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First time trying out N.I.N.A. instead of SGP

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#26 dghent

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 05:48 AM

I tried the software today. I was using a QSI 660 camera with filter wheel, Moonlight Focuser, and a rotator.  I first tried to connect to my camera and filter wheel.  It would connect to the camera but did not connect to the integrated filter wheel. I was not able to get the filter wheel working.  I then tried to connect to my focuser. Did not connect.  I then tried connecting to my camera rotator but it did not connect.            To make sure everything was working I switched back to SGP and everything worked perfectly.  So it is clear they need to work on connecting to hardware. 

 

The interface is interesting but the show stopper is connection problems.  I will check back if they have any upgrades. 

Hi Dwight. Sorry to hear about that trouble. We have do have users with Nightcrawlers and regular Moonlite focuses, and I believe I recall at least one user with a QSI camera and it’s integrated  filter wheel, so this is surprising. Could you please describe the problem you encountered in more detail (error messages, stuff like that) over at the project’s issue tracker? Thank you!  https://bitbucket.or...nina/issues/new



#27 johnsoda

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 07:34 AM

This is about my first impressions of N.I.N.A., after years of using SGP (very successfully).

 

Here's the background: for my OSC imaging (with light pollution filters), I was getting tired of the time SGP takes to get from finishing one frame to starting the next one. With the CMOS sensor of the ASI294MC Pro, very short exposures are the norm, and loosing 10-20% of imaging time because of SGP overhead is not particularly nice. The slower your PC, the more sub to sub time it takes, the more time autofocusing takes, etc.

 

Now just to be clear I love SGP, it is an excellent piece of software with amazing flexibility and features. I've been using it for years, and paid for the update to version 3.

 

But last night I tested an alternative to SGP called N.I.N.A. (https://nighttime-imaging.eu). It is free and open source, and I used the 1.8.0 RC1 version. I wanted to see how it would perform on my underpowered imaging PC (I've been considering the ASIAIR because of the overhead in SGP, but the lack of autofocus is an obstacle right now).

 

My equipment:

- EQ6R mount with EQDIR cable (e.g. EQMOD), actually my first time using this mount.
- 350mm f4 lens
- Moonlite belt focuser
- ASI294MC Pro as main imaging camera, with Quad BP filter in front of it.
- ASI178MC as OAG camera
- Underpowered Atom-based Minix Z83-4 computer
- Lots of wind (no fun without wind!)

 

I fired up NINA well before the evening (I needed to configure it first) to find it has a pretty well organized interface, with tabs on the left hand side that can almost be used chronologically until actual capture (reminded me a bit of StarTools). First things first, I needed to configure the equipment: native ZWO drivers, EQMOD ascom, focuser ASCOM. Next I went into the various tabs to see what could be setup there. In the settings tab there were various configurable things that should be filled in:

- observing site coordinates
- camera pixel size, bit depth, etc, under framing.
- Telescope focal length, under framing and under options -> equipment. I believe that together with the camera information, it is used to give the FOV hints to the PlateSolver.
- PlateSolve2 path: you need to install PlateSolve2 directly if you wish to use it, and then get a catalog for it. All free from Planewave. Other solvers are available, and I added my API key for astronomy.net online solver as my backup blind solver.
- API key for Openweather, if you want to get weather information
- Sub length for auto-focusing and for plate solving.

- Sky Atlas Picture catalog path (used in the Sky Atlas Tool), downloadable for free from NINA.

- PHD2 path (for NINA to launch PHD2 automatically)

- I connected to the equipment without issue. A good thing was that when I connected the mount, NINA detected that the coordinates of the mount and the ones in NINA were not exactly the same, and offered the option to get the coordinates from the mount into NINA, which I did.

- Another neat feature is that you can connect a "manual rotator", e.g. your hands smile.gif This is good for framing.

- The theme is important too, with a variety of dark themes available for the application. I liked the "Persian" theme.

