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Old 10-01-2014, 05:37 AM
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Blind Plate Solving and Polar Alignment

Unfortunately I don't have a permanent pier setup as yet, so every imaging session requires a setup of equipment every time.

On a quest to have a 'backyard/field' automated solution I've started looking at blind plate solving programs and polar alignment software that can allow the lodestar or CCD to do all the work without me needing to use a finderscope or be near the mount.

I do have Pinpoint and this works reliably when polar alignment and 3-star sync alignments have been done, but on occasion I find that if the mounts perceived RA/DEC position and FOV for the degree of sky is to far away from the target, the plate solves fail or take forever to resolve anything.

I havent yet tried the spiral search feature or tweaked the settings further.
It was also mentioned by CCDWare that when platesolving a widefield image, to use a subframe of the image area for faster plate solve processing.

Astrometry.net and Elbrus are solutions, but my understanding is Linux for local use, or an internet connection are required. The latter not of any use when theres no mobile data reception in the field.

Astrotortilla looks to be a solution and Ive downloaded the manual to look into this some more.

As for polar alignment, Astrotortilla I believe has plate solve assisted polar alignment routines and may be an answer.

SkySolve is another that appears to customize your FOV setup for optimized plate solving and works with PinPoint and MaximDL.

SGP is also another. But relies on Astrometry.net or Elbrus ?

Pempro lists good polar alignment assistance with the drift method.
So for polar alignment I will need to be at the mount, and Pempro might be an answer.

I have Alignmaster but this really only becomes easier if stars are present to use(my residence blocks the horizons) and I use a finderscope or eyepiece on the OAG.

The aim I have is to not have a finderscope and just a CCD and guider mounted.

a) for one the scope has balance issues with the finder weight causing off centered balance
b) goal is to have an unattended setup after polar aligning, to plate solve for sync aligning and Goto accuracy to the target.
c) time doesnt usually permit mapping the sky everytime for star syncs to improve GOTO.

Has anyone meddled in these dark arts and found a working solution that is reliable?

Are there any other powerful local blind plate solving softwares available besides Astrometry.net?

What software have you been successful with?
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Old 10-01-2014, 08:18 AM
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RickS (Rick)
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I have SkySolve which is OK. It doesn't work on all fields and rarely works on my smallest FOV (46x46 arcmin).

For the past 6 months or so I have been using Astrotortilla. Since I got the parameters tuned it has been very reliable and fast.

For polar alignment I use PoleAlignMax and a spreadsheet which calculates the JNow position of the SCP. PAM currently still uses the J2000 position of the SCP. I use Astrotortilla to sync the initial position before I start a PAM run and again if I have to make a big adjustment in azimuth or elevation. PAM then uses PinPoint which works fine so long as the scope position is not too far out. I align to a slight offset from the J2000 pole using the spreadsheet numbers to tell me the real position of the pole.

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Old 10-01-2014, 04:32 PM
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lazjen (Chris)
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I use Astrotortilla for plate solving and PA setup. It works pretty good.
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Old 10-01-2014, 06:42 PM
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mithrandir (Andrew)
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astrometry.net runs on Windoze under Cygwin. It's not quite as polished as the Linux version (eg it doesn't put the Greek letters on solved images) but does work.
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