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Newbie can't see a SharpCap image.

astrophotography beginner
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#1 arrowspace90

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 08:24 PM

I am trying to set up my equipment for the first time.

 

Everything was powered.  Main camera, guide camera, mount.  I had EQMOD on and set it up.  I had polar aligned the mount in daylight with an app.

 

I powered up SharpCap.    I went to "cameras" on the toolbar.

It  sees both of my cameras, but the screen just shows black as it says it is taking exposures. I selected one camera and then the other. What step am I missing?  The lens cap is off.  It is pointing at the sky.  The screen is black.

I expected to have difficulty focusing these cameras for the first time because I have never done it.  But I didn't expect a black screen.  Guess I missed the "start" button.  I tried a different program, "Nina".  It doesn't see anything either so I am not doing something basic.

A nice, starry night wasted, and there aren't many.

What is required to see stars on your laptop screen?


Edited by arrowspace90, 16 February 2020 - 08:27 PM.


#2 DSOs4Me

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 08:33 PM

What is the gain you have set and how many seconds of exposure are you at?



#3 JohnBear

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 08:38 PM

Search "sharpcap tutorial" on YouTube and spend about 20 hours taking notes and memorizing what you learn.

Then RTM - Followed by about two weeks of trial and error experimenting, at which point you will be a SharpCap Expert.  

 

Actually I am still taking notes. But it will be worth it - I think. 

Those  that know how to use it for EAA seem to like it. 

 

EDIT:  BTW, Welcome to EAA . 


Edited by JohnBear, 16 February 2020 - 08:40 PM.


#4 Stargazer3236

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 08:50 PM

I am trying to set up my equipment for the first time.

 

Everything was powered.  Main camera, guide camera, mount.  I had EQMOD on and set it up.  I had polar aligned the mount in daylight with an app.

 

I powered up SharpCap.    I went to "cameras" on the toolbar.

It  sees both of my cameras, but the screen just shows black as it says it is taking exposures. I selected one camera and then the other. What step am I missing?  The lens cap is off.  It is pointing at the sky.  The screen is black.

I expected to have difficulty focusing these cameras for the first time because I have never done it.  But I didn't expect a black screen.  Guess I missed the "start" button.  I tried a different program, "Nina".  It doesn't see anything either so I am not doing something basic.

A nice, starry night wasted, and there aren't many.

What is required to see stars on your laptop screen?

In order to see an image, you need to increase your gain over 200, 300 is best. Set your exposure to 4 seconds or more, and wait to see if an image appears. Also you can turn on Live Stack and adjust your histogram to your liking. In alignment tab, set max stars to 25 and set your Digital gain at 2x or higher depending on what you are looking at and how bright it is. If you cannot get any alignment stars either increase your digital gain to 4x or 8x or increase your gain past 300 to 350, 400 or 450.


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#5 arrowspace90

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 09:04 PM

In order to see an image, you need to increase your gain over 200, 300 is best. Set your exposure to 4 seconds or more, and wait to see if an image appears. Also you can turn on Live Stack and adjust your histogram to your liking. In alignment tab, set max stars to 25 and set your Digital gain at 2x or higher depending on what you are looking at and how bright it is. If you cannot get any alignment stars either increase your digital gain to 4x or 8x or increase your gain past 300 to 350, 400 or 450.

Ok, well that's a clue for me.  I didn't realize that I needed parameters set in just to get going.  I may not have stars tomorrow or for a while, but I will see if, in the driveway, I am at least seeing blue sky or clouds.  I did turn on live stack while I was trying to figure it out.  Black screen.

Ha, I can't worry about plate solving until the program can actually see something.



#6 nic35

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 09:06 PM

As above, plus take at look at this topic:  https://www.cloudyni...al#entry9581288, post #91 for the latest version.  Saves watching all those videos !

 

Also, it may well be a focus issue.  Be prepared to rack your scope all the way in and all the way out to find the focal point.   If you are off by a little bit, you'll see almost nothing - probably especially true for the RASA.  Because of this, best to star with max gain - and when you start to see donuts you can tweak the focus.  Then drop back to whatever gain/exposure best suits you.

 

Good luck

 

john


Edited by nic35, 16 February 2020 - 09:08 PM.

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#7 arrowspace90

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 08:18 AM

As above, plus take at look at this topic:  https://www.cloudyni...al#entry9581288, post #91 for the latest version.  Saves watching all those videos !