- You can save your equipment profile just like SGP.

 

I noted some pretty neat tools that make NINA an excellent way to actually plan the imaging session: 

- Search for an object name under Sky Atlas, a list of matching objects will appear with pictures and a graph with the object altitude versus time of day, complete with the dusk, dawn, and night hours, making it easy to find good targets to image.

- With the target decided, you can just send it to the sequencer as the next target, or first send it to the framing assistant (and you can slew to it from that screen too)

- In the framing assistant, you can download an image of the target from several sources, including NASA Sky Survey (or offline using SkyAtlas, which gives a good idea of the size of the target), and then you can see your own FOV versus the target object. Drag around the FOV as desired, rotate as desired, or you can even set a mosaic in there, as desired.

- Once ready, you can then send your scene to the Sequencer for imaging.

 

Seriously, by the time I had seen this I was sold. I had no idea whether this would actually work well in Prod, but I joined the Discord chat, and sent a donation via Paypal while I was at it. I learned at the same time that autofocus automatically pauses guiding, so that's good for people with OAGs.

 

Looking at the sequencer, I found that it is very complete, with autofocus after x minutes or exposures or temperature change (talking about autofocus, it will do filter offsets too). And something I love and want to see in SGP: the dither every x frames is available at the task level. So that means that if you image HaRGB, you can choose to dither every frame with HA, and every 5 frames with RGB for example. You also get the gain per task (although no offset - it's going to be added in the future, although not a big deal for me since ZWO cameras have a fixed offset). And your target is in there, together with the chart of altitude versus time.

 

The tab that impressed me most was probably the Imaging tab. This is the real control center of the software, where you can see the PHD2 graph, image history, image per image HFR, sequence progress, take exposures for framing and focusing, perform platesolving (with automated sync and slew for aligning my EQ6R!), perform autofocusing, view images and image statistics, view telescope status and weather information, it's very comprehensive, well laid out, and beautiful.

 

One limitation I noticed while looking around: it only supports PHD2 for autoguiding. This means that dithering without a guider is not currently possible (SGP has that via Direct Mount Guiding), so that's inconvenient for my portable imaging, when I use unguided short focal length lenses. The team is planning to add this in the future, although I'm wondering whether PHD2 could use the camera simulator to do the dither.  Still, I'll be waiting for that feature with baited breath.

 

Now that my tour was done, it was time to wait for the evening. Evening came, clouds cleared up, PA was done with Sharpcap (although NINA has a Polar Alighn tool, which I have not tested yet), and here we go!

 

Connecting all the equipment worked flawlessly. This was by the way my first time using EQMOD, so it was interesting to see how it works. I set up the camera to cool to -10 degrees (nice to see camera power and temperature as charts over time by the way), and slewed to Betelgeuse using Cartes the Ciel. In NINA, I took a short exposure from the Imaging tab to see that Betelgeuse was not in the FOV, so I used the PlateSolve tool with "Sync" and "Reslew to target" turned on - PlateSolve2 came up, solved the image, and NINA synced the mount, it slewed to target, and just like that my mount was aligned. Next I ran autofocus - and it ran without issues and it was fast, like really fast, much, much faster than SGP, especially on this very slow computer. That was quite impressive.

 

Next step, I fired up PHD2, found a guide star, calibrated, and was guiding. I had poor RMS of around 1.5 arc seconds, which I assume was because of the wind. I hope so at least. In the imaging tab, the guide graph was reflected in real time. This was cool to see. Note that NINA will automatically launch PHD2, connect the equipment, select a star, and start guiding.

 

I then went to the sequencing tab. The target was set as per my framing from the framing tab. As a test, I set 60 exposures of 60 seconds each, with autofocus after 30 minutes. And then I let it do its thing. I was amazed that the sub to sub time is instantaneous, even with HFR calculation and image history enabled. There is a fancy chart of HFR and nb of stars per sub as well. Really neat to keep track of what's happening. After 30 minutes, autofocus ran as expected, without any issues, and then it kept on capturing. Dithering also worked perfectly fine. Oh and of course the captured subs can have a custom name, and xisf is also available as a file format, for PI users.

