After years of struggling with the various issues and failings of Chinese-manufactured telescope mounts, I at last decided that it was time to invest in a quality-built mount. I mulled over the opportunities while I was at the 2019 Advanced Imaging Conference in San Jose, Calif., and then took the leap and purchased a Paramount MyT off the showroom floor! Since then, I have used it with three different telescopes – a Celestron C11, a Takahashi FSQ-106N, and currently a Celestron C8. I have had that experience that Software Bisque promises in their advertisements – taking the mount out of the equation. It just works.
Setting up the mount is quite easy. I am the proud owner of the first Helium tripod to be sold (at least, Software Bisque believes this to be the case), which is a lightweight but very capable tripod (one of their taller male employee sat on it to demonstrate). The mount is a single unit that only weighs 34 lbs. or 15 kg (not including the counterweight bar), and it just sits on top of the tripod base, where a single large hand-turn bolt holds it in place.
One of the things I love about that is that if you end up way off of north by accident, you don’t have to pick up and try and rotate the entire rig – you can just loosen the bolt and swivel the mount head itself. It can attach to the tripod in any orientation. Then I just needed to screw in the counterweight bar, slide on the counterweights, slide on the telescope, and that’s it! Despite its low weight, the MyT can carry 50 lbs (23 kg) of instruments, and I have heard reports that the 50 percent weight capacity astrophotography rule of thumb does not apply to this mount.
Polar alignment adjustment is also easy to do. When you first set up the mount (before attaching the counterweight bar or telescope), there is a horizontal bar that you loosen, pull forward, and set at 10-degree intervals of altitude. From there, there is a captain’s wheel-type handle that finely adjusts the altitude. It can be hard to get your hand underneath it sometimes, but it turns smoothly and without too much friction, even when loaded with telescope and counterweights. TheSkyX then has an accurate any-star polar alignment routine for fine-tuning.
One drawback of using a Paramount is that it can only be controlled by TheSkyX software suite. The Professional Edition initial fee is included in the price of the mount and the first year is free, but it is $100/year after that. That being said, TheSkyX has some very nice features that make alignment, polar alignment, and fine-tuned control of the mount a breeze, and TheSkyX comes with an ASCOM plugin that allows external control of the mount, such as with Sequence Generator Pro and PHD2.
After roughly polar aligning (using a compass and the altitude markings), rather than going through the usual three-star alignment-by-eye process, TheSkyX comes with the T-Point Add-On for hands-off and accurate alignment (if you use a camera). After setting the approximate height of your horizon and choosing the number of sample points to run (and deleting the ones that are behind the house or trees), it will slew to a point in the sky (not even a particular star), plate-solve it, add that correction to the model, and slew to the next point. I usually do this during twilight on the first night out at a dark sky site or when I return home.
The beauty of T-Point is that you do not have to re-accomplish it for the same telescope; you can do one large, highly accurate run (150-200 points), and then just re-calibrate it when you set it up the next time (even if you are at a different location), which only requires 20 points or so. In addition to providing accurate gotos, T-Point builds a model of the flexure and other mount characteristics that allow you to use a feature called ProTrack, which self-corrects the tracking without the need of an autoguider. Between that and PEC training (for which there is also a built-in tool), in theory one may not need to autoguide. I have not yet achieved this level of accuracy (the mount ships out the door with no greater than 7 arcseconds of periodic error), but others have had success.
Between the MyT’s tracking and my off-axis guider, I get excellent performance with my Celestron C8 at f/6.3 (1280mm focal length; 0.67 arcsec/px with my camera). I regularly take 10-minute subframes in narrowband and very few have streaking or elongation. (When I do have streaking, it is generally due to lost guide stars and PHD2 tracking on a bit of noise instead).
Between T-Point and the MyT’s auto-homing feature (which allows it to always know where it is, even if the power is cut), it runs smoothly and reliably night after night. When I travel out to a dark site, setup is rapid and painless, especially with how lightweight the mount is and how easy alignment and polar alignment are in TheSkyX. While I have not achieved particularly good unguided tracking, I am very pleased with the performance and function of the MyT and would buy it again in a heartbeat.