Alternative Pointcraft free plate solver and small target database

I am a happy SGP user and also I use Astro Photography Tool for my Canon camera. Two APT features I like very much and might be a good idea their SGP implementng. APT uses the Pointcraft free image solving software, that is an incredible fast solver, and free. On my PC is much faster and reliable than Pinpoint. Should be possible to have a choice between these two solvers?
Also I need a lot the small database of celestial targets that Apt uses. For a normal session on that sw I don’t need another planetarium program, just I choose a target from database and Goto++ with platesolving.
Obviously SGP is another class of software for many other reasons, but sincerely I’d like to see these features implemented.
Thanks, Vincenzo, Rome

hello !
maybe can you show a link where pointcraft can be found ?
it seems it exists only embeded with apt…

According to the APT web page it uses PlateSolve2 and there is a link on that page.
Fred Klein

As Fred correctly says, you can find the solver link directly on the main APT page. I prefer it over astrotortilla and elbrus for the simplicity and for the excellent functionality. Obviously over Pinpoint for its price…
Vincenzo Amarante

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Actual URL:

Scroll down to PlateSolve2 and download PlateSolve2 v2.28 and one or both of the referenced catalogs.

Seems to be a nice plate solving utility. Did not see any documentation as to how an application can access it, however.

Thanks for the suggestion. We would love to add support for PlateSolve2. Unfortunately its interface is unclear and undocumented… Makes it much harder to deal with.

Thanks for the interest, Ken.
Hope can help, I’ve found a post with a script to control PlateSolve2 via MaximDL:

Moreover this is another MaximDL plugin for Platesolve:
Best regard, Vincenzo

@Vincenzo_Amarante Thanks for the links. The interface looks to be through the file system (instead of OCX or COM)… which is fine… The output of this type of solve appears to be an “APM” file. Does anyone have an APM file available for inspection? My initial concern is that image angle might not be returned (or it is possible that this plugin is simply not interested in it)… either way we’d like to know. If we cannot get that data from the solve, it is of limited use to SGPro.

@Ken Looking at the the script appears that apm file is just a solved fit renamed. I think that APT uses the solver in a smarter way. When APT plate solves, Platesolve2 opens for few seconds (very fast plate solving, an average of 2-4 seconds), solves and close, confirming that a direct call to the exe is involved. In any case APT has also an excellent re-framing module and the rotator control too, appearing that the angle parameter is used.

@Vincenzo_Amarante I will admit I have not had time to study the code in-depth, but there is a function to read an “APM” file and by this code, it appears to be a CSV and not a FITS file.

Sub ReadAPMFile (fName) 'Parses PlateSolve2 apm file
	Const ForReading = 1
	Dim objFSO
	Dim objFile
	Dim strContents
	Dim strLine
	Dim arrFields
	Set objFSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
	Set objFile = objFSO.OpenTextFile(fName, ForReading)

	strLine = objFile.ReadLine
	arrFields = Split(strLine, ",")	
	sRa = Radians2Ra (arrFields(0))
	sDec = R2D (arrFields(1))
   Set objFSO = Nothing
   Set objFile = Nothing
End Sub

@Ken Probably I was wrong interpreting this line:

APMfilename = ConvertFITFileName2APM (aMaxIm.CurrentDocument.FilePath)'Convert filename to apm

and the function:

Function ConvertFITFileName2APM (ByVal file) 'Creates file path to PlateSolve2 apm file
ConvertFITFileName2APM = Replace (file, “.fit”, “.apm”, 1, 1, 1)
End Function

I have taken some time and implemented this solver for use in SGPro. A few things:

  • It is a bit annoying that there is not option by bypass the 10 second wait after solve.
  • I am not sure quite how to interpret the angle for this solver. All other solvers return N as the image angle and PlateSolver2 returns 360 - N. Not a big deal, I just don’t know if my interpretation of the angle is (always) valid.
  • The click to slew on an image is implemented, but not tested.
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I should also say, that I have reached out to PlaneWave asking their permission for integration. If they grant it we will release a beta in short order.

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Very interesting news, Ken. I hope communicating with PlanetWave helps also in resolving the angle determination and ten seconds delay issues.

Good news on this front…

I have spoken with Richard at PlaneWave and he has agreed to let us distribute and integrate PlateSolve2 with SGPro. A few things to note:

  • With support for PS2, we will likely abandon support for Elbrus and the ElbrusInstaller. If you are an Elbrus user and want to keep using it, don’t panic. We won’t be removing it as an option, we just won’t be supporting its install or use (we spend too much time here).
  • I have been able to circumvent the mandatory 10 second wait that occurs after a successful solve… this makes PS2 blindingly fast.
  • So far the angle “issue” does not really appear to be a problem (360 - PS2Angle seems to produce consistent results with all of the other plate solvers). I have not found a condition in which this is not true.
  • PS2 will come pre-installed, but you will be responsible for download and storage of your own database(s)

A beta for this will be out shortly…


For those of us that do use Elbrus, how does PS2 compare in terms of speed? Elbrus will solve or fail in 2sec…

PS2 is equally as fast and has the added bonus of being dirt simple to set up and use.

I’ve been using Astrometry and happy with it, but this is exciting to see! I look forward to trying it!

While you are doing Plate solving work, it would be great if you could provide a generic access to whatever plate solver is install via the SGP API. That is one big piece missing from the API.


If you are interested in beta testing SGPro with this solver, please send me a PM. Need 3-5 testers with a variety of gear (don’t worry about this too much). Need to be able to test:

  • Automatic sequence centering
  • Meridian flips
  • Right click to “go-to”

Please send me a PM if you are interested.