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New obs PC - what software?


Helen
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So my new shiney (well matt black actually) PC has arrived and I'm setting it all up.

I thought it might be a good time to assess my imaging software tools.

I've been running Maxim v5 for nearly 10 years.  I use it for capture, guiding, plate solving for deep sky.  It does what I need it to do, but I had some compatibility/driver issues (eg my atiks stopped being recognised) before the last PC died (not sure if related!).

I run the Mesu mount through sitech drivers.

I have used focusmax free version - with some mixed success.

I use Cartes du Ceil as planetarium software.

Stacking in DSS, post processing in photoshop cs2.  (I must admit mostly over the past few years I've been a snapshot person - say an hour or so data per target and basic processing)

For planetary and lunar I use sharcap, As3!.

I'm wondering about upgrading Maxim - but it's a lot of money!!

What are my options?

Any neat software to make life easier/more reliable?

Thanks

Helen

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I run Suequence Generator Pro, and love it.  It makes life very easy and encompasses many things in to one package.

CDC I use and rate it highly.

DSS I sometimes use but less so now as I mostly now use Pixinsight as for me it seems to do a better job.

Sharpcap I use and rate it for planetary but use Registax more than AS3! although I do sometimes use that if Registax is having a moment.

I think those that use Maxim rate it highly, and there are the Linux options of Kstars/Ekos etc. but I find that all a little bitty and haven't really got on with it when I've tried it.

I think much of it is how the software fits your eye and your expectations as, in general, they all work.  For me SGP looks good, runs well and does an awful lot for the money.

Enjoy your new compluter and hopefully the clean slate will mean trouble free imaging whichever route you go.

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I run Sequence Generator Pro and Stellarium with StellariumScope. Does the job well!

Processing-wise, I use AstroPixelProcessor for stacking and LP removal, and Pixinsight for further processing. APP is an excellent app which I can't recommend highly enough, really simplifies stacking. I recently blended images of M51 @ f10 and f7 and I couldn't actually see the borders where it had integrated them. Pixinsight everyone knows about; steep learning curve but worth it.

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Hi Ray. 

It is a work in progress but it has evolved extremely quickly which makes me feels that it will supersede its competitors in the not too distant future.  

I'm enjoying playing with my portable rig using an ASIAir but now the weather is warmer, I will probably have a spring clean of my obsy software and commit to NINA.

Mike

 

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Thanks everyone - so glad I posted!

SGP is cheaper than I expected, but NINA cheaper still.  I might well start with NINA and see how it goes.  I'm pretty sure that I won't be spending hundreds of pounds on upgrading MaxIm though...

Off to the obs again. Ascom installed, so now all the detailed stuff... Wish me luck!

Thanks again 🤗

Helen

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I can really recommend Voyager as  acquisition software, especially for an observatory. It's stable and very powerful and has a fantastic web dashboard to monitor and control the session. It also has a companion program to take care of the observatory automation.

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2 hours ago, Helen said:

Thanks everyone - so glad I posted!

SGP is cheaper than I expected, but NINA cheaper still.  I might well start with NINA and see how it goes.  I'm pretty sure that I won't be spending hundreds of pounds on upgrading MaxIm though...

Off to the obs again. Ascom installed, so now all the detailed stuff... Wish me luck!

Thanks again 🤗

Helen

Good luck 🤞

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+ 1 for Voyager. Its very reliable. Runs my observatory with no problems. Nights can be automated as much as you want using the built in Dragscript utility. Dragscript is dead easy to get use to, don't worry about the script part. Its more like a drag and drop programming language. Voyager also integrates with Maxim v5 which is a plus as you already have it.

As Mike said above the fantastic web dashboard is unbelievable.

http://www.starkeeper.it/wdash/?107

Remote control of you setup, Framing shots, and mosaic planning.

The focus routine is fast and never fails.

https://software.starkeeper.it/

Regards

Graham

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 23/04/2020 at 18:53, AngryDonkey said:

I can really recommend Voyager as  acquisition software, especially for an observatory. It's stable and very powerful and has a fantastic web dashboard to monitor and control the session. It also has a companion program to take care of the observatory automation.

I've been trialling this for a few days simply out of curiosity and, whilst it isn't the most intuitive or simple GUI to navigate, once you have used it for a while it is actually really good, I'm very impressed.

