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Automating meridian flip?

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#1 neek

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:04 PM

Hi, I was imaging a target last night and I've got pretty much everything going automatically allowing me to get some sleep - very important when I have to work the next day! But,. I have to set my alarm to wake up and do the meridian flip. I have my mount connected to a laptop that sits outside and I remotely connect to that laptop from a computer inside so it isn't a huge deal, I just have to wake up and go to the computer and press the enter button to re-slew the mount, restart my guiding and go back to bed. I feel like this could definitely be automated though, and I think you can with some software (I believe SGP?). I'm hoping not to get a big new software package at this stage - I'll do that when I upgrade my laptop hopefully later in the year. I'm using the following software - BackyardEOS, celestron's nexstar+ virtual hand controller software (sorry not sure what it is called exactly, but it is a computer version of the remote that connects the remote to the computer).

 

Is there any way to automate the meridian flip using a simple piece of software, backyardEOS or the celestron hand controller virtual controller? I haven't seen a way. I guess there are two things that need to happen that might complicate this - the guiding needs to stop and restart and the mount needs to re-slew to the target. Your suggestions appreciated! 



#2 pedxing

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:10 PM

Moving to a sequencer like SGP can actually simplify your setup by combining functions.

 

You are going to need a sequencer to manage automated meridian flip.



#3 AstroBrett

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:22 PM

I use SGP and it handles the meridian flips automatically. It does take a bit of trial and error to get your cables run in a manner that won't snag, but once I had that problem sorted out, I've never had any trouble.

 

NINA is an alternative package that I believe has the same capability. Unfortunately, it stubbornly refuses to connect with my camera.

 

Good luck!

 

Brett



#4 Midnight Dan

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:25 PM

A meridian flip is not a simple thing, so it really needs to integrated into your imaging app.  BYEOS does not do it (I believe).  

 

SGP, NINA, Voyager, and other more fully featured apps will do it.  Normally, the app will stop imaging before the flip to avoid a flip occurring in the middle of a frame.  It will then stop guiding so that the guide app does not flag a failure.  Then it does the flip, waits a specified mount-settling time, optionally plate-solves to re-aquire the target accurately, optionally auto-focuses if you have that capability, starts up guiding, waits for guiding to settle, and then starts capturing images again.

 

I'd recommend NINA if you're looking for a simpler solution, and one that's free.  

 

-Dan


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#5 unimatrix0

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:26 PM

I let NINA handle it. Of course the first few times I was like a Quality controll officer right next to the mount when it did it, but it did alright. Most important is make sure you cables aren't gonna get caught or stretched or ripped out of the socket. So test your scope with all the motions it will to through and adjust the cabling and ties accordingly. 
In N.I.N.A. - allow it to pass the meridian by like 10 minutes and in the settings, set it to wait like another 3-4 after the flip. Then it will plate solve and re-frames the target automatically. If you got an autofocuser, it will also re calibrate the focus and if you got a guider with PHD2, it will pause the guiding and then restart , once the flip has been completed. In the settings, you would- I assume- also want to stop imaging at a certain time, so adjust the number of subs - watch the end sequence time- accordingly. 
Then you enable NINA to park your mount and warm up your camera, and by the time you wake up, your mount is parked and sitting pretty in the sparkling sunshine. 


Edited by unimatrix0, 16 April 2021 - 01:28 PM.

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#6 GR-Amateur

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:28 PM

The imaging software (sequencer) should stop taking pictures, ideally inform phd2, do the flip, reframe precisely with platesolving and eventually resume the shooting plan, not to mention that meanwhile guiding is re-established.

APT is doing all that (*) with some try and error and fiddling and is free (most of us I believe that eventually pay the 19eu optional fee)

(* with the assistance of external plate solving software - also free)

#7 Forward Scatter

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:28 PM

The NINA meridian flip works very well on my rig. Includes recentering target, reacquisition of guide star & re-autofocus. At first it seems fairly complicated and hard to trust, especially on YouTube videos, but it's actually pretty straightforward. Try mock flips in daylight!