 

Also, it may well be a focus issue.  Be prepared to rack your scope all the way in and all the way out to find the focal point.   If you are off by a little bit, you'll see almost nothing - probably especially true for the RASA.  Because of this, best to star with max gain - and when you start to see donuts you can tweak the focus.  Then drop back to whatever gain/exposure best suits you.

 

Good luck

 

john

Thank you so much.  I will work this prior to darkness as much as possible to have a better idea.  I wish one of these programs had “steps” to follow for the benefit of people with no experience.  I stayed away from SGF for its complexity.



#8 nic35

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 08:32 AM

Sharpcap does have a quick start guide in their documentation.  Go to https://www.sharpcap.co.uk/ and click on the documentation page.  The forums are  also a good spot to pick up tricks and tips.

 

j



#9 arrowspace90

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 08:44 AM

The quick start guide says that, once a recognized camera is selected when attached to the telescope, the camera picture should appear on the screen of the program.  I saw just black, so this wasn’t what I expected.  
So next time I will stick some suggested values into the camera settings.

It did occur to me that I might be very out of focus, so I pulled the guide camera back and forth in the guide scope but still saw nothing.  I concluded, perhaps falsely, that a camera connection had somehow not occurred at all, and this impression was backed up by the fact that the main camera showed all black also.


Edited by arrowspace90, 17 February 2020 - 01:20 PM.


#10 SimonIRE

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 11:56 AM

I am also having this issue...

#11 Jeff Struve

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 03:04 PM

If it was me... and starting for the first, and first few times, I'd strip down to a basic rig. Forget the guide scope and camera and EQMOD...

 

put the scope on the mount and use the hand controller to get a grip on what a polar alignment is and what a multi star alignment is... and the difference.

 

I'd forget the imaging camera and software for that too... put in an eyepiece.

 

my 2 cents.  



#12 Gamewarden

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 04:48 PM

Try it out during the day. Pick something far away and align your scope with the finder scope to a telephone pole or anything. You will probably get a white screen which means you are over exposed. Decrease gain and exposure until you start seeing something, then try to focus. Play with both gain and exposure and you will start dialing in the image. These rates are opposite from the night where you need longer exposure and more gain and maybe a histogram stretch to start getting an image. It will come I had the same problem in the beginning.

 

Much easier to do during the day.  This hobby is full of two steps forward and 10 back. Good luck.


Edited by Gamewarden, 17 February 2020 - 04:48 PM.

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#13 arrowspace90

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 04:53 PM

I’m just not knowing the right steps. I learn something significant each time I mess with stuff. Today I reset the gain and exposure time to higher values. Didn’t seem to make a difference.
But I noticed SC was reporting that it was taking frames from both cameras, and mostly discarding them. So something is happening.
Discouraged, I began to disassemble the rig as rain is in the forecast. I suddenly found that the guide camera was not nearly as far into the barrel of the guide scope as it should have been and, the opposite, the guide scope helical focuser was all the way in. So I could have been completely outside of the focus range. Something I will know going forward. I was so distracted with the guide scope (because it’s used for polar alignment) that I forgot about twisting the Rasa focus knob through its range to test the main camera.
As long as I am making discoveries and learning, this is a great hobby!

#14 Stargazer3236

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 08:04 PM

Yes, make sure you focus your optics before engaging SharpCap. An out of focus star is not being picked up by your camera, cause it cannot see the star when it is out of focus. I have notice, unless I boost the Gain all the way up to 560, that an out of focus star is not detectable by my camera or my eyes. You have to be very close to near perfect focus to notice it in your cameras field of view. Try focusing visually with a bahtinov mask  and get a rough focus. Then put your camera in and fire up SharpCap. Prepare your settings in sharpcap, ramp up gain to the highest point and center the nearly focused star. Now you can look at your laptop and see the slightly out of focus star. Now you can focus the star while watching the image in sharpcap. After you get perfect focus, remove the bahtinov mask and start imaging.