 

So yes, I am very impressed by NINA. It has a clear, intuitive interface. It has some outstanding tools for sequence planning and definition. It has fast image capture, fast statistics for images, and fast autofocus. It is free and open source. I may transition to it fully, because besides the absence of the Direct Mount Guider, it seems to tick all the boxes for me. I still need to understand what happens when clouds roll in, but at this point, I am positively wowed.

 

The resulting image is nothing to write home about (OSC from Tokyo super white zone, target low on the horizon, one hour integration time only), but here it is attached.

I’m pretty happy with SGP, but I see this has synchronized dithering for multiple instances.  That’s something I’m definitely interested in, since I want to image with two cameras. Since I do unguided often and want to dither, I agree that’s something I hope they add soon. 


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#28 elmiko

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 10:57 AM

If I already use Astrotortilla for plate solving can I use the existing Astremetric catalog  for plate solving with NINA?

Just curious, I use Nebulosity for aquisition but this software is tempting.



#29 Denali

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 11:18 AM

Hi All i just stumbled onto this thread last nightsmile.gif waytogo.gif waytogo.gif

I installed it today and i must say it a brilliant piece of software for open source

im away from my mount right now but i did connect to my camera and guider with no problem's

i cant wait to try it out on a real imaging run  i will be following this thread and development of this software for sure



#30 OldManSky

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:20 PM

Edit:  Never mind, got it installed.  Windows Defender initially complained about it being unknown/unsigned, so I ran it as Administrator to get Windows to let me install it.  The install failed running as Administrator.

Told Windows Defender to allow it as exception, ran it regularly, and it installed fine.

Trying it out today :)

 

Tried to install the downloaded NINA today...won't install.

Error log says:

 

"[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:09]i299: Plan complete, result: 0x0

[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:09]i300: Apply begin
[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:09]i010: Launching elevated engine process.
[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:13]i011: Launched elevated engine process.
[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:13]e000: Error 0x800700e8: Failed to wait for child to connect to pipe.
[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:13]e000: Error 0x800700e8: Failed to connect to elevated child process.
[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:13]e000: Error 0x800700e8: Failed to actually elevate.
[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:13]e000: Error 0x800700e8: Failed to elevate.
[2E9C:0A00][2019-03-10T11:14:14]i399: Apply complete, result: 0x800700e8, restart: None, ba requested restart:  No"

 

Any ideas?


Edited by OldManSky, 10 March 2019 - 01:25 PM.


#31 Denali

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:27 PM

if you are interested i found a you tube video  for N.I.N.A 8.0

https://www.youtube....eature=youtu.be

Very Interesting 

check it out


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#32 Mert

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:36 PM

I've been playing around with NINA today and had quit some problems

getting things working.

The main thing I had problems with was the cooling of the ASI1600MCC

simply stopping at some point and stayng at the temp it had reached, not

the set temp.

Also had some unexpected faults being raised asking NINA wether to resolve

and continue or quit.

I got all my equipment connected without too many problems, using the

64bit version, the only driver that had to be changed for a 64bit version

was for the Baader Steeltrack focusser, after that it also connected.

Once you move the screens out of their default position, it is hard to

get the desktop looking good again, would be fine to have some sort of

reset UI button to start again.

Also the sequences UI have to work a bit more with them to understand

how this relates, from the setup screen for the sequences, pushing the play

button only does the first frame then stops!?

From the image window pushing the sequence start, that works ok.

I am using APT with good experiences, user interface etc. and the main

thing I was looking for is the autofocussing which in APT is stil not

quit that good.

So, I will keep an eye on this software package, it looks promising!


Edited by Mert, 10 March 2019 - 01:38 PM.