 

Cheers, 

J


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#8 dclt

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:28 PM

Hi, I was imaging a target last night and I've got pretty much everything going automatically allowing me to get some sleep - very important when I have to work the next day! But,. I have to set my alarm to wake up and do the meridian flip. I have my mount connected to a laptop that sits outside and I remotely connect to that laptop from a computer inside so it isn't a huge deal, I just have to wake up and go to the computer and press the enter button to re-slew the mount, restart my guiding and go back to bed. I feel like this could definitely be automated though, and I think you can with some software (I believe SGP?). I'm hoping not to get a big new software package at this stage - I'll do that when I upgrade my laptop hopefully later in the year. I'm using the following software - BackyardEOS, celestron's nexstar+ virtual hand controller software (sorry not sure what it is called exactly, but it is a computer version of the remote that connects the remote to the computer).

 

Is there any way to automate the meridian flip using a simple piece of software, backyardEOS or the celestron hand controller virtual controller? I haven't seen a way. I guess there are two things that need to happen that might complicate this - the guiding needs to stop and restart and the mount needs to re-slew to the target. Your suggestions appreciated! 

 

You can easily automate a meridian flip with astrophotography tool. I do it that way. It works well. It will give you a countdown clock on how much time you have left before crossing the meridian when you begin your imaging session that will display as it changes. You can then set your min wait times, so that it pauses your imaging while your target moves across the meridian. Just before it flips it does a plate solve to note your starting position, then it flips, re-centers on your target with plate solving, re-calibrates phd2, then resumes imaging.

 

Unlike SGP, astrophotography tool is free. It is also an excellent piece of software that is very intuitive and easy to use to run your image acquisition. It is very easy to integrate it so that it can talk to & also control your guiding software & also the planetarium software of your choosing. I use it with Stellarium. I recommend using APT as a go to image acquisition software in general. There's a reason why it's so popular. A well designed software & intuitive.


Edited by dclt, 16 April 2021 - 01:30 PM.

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#9 06AwzIyI

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 01:56 PM

In N.I.N.A. - allow it to pass the meridian by like 10 minutes


+1 This was key to making it work for my heq5

#10 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 02:08 PM

As mentioned above, there are a number of synergies that come with a session manager (aka automation layer) which go beyond meridian flips. A meridian flip *is* a simple thing for software designed to manage it. There are a lot of variables involved, though, so it's best not to resort to half-measures.



#11 Stelios

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 02:28 PM

One of the main issues with the automated meridian flip, is that (in addition to cable tangles) you need to be careful your equipment doesn't hit the pier after the flip. This is usually a problem with a large camera or filter wheel and a refractor. You can help avoid it by using riser blocks like the ones sold by Stellarvue, or a pier extension. 

 

Backyard EOS is a nice piece of semi-abandonware. It has helped many users (including myself) get started with DSO astrophotography. But when you introduce plate-solving and meridian flips, it's time to progress to more advanced capture software. I recommend SGP for its completeness, but NINA, although a couple of steps behind, is free. 


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#12 neek

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 03:04 PM

Thanks everyone for so many great responses (in a very short time too), this community is great. Sounds like my best choice is to look at some more advanced sequencing software. I'll have to compare the three main ones mentioned (SGP, NINA and astrophotography tool) and see what will work for me. My little laptop is probably 8 years old and is showing its age (very slow to even open BackyardEOS). I think I'll go and look at options for a new laptop and then get the software. 

 

Ya, BackyardEOS has been really great for me, but I might be ready to take on the next step. I also want to look at a dedicated astro-camera, but I'm thinking I should probably try one or two things at a time. First a new laptop, then a new software, then a dedicated astro camera, then plate-solving, then auto-focusing, one day an observatory!! This is why I like this hobby, there's always lots more to learn.

