This is where you define the various programs that CCDAutoPilot will use to control your equipment. In order to plan a session, the only connection required is to the telescope control program so that target information can be obtained. The telescope need not be powered on or connected. In fact, a session can be planned on one computer having the appropriate telescope control program and executed on another.
RGB Ratio Measurement
Camera: Select from Maxim, CCDSoft or None as desired. If Maxim is selected, you can elect to have x and y binning be the same via the x=y bin checkbox. If it is not checked, a window will appear, giving the user a chance to enter the desired vertical binning. Also if Maxim is selected, go to the Camera Control window, hit the Settings button to bring up the Guider Settings window. Select the Advanced tab. Under Guider Motor Control, make sure to select Do Not Change On Pier Flip. The first time you connect to your camera, the filter names and binning options will be read and stored in the system profile. You can subsequently save this profile as a planning profile for that camera.
Telescope: Select from TheSky, ASCOM, ASCOM/TheSky or None as desired. TheSky selection uses TheSky for planetarium data and telescope control. ASCOM has no planetarium data but uses ASCOM for telescope control. ASCOM/TheSky uses TheSky for planetarium data and ASCOM for telescope control. To change the ASCOM telescope driver selection, check the Change driver checkbox when ASCOM is selected and you will be presented with the ASCOM chooser.
Plate Solving: Select from CCDSoft/TheSky, PinPoint or None as desired. Regardless of what plate solving selection is made, either Maxim or CCDSoft can be used as the camera control program for image acquisition and guiding. Due to licensing restrictions, the full version of PinPoint is required. When CCDSoft/TheSky6 is used for plate solving, both programs must of course be present. For most of the features of CCDAutoPilot, one of the plate solving selections must be chosen.
Focuser: Select from FocusMax, @Focus2 or None. Either FocusMax or @Focus2 can be used for automatic focusing at various times in the course of a run.
Rotator: Select from Optec Pyxis, RCOS PIR, ASCOM or none. When the Optec Pyxis is selected, a COM port for controlling the rotator must be specified. Any other program used to control the rotator must be closed. Manual control of the rotator is still possible on the Targets page. When the RCOS PIR is selected, the TCC software is controlled via CCDAutoPilot but the TCC application can remain open and "live". To change the ASCOM rotator driver selection, check the Change driver checkbox when ASCOM is selected and you will be presented with the ASCOM chooser.
Dome: Select from ASCOM, AutomaDome, Digital Dome Works Control Program (DDWCP) or none. To change the ASCOM dome driver selection, check the Change driver checkbox when ASCOM is selected and you will be presented with the ASCOM chooser.
Use Cloud Sensor: CCDAutoPilot uses the Boltwood Cloud Sensor (or equivalent) one line data facility. Set the file/path for this data on the Preferences page then check this box. CCDAutoPilot will automatically determine whether it is Cloud Sensor I or Cloud Sensor II.
Use Control File: (CCDAutoPilot Professional Feature) Activates the Control File facility when checked. See the Control File Editor topic.
Use Flip-Flat: When checked, the Flip-Flat will be used as the light source for dusk and dawn flats. Be sure to select the appropriate COM port for Flip-Flat control. See Flip-Flat Notes for more information.
Connect: Once your selections are complete, hitting this button establishes the software connections to the chosen applications so that they can be controlled by CCDAutoPilot. Once the connections are established, this button changes to Disconnect. Hitting this button will then disconnect the chosen application. You can Disconnect, change the selected applications and then Connect again without closing CCDAutoPilot
Plan Only: When checked and the Connect button is hit, only the specified telescope program is connected to CCDAutoPilot. The telescope mount itself is not connected to either the telescope program or CCDAutoPilot. This mode allows target planning either independently with TheSky or manually with ASCOM, or importing CCDNavigator plans. You are able to edit and adjust your image acquisition plan without being connected to your observatory. You are notified of this condition in CCDAutoPilot's title bar and status panel. To exit the planning mode, Disconnect and uncheck the Plan Only checkbox
TheSky6/TheSkyX: CCDAutoPilot supports both TheSky6 and TheSkyX. Select the version of your choice when the telescope selection includes TheSky and before hitting the connect button. There are some settings that must be made manually for each version:
TheSky6: TheSky6 must have "Allow remote connections" and all boxes in the Remote client capabilities" checked under Telescope/Server Settings. TheSky6 Telescope Setup must not check the boxes indicated below:
TheSkyX: Make sure you are using version 10.1.9 or later. If you are using a Paramount, you will need to make the following change for accurate meridian flipping:
