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Old 19-12-2016, 01:16 PM
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Atmos (Colin)
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Semi-Automated Imaging

I have quite recently given in to the fact that in the near future it may be best if I take the plunge into ACP for automation.
I've been playing with SGP in recent times and although it does a reasonably good job, I'm not overly impressed with the focusing and the mosaic wizard (although very neat) doesn't suit my needs. I've found that SGP does okay in narrowband focusing if I use 10s exposures and I am imaging a reasonably starry field but really struggles with OIII and SII.

I am really impressed with the focusing routine on MaximDL where it does it perfectly with 2s exposures and the whole routine takes maybe 45s. SGP can take several minutes giving several attempts and still fail. I do however really like how you can get it to refocus with temperature change as opposed to time.

As a planetarium and other things, TSX is brilliant but I have found even basic sequencing to be irritating and unintuitive. I have found MaximDL the easiest to use overall BUT multi target sequencing and automated focusing is a real nightmare which is where ACP steps in.

What I do like with ACP is that I can import mosaic grids in from TSX, not sure whether CCDAP allows this?
I just started playing with FocusMax V3 last night, is V4 worth the upgrade?

ACP isn't cheap and I was hoping that SGP may be able to fill in that gap very cheaply but it just isn't suiting my needs at the moment :/
I need integration with TSX mosaic grid creation, does CCDAP allow this?
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Old 19-12-2016, 03:36 PM
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Hi Colin,

I use ACP for automating my own image capture at home and at star parties and have been very happy with it (apart from the expense!) We also use it at SRO for fully unattended/automated operation and it works very well for that.

I evaluated CCDAP and CCD Commander before choosing ACP. SGP wasn't available at the time. It looks pretty good but doesn't support all the features that I need. Maybe one day if they keep up the rate of development...

I use FM4 and haven't really explored the new features. FM3 was perfectly adequate but I figured Steve Brady deserved some cash There's a new slower but more precise focusing method in FM4 that I should try.

Glen: IMO, parfocal is just a marketing term (and "parafocal" is just a spelling mistake.) Filters that focus within the CFZ on a f/8 system won't necessarily do so at f/5, and that's assuming you believe that anywhere in the CFZ is good enough.

Cheers,
Rick.
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Old 19-12-2016, 04:32 PM
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Atmos (Colin)
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I know that I need to refocus every 1.5C at an absolute max, 1 is better. Last night I focused at 11pm at 11.5 and by midnight it had dropped to 9.5. The temperature drops for the rest of the night were not quite so extreme which is why I prefer a temperature set to focusing rather than time.

I have a full set of Astrodon LRGB and 3nm narrowband, technically they should all be parfocal (and probably are) but that is in a perfect world. The colour correction of refractors push that both ways. If last night is any indication my red and green filters are parfocal to one another but 13 microns shorter than the luminance but the blue is 15 microns longer. Technically they're all within the CFZ at F/5 but only just, I much prefer focusing on each filter. For some reason the narrowbands are less parfocal, probably just a consequence of being in a refractor.
In a reflector yo have to take the correction of the reducer/flattener into account as well.

I have wanted to give CCDAP a test go but when I installed the trail version it said my 30 trial was already over so I cannot even test it. I have in recent times started going down the path of mammoth mosaics; I gave SGP 45 minutes to try to create a 100 panel mosaic and it couldn't do it (crashed?). TSX does it in 10 seconds, ACP planner allows me to just select the panel, tell it was filter ect and it's done. In May next year I am planning on starting a 1000 panel (yes, you read that correct) mosaic of the Milky Way so SGP is now useless to me.
CCDAP is MUCH cheaper than ACP but I'm just not sure if it integrates into TSX the way I need it to.
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Old 19-12-2016, 04:56 PM
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It might be worth investigating filter offsets if you go for ACP, Colin. MaximDL also supports offsets.

A 1,000 panel mosaic sounds like a lot of fun
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Old 19-12-2016, 05:05 PM
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Started playing with filter offsets last night, red and green seem to be -10 and blue +15 while Ha is -15, want to give them another test the next clear night.

I was finding a discrepancy between MaximDL and FocusMax, not a lot mind you (I preferred MaximDL), maybe I just need to put more time into refining the FocusMax focus curve. Takes less than a minute for Maxim to refocus a. Arrow and filter anyway so that doesn't bother me.

At this stage is is 9 minutes of LRGB per panel so not a lot at all. Depending on how things go I may put in 9 minutes of Ha per panel as well.
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Old 19-12-2016, 05:28 PM
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Why don't you auto focus using the L filter and use filter offsets for the other filters. Sgp supports this.
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Old 19-12-2016, 05:51 PM
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Only recently started auto focusing and haven't gotten around to all of the filter offsets. Did a quick test last night but I do want to come back to it. Either way, SGP doesn't do what I want out of it in the long term.
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Old 19-12-2016, 07:54 PM
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So are you saying it doesn't autofocus adequately or handle filter offsets or something else?

Sorry scratch that. You are looking for something to do a 1000 panel mosaic. I was confused by the OP.
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Old 19-12-2016, 08:50 PM
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I'm yet to try filter offsets, haven't had enough clear skies without horrible seeing or during the work week. TSX is the only software package that allows the creation of a large mosaic.
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Old 20-12-2016, 08:31 PM
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I have been using CCDAP5 for a while now and find it integrates well with TSX and MaximDL. Try sending CCDWare an email asking for another trial license. Also CCDAP5 has many functions that automatically calculate filter offsets, G2V colour. Sub exposure etc.
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Old 29-12-2016, 08:27 AM
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Hi Colin,

I also had some initial issues with autofocus routine in SGP with 3nm filters, but after some experimentation I found settings that work every time (strong nebulosity, few stars etc).


I have attached a screen-shot for a reference.

Suavi
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Old 29-12-2016, 06:12 PM
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Atmos (Colin)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Germ View Post
I have been using CCDAP5 for a while now and find it integrates well with TSX and MaximDL. Try sending CCDWare an email asking for another trial license. Also CCDAP5 has many functions that automatically calculate filter offsets, G2V colour. Sub exposure etc.
I think I'll have to contact them, cannot test FocusMax V4 either due to a failed install the first time :/

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slawomir View Post
Hi Colin,

I also had some initial issues with autofocus routine in SGP with 3nm filters, but after some experimentation I found settings that work every time (strong nebulosity, few stars etc).


I have attached a screen-shot for a reference.

Suavi
I haven't tried 2x2 bin on focusing, in theory it shouldn't work as well due to already focusing at ~2 pixel FWHM at 1x1 bin. Maybe finding the middle focus won't mess it up

OR next clear night with decent seeing I do my filter offsets and just do all my focusing in Lum like a real AP dude
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Old 29-12-2016, 06:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atmos View Post
I haven't tried 2x2 bin on focusing, in theory...
You will never really know if you never go

But more seriously, my image scale is about the same and it seems to work for me, at least as far as I could tell when verifying with a bahtinov mask...
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Old 29-12-2016, 06:36 PM
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Atmos (Colin)
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Shhhh, I like living in my theoretically perfect world
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Old 30-12-2016, 10:46 AM
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Colin, I forgot to mention that I use 15-second exposures at bin2 for 3nm filters with autofocus in SGP. The entire process takes a few minutes, but at the same time it just works no matter what part of the sky I point the telescope at.
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