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#15 arrowspace90

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 08:42 PM

Yes, make sure you focus your optics before engaging SharpCap. An out of focus star is not being picked up by your camera, cause it cannot see the star when it is out of focus. I have notice, unless I boost the Gain all the way up to 560, that an out of focus star is not detectable by my camera or my eyes. You have to be very close to near perfect focus to notice it in your cameras field of view. Try focusing visually with a bahtinov mask  and get a rough focus. Then put your camera in and fire up SharpCap. Prepare your settings in sharpcap, ramp up gain to the highest point and center the nearly focused star. Now you can look at your laptop and see the slightly out of focus star. Now you can focus the star while watching the image in sharpcap. After you get perfect focus, remove the bahtinov mask and start imaging.

But I have no way to see what the Rasa or the guide scope see otherwise.  There's no eyepieces.  



#16 Stargazer3236

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 08:54 PM

In that case, hookup your camera and start up SharpCap. Point your RASA to a bright star using a finder scope. When you have done that, look at the FOV in SharpCap. If you can see any stars, start turning the focuser to achieve perfect focus. Otherwise, turn the focuser knob until you see a star start to come into focus. Attach the bahtinov mask to your scope and turn the focus knob while looking at SharpCap. If you see the perfect six sided star come into focus, you are done. You can use the Bahtinov feature in SharpCap to achieve the same thing.



#17 arrowspace90

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 11:27 AM

Try it out during the day. Pick something far away and align your scope with the finder scope to a telephone pole or anything. You will probably get a white screen which means you are over exposed. Decrease gain and exposure until you start seeing something, then try to focus. Play with both gain and exposure and you will start dialing in the image. These rates are opposite from the night where you need longer exposure and more gain and maybe a histogram stretch to start getting an image. It will come I had the same problem in the beginning.

 

Much easier to do during the day.  This hobby is full of two steps forward and 10 back. Good luck.

Thanks, and yes, I was likely just WAY out of focus, especially being not real familiar with the scopes and certainly the software.

Yes, I am going to be trying it in the daytime again.  I had the helical focuser on the guide scope out of position.  I will find it or know the reason why not.  In the SharpCap guide, Robin says that focusing is among the biggest challenges in astro-photography.



#18 arrowspace90

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 11:30 AM

If it was me... and starting for the first, and first few times, I'd strip down to a basic rig. Forget the guide scope and camera and EQMOD...

 

put the scope on the mount and use the hand controller to get a grip on what a polar alignment is and what a multi star alignment is... and the difference.

 

I'd forget the imaging camera and software for that too... put in an eyepiece.

 

my 2 cents.  

EQMOD is working.  I have tested it sucessfully.  I will find focus when nature co-operates (it's really cloudy) and move on to more challenges.  It is a steep learning curve for sure.  



#19 N2KEN

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 12:57 AM

Excellent advice in all the above posts.   My $.02 is that your doing way too much all at once.  Been there done trying to focus my C9.25 SCT and Hyperstar. . .  This is quite similar to your RASA.  It'll take several nights (maybe more) of playing around and experimentation to get comfortable with the hardware and the software. The added difficulty here is that you cannot do any visual tweaking. Your views are all through the camera.   Forget the guide scope for now. It won't be aligned with your RASA view anyway.  

 

Concentrate on the single camera on the main scope and Sharpcap.  No guiding . . . No guide camera . .  No EQMOD . . . No anything except RASA, your camera and Sharpcap.   Getting into focus is NOT simple. Focus at F/2 is very narrow.  Your Sharpcap screen will be black even if you have dozens of out of focus stars in your field of view. BLACKNESS!  When you're in sharp focus you'll see hundreds of stars almost everywhere you point.   You might spend hours turning the focus knob slowly in and out with no progress.  The focus point is very, very very narrow, and very easy to miss - especially through a camera and a field of faint stars.   Relax . . .  On a good night finding focus on a grossly out of focus SCT-type instrument is a challenge. Through a camera more so. . .     

