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Best starting software for newb

Astrophotography Beginner Software
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#1 RoscoeD

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 10:01 PM

I have scope and mount (see signature), awaiting camera (ASI294MC Pro (color)).  Given the camera type I'll need some automated software to drive it.  I've been overwhelmed by all the options out there. I plan to use a windows laptop to drive the imaging but I have a high-powered iMac that I plan to use for processing the imagery once it comes out of the camera. (Note I'm assuming that processing the imaging will take a fairly hardy computer and my current Windows laptop is pretty minimal)

 

1) What software would folks recommend for a newb for driving the imagery and why? (Note I'm fairly computer savvy so "ease of use" is nice but not a necessity)

1a) What kind of hardware to I need for this?  I assume that platesolving (if that's part of the recommended option) takes some horsepower...

2) What software (if different) would folks recommend for my iMac for the stacking and processing (I already have Lightroom/Photoshop).

 

Thanks!!

 

 



#2 Northrim

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 10:37 PM

With the 294mc I assume you are after DSO not planets.  I used to use APT but just tried out NINA Saturday night and LOVED it.  I'd go with that.  Lots of videos on YouTube to walk you through set up and use.  You can also use sky simulator to practice inside.


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#3 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 10:42 PM

1. NINA, ASTAP, PHD2, EQMOD (or GSS). NINA for the overall session control, imaging, framing, acquisition, etc. ASTAP for plate solving. PHD2 for guiding. EQMOD/GSS to control your mount. Oh, and you'll need the ASCOM platform and associated hardware drivers.

 

1a. I have all of this running on a Beelink powered by a quad-core J4125 Celeron with 8G RAM and 256G SSD. All of my processing is done on my 2019 15" MacBook Pro.

 

2. PixInsight. It's an investment in learning, but the payoff is worth it in my opinion. Other options are AstroPixelProcessor or SiriL. SiriL is free (you can donate to the developers). I started with it. It'll do you stacking and it has some good linear editing tools like background extraction, photometric color calibration, arcsinh stretch. You can put final touches with PS... assuming you don't go the PI route.


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#4 RoscoeD

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 10:44 PM

With the 294mc I assume you are after DSO not planets.

Silly me but why does this matter?  (Remember...newb)



#5 jonnybravo0311

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 11:04 PM

Silly me but why does this matter?  (Remember...newb)

You typically use small sensor cameras with fast frame rates and transfer speeds for planetary. Basically, you take very fast frame-rate videos, then use software to grab some X% of the best frames from those videos.

 

I'm sure the experienced planetary folks will be more than happy to elaborate on my very over-simplified answer :)



#6 RoscoeD

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 11:05 PM

Ah, because of the brightness.  Got it...



#7 GoFish

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 11:12 PM

Ah, because of the brightness.  Got it...

Yes, that.  But processing a planetary imaging video file is done entirely differently than a sequence of DSO subs. 


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#8 RoscoeD

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 11:15 PM

Understand...I only have 336mm FL so I suspect planetary imaging will have to wait until I get my next (longer) scope.



#9 ETtheExtraterrestrial

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 11:32 PM

To be a little bit more specific what mount do you have? Do you have a guide camera or OAG? Anything you have or want to do?

All this will impact the software you use. For example: I use a Beelink mini PC to run my rig. 16gb RAM which is needed gif that video capture mentioned above and 512gig hat drive with a 2TB thumb drive.

Software
ASCOM you will need
EQMOD you may need
EQMOD cable driver you may need
ZWO driver you will need
Stellarium you might want
PHD2 for autoguiding
NINA
SharpCap I use for quick pics and easy stuff including live stacking when I’m at events. It’s just easy to me
Astro pixel processor
Polemaster driver probably won’t need

#10 ETtheExtraterrestrial

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 11:33 PM

I use an iMac For post production usually

#11 f300v10

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Posted 17 January 2022 - 11:33 PM

My 2 cents.  For data aquisition I agree with Johnny: NINA as the capture software, ASTAP for plate solving, PHD2 for guiding, EQMOD to run the mount and of course ASCOM.

 

But given you already have experience with Photoshop, I would recommend you give AstroPixelProcessor (APP) a try for calibration and stacking. APP runs just fine on a Mac, and has a much simpler interface with far less complexity than PixInsight.  It is not as capable as PixInsight by any means, but you can produce a very respectable result in very few steps.  Both APP and PI have 30 day trials, but PI has a VERY steep learning curve while APP does not.

