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Plate solving is amazing


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I have no idea why I've been putting this off for so long!

Conditions are pretty poor tonight but I'm out anyway to try kit out plus it's Friday and the forecast was great all day (until about 5pm then it went all amber) and it's been a long day in the (home) office so what the heck..eqmod all set up, attach laptop and camera and move focuser to a rough focus, ask apt to go to vega with pointcraft...couple of rounds in its bang on target, sync and focus. 

Load up old image coordinates and move there, photo, plate solve....move...plate solve boom within 7 pixels and the system is now running subs.

Game changer! Now I just need some really clear nights where the seeing isn't complete tosh and it would be great but hey data is data.

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I have no idea why I've been putting this off for so long! Conditions are pretty poor tonight but I'm out anyway to try kit out plus it's Friday and the forecast was great all day (until about 5p

Or, you know, slews your scope into the tripod and spends a couple hours trying to hammer a bend into the leg with your thousands of dollars worth of imaging gear. That's fun too.

Had exactly the same process a few months ago, was scared of trying platesolving as it seemed rather complicated to set up. Once I bit the bullet and gave it a go it was a revelation! That coupled wit

Yep. I have some members in my club who haven't taken the big step into plate solving. It's really a small step, but plate solving makes getting setup and running so much quicker than doing a star alignment, which I find are never bang on accurate when you do a GoTo. If you do tell your scope to GoTo a specific set of coordinates, you still have to hunt around a bit to get the right spot when looking at your PC screen. Controlling with a PC can be frustrating at times, but it makes a world of difference when it all works. I got setup for a third session on the same object the other night in under 20 minutes.

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35 minutes ago, Buzzard75 said:

Yep. I have some members in my club who haven't taken the big step into plate solving. It's really a small step, but plate solving makes getting setup and running so much quicker than doing a star alignment, which I find are never bang on accurate when you do a GoTo. If you do tell your scope to GoTo a specific set of coordinates, you still have to hunt around a bit to get the right spot when looking at your PC screen. Controlling with a PC can be frustrating at times, but it makes a world of difference when it all works. I got setup for a third session on the same object the other night in under 20 minutes.

Pretty much this...heck I forgot to put the dew heaters on and messed up the framing doing it, no issue load up the data and plate solve to re-frame.

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Had exactly the same process a few months ago, was scared of trying platesolving as it seemed rather complicated to set up. Once I bit the bullet and gave it a go it was a revelation! That coupled with being able to save a sequence in NINA makes going to a previous target to collect more photons stupidly easy. 

The other thing that has massively improved my setup time is using sharp cap to polar align. I can now literally decide to have a night imaging and be set up and running in about 20 minutes, with my polar alignment rated as 'excellent' in sharp cap. 

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+1 for platesolving! I got into platesolving using APT earlier this year, really don't know what I would do without it!  Used to spend ages trying to get my target centred before platesolving (move it a bit this way, bit that way, no way too far, back that way, too far that way now, back the other way again...), difficult enough on a bright target yet alone a dim target. Now it takes seconds!

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The way I can tell that I REALLY love platesolving is for it to break somehow, and dump me back into the bad old star-hopping days -- or nights, rather.

Nights when I would strive and sweat and curse for 45 minutes to an hour straight and never get the target in the FOV.

I don't miss those days even a tiny little bit. It boggles my mind that a computer the size of a cigarette pack can look at a random image of the sky and figure out EXACTLY where its center is without even having to access the Internet. It blows my tiny little mind completely that it can then robot the scope to an exact point in the sky based on that.

Next Big Thing, if you haven't already: Autofocus. I twiddled and bashed and hacked code and soldered and started over and it was still unquestionably worth it. Now that I've figured out the params and such it really does Just Work, even with my laughably crude-looking setup.

Edited by rickwayne
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I whole heartedly agree with everything said here about plate solving.  I resisted going down that route for ages because it sounded too complicated.  Then I swapped from EQMOD within Windows to using KStars/EKOS on MacBook and it just seemed a natural step to take. Admittedly it did take a bit of time and faffing to get my head around what I had to do and then get it to work. But all of sudden it did work and hey presto I immediately had a better polar alignment procedure and target finding. In fact the first night it worked I spent an hour or so like a kid with a new toy. Pointing the telescope to different parts of the sky just to watch my computer plate solve and shift the telescope to spot on the target.  Oooh it’s done it. Yay! And again! Ooooh! 🙂 

Until recently I avoided imaging anything that would involve a meridian flip. But just a few months ago I used platesolving to do my first meridian flip mid-imaging session.  With some trepidation I stopped the imaging, re-pointed the telescope, which involved a meridian flip, plate solved using one of the images I’d just taken and carried on imaging with the telescope spot on the target. I know this is all old hat to more experienced imagers, but I’m not sure I will ever get beyond being amazed at how well it works. 

