I’m directing this post at anybody who uses plate solve images to facilitate accurate pointing for the purpose of astrophotography.
I use Sequence Generator Pro for all of my imaging now. One of the best features of SGP is that it includes the ability to import an image. By having a local install of the Astrometry.net engine, SGP plate solves the image and knows the exact center of the image. Then, out in the field, I can make sure that it slews to that precise location – multiple nights if necessary, such as when I do a night of RGB and several nights of narrowband imaging. It means I don’t have to throw away edges because my slews weren’t consistent from night to night.
To get these plate solve images, I’ve been using an online service called Wikisky.org (also known as Sky-Map.org). Among other things, it has a great database of object coordinates, and the complete image from the SDSS2 survey. Best yet, it allows one to export an image of the current view – allowing you to customize it with your own field of view and other parameters. In other words, I’m able to export an image of EXACTLY how an object will be framed in my telescope, with my camera oriented a specific way.
Unfortunately, Wikisky’s servers go down fairly often, and I’ve never been able to open up a dialogue about what it would take to improve the service, or perhaps even develop a local version that people can purchase and download (thus helping to fund their project). And wouldn’t you know it - they’re down now, and I plan to go out to the lake to do some imaging tonight.
Now, granted – I certainly can do things the old-fashioned way (slew, take a test photo, adjust, repeat) – and I might have to do that tonight for the Cocoon Nebula that I plan to image this evening – but I have to wonder if there are other services or programs out there that can do the same thing as I described above – either web-based or available for Microsoft Windows.
If anybody knows of anything, I would appreciate hearing about it. Thank you!