 

Also thanks for the tips on making sure not to snag cables, hit the mount, etc. I do check that pretty carefully, but very good reminder especially when trying to automate anything.

 

For tonight, it looks like it'll be clear so I'll set my alarm for the flip! I'm trying to decide between my target of M64 (the black eye galaxy), M63 (sunflower galaxy) or M94 (croc's eye galaxy). tough decisions..



#13 Midnight Dan

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 03:20 PM

Also thanks for the tips on making sure not to snag cables, hit the mount, etc. I do check that pretty carefully, but very good reminder especially when trying to automate anything.

One more thing when automating the flip.  You want to have a safety backup for the trigger.  Relying on software alone is asking for serious trouble.

 

I set my mount to flip at 3° past meridian.  I've checked that point and made sure that nothing will hit the pier there.  Then I set SGP to flip just slightly past meridian.  That way, SGP will normally execute the flip well before it gets to the mount's limit.  But if for some reason SGP fails, the computer crashes, etc.,  the mount will still do the flip and prevent a pier strike.

 

-Dan


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#14 Alex McConahay

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 03:42 PM

>>>>>>>My little laptop is probably 8 years old and is showing its age

 

Always nice to have a new powerful computer, but many of us are using our oldest laptops out there with the imaging rigs. Unless you also want to process with it, the computer is probably adequate. (One of my rigs runs using a 2007 computer, another a 2008, a third, I don't know, but it was a refurbished desktop from 2010 or earlier.) It does not take much to run a session. 

Alex


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#15 J-PS

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 05:05 PM

You can easily automate a meridian flip with astrophotography tool. I do it that way. It works well. It will give you a countdown clock on how much time you have left before crossing the meridian when you begin your imaging session that will display as it changes. You can then set your min wait times, so that it pauses your imaging while your target moves across the meridian. Just before it flips it does a plate solve to note your starting position, then it flips, re-centers on your target with plate solving, re-calibrates phd2, then resumes imaging.

 

Unlike SGP, astrophotography tool is free. It is also an excellent piece of software that is very intuitive and easy to use to run your image acquisition. It is very easy to integrate it so that it can talk to & also control your guiding software & also the planetarium software of your choosing. I use it with Stellarium. I recommend using APT as a go to image acquisition software in general. There's a reason why it's so popular. A well designed software & intuitive.

How do you set up APT to do this? Will it do it out of the box?



#16 Phishin_phool

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Posted 17 April 2021 - 07:43 AM

One of the main issues with the automated meridian flip, is that (in addition to cable tangles) you need to be careful your equipment doesn't hit the pier after the flip. This is usually a problem with a large camera or filter wheel and a refractor. You can help avoid it by using riser blocks like the ones sold by Stellarvue, or a pier extension. 

 

Backyard EOS is a nice piece of semi-abandonware. It has helped many users (including myself) get started with DSO astrophotography. But when you introduce plate-solving and meridian flips, it's time to progress to more advanced capture software. I recommend SGP for its completeness, but NINA, although a couple of steps behind, is free. 

Stelios - I am a little curious with the new sequencer NINA introduced what does SGP do that NINA doesn't? I am happily using NINA but if there is a feature that I would relish I have no problem purchasing and learning new software.



#17 Midnight Dan

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Posted 17 April 2021 - 08:54 AM

Stelios - I am a little curious with the new sequencer NINA introduced what does SGP do that NINA doesn't? I am happily using NINA but if there is a feature that I would relish I have no problem purchasing and learning new software.

Search here on CN and you'll find MANY lengthy threads comparing SGP and NINA.

 

But basically SGP has more features to help support automated setups.  The one that comes to mind is their Recovery mode.  If you lose a guide star due to clouds, you can set it to try to start up again every so often. This lets you keep shooting on nights when intermittent clouds are predicted.  Another is their support for ASCOM "Switch" devices like the Pegasus Power Box series.  

 

-Dan




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