Where to find examples of how to setup my camera

As a Newbie using the trial and latest beta and without much camera experience I found it difficult to setup my camera ASI294MC. Something that everyone trying the S/W and the same camera has already done before. Hoping to make quick progress but no idea if this is remotely the right settings - other programs I have used seem to just see the camera and know how to set it up…

Simon

I have a 294MC-Pro and many of your settings look fine. The image scale is right as is readout noise, though that latter number is of limited value as I’ll explain. I think you shouldprobably set the camera to cool to on connection or sequence start and -10 or -15 C is typical. I’d also set the camera to warm on sequence end
I see you have set the camera gain at 120, a good value for this camera, but at that value, the e/ADU value is about 0.25 I think. However, this and the read noise are only used in calculating the optimal exposure time, but I really wouldn’t worry about that too much as the calculation is pretty meaningless due to the offset on CMOS cameras.
Your download time is maybe a bit ambitious for a 1x1 binning, but that number is just used in calculating your remaining time, so again, I wouldn’t worry too much.
All in all, it looks OK to me.

Thanks Terry. I will make the suggestions/corrections.

Other Apps seem to take care of setting up a camera, but with SGP Pro the setup isn’t done for you so it requires more knowledge than a Newbie might know. Hence why I asked.

BTW, I have lost count of the number of times I started to change a new profile before switching to my ZWO one. There is now a new profile button, so it would make more sense if the last changed profile was selected?

Now it’s my Pegasus Astro focuser to setup. I found a ‘feature’ that I will attempt to raise separately. If you use the backlash compensation that is built in to the hardware, it goes past the focus point and then comes back by the backlash amount, except when SGP Pro has OUT and a value setup. Going back to ZERO is then a problem because it first has to try to go IN a negative amount equal to the backlash and this results in the count becoming UNKNOWN. Using IN and a value is OK and the inbuilt Pegasus Astro backlash (used separately) is OK.

I mention it because using the trial version I can’t raise a bug report and the ‘Bugs’ category is read only. So it could go unnoticed somewhere else…

Simon,
I think other apps just make things a bit easier. In NINA for instance, it knows the pixel size because it uses the SDK driver from the manufacturer whereas SGPro uses the ASCOM driver (a long-running gripe on this forum), and you specify the scope focal length so NINA calculates the scale. It takes a bit of getting used to in SGPro!
I don’t use the Pegasus focuser, mine is from ZWO, but I think whatever software you use, if it offers backlash compensation, you should use the one in the software and disable it in the hardware. As for the zero issue, I’ve set my focuser up so that zero is when the focuser is fully racked in and so I never approach that value. Setting the backlash method to IN, as you noted, is the way to avoid that. I seem to recall there was some rationale around which to use and I think it depended on the orientation of the focuser and the way the camera weight was supported, but I can’t rightly remember - I’ve always used IN and it’s worked fine for me. All backlash compensation seems to work in the same way (SGPro, NINA, Voyager), by always approaching the focus point from the same direction.
One last thing and it’s related to the ASI294. When you get to taking flats, make sure that you have a dim enough light source that the flat exposures are more than 1 second - I always use 3 seconds and have a 3 second flat-dark master I use with it - the ASI294 appears not to like short flat exposures and people have observed poor calibration with short flats (me included). And make sure you use darks that are matched to your light frames in time, temperature, gain and offset - again, the ASI294 doesn’t seem to work well with bias frames. Having said all that, I love my ASI294MC-Pro and I hope you will too.
Terry

1 Like

Terry,

Thanks for the ASI294MC tips. I have had the camera for about a year but I’m only now starting to get familiar with how it works. I do have a nice book by Chris Woodhouse and it explains flats, darks, bias etc. He also has a series of articles on Youtube about how to setup and use SGP Pro. I’m working my way through them. I have mostly made up my mind to get SGP Pro - the goal is to show it works for me before the trial ends so that I can get it and ignore the alternatives (for now).

As you highlighted, short flats (or darks) don’t work well with the camera. CW recommends setting the Flat Calibration Wizard to 1.00 to 3.00 seconds. I use an iPad with the brightness turned down (to a defined point) and there is a piece of A4 paper between the scope and the iPad. Seems to work and a flat or flat dark is about 1.5 seconds.

I don’t plan to use bias as I know that they don’t work well with the camera. With the flats and the flat darks (of same duration and temperature) there is nothing to be gained from having bias frames.

So, I will have flat master, flat-dark master for calibration (for setup e.g. ASI294C + Esprit 100). Also light and dark frames (matched to time, temperature, gain and offset) to stack for later processing.

For anything other than lights, I think I understand how to collect them and when to replace them (see below). What isn’t clear is how to process them e.g. in Pixinsight. Do I just give it the files I have and it does the rest or do I use everything other than lights to generate master XYZ’s and then use this with the lights, subsequent lights etc. until something changes?