One question if you know, when carrying out a meridian flip, does it automatically plate solve to reduce cropping, or does it simply target the previous coordinates?  I've not tried yet but I can't seem to see whether it does or not.  Also, where do you input your current observatory location?

Thanks for the heads up on this.  I'm quite enjoying trying something different which actually seems to works.

Edited by RayD
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25 minutes ago, RayD said:

One question if you know, when carrying out a meridian flip, does it automatically plate solve to reduce cropping, or does it simply target the previous coordinates?  I've not tried yet but I can't seem to see whether it does or not.  Also, where do you input your current observatory location?

Yes the meridian flip is fully managed. I don't think there is a place to enter lat and long, these values I think come from the mount driver.

The more I use it the more I like it. Dragscript is hugely powerful for automation and provides an enormous amount of flexibility and recently I've started to use the multi scope version for the dual setup which is really good. I also enjoy tinkering with software... 🙂 

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2 minutes ago, AngryDonkey said:

Yes the meridian flip is fully managed. I don't think there is a place to enter lat and long, these values I think come from the mount driver.

The more I use it the more I like it. Dragscript is hugely powerful for automation and provides an enormous amount of flexibility and recently I've started to use the multi scope version for the dual setup which is really good. I also enjoy tinkering with software... 🙂 

Ah ok, thanks for that.  Makes sense as to why I can't find settings for it.

Yes I can see why you like it, it's really growing on me.  I'm just having a look at trying the Web Dashboard as it looks quite handy being able to view simply on a tablet.

Really good bit of kit, and it seems pretty speedy also.

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3 minutes ago, RayD said:

Really good bit of kit, and it seems pretty speedy also.

Yes especially on the focusing side for me. My Moravian cameras are pretty slow in downloading full frames but with Robofocus, Voyager will automatically move to a suitable nearby focus star and because it does a low accuracy platesolve on it (which is fast) it knows exactly where the star should be in the field of view and can use subframe capture to only ask for a small portion of the entire frame which is very fast in downloading and speeds up the focus no end.

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2 minutes ago, AngryDonkey said:

Yes especially on the focusing side for me. My Moravian cameras are pretty slow in downloading full frames but with Robofocus, Voyager will automatically move to a suitable nearby focus star and because it does a low accuracy platesolve on it (which is fast) it knows exactly where the star should be in the field of view and can use subframe capture to only ask for a small portion of the entire frame which is very fast in downloading and speeds up the focus no end.

Excellent!  Really well thought out.

I have had no issues whatsoever connecting to, and running all my kit, including ROR (Lesvedome driver) Alntiak flip flat and Mesu (Sitech) mount.  I've set it to automatically open and connect, cool camera, set guiding and start mount tracking and all works without a single hitch.  If it runs and extended sequence and shuts down etc afterwards, as I'm sure it will, I could well be converted here 🙂

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It kind of reminds me of Pixinsight in a way, both in terms of GUI looks, and in how it is a little unconventional in operation, but once used to it you wonder why you haven't used it before.

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Just going away from using a PC directly controlling your rig you might like to consider using a Raspberry PI running the AstroBerry Linux operating system. This has Kstars/EKOS already installed. Kstars is the planetarium software whilst EKOS is the observatory control software that comes with Kstars.

There are versions of KStars/EKOS for every platform (Windows, Mac, many flavours of Linux). I connect the relatively cheap Raspberry PI directly to my rig. I use the Windows version of KStars/EKOS loaded on the expensive PC indoors to remote control EKOS running on the PI. Although you don’t even need to do that as the PI is capable of doing it all itself. AstroBerry has its own web server built in so you can control the system using anything with a web browser on. I have kicked off the sequences using an Ipad for instance.

EKOS can do full sequences just like Sequence Generator Pro. EKOS can control all aspects of an observatory:

  • camera control
  • telescope mount control - including meridian flip which works flawlessly
  • guiding either using its own guiding or PHD2
  • dome control
  • plate solving - you need to install platesolving software ASTAP or just use astro.net online - it leverages either.
  • auto focusing
  • filter wheel control
  • adaptive optics
  • FITS viewer

There are many other things it does and it uses INDI rather than ASCOM (Windows only) to control devices. You don’t have to know anything about Linux by the way as the interface is graphical just like Windows/Mac and is intuitive.

