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bobro

Almost Got Started With Altair Astro 183M

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Posted (edited)

Thanks to great advice from the forum (thanks @Adam J), my new Altair Astro 183M arrived. I was well prepared for an initial test (well at least I though so) as I had marked out the various cables with where to connect them (first time I had did this but thought it worthwhile as imaging had been infrequent recently). During the day I had a play with a couple of imaging programs and felt ready for a test of the new camera during the evening. The forecast was pretty good, so I assembled everything outside in advance, connecting the cables as marked. Final step was to connect a power supply - into a hub instead of the AstroEQ unit! Result - smoke!!!

Today I ordered a new hub and guiding camera module....it could have been a lot worse 🙄 At least the new camera wasn't connected and the notebook and AstroEQ unit survived!

Wish there was a standard cable for voltage at least. 😅

Edited by bobro

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Sorry for mistake, but you're not alone, I used a 12v power plug on a 6v eq5 control pad and blew it up,  so it can happen and will again esp at night time. Tony

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, bobro said:

Thanks to great advice from the forum (thanks @Adam J), my new Altair Astro 183M arrived. I was well prepared for an initial test (well at least I though so) as I had marked out the various cables with where to connect them (first time I had did this but thought it worthwhile as imaging had been infrequent recently). During the day I had a play with a couple of imaging programs and felt ready for a test of the new camera during the evening. The forecast was pretty good, so I assembled everything outside in advance, connecting the cables as marked. Final step was to connect a power supply - into a hub instead of the AstroEQ unit! Result - smoke!!!

Today I ordered a new hub and guiding camera module....it could have been a lot worse 🙄 At least the new camera wasn't connected and the notebook and AstroEQ unit survived!

Wish there was a standard cable for voltage at least. 😅

You are welcome, without going used I think it was the best option for your budget, hope you have lots of fun with it, should be a significant step up from your 1000D.

For your scopes remember to bin 2x2 or you will be over sampled on emission nebula, maybe 1x1 for galaxy hunting mind you. I would start at unity gain and 30 or 60 second exposures.

Which filters did you go with?

Adam

Edited by Adam J

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9 minutes ago, Adam J said:

For your scopes remember to bin 2x2 or you will be over sampled on emission nebula, maybe 1x1 for galaxy hunting mind you. I would start at unity gain and 30 or 60 second exposures.

Which filters did you go with?

Yes, that was (is) my initial starting plan 2x2 binning at 30/60 sec and then, with a possible bit of future fun, to try 1x1 with short exposures just to see what happens (may never get there though).

Understanding gain setting for the 183M camera with the 3 programs I have briefly tried required a little research.  For example unity gain seems to be for SharpCap : 400, Altair Capture : 4,  APT : 400.

APT doesn't like binning, reporting that it is waiting for the camera after 30 seconds (shame as that is my normal imaging program). In addition it only runs the fan at full speed without control. (My brief testing of the simple fan shows it being good at reducing the sensor temperature by something like 5-6 degrees compared to without fan as the sensor heats up.) The program runs very slowly on my netbook and does seem to have only partial functionality for this camera.

Altair Capture works well at a good speed on my netbook and is simple to use, but doesn't support dithering.

SharpCap runs capturing, binning and real time display on my netbook in a flexible config and at a good pace - impressive. In addition it supports real time stacking complete with darks, flats and dithering. I've yet to test this due to my cooked guiding camera. Lots of profiling to check out too - you can see the designer understands what imaging is all about. It will be a new way of working for me, so lots to stuff to get to grips with.

As to filters - not there yet as I'm using an extension tube in place of the filters. Hopefully a B&W image will be achieved before too long (mount seemed surprisingly jerky without a guiding camera to help it). Is this progress? 😀😀

Bob

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1 minute ago, bobro said:

Yes, that was (is) my initial starting plan 2x2 binning at 30/60 sec and then, with a possible bit of future fun, to try 1x1 with short exposures just to see what happens (may never get there though).

Understanding gain setting for the 183M camera with the 3 programs I have briefly tried required a little research.  For example unity gain seems to be for SharpCap : 400, Altair Capture : 4,  APT : 400.