  • Suggestion:  Your scope and camera will be much easier to get to a rough focus during the daytime. Select a distant tree or light pole or anything a far distance away. Although not quite as far as Andromeda, you'll be in the ballpark.  Now use the Moon to your advantage. Big and bright and much easier to find/capture/focus than pin point stars. Refine your focus. Now Learn to adjust your exposure and gain controls by experimentation.  Now you can tweak your guide scope to align it with the moon's image. If the Moon is not available try Venus or a bright star.    
  • If you must do this at night and do not want to enlist a tree or the Moon as helpers:  Set your camera for a 1 second exposure (1000 milliseconds).  Set your gain at some mid point or higher. Depends how sensitive your camera is.  Now you'll need to try and get a bright unfocused star into your field of view. Do this manually by loosening the clutches and SLOWLY scan the sky (back and forth/Up and down) in the direction of the star. Watch the screen for any sign of brightness from the star.  A grossly out of focus star may appear only as a blob of light - or your familiar black screen.  The short 1 second exposure gives time for the camera to capture the star's image, but not too long that you'll miss the location of the brightness as you slowly move the scope.   This scanning could be done via EQMOD, but might take forever.  If your lucky you might see a large bright circle with a black dot in the middle. That's your out of focus star. Lock your clutches and slowly try in and out focus adjustments.  If the circle is getting smaller as you turn the knob, your going in the correct direction.  

Learning curve aside, all this can be quite frustrating.  Take things step by step and one challenge at a time.


Edited by N2KEN, 23 February 2020 - 01:23 AM.

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#20 arrowspace90

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 10:46 AM

Excellent advice in all the above posts.   My $.02 is that your doing way too much all at once.  Been there done trying to focus my C9.25 SCT and Hyperstar. . .  This is quite similar to your RASA.  It'll take several nights (maybe more) of playing around and experimentation to get comfortable with the hardware and the software. The added difficulty here is that you cannot do any visual tweaking. Your views are all through the camera.   Forget the guide scope for now. It won't be aligned with your RASA view anyway.  

 

Concentrate on the single camera on the main scope and Sharpcap.  No guiding . . . No guide camera . .  No EQMOD . . . No anything except RASA, your camera and Sharpcap.   Getting into focus is NOT simple. Focus at F/2 is very narrow.  Your Sharpcap screen will be black even if you have dozens of out of focus stars in your field of view. BLACKNESS!  When you're in sharp focus you'll see hundreds of stars almost everywhere you point.   You might spend hours turning the focus knob slowly in and out with no progress.  The focus point is very, very very narrow, and very easy to miss - especially through a camera and a field of faint stars.   Relax . . .  On a good night finding focus on a grossly out of focus SCT-type instrument is a challenge. Through a camera more so. . .     

  • Suggestion:  Your scope and camera will be much easier to get to a rough focus during the daytime. Select a distant tree or light pole or anything a far distance away. Although not quite as far as Andromeda, you'll be in the ballpark.  Now use the Moon to your advantage. Big and bright and much easier to find/capture/focus than pin point stars. Refine your focus. Now Learn to adjust your exposure and gain controls by experimentation.  Now you can tweak your guide scope to align it with the moon's image. If the Moon is not available try Venus or a bright star.    
  • If you must do this at night and do not want to enlist a tree or the Moon as helpers:  Set your camera for a 1 second exposure (1000 milliseconds).  Set your gain at some mid point or higher. Depends how sensitive your camera is.  Now you'll need to try and get a bright unfocused star into your field of view. Do this manually by loosening the clutches and SLOWLY scan the sky (back and forth/Up and down) in the direction of the star. Watch the screen for any sign of brightness from the star.  A grossly out of focus star may appear only as a blob of light - or your familiar black screen.  The short 1 second exposure gives time for the camera to capture the star's image, but not too long that you'll miss the location of the brightness as you slowly move the scope.   This scanning could be done via EQMOD, but might take forever.  If your lucky you might see a large bright circle with a black dot in the middle. That's your out of focus star. Lock your clutches and slowly try in and out focus adjustments.  If the circle is getting smaller as you turn the knob, your going in the correct direction.  

Learning curve aside, all this can be quite frustrating.  Take things step by step and one challenge at a time.

Though my efforts to this point would appear pathetic and or comic to a seasoned AP guy, I am happy to be making small progress each time I am out.  Which ain't much because at this time of the year, it's cloudy all the time.

At first, I didn't know how to move the mount with the knobs.  The next time, I had not 1 clue about how truly difficult it is to focus a scope with no visual and saw only a black screen.  2 nights ago, I was coaxing both Guide cam and main cam to recognizable focus (SharpCap reported that the guide scope was seeing over 30 stars).  I was attempting to advance to the polar alignment screen when everything suddenly fuzzed out!  I was frustruated, but looked up and saw the clouds had covered all.