#33 johnsoda

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 01:46 PM

if you are interested i found a you tube video  for N.I.N.A 8.0

https://www.youtube....eature=youtu.be

Very Interesting 

check it out

Good stuff. I hope the SGP folks decide to implement some of these functions, such as the nice framing mode. A little competition is a good thing for users. 


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#34 D_talley

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 02:44 PM

Hi Dwight. Sorry to hear about that trouble. We have do have users with Nightcrawlers and regular Moonlite focuses, and I believe I recall at least one user with a QSI camera and it’s integrated  filter wheel, so this is surprising. Could you please describe the problem you encountered in more detail (error messages, stuff like that) over at the project’s issue tracker? Thank you!  https://bitbucket.or...nina/issues/new

Looks like other owners with a QSI Filter wheel have this problem. I see that problem with the QSI filter wheel is already reported. 

 

The Micro touch focuser is on com 2 and there is no error message. You click on the connect button and it just returns to the connect button. The Micro touch control software is able to connect without issue. I said Moonlight in my first post but that is on another system.



#35 cuivienor

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 05:09 PM

Mert - I can confirm I had the same cooling issue with my ASI294MC, if I set a minimum time to cool. It would slowly cool down to a certain temperature and stop there (for me it was -3 when my target was -10).

The workaround is to not use the minimum cooling time parameter... Of course may be an issue in high humidity environments.

Cheers,

Yannick

#36 Iver

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 05:11 PM

Wow this sounds really good! Anyone know if they plan to support SBIG cameras?



#37 cuivienor

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 08:49 PM

Dwight, did you try with the 32bit version of NINA? E.g. the x86 download on their website (rather than x64). Mixing 32bit ASCOM drivers (I'm still amazed manufactures don't provide 64bit drivers) with 64 bit software can have unintended consequences. SGP is 32 bit only, so it would avoid those issues by default.

 

Elmiko, not sure about that - it has a Local Platesolver option, which directs you to input your Cygwin directory. It can then detect your downloaded index files, and assist you in downloading more, as you can see attached. It probably won't work with Astrotortilla, but if the index files are the same as ansvr, then I assume you could reuse them? Up to you to try it out!

 

Iver, don't know either but... SBIG cameras don't have ASCOM drivers?

 

Cheers,

 

Yannick

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#38 dghent

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 10:28 PM

Wow this sounds really good! Anyone know if they plan to support SBIG cameras?

I've already looked into doing this. But before that can happen, I would need to get a hold of a suitable example of a SBIG unit (generally anything with an integrated filter wheel) in order to implement and test with.

 

But if someone already has such a unit, is capable of coding in C#, and would like to try their hand at adding support for it, by all means their contribution would certainly be welcome. #opensource



#39 Denali

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 10:29 PM

After hearing about some users having some trouble with there hardware I decided to go get all my gear and do some testing. Using Nina i was able to connect to my EQ6 through eqmod. able to slew- nudge-sync-park-unpark  etc no problem there. Able to connect to my asi294mc. Able to cool to -10 c from 22 c in about 15 min ran it there for 15 min and it remained stable at -10 c and  and 38% power about same as APT and SharpCap. Did not mess with the duration. But will try it next time. Able to fire off 1 exposure. No problem there. Able to connect to my asi120mm-s thru PHD2 but since i was indoors unable to do any guiding or dithering.  I don't expect any problems there as PHD2 guided fine with this camera on its own. Able to connect to MyFocuserPro2 Arduino based focus controller.. It displayed temp and position also able to rack it in and out move to a predefined position. Was not able to run the auto focus routine or temperature compensation. Again because i was indoors. So in my case i'm good to go but i'm going to wait for the next full moon. The weather here in NH has been terrible and i don't want to waste a good night trying new software. In the meantime i'm going to continue tweaking this software and following its development IMOP this seem's to be an awesome piece of software especially this early in it's development. IT can only get better


Edited by Denali, 10 March 2019 - 10:34 PM.