APT doesn't like binning, reporting that it is waiting for the camera after 30 seconds (shame as that is my normal imaging program). In addition it only runs the fan at full speed without control. (My brief testing of the simple fan shows it being good at reducing the sensor temperature by something like 5-6 degrees compared to without fan as the sensor heats up.) The program runs very slowly on my netbook and does seem to have only partial functionality for this camera.

Altair Capture works well at a good speed on my netbook and is simple to use, but doesn't support dithering.

SharpCap runs capturing, binning and real time display on my netbook in a flexible config and at a good pace - impressive. In addition it supports real time stacking complete with darks, flats and dithering. I've yet to test this due to my cooked guiding camera. Lots of profiling to check out too - you can see the designer understands what imaging is all about. It will be a new way of working for me, so lots to stuff to get to grips with.

As to filters - not there yet as I'm using an extension tube in place of the filters. Hopefully a B&W image will be achieved before too long (mount seemed surprisingly jerky without a guiding camera to help it). Is this progress? 😀😀

Bob

I thought that APT had native drivers for the Hypercam 183m? Are you still using the ASCOM driver? Is it the latest version of APT?

Yes I met the sharp cap chap at the Practical astronomy show and he really knew his stuff, as you might expect.

You will need a guide camera in all honesty if you intend to use that cameras with its small pixels on a 650mm focal length scope. You will just have to keep the exposures short as possible and bin to increase pixel scale until you get back to guiding.

Baader filters are a good place to start.  

Adam

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19 hours ago, Adam J said:

I thought that APT had native drivers for the Hypercam 183m? Are you still using the ASCOM driver? Is it the latest version of APT?

Yes, I'm using the latest version of APT (just downloaded) with native Altair support. I'm selecting the Hypercam in the camera setup rather than Ascom. I've tried it again with another more powerful Core i5 laptop - same results with no fan control and binning resulting in no image. The APT instructions say to download the latest drivers from Altair (http://cameras.altairastro.com/), though these seem to be Ascom drivers. I'm confused - perhaps I'm doing something incorrectly?

New guide camera module is on its way - can't wait for another imaging try with the 183M.

Bob

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Posted (edited)
38 minutes ago, bobro said:

Yes, I'm using the latest version of APT (just downloaded) with native Altair support. I'm selecting the Hypercam in the camera setup rather than Ascom. I've tried it again with another more powerful Core i5 laptop - same results with no fan control and binning resulting in no image. The APT instructions say to download the latest drivers from Altair (http://cameras.altairastro.com/), though these seem to be Ascom drivers. I'm confused - perhaps I'm doing something incorrectly?

New guide camera module is on its way - can't wait for another imaging try with the 183M.

Bob

The chap who produces APT is very good at helping out if you post a topic on the APT forum I am sure he will get you sorted.

Is there a reason you would not want to have the fan running at full speed?

Edited by Adam J

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39 minutes ago, Adam J said:

The chap who produces APT is very good at helping out if you post a topic on the APT forum I am sure he will get you sorted.

Is there a reason you would not want to have the fan running at full speed?

Thanks Adam - I will post on the APT forum.

No real reason to slow the fan down other than SharpCap and Altair Capture provide this and (very brief) testing suggested half speed kept the sensor at a similar temperature. The fan is very quiet so full speed isn't an issue and the fan certainly helps with limiting sensor warming.

Bob

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Sharpcap is good, it has far more control over the camera, can control the mount, platesolve, control filters, focus etc. But APT is better for running image plans, dithering and has a better auto focus routine I find. That said I still use Sharpcap to take a sky measurement and use the recommendations for exposure length and gain in APT.

For lunar, solar and planetary work, Sharpcap excels.

For DSO long image plans, APT works best.

 

Both great programs and well worth the small price to pay for the full version. Both Ivo and Robin are quite active on their respective forums.

 

https://aptforum.com/phpbb/

 

https://forums.sharpcap.co.uk/index.php

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Thanks for the info @jjosefsen and @david_taurus83.

The replacement guide camera module and hub arrived, so I've been able to make a start on testing and learning about the new setup - takes time as I didn't become familiar with my DSLR overnight (using APT for capture and PHD2 for dithered guiding)!

Due to the imaging and guiding resolution of my setup I plan to use 2x2 binning. As confirmed on the APT forum, APT has an issue with binning with the Hypercam 183M, so I won't use if for now until the issue is fixed.