Next time, I have more strategies for practicing that very difficult process of learning to focus.  I agree completely that just getting the focusing down could take some real time.  I am not using EQMOD (which seems to be working just fine) to focus or polar align.  I am able to set iPhone with polar app on the EQ6 mount and twist the knobs to center the crosshairs on Polaris.  One challenge at a time, but yes, I am having fun.  All the struggles will make it more meaningful when I break through to real astrophotography.

If I hit a total brick wall and cannot advance, I will find SOMEONE who can help.


Edited by arrowspace90, 23 February 2020 - 10:54 AM.


#21 t-ara-fan

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 09:56 PM

Your Sharpcap screen will be black even if you have dozens of out of focus stars in your field of view. BLACKNESS!  When you're in sharp focus you'll see hundreds of stars almost everywhere you point. 

I find focusing my EdgeHD-8 a challenge every time I switch from Hyperstar to f/7 to f/10.  The latter two modes have two focusers for me - I have a MoonLite on there. 

 

Best thing to do is focus in daylight on something a 500+ meters / yards away. 

 

At night, if you see NOTHING in Sharpcap then switch to a long exposure i.e. 30 seconds.  This often makes an invisible star turn into a faint 3" diameter circle on your screen.  When you can see that, you can tell pretty quickly if you are shrinking that circle or making it bigger after a few twists of the focuser.  Once you know which way to go, you get focus pretty fast. Then drop the exposure time a bit so the stars are not 200% saturated.
 



#22 Stargazer3236

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 10:32 PM

In SharpCap, you need to turn up the gain almost all the way and turn down the exposure to about 1 sec to 1/2 sec. Then make sure you are on a bright star. If all is normal, then the out of focus star should be in the field of view. Then proceed to focus until the star is sharp. I always use a Bahtinov mask to make sure I get perfect focus.


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#23 N2KEN

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 11:43 PM

Arrowspace90,

Stick with it.   There are all skill levels here. There's plenty of help available in the various forums. Your situation is not unique and I've certainly had my share of frustrations learning about this complex hobby.  Getting equipment to work as you want takes perseverance, practice and many missteps along the way.  Much of the software, optics, and equipment is not plug and play. 

 

I'm an EAA guy who does some casual AP.  It took me many months to get results that I'm satisfied with. After a few years there's still so much to learn and improve.       



#24 arrowspace90

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Posted 24 February 2020 - 08:59 AM

I find focusing my EdgeHD-8 a challenge every time I switch from Hyperstar to f/7 to f/10.  The latter two modes have two focusers for me - I have a MoonLite on there. 

 

Best thing to do is focus in daylight on something a 500+ meters / yards away. 

 

At night, if you see NOTHING in Sharpcap then switch to a long exposure i.e. 30 seconds.  This often makes an invisible star turn into a faint 3" diameter circle on your screen.  When you can see that, you can tell pretty quickly if you are shrinking that circle or making it bigger after a few twists of the focuser.  Once you know which way to go, you get focus pretty fast. Then drop the exposure time a bit so the stars are not 200% saturated.
 

Trying to focus in the daytime sounds like a good idea.  I usually try to set up the scope in the daytime when I can see what I am doing.  I go ahead and get a rough polar alignment on the mount with a phone app.  I may try to see if I can get the scope on a chimney someplace nearby and focus it.  I do believe that I should be more in the ballpark to begin with next time, as now both scopes/cameras got closer last time and I left the knobs where they ended up.

All the suggestions are much appreciated.

 

Edit:  I set up in early afternoon.  Cranked down scope to the rooftops and focused main camera on a chimney.  Focused guide cam but it wasn't in exactly the same spot.  Need to sync them, don't know how.

More than anything, I worry about dropping the Rasa when I am picking it up to slide the dovetail into the mount.  Gulp.

 

Edit.  Got both cameras well focused.  Green Bars in SharpCap.

Attempted first full polar alignment.  Got  "Excellent"  in SharpCap.

 

Ha, then, I hadn't studied enough to know how to run an imaging session.  Hadn't selected a target.  But now, I am ready to go.   Thanks for all help.


Edited by arrowspace90, 24 February 2020 - 09:27 PM.


#25 t-ara-fan

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 01:13 AM

Focused guide cam but it wasn't in exactly the same spot.  Need to sync them, don't know how.

 

Sync? You mean have them both point at the same spot?  The guide cam mount should have some screws you can use to adjust where it is pointing wrt the main OTA.
 


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