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6 hours ago, rickwayne said:

The way I can tell that I REALLY love platesolving is for it to break somehow, and dump me back into the bad old star-hopping days -- or nights, rather.

Nights when I would strive and sweat and curse for 45 minutes to an hour straight and never get the target in the FOV.

I don't miss those days even a tiny little bit. It boggles my mind that a computer the size of a cigarette pack can look at a random image of the sky and figure out EXACTLY where its center is without even having to access the Internet. It blows my tiny little mind completely that it can then robot the scope to an exact point in the sky based on that.

Next Big Thing, if you haven't already: Autofocus. I twiddled and bashed and hacked code and soldered and started over and it was still unquestionably worth it. Now that I've figured out the params and such it really does Just Work, even with my laughably crude-looking setup.

Yep already looking at the autofocus side of things :)

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13 hours ago, Ouroboros said:

beyond being amazed at how well it works. 

Hi

Be prepared for beyond. No need to intervene manually. Get some sleep instead. EKOS does automatic meridian flips and continues west where it left off. At dawn, it then parks your mount and shuts down. Automation is nice:)

Cheers

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Love it, too! I started using it with N.i.N.a. and couldn't be happier! 

I had to do my star alignment before as my polar scope is not well calibrated (and is hell to do it right...at least for me) so plate solving makes things a lot easier AND faster! 

 

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10 hours ago, alacant said:

Hi

Be prepared for beyond. No need to intervene manually. Get some sleep instead. EKOS does automatic meridian flips and continues west where it left off. At dawn, it then parks your mount and shuts down. Automation is nice:)

Cheers

Chuckle. Yes, I was aware of that.  I do not have a permanent set up.  I image relatively infrequently and setting up is always a somewhat precarious adventure. :)  Something would (and usually does) go wrong  if I don’t  baby sit my kit.  Automation must be great though if you regularly set up or you’ve got a permanent set up. 

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On 08/11/2020 at 15:16, alacant said:

At dawn, it then parks your mount and shuts down. Automation is nice:)

Or, you know, slews your scope into the tripod and spends a couple hours trying to hammer a bend into the leg with your thousands of dollars worth of imaging gear. That's fun too.

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20 hours ago, rickwayne said:

thousands of dollars worth of imaging gear

Oh dear! Sorry to hear that.

Are you certain you had the mount limits set correctly?

Cheers

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Well, I know that I tried. Ekos and my CEM-25P mostly play nicely together, but every once in a while they have a fight about where the mount is really pointing. Parking frequently engenders an apparent attempt to do a slow roll in RA.

I really do love Ekos, but it does tend to have settings kind of scattered about the place and you have to build up a mental model of what it thinks it's doing. 

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+1 for platesolving

+1 for SharpCap PA

I can go from deciding to get the telescope out, to imagine in 30 minutes now. I don;t miss the days of spending hours before I could even find an object.

And I tell you what else I don't miss.... 3 star bloody alignments. Since platesolving I don;t even do them anymore. No need! Amazing!

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Can I ask a stupid question?

Other than knowing where I'm pointing at, is plate solving any use to someone like me using a Star Adventurer 2i and DSLR? I usually just take a shot and upload to plate solve.

I've tried so many times to get plate solving to work on my laptop, it always comes back with errors/fail. So I don't bother any more. I tried NINA and APT and the stand alone one who's name escapes me.

 

Cheers

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Yup, definite game changer for me too. And I thought it was ultra complicated, then tried it, took an hour or so to install everything, and then first time trying it found it was a breeze. One of those things where you wonder why you put it off for so long. 

The ability to precisely frame targets when you can't see them (with a DSLR for instance) is just fantastic. 

I have a couple of tutorials if anyone is interested in setting up and using platesolving:

How to install and setup PlateSolving https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpYXoYEKFpA

How it works in the field https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoIy1D2pBZ0

 

 

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1 minute ago, Nikolas74 said:

Is it necessary to do a 3 star alignment before running plate solve ? or just a polar align will do ?

You only need to polar align.

I still kind of do a single star alignment, as it can point out that perhaps the mount clock is wrong or other some such issue.

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3 minutes ago, Nikolas74 said:

Is it necessary to do a 3 star alignment before running plate solve ? or just a polar align will do ?

No, no star alignment necessary. Polar align, choose your object, plate solve and away you go.

I remember the first time I used plate solving.  It was like magic.  Blew my mind.  

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