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What's your "suite" of software for setup and acquisition?

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#1 kimiwaffles

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:11 PM

Hi All,

I'm new into astrophotography. I've been visually cruising the skies using my Celestron 130 SLT and Celestron 8SE, trying to take pictures with my iPhone or my Samsung NX300 Mirrorless. I've gotten a couple good pictures of the moon and planets but the AltAz mounts are keeping me from trying what I really want to be doing which is DSO photography!

 

I've gone ahead and went full-hog purchasing:

-William Optics ZenithStar 73 + 50mm Guide Scope

-SkyWatcher HEQ-5 

-ZWO ASI120mm Mini for autoguiding

and a cheap PC laptop to control it all

 

Now I'm onto selecting software. There are so many options to choose from! What is your software suite like? 

I'm going to be using an EOS camera, so Backyard EOS is an option but isn't a necessity. I'm going to use plate solving as my primary way of polar aligning (North is blocked by houses and trees).

What setup works for you? 

 

 

Looking for good vibes and clear skies! 

 


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#2 PirateMike

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:22 PM

I use...

 

Ascom

EqMod (you will need an EQDir cable to connect the computer to the mount)

CdC

SGP with Platesolve2

PHD2

PixInsite for image processing

 

 

Let me know if you need some help with this list.

 

 

Miguel   8-)

 

.


Edited by PirateMike, 09 September 2019 - 07:25 PM.

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#3 Bretw01

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:30 PM

Acquisition software I use;

 

PoleMaster for polar alignment

PHD2 for guiding

SGP for controlling ZWO camera

BackYardNikon for Nikon cameras

 

Welcome to CN!


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#4 OldManSky

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:32 PM

Planning, exploring: Cartes du Ciel

Acquisition, control: NINA, PHD2, ASCOM

Processing:  DSS, PixInsight, Photoshop


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#5 PirateMike

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:33 PM

You can check out these videos if you do decide to use EQMod...

 

https://www.youtube....shillito/videos

 

 

Miguel   8-)

 

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#6 pfile

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:38 PM

it might be worth joining SJAA and going to one of the astrophotography SIG meetings just to talk to people in person about your rig.

 

i use SGP but i used to use a canon camera and BYE is really nice. SGP can also drive a canon camera, but i think APT can as well.

 

rob


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#7 AhBok

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:40 PM

Polar alignment - SharpCap
Acquisition - APT (Astrophotography Tool) with Platesolve 2 & All Sky Plate Solver
Guiding - PHD2
Pre and Post processing - AstroPixel Processor and StarTools

I also have a copy of SGP but prefer APT.
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#8 AZ Maverick

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:41 PM

I have a Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro mount and I use EQMOD, ASCOM, and a PC USB direct cable to drive it.

I used APT for a long time for image capture, dither, plate solving, and framing, but I just recently switched to Sequence Generator Pro to include sequenced auto focus (which APT doesn't do currently).

PHD2 for autoguiding.

SharpCap for polar alignment.

I use Deep Sky Stacker for registration and alignment of captured images

Photoshop with a couple of astrophotography action packs for processing.

Stellarium for planetarium software.

And Teamviewer so I once I have everything up and running in my backyard I can control/monitor it all remotely from my living room (nice during the winter).


Edited by AZ Maverick, 09 September 2019 - 07:46 PM.

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#9 rkinnett

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 07:50 PM

I almost exclusively use Kstars/Indi/Ekos for alignment, go-to, focusing, framing, and imaging.  Ekos is awesome.

 

Another free option worth looking at is AstroPhotographyTool (APT).

 

Use PHD2 in conjunction with either of the above.


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#10 Stelios

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 08:02 PM

 I'm going to use plate solving as my primary way of polar aligning (North is blocked by houses and trees).

How are you going to do that? I was unaware there was a general method of plate-solving to help with PA. Please share.

 

The methods *I* know for PA when Polaris is unavailable (if Polaris *is* available, Sharpcap rules): PhD2's drift alignment, PemPro's drift alignment and 'standard' glacial drift alignment. 