1. Connect to the Paramount
2. In TheSkyX, Select Paramount as mount. On the telescope TAB (not menu), Hit Tools button, select Bisque TCS
3. In the TCS Parameters tab, click on the + sign next to Ini parameters to expand.
4. Click on Flip HA and then hit the Edit button. Enter a value of 0
Note: Due to a bug in TheSkyX, the above steps do not work in version 10.1.8. You will need to manually edit the file ImagingSystem.ini. It is located in either
C:\Documents and Settings\John\My Documents\Software Bisque\TheSkyX Professional Edition or
C:\Documents and Settings\John\My Documents\Software Bisque\TheSkyX Theater Edition,
depending on your installation. Open this file in Notepad and find the line under [MKSDRIVER0]
FlipHourAngleMinutes=xxx and change it to read:
FlipHourAngleMinutes = 0
Plate solving is an essential requirement for automated imaging and requires proper settings to achieve success. See Plate Solving Notes for more detail.
Sub-frame: Choose an appropriate sub-frame for plate solving from full size to 1/16 size. Sub-framing less than full are useful with wide field systems to speed up plate solving. Sub-framing is mandatory when using CCDSoft/TheSky6 to insure the Autoastrometry limit of 1 square degree FOV is not exceeded. See here for more details.
Filter: Select the filter to be used for plate solving. This is normally your most transmissive filter, usually clear or luminance.
Exp(osure) Time: This should be determined experimentally for your system. The goal is to get enough stars for a successful plate solve without excessive exposure time. A good starting point for a 3000 mm focal length system is 5 sec. Depending on your FOV, you may need to go longer or shorter.
Bin: Binning your plate solve exposure will usually give you better performance with increased star detection at long focal lengths. Even with short focal lengths, binning may work out well, perhaps with a suitable sub-frame selection. Again, this setting is best determined experimentally.
Stars: This setting allows you to set the minimum number of stars to be used to accept a plate solve as valid. For best reliability, this should be set to 10. In certain cases, acceptable performance may be achieved with a lower number, bur careful testing is needed to insure accurate results.
AutoDark: This applies to CCDSoft only and should normally be checked. With shutterless cameras, you may get better results by unchecking AutoDark, depending on how the camera's driver handles a request to autodark.
Readout Mode: Sets the camera readout mode for plate solve images. See Readout Modes. This selection is available only with Maxim v5.
When connected, the versions of software is shown, along with the ASCOM drivers chosen, if any. Also, the license information is shown.
RGB Ratio Measurement
CCDAutoPilot can automatically measure your RGB Ratio, sometimes called a G2V ratio for the spectral signature of a sun-like star. This is a widely accepted method of determining your color combine ratios when assembling your final color image from RGB filtered data.
To begin, first select the R; G; and B; filters. The G: filter will be used as the reference. Typically in English, R: will be Red, G: will be Green and B: will be Blue. If using a BVR filter set, then R: would be R, G: would be V and B: would be B. Then proceed as follow, depending upon your telescope control program.
TheSky6: Point your telescope to a point in the sky near the zenith. If Auto is checked, CCDAutoPilot will locate a number of G2V stars and slew to the first G2V star. If you are initialized, it will center the star in your FOV. If you don't check Auto, you will have to manually slew to a known G2V star. CCDAutoPilot will then automatically adjust the exposure to meet its measurement criterion, take a number of flux measurements through each filter, correct the measurement for atmospheric extinction and show the resultant combine ratio. You will be asked to inspect the first image for each star to insure there is not a close double in the image. If there is, simply move on to another star; if not, allow the measurement to proceed. You can measure additional stars if you wish.
ASCOM: Automatic selection of G2V stars is not possible. Therefore manually slew the telescope to a known G2V star then hit the Measure button.
CCDAutoPilot will automatically adjust the exposure to meet its measurement criterion, take a number of flux measurements through each filter, correct the measurement for atmospheric extinction and show the resultant combine ratio. You will be asked to inspect the first image for each star to insure there is not a close double in the image. If there is one, please select and slew to another star.
In general, it is advisable to measure a few G2V stars. The expected measurement accuracy is +/- 0.1. It is also worthwhile measuring on different nights. High, thin clouds can reduce blue transmission, leading to erroneous results.
Color Combine Ratio Calculation (Professional Edition Feature)
As a target is imaged during a session, CCDAutoPilot will keep track of the altitude of each sub-exposure. At the conclusion of each target's data acquisition, a report is generated giving the extinction-corrected RGB combine ratios, based on the initial RGB Ratio measurement made above. It doesn't matter whether the data was acquired in Stairstep or Shuffle mode. Here is a portion of a log showing the Combine Ratio Measurementt:
And here a a log excerpt after acquiring data for a low altitude target:
Data from all three color filters are of course required to calculate combine ratios. In cases where one is making up one or another color only and not all three, extinction correction factors are also provided to aid in combining data properly when taken over multiple nights.
See the Initialization topic for details.