode guider at the sun and start guiding (without re-calibration).
  • After allowing the mount to run for a few minutes to take up backlash, watch the four LED's on the Hinode controller to verify that the guider is making minimal corrections to the tracking. If you observe large corrections in one direction, this is an indication that the mount is not set up correctly. If this is the case, check the mount set up again.

Now you can sit back and enjoy the eclipse without worrying about losing the sun in your scope!