 

For acquisition, Backyard EOS/Nikon ($50) is excellent software and supports plate-solving via Astrotortilla. It also supports planetary acquisition (you can defork your 8SE and it will make, with a Barlow, a great planetary AP scope on the HEQ5), bahtinov mask focusing and acquisition of flats/darks/bias and, of course, lights :)

 

Other recommended (but more complex) acquisition software is SGP ($100) (I use and love it, it has a learning curve though), and APT (not as good as SGP *in my opinion*, but pretty good).

 

For guiding, PhD2 is the standard. It interfaces with all of the above acquisition software.

 

For planning your sessions I recommend Cartes Du Ciel over Stellarium, but it kind is a matter of taste. Both are free. CDC is "bigger on the inside."


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#11 kimiwaffles

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 08:26 PM

How are you going to do that? I was unaware there was a general method of plate-solving to help with PA. Please share.

From what I've researched (which is limited because it's hard to find posts about what to do if the view of Polaris is blocked from your location) some have mentioned to align your mount north using the iPhone compass app, then try to polar align using plate solving via the SharpCap software, with the OTA pointed north. (I will have to aim high to get stars above the treetops) I'm hoping I'll have success, although from your post it doesn't sound like it crazy.gif . Should I look into Drift Alignment? Your recommendations would be greatly appreciated! 


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#12 kimiwaffles

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 08:39 PM

it might be worth joining SJAA and going to one of the astrophotography SIG meetings just to talk to people in person about your rig.

 

i use SGP but i used to use a canon camera and BYE is really nice. SGP can also drive a canon camera, but i think APT can as well.

 

rob

Hi Rob! Thanks for noticing that I'm from San Jose smile.gif Are you in the area? I'm planning on joining one of their meetings once I muster up the confidence cool.gif

You mention I should talk to someone about my rig -- do you foresee any issues with it that I should ask about specifically? 

 

Thanks!


Edited by kimiwaffles, 09 September 2019 - 08:39 PM.


#13 pfile

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Posted 09 September 2019 - 08:55 PM

i am in oakland, rarely go to SJAA cause as you know the commute is death... anyway the meetings are pretty friendly and bruce does a great job of running the SIG.

 

no specific issues, just noticed that there has been a lot of talk about EQMOD on the sjaa imaging mailing list lately. i assume that's what the HEQ-5 uses for a driver but i could be wrong - i only have experience with gemini2 and the AP CP3.

 

rob



#14 Stelios

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 01:04 AM

From what I've researched (which is limited because it's hard to find posts about what to do if the view of Polaris is blocked from your location) some have mentioned to align your mount north using the iPhone compass app, then try to polar align using plate solving via the SharpCap software, with the OTA pointed north. (I will have to aim high to get stars above the treetops) I'm hoping I'll have success, although from your post it doesn't sound like it crazy.gif . Should I look into Drift Alignment? Your recommendations would be greatly appreciated! 

From the Sharpcap manual (on Polar Alignment):

 

What do I need?

  • An equatorial mount!
  • A camera supported by SharpCap combined with a telescope/finderscope on the mount
  • A field of view in the camera of between 1 degree and about 2.5 degrees
  • Able to see about 15 stars in the field of view
  • To already be aligned within 5 degrees of the pole

 

So, yes, I think it won't work for you with the North blocked off. 

 

However drift alignment definitely will, and the drift alignment method in PhD2 is significantly faster than traditional drift alignment (which can take an hour or more). I actually haven't tried it since I've been fortunate to always have a view of Polaris (and/or had Celestron mounts that have a built-in PA routine, ASPA, which is not unfortunately available for Skywatcher mounts like the HEQ5). But many have and it works very well. 

 

You will have to download PhD2 first, of course, but that excellent guiding software is free, and when you try guiding (in my opinion a huge help for good astrophotography) it will be available for you to use. 


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#15 pfile

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 01:20 AM

How are you going to do that? I was unaware there was a general method of plate-solving to help with PA. Please share.

although i've never used it, AstroTortilla has a solving-based polar alignment tool. i guess the idea is that you can compute the PA from the difference between what the solver says the telescope is pointed at and what the mount thinks it's pointed at.

 

anyway drift alignment is probably a better idea as long as you can get reasonable initial alignment... i know sometimes when the PA is way off the drift results can be confusing.

 

rob


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#16 Alen K

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 07:47 AM

However drift alignment definitely will, and the drift alignment method in PhD2 is significantly faster than traditional drift alignment (which can take an hour or more). 