 

If you find your image could benefit from further tweaks, save the image from APP as a TIFF and import it into Photoshop.  That is still my workflow after four years in the hobby, APP for calibration/stacking/initial stretch, then import into PS for things like noise reduction, masked stretches, LRGB combination etc.  Many, many folks on this forum swear by PI, but it is not the only way to produce very nice images.


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#12 ntph

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 12:14 AM

You will find help using PhotoShop for astro-imaging in lots of places, but if you aren't already pretty o-fay with it, I would say just go for PixInsight, as a few others suggest. It is very well supported in terms of books, web tutorials, videos and lots of help here and the PixInsight Forum. And it's a lot easier than it used to be, with lots of automated processes if you want or need to use them to get going. APP is highly recommended by some; I have no experience with it. I kind of took a big breath and jumped into the PI pool--seems to have worked out OK. crazy.gif

 

You're probably a ways off from planetary, but lunar imaging would go well with your setup. For either, the capture software is likely either SharpCap or FireCapture. Processing is pretty much universal (well, on Earth anyway) with 2 freeware programs:  AutoStakkert!3 and Registax6.  Both are Windows based only and run on minimal machines very well. 

 

+1 on NINA, ASTAP, PHD2, ASCOM



#13 RoscoeD

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 12:36 AM

To be a little bit more specific what mount do you have? Do you have a guide camera or OAG? Anything you have or want to do?

All this will impact the software you use. For example: I use a Beelink mini PC to run my rig. 16gb RAM which is needed gif that video capture mentioned above and 512gig hat drive with a 2TB thumb drive.

Software
ASCOM you will need
EQMOD you may need
EQMOD cable driver you may need
ZWO driver you will need
Stellarium you might want
PHD2 for autoguiding
NINA
SharpCap I use for quick pics and easy stuff including live stacking when I’m at events. It’s just easy to me
Astro pixel processor
Polemaster driver probably won’t need

For my hardware see my signature block per the OP smile.gif

 

Not interested at this time in building my own rig but maybe in the future.  As for the software:

What do ASCOM and EQMOD do for me?  "EQMOD Cable Driver" confuses me.  A driver is required for a cable?

 

I've looked briefly at Stellarium, but does it interacts with the other tools or is it basically a library of the sky for reference?

 

I have a guide camera on order...(ZWO ASI290MM Mini)

 

Thanks!

 

(Edit...some of the answers were in a later post that came in while typing this one). How does ASTAP for plate solving integrate with he others?  Or does it?


Edited by RoscoeD, 18 January 2022 - 12:39 AM.


#14 ntph

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 01:00 AM

You can use ASTAP as a stand-alone for many things, but its most common use I suspect is having NINA use it as its platesolver. NINA setup will ask you to point it to platesolving programs; you tell NINA where to find ASTAP and its reference files and you're good to go telling NINA to platesolve. It runs ASTAP in the background for you and uses its solution to send corrections to your mount. You set up NINA's platesolving window so that when you run it, it takes an image, solves it, teratively re-slews and centres until your target coordinates are within the pointing tolerance you specify. Sounds a bit complicated, but there are several good tutorials on how to set it up. Platesolving is...magic.  


Edited by ntph, 18 January 2022 - 01:01 AM.

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#15 GoFish

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 01:34 AM

ASCOM is the software that sits between your applications (NINA, Stellarium, PHD2, etc) and the drivers for your hardware (mount, etc).

 

EQMOD is the ASCOM-compliant driver for SkyWatcher mounts.  EQMOD provides the ability for your applications to control the mount. 
 

Older EQ-6 mounts (like mine) communicated with computers via serial (RS-232) interface. Specialized 3rd party cables are available to provide the needed serial comms between mount and USB port on computer. I understand that the new EQ-6 mounts simply use a USB cable. 

A driver for the RS-232 chip (FTDI, usually) in the 3rd party cable was needed.  You will have to check if a driver is needed for a possible USB-serial chip in the newer EQ-6 mount (I believe this is the case).

 

 


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#16 DivisionByZero

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 02:03 AM

I use a Raspberry Pi 4 with Astroberry Pi loaded on it. It's the typical hippy-dippy linux story as to why you'd like to use it. I use Kstars/EKOS/Indi for data acquisition as a result and I find it very convenient once I put VNC Viewer on my Android phone.

For post-processing: I use DSS for stacking and StarTools for most of the post-processing. I grab GIMP at the end for the occasional tweaking/cropping/color adjustment.

