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What software?


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I'm bored by not being able to get out and image because of the weather :p So I thought I'd think about potential Christmas presents ;).

I've decided I need to be more precise in my astroimaging. I've been playing, have got some very nice kit, but with the new EQ6 to mount my Megrez90 and ZS66 refractors I've decided I have to get more serious if I am to start producing any where near the sort of images I see friends here producing (with not dissimilar kit :().

So, what software (or other) tools will help me be more precise?

An example is CCD inspector - I think I'll need it when I get the C8 back into service with the Hyperstar. But will it be useful before then for my refractor set up? And if I'm buying CCDI is it worth getting the package of other tools like Pempro etc etc?

I've heard about plate solving, which seems really neat. Are there different software options for this? and which are recommended?

On capture I currently use Nebulosity for the QHY8 and Astroart for the SXVFH9. I find Astroart clunky and unstable on my machine, but Nebulosity doesn't seem to be as sophistocated. Is Maxim really worth the extra for the flexibity and control of filter wheels etc.

On processing, DSS seems fine for stacking. I'm learning CS2 slowly. Would options such as Pixinsight add much for me? or is it just different rather than better? Time can be an issue, so software which is easy to learn and easy/quick to use would be ideal :p

And finally, guiding. I thought I'd try with PHD and see what happens (I did once get my guiding to work with astroart and the SX guidehead - but really only the once before my nexstar mount started playing up :D)

Sorry for all the questions! but I'm trying to tighten the weak links in my set-up.

Many thanks


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I think you will cope with Maxim Helen. I am at the base of the learning curve with it, but I have no worries about coping with it.

Why not download it and try it for 30 days. You can do it twice if you have two email addresses. If you feel another 30 days would be required to finish your assessment of it.

FW Ops, Guiding, Imaging, and processing all in one pot.

Although I don't know if it will cover everything in the processing bit of it. Photoshop, and NC's tools, plus a few more never go wrong I suppose.

Don't accept my word though, I'm sure the experienced guys will advise you much better. I have been toying with Registar, but I am a way off needing it just yet. It aint cheap either.

I have to stop spending, and start work with what I have already.


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Hi Helen

I have been using AA4 for a long time now and find it stable and fairly easy to use and can guide as well , so the need for another software package for this is not really required :icon_eek:

If you struggle with AA4 I think you will find maxim very complicated and personally think its overpriced.

As mr pixinsight I think if you are starting out Pi is no harder to learn than Photoshop ( Also cheaper) and in my opinion offers things in one package that while photoshop can do, usually requires 3rd party add ons

As you will see there are many opinions and in the end what works for you is just fine

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With Maxim I found it appeared overly complicated but once you got used to it it really isn´t a problem and there is a good forum on Yahoo groups.

As to whether it is overpriced...depends. I am using it for Guiding, capture, control of filter wheel and ACP uses maxim which means I can run the whole observatory over the web.

I also understand that you can write scripts to control maxim (which is what ACP uses to control it).

For me Maxim works well but it depends on the individual...get the 30 day trial and have a play.

Neil C

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You'll get as many answers are there are bits of software Helen!!

I too use Maxim to acquire, guide, align, colour combine and some initial processing (setting black and white points) and am learning a bit about DDP... It also controls the filter wheel.

I use CCDCommander to set up the image sequence and slew the mount (via EQMOD). It then talks to Maxim to plate solve, change filter, centre the target and start the image acquisition. Eventually, I will get it working to take the flats as well.

I have used CCDSharp (free) for deconvolution

I use PS for post processing, but PI appears to offer similar tools more dedicated to us nighthawks!

I also use TheSky6 for the planetarium, which is great! Speedy as a speedy thing and ideal for the observatory!

Maxim has plate solving built in - but check the version to make sure - and you can use plate solving to astrometricaly align the frames. Very accurate indeed!


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Helen, I don't think spending a fortune on fancy software will make your imaging more precise.

I've always used Maxim so am very comfortable with it. It controls my camera, focuser (focus max is the killer app here) and sometimes my scope. It does the guiding and tweaks the goto accuracy. It has very powerful align and stacking routines and some useful processing tools. However, it is becoming eye wateringly expensive and there are cheap/free alternatives which will do just as good a job if a tad less conveniently.

Nebulosity looks the best value for money to me on the capture side. I've never used it but Ian King rates it, Craig Stark wrote it and that would be enough for me.

PHD guiding is free and works well. If you want to be precise with your guiding you will need to dig deeper than the "dummy" set up though.

Pempro looks a good tool but not sure you really need it.

CCD inspector can be useful. You can see if your FWHM are deterioating as the temp drops prompting you to break off the imaging run to tweak the focus. I bet there is a tool in nebulosity that would let you do this though.

Photoshop is outrageously expensive but there is some much help and advice out there on how to use it for astroimage processing. Does Photoshop elements do layers?

One alternative definitely worth considering is ImagesPlus. It used to only do DSLR capture but I think it is now able to work with CCDs. Even without using it for capture is very very good for processing. It has some very powerful tools including the neatest DDP routine I have seen. Mike Unsoeld sells it with 5 DVDs worth of video tutorials on how to use it!

Ultimately the precision is going to come from a good polar alignment, understanding the guiding process, getting a tight focus, using the optimum sub exposure times and then getting long enough overall exposure time.

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Thanks guys.

OK so in order of importance...

Taking the time to get everything set up properly is the first requirement. In fact before it clouded over I was trying to learn how to use EQMod to get the polar alignment sorted out.

Then testing to get the best settings for scope, mount and camera in PHD.

On capture, find the limits on Nebulosity and see whether there is anything it can't do that I really need.

Keep reading and practicising on CS2 - using layers does seem to open up a whole new world of adjustment over my old version of elements :)

Have a look at Imageplus and PI to see whether access to some specialist astrotools would be good to have.

....and try and work out how to get a run of clear nights, when its not too busy in work, and I'm not too tired.... to put it all together and actually gather lots of great quality data (now if only there was software or indeed hardware for that :icon_eek:)


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