I used to do manual drift alignment all the time. I had no choice, this was 15 years ago and my scope used a fork mount. Except maybe the very first time, it never took me an hour. Half hour tops and that was if I was being unusually slow. I would guess 15 or 20 minutes was typical. That achieved alignment good enough for one-hour guided exposures at 762mm focal length. (Manually guided but that's another story.)

 

Now, PHD2 drift alignment may be faster yet but let's not exaggerate the difference. 

 

(PS. Did PHD do drift-alignment back then? In any case, when I started doing prime-focus AP there was only GuideDog, no PHD, and of course some stand-alone autoguiders from SBIG.)


Edited by Alen K, 10 September 2019 - 09:04 AM.

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#17 OldManSky

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 08:01 AM

I just used PHD2 drift alignment this weekend -- I had taken my permanently-mounted CEM25P off the pier to do some fitting on my new pier adapter for the new pier on the other side of the house, so I needed to touch-up/redo polar alignment.

The drift alignment in PHD2 is pretty quick.  It slews the scope for you to meridian/south, and starts drifting.  Takes about 2-3 minutes for the trend line to stabilize.  Then you adjust azimuth, and drift again for another 2-3 minutes, then adjust.  Repeat for pointing west/east and adjusting altitude.  I did 2 iterations at each pointing, each one taking about 4-6 minutes...about 20 minutes total.  

Guiding sessions that night reported 0.8' polar mis-alignment (not as good as I had before, but I'll redo once I'm on the new pier!).

 

For the OP:  there's a difference between polar alignment and star alignment.  The first (polar) aligns your mount with the earth's axis of rotation.  The second (star) lets your mount figure out where it is and how far off your polar alignment is so it can go to stuff.  For good go to performance, polar alignment doesn't have to be super precise, just OK.  For imaging, the better your polar alignment is, the better your images will be.


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#18 bobharmony

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 08:06 AM

Capture: BYEOS
Guiding and polar alignment: PHD2 (drift alignment)
Target selection: CDC
Plate solving: Astrotortilla
Getting everything to communicate: ASCOM
Post-processing: StarTools and PhotoShop.

PHD2 drift alignment takes about 10 minutes on a good night, up to 20 at the most.

I am considering moving to APT for control, sequence planning, and automating meridian flips.

Bob
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#19 DeanS

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 08:22 AM

SkyX with camera add on.

PemPro

FocusMax

CCD AutoPilot

CCD Navigator

CCD Inspector

CCD Stack

PixInsight

PhotoShop CS5

 

SkyRoof

SkyAlert


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#20 Jon Rista

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 09:19 AM

My software has been pretty consistent for years now. I use the following:

 

Planetarium: Microsoft WorldWide Telescope, Stellarium, Cartes du Ciel

Guiding: PHD2

Sequence: SGP w/ PlateSolve2 (DSO) & SharpCap (SSO)

Processing: PixInsight

 

For polar alignment, I use PEMPro. I guess I am a "classic drift" kind of guy. I've tried polar alignment with SharpCap, PoleMaster. Neither seem to be accurate enough for me. PEMPro has a polar alignment wizard that makes it easy to get very accurate polar alignment with accurate feedback through a drift chart. It does not take too long to use PEMPro to get an accurate alignment down under 2 arcminutes, and if you are willing to spend a bit more time you can often get it down under 30 arcseconds (you need to allow the mount to drift longer and longer the more accurately you dial it in...for a couple of arcminutes you can usually dial it in within 10 minutes; for arcseconds, you might need to spend an hour.) I find that with a high end mount, better PA can lead to much better guided tracking, seeing willing. For lower end mounts, the mount itself with higher periodic error will often be the limiting factor and a couple arcminutes may be as good as you can do.


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#21 bobzeq25

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 09:38 AM

Since you asked.  The following is best for later, BackyardEOS or Nikon is a far more usual place to start.

 

I use Voyager.  It has similar capability to SGP, but, in my opinion, is much easier to learn.  Very nice autofocus integrated into it, assuming the electric focus motor.  It uses supporting programs, I use PhD2 for autoguiding, PlateSolve2 for platesolving.

 

Needs an astro specific camera with an ASCOM interface (which they pretty much all have).

 

One of the developers goals is reliability, and, for me, he delivers.