From what I read, the flat master and flat-dark master can be reused if the camera orientation isn’t altered e.g. not re-framing the subject. The focus point doesn’t change enough to affect these and the temperature is not affecting them. In my case, filters (one of UV/IR cut, L’Pro or L-Enhance) are in the ZWO 21mm extension e.g. quite close to the sensor. It was suggested to me that halos/reflections are minimised by having a filter close to the sensor. Since changing the filter requires unscrewing the camera and removing the filter, I’m assuming that this messes up the orientation so flat and flat-dark have to be redone?

So a setup e.g. using L’Pro (or any filter) and framed (orientated) for a target require new flats, dark-flats as well as darks in addition to the lights. So after the first session these could be reused if the same exposure and temperature were used on subsequent nights and/or targets (without re-framing).

I haven’t tried it, but I don’t plan to reuse flats, dark-flats or darks because the flats need regenerating anyway and the others are easy to do at the same time. I read that flats are the most important and also the most time consuming to produce too.

I have been testing the ASI294MC with 300 second lights (with the scope capped) at 0 C. I don’t see any amp glow in any image except if it is stretched and even then it is minimal.

I do find some things with SGP Pro irratating e.g. the Equipment Profile Manager defaults to a New Profile - but once my equpment is completely configured I won’t be changing this frequently. I started out with SharpCap but have et my license lapse. Before I buy the SGP Pro liecense, I want to be sure it works well with my equipment/scenarios. I did briefly look at NINA and also Voyager but I seem to like the control and look of SGP Pro. I’m only a week into the trial but everything takes time to work out so I should be about ready as it expires!

The ‘feature’ or (to me a bug) with the OUT + offset is described in another topic I wrote (not sure if anyone gets to react to this - or if it is considered a problem e.g. just a quirk of Pegasus. However, I do think it would apply to any of the releases and to any e.g. most focusers if (likely) they don’t allow a count less than zero. Since IN + offset works, I don’t need to use it. Pegasus uses the backlash successfuly with a zero, min and max, and without issues. Pegasus also only uses the backlash offset after changing either direction.

With IN + offset it shouldn’t be an issue in SGP Pro. With movement e.g. to a count, or coarse/fine movements it always moves IN. So 5x fine OUT, in succession (queued), will move 10x, which is move 4x more than is needed - but at least it works. In contrast, Pegasus moves 2x after each IN/OUT change of direction. The flaw with Pegasus (any ASCOM focuser?) is that it preloads the gears in the motor but assumes that approaching from either direction will be at the same point - it might not be.

Almost good to go! I now have the Telescope to configure in the Equipment Profile Manager. That should allow me to “do something” and later add Plate Solve and Auto Guide?

Simon

Simon,

PixInsight - when you first present it with your dark frames (or flats or bias), PI will create Master Darks that you can then re-use without having to go through the process of integration all over again. I keep a set of dark frames at set exposure lengths, and I only use those exposures for my lights (e.g., 10 sec, 30 sec, 60 sec, 120 sec, …). The Master Darks can then be reused for some time - I think people reckon that darks should be redone every 6 months - I think I’ve kept some of mine a bit longer with no issues though. And the Master Darks (including Master Flat-Darks) are not dependent on camera orientation so spin the camera to your heart’s content and you can re-use your master darks. Clearly flats are orientation dependent so they need redoing every time you change orientation.

ASI294MC-Pro Darks - I’m surprised you don’t see amp glow on a 300 second exposure with the scope cap on (effectively this is a dark depending on how opaque the cap is) - my darks show the characteristic star-burst glow on the upper right of the frame, but it calibrates out well from the lights.

Equipment Profiles - in the equipment profile manager, select the profile that you wish to use as a default, and check the box that says “Use the profile as a default for new sequences” then save it, and when you start a new sequence, it will load that profile - this will avoid having a blank profile each time. You need to remember though that a change you make to a sequence will not be saved to the equipment profile, just to that sequence. It’s a standard process - for instance in MS Word, if you change the font in a document, it doesn’t change it in the template, so it is the same with sequences and equipment profiles.

Focuser backlash - you’re right that the backlash in SGPro (and NINA) is applied after every step - for my ZWO unit, I use a backlash of 30, so for smallish steps outwards, the focuser overshoots by quite a bit before coming back to the required position. I tend not to manually adjust the focuser position - I leave it all to the autofocus routine which, if set up properly will carry out its steps in a way that minimises backlash movements.

Plate-solving - I’d get that set up sooner rather than later - once you’ve got the right image scale set up (which you have), the rest is pretty easy and it makes framing so much simpler. I personally would use ASTAP as the plate solver - I’ve found it extremely reliable.

Good luck with it all.

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Terry,

Is there any difference in results when using