Edited by DivisionByZero, 18 January 2022 - 09:31 AM.


#17 danb35

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 05:04 AM

I don't doubt that NINA and its associated software are more capable, but a Raspberry Pi running Stellarmate (or doubtless Astroberry; it seems like the same suite of software without the app support) is itself surprisingly capable.  It can handle mount/camera control, guiding, plate solving, image acquisition, etc., so you can just download your images over your network when you're done imaging.  If you have a Pi already, this can be a very inexpensive way to go (If you don't, they've lately gotten hard to find and therefore expensive).  I'm personally amazed that the Pi can handle plate solving, but apparently my expectations were just too low.  And the Pi runs easily from a USB battery bank, which may be relevant when you're working outdoors.

 

As for processing/editing, I use Siril, but I'm very much a n00b.



#18 Desertanimal

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 09:47 AM

Fyi, a lot of people say look at the signature for the equipment. Well, many of us are on phones and we can’t see your equipment. Just say it.

Another vote for nina!

Clear skies and keep learning!

#19 rj144

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 09:53 AM

I use APT for running my sessions although I have Windows.

 

Try Siril for processing and then do final edits in PS.  That worked for me for the first few months.  I did eventually go to Startools, however.


Edited by rj144, 18 January 2022 - 09:53 AM.


#20 GoFish

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 10:41 AM

Another wrinkle you may wish to consider: ASIAir Pro or Plus (AAP).

 

This is a standalone RPi box that handles all of the capture duties. It’s main advantages are that it comes with all software installed/set up, and an easy learning curve. Mine just worked right out of the box. 
 

The main disadvantages are that it only supports ASI (ZWO) cameras, and it uses a scaled back version of PHD2. 

 

If getting up and running quickly is important, then the AAP could work for you. I use mine for EAA, not AP (yet), but it has been a joy to use in place of my ancient battery-eating laptop with all of the individual applications. 


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#21 imtl

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 10:42 AM

Fyi, a lot of people say look at the signature for the equipment. Well, many of us are on phones and we can’t see your equipment. Just say it.

Another vote for nina!

Clear skies and keep learning!

You can always switch to desktop view for a minute to see the signatures


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#22 Desertanimal

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 02:15 PM

Whenever I do that my phone won’t go back to simple view unless I close the site and then sign back in. It’s a hassle.

#23 matt_astro_tx

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 02:45 PM

I also use a Mac for processing and I run Siril and GIMP (a free photoshop clone).  They work great and are easy to use.



#24 bobzeq25

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 03:23 PM

For calibrating/stacking/processing your data, I recommend Astro Pixel Processor.  Does it all, has an excellent gradient reduction tool for reducing the effects of light pollution.  An excellent balance of performance versus ease of use.  A numbered workflow teaches you a lot about processing.

 

NINA is a fine program.  But it puts a lot of things together.   That kind of black box approach can be trouble for a beginner, it can be hard to diagnose issues.

 

There will be issues.  <smile>

 

The ASIAir Pro is well liked.  The price you pay for its simplicity is limited hardware/software compatibility.  I find its use of a dumbed down PhD2 autoguiding program particularly questionable, and you can't upgrade to the real thing.

 

So, a different recommendation for data acquisition.  Sharpcap Pro.  It provides excellent basic capability (camera control, polar alignment, focus) in a transparent format.  Using it to start is simple, and a really good way to learn what's up.  So, if you then decide to go to NINA, you'll have a much easier time of diagnosing issues.

 

Similarly, you can platesolve "manually" with PlateSolve2.  That gives you an excellent understanding of how platesolving works, again making it easier to deal with issues if (when?) you then embed platesolving in an imaging suite like NINA.

 

Autoguiding with PhD2 is almost a universal standard.

 

Three programs that can do all the basics in imaging.  An imaging suite (or the ASIAir Pro) rolls everything together.  That has some drawbacks for beginners.

 

My advice is always aimed at giving beginners the best learning experience.  I think it provides an excellent foundation for more advanced work.  Skill is the most important part of imaging, not advanced hardware or techniques. 

 

This thread makes that blindingly clear re processing.  But the principle also applies to data acquisition.

 

https://www.cloudyni...o-at-this-data/


Edited by bobzeq25, 18 January 2022 - 03:38 PM.

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#25 RoscoeD

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Posted 18 January 2022 - 04:37 PM

bobzeq25, you came through for me again.  All that makes sense. 

 

Q: What does manual plate solving buy me without having it integrated into the overall workflow?




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