I have used many pieces of astrophotography software and this completely is a game changer for me at least. Best of all Ekos and Kstars are 100% free.

 

Edited by TerryMcK
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I too am trialling Voyager (and Viking) and thus far I am very impressed. DragScript is very powerful and I have had no issues with the software as it seems very stable. I am a little disappointed that its native autofocuser doesn't support offset focusing but in fairness, I tried autofocus with a 3nm Ha filter and it worked just fine. I could, of course, use Voyager to drive MaxIm DL in the same way that I currently use CC Commander to drive it but if I decide to move away from CCD Commander control of my whole imaging sessions, I would prefer to use Voyager exclusively (with the exception of PHD2) to control everything.

It works perfectly with my Mesu 200 mount, Pulsar dome, QSI camera and AAG CloudWatcher so I am very tempted!

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30 minutes ago, steppenwolf said:

I too am trialling Voyager (and Viking) and thus far I am very impressed. DragScript is very powerful and I have had no issues with the software as it seems very stable. I am a little disappointed that its native autofocuser doesn't support offset focusing but in fairness, I tried autofocus with a 3nm Ha filter and it worked just fine. I could, of course, use Voyager to drive MaxIm DL in the same way that I currently use CC Commander to drive it but if I decide to move away from CCD Commander control of my whole imaging sessions, I would prefer to use Voyager exclusively (with the exception of PHD2) to control everything.

It works perfectly with my Mesu 200 mount, Pulsar dome, QSI camera and AAG CloudWatcher so I am very tempted!

Have you tried the web dashboard, Steve?  If not I think you'd be impressed as it is very good, and on an iPad it looks great.

I can feel a change coming on.

Edited by RayD
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11 minutes ago, RayD said:

Have you tried the web dashboard, Steve?

Hi Ray, funnily enough, I am using it right now and although am getting lots of feedback from the system, Ive noticed a couple of anomalies so far:-

1. The dome doesn't seem to feature anywhere

2. I keep on getting the following error message but I have only been playing with this additional feature for about 10 minutes!!!

18:28:09.018  [ DSHB ]  Connection error: Application Server Unavailable.

18:21:56.776  [ DSHB ]  Connection error: Application Server Unavailable.

18:21:22.258  [ DSHB ]  Connection error: Application Server Unavailable.

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14 minutes ago, steppenwolf said:

Hi Ray, funnily enough, I am using it right now and although am getting lots of feedback from the system, Ive noticed a couple of anomalies so far:-

1. The dome doesn't seem to feature anywhere

2. I keep on getting the following error message but I have only been playing with this additional feature for about 10 minutes!!!

18:28:09.018  [ DSHB ]  Connection error: Application Server Unavailable.

18:21:56.776  [ DSHB ]  Connection error: Application Server Unavailable.

18:21:22.258  [ DSHB ]  Connection error: Application Server Unavailable.

HI Steve, I've not had those errors so assume it is equipment specific.  Be interesting to know what they are if you find out.

I see what you mean about the dome.  I have a ROR and hadn't really looked, so wonder if there is a way to change what is shown on the layouts.

 

EDIT:  Spookily I just got the same message and wonder if it happens if the dashboard is left unused for a while as that is what I had done.

Edited by RayD
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19 minutes ago, RayD said:

EDIT:  Spookily I just got the same message and wonder if it happens if the dashboard is left unused for a while as that is what I had done.

All back and working correctly - in my case, I now realise that the log writes from the 'bottom' up and now that I have issued some commands, it is clear the errors were from much earlier in the session when I had not set up the PORT correctly (subsequently fixed!)

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4 minutes ago, steppenwolf said:

All back and working correctly - in my case, I now realise that the log writes from the 'bottom' up and now that I have issued some commands, it is clear the errors were from much earlier in the session when I had not set up the PORT correctly (subsequently fixed!)

Yes, it seems that is logs a disconnect of the web portal, Steve.  I just had the same 3 messages after letting it time out again.

I have to be honest, as a big SG Pro fan, I like it enough to consider a change so far.  I'm going to use it fully for the trial period as I think it is a viable alternative to it, unlike everything else I've tried so far.

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