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#40 Iver

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 10:59 PM


Iver, don't know either but... SBIG cameras don't have ASCOM drivers?

 

No, there is no SBIG ASCOM driver!


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#41 Iver

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 11:14 PM

I've already looked into doing this. But before that can happen, I would need to get a hold of a suitable example of a SBIG unit (generally anything with an integrated filter wheel) in order to implement and test with.

 

But if someone already has such a unit, is capable of coding in C#, and would like to try their hand at adding support for it, by all means their contribution would certainly be welcome. #opensource

Ok! Thanks for the reply, looks like a really nice app. confused1.gif



#42 calypsob

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Posted 11 March 2019 - 12:58 PM

Im excited to see where this goes being open sourced. It has been great to see PHD constantly improve since 2014. I am a huge fan of having backup programs in case something odd happens in the field.



#43 D_talley

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Posted 11 March 2019 - 04:11 PM

Dwight, did you try with the 32bit version of NINA? E.g. the x86 download on their website (rather than x64). Mixing 32bit ASCOM drivers (I'm still amazed manufactures don't provide 64bit drivers) with 64 bit software can have unintended consequences. SGP is 32 bit only, so it would avoid those issues by default.

 

........

 

Yannick

I just uninstalled the 64 bit version and installed the 32 bit version on my Windows 10 Pro system.  Same problem. Unable to connect to the filter wheel and the QSI 660 camera at the same time.  I did notice that if I first connect to the filter wheel, I can't connect to the camera. So it seems to be only one item can be connected in the software.  

 

Also unable to connect to the micro touch focuser.  No error message is displayed.



#44 elmiko

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Posted 11 March 2019 - 04:29 PM

Thanks for the answer Yannick.



#45 johnsoda

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Posted 11 March 2019 - 04:34 PM

I’ll try it out during the full moon.  Looks promising but with some bleeding edge issues, which is not surprising. 



#46 cuivienor

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Posted 19 March 2019 - 07:51 AM

For info, the creator of NINA has found the problem with cooling along with a minimum time (e.g. cool to x degrees in n minutes). It affected only ASI cameras, and the root cause was that ASI cameras apparently only accept integers as target temperatures. This is fixed in the latest RC release of NINA 1.8.


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#47 Mert

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Posted 19 March 2019 - 11:12 AM

Mert - I can confirm I had the same cooling issue with my ASI294MC, if I set a minimum time to cool. It would slowly cool down to a certain temperature and stop there (for me it was -3 when my target was -10).

The workaround is to not use the minimum cooling time parameter... Of course may be an issue in high humidity environments.

Cheers,

Yannick

Thanks for confirming that Yannick, if you let the camera cool down as quick

as it goes, likely some ice forming can occur! ( shows up like donuts

on each frame )

 

Regards,

Mert



#48 cuivienor

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Posted 19 March 2019 - 05:26 PM

Thanks for confirming that Yannick, if you let the camera cool down as quick

as it goes, likely some ice forming can occur! ( shows up like donuts

on each frame )

 

Regards,

Mert

Yep - but it is fixed now :)



#49 Mert

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 08:03 AM

Is the autofocussing running fine?

Any hints to get it going, default parameters and/or setup routines??

IMHO this is a great application, have to get used to the UI

and will do some testing on the balcony soon! :waytogo:



#50 cuivienor

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Posted 26 March 2019 - 02:38 AM

@Mert - still having issues with the autofocus in my super white zone. I think I've narrowed it down to the fact that N.I.N.A. is just too fast, and my focuser shifts the image a bit when moving (lens with belt focuser, that makes the lens "shiver" a bit when it moves), and when NINA is taking the next exposure, the scope is still settling, which can induce errors. Since it's open source, I've added a settle time parameter to the application, which I hope to test out tonight - maybe it will help!

 

I'll report back!

 

Cheers,

 

Yannick


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