SharpCap seems to take quite a lot of memory and my little netbook has trouble running SharpCap together with all of the other necessary programs, so I'm using Altair Capture at the moment as this runs without problem and is easy to use. At some point I will likely need to control a filter wheel and also run dithering so a change of program will be necessary - but I'm not there yet. Before that there are still flats to get right (didn't work first time) and installation of the coma corrector. 

Although the Moon was up last night, I did a couple of quick test images (attached) using my 650/130 reflector. Both 60 off 30 sec subs at gain 4 (I think that is unity gain with Altair Capture - please correct me if not) plus darks, no flats. At 13 degrees C darks seem free of noise with just hot pixels evident. Aligning targets and focusing using a mask is quick and easy with the 183M camera in video mode - a nice improvement.

I'd like to do an Ha test image with an (old) Astronomik 1.25" filter (especially with the Moon up) - just need to work out how to mount it! If you have any ideas on a suitable target please say.

So far seems a great camera. The simple cooling fan helps stop the sensor warming - It doesn't look like sensor thermal noise will make much difference to LRGB imaging for my conditions. Ha imaging is likely to be different of course.

 

NINA looks interesting. I will give it a go.

Bob

M13v3.jpg

M81v1.jpg

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, bobro said:

Due to the imaging and guiding resolution of my setup I plan to use 2x2 binning. As confirmed on the APT forum, APT has an issue with binning with the Hypercam 183M, so I won't use if for now until the issue is fixed.

Very nice for only 30 mins of data each. What coma corrector are you using? Did you calibrate with darks?

2x2 Binning on CMOS does not have to be done during capture. You get the exact same benefit if you down sample them image in photo shop once stacked. 

Adam 

Edited by Adam J

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3 hours ago, Adam J said:

What coma corrector are you using?

My 650/130 reflector started out life as a Meade Polaris 130 before various mods (including fitting a SkyWatcher mirror) but it still has the Meade 1.25" focuser (teflon strips inside to eliminate slop). As 1.25" coma correctors are hard to come by (and expensive!) I made one from stock parts based on a design in an old magazine. https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/288608-diy-125-coma-corrector

For such a simple design it works pretty well with the f#5 scope as can be seen in the attached M42 taken with the 1000D and CC. A 1.25" filter can be screwed on to the bottom of the CC, so I can even do a bit of LRGB or Ha before deciding on which filter wheel to purchase.

3 hours ago, Adam J said:

Did you calibrate with darks?

Yes - just 15 to test with. Taken at the same time as imaging. Lots of sky noise around from the near full Moon. First time for me using darks as I depended on dithering to reduce noise with the DSLR. Longer exposures did result in some amp glow though.

 

3 hours ago, Adam J said:

2x2 Binning on CMOS does not have to be done during capture. You get the exact same benefit if you down sample them image in photo shop once stacked.

Certainly an alternative Adam. I think that's Super Pixel mode in DSS (have tried it once some time ago with success).

Bob

M42v2.jpg

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, bobro said:

My 650/130 reflector started out life as a Meade Polaris 130 before various mods (including fitting a SkyWatcher mirror) but it still has the Meade 1.25" focuser (teflon strips inside to eliminate slop). As 1.25" coma correctors are hard to come by (and expensive!) I made one from stock parts based on a design in an old magazine. https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/288608-diy-125-coma-corrector

For such a simple design it works pretty well with the f#5 scope as can be seen in the attached M42 taken with the 1000D and CC. A 1.25" filter can be screwed on to the bottom of the CC, so I can even do a bit of LRGB or Ha before deciding on which filter wheel to purchase.

Yes - just 15 to test with. Taken at the same time as imaging. Lots of sky noise around from the near full Moon. First time for me using darks as I depended on dithering to reduce noise with the DSLR. Longer exposures did result in some amp glow though.

 

Certainly an alternative Adam. I think that's Super Pixel mode in DSS (have tried it once some time ago with success).

Bob

M42v2.jpg

That's very resourceful of you with the coma corrector and scope. Not sure super pixel mode would work with a mono camera it's a deburing technique for use with colorful cameras. 

Edited by Adam J

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