Edited by bobzeq25, 10 September 2019 - 09:40 AM.

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#22 geneva_min

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 04:08 PM

Waffles,

 

I've got a nearly identical setup with a William Optics ZS73 and 50mm guide scope using an ASI 120mm mini for guiding. 

 

I started with a canon T6i but now also use an ASI1600mm capture camera with Sharpcap.  I've tried most of the other software packages mentioned above but they had stability issues, confusing GUI, or other little frustrations that Sharpcap didn't seem to have. 

 

Unfortunately, all that being said I'm not sure Sharpcap will work with your camera.  You mentioned that you'll be using an EOS.  In which case I highly recommend checking out Cascable which will work with EOS cameras.  It's an app for iphone / ipad.  It'll give you live screen images which you can use to focus / aim.  Then you can create capture "recipes" just like any of the laptop based software packages.  Program all the manual settings on the camera using your phone, set the number and length of exposures, hit go and head inside the house.  Darks, lights, calibration frames, whatever.  It will store your images on the camera SD card instead of your laptop but it's easy to upload later.  From the sounds of it you won't be using your cheap laptop for image processing anyway.  I still use Cascable whenever I use my Canon because there's nothing else easier.

 

Guiding = PHD2.  It works perfectly with my 120mm and 50mm scope.  It was frustrating for me to get focused and set up at first but it's a one time thing.


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#23 zakry3323

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 06:17 PM

Hiya!

 

I'm with Bob! I started with Backyard EOS and if I was still using a DSLR primarily, I would probably never use anything else. It's very simple and intuitive to use for capture. 

 

For polar alignment I've used both Polemaster and Sharpcap, and like them both. Polemaster works better for me at my typical focal length because I do not use a guide scope, I use an off-axis guide camera. 

For me, SGP has taken a lot of messing with and learning, sometimes at the cost of a good night of imaging. But at last I've learned to love it, especially for the framing and mosaic wizard. That said I just got Voyager, and it seems to me that if I were to start over, it would have probably been the best fit.  

 

Processing - Trials and trials of Pixinsight before I broke down and bought it :)


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#24 kimiwaffles

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Posted 10 September 2019 - 06:23 PM

From the Sharpcap manual (on Polar Alignment):

 

What do I need?

  • An equatorial mount!
  • A camera supported by SharpCap combined with a telescope/finderscope on the mount
  • A field of view in the camera of between 1 degree and about 2.5 degrees
  • Able to see about 15 stars in the field of view
  • To already be aligned within 5 degrees of the pole

 

So, yes, I think it won't work for you with the North blocked off. 

 

However drift alignment definitely will, and the drift alignment method in PhD2 is significantly faster than traditional drift alignment (which can take an hour or more). I actually haven't tried it since I've been fortunate to always have a view of Polaris (and/or had Celestron mounts that have a built-in PA routine, ASPA, which is not unfortunately available for Skywatcher mounts like the HEQ5). But many have and it works very well. 

 

You will have to download PhD2 first, of course, but that excellent guiding software is free, and when you try guiding (in my opinion a huge help for good astrophotography) it will be available for you to use. 

Wow, this is so helpful. Thanks Stelios. I will check it out! 



#25 kyle528

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 03:58 PM

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, and you've already gone off the deep end, consider doing yourself a huge favor and picking up a flattener for the Z73. It makes a huge difference. 

 

With that out of the way, I like APT for acquisition. I've heard a lot of good about BYEOS, but the thing is, if you decide to upgrade to an astro camera in the future, the software becomes useless to you. Do try the trial versions of potential software candidates before you buy though. PHD2 for guiding and drift alignment. PixInsight for all processing, I did try Photoshop on my first few images, I hated it. Doesn't mean it's bad, doesn't mean you can't make great images with it, just my experience. PI *is* expensive, but when (if) you get deeper into the hobby, you'll really start to see its value. They let you have multiple trial versions, so it's worth giving it your time, but find some good tutorials to follow, it's easy to get lost when starting out. Astro Pixel Processor is another one recommended a lot, and a lot of folks do great work with it, but I wasn't fond of the UI and found it to be user-unfriendly. YMMV. The acquisition portion is fairly straightforward, but the processing is where the real work is done here. Again, give several trial versions a try, and go with what works best for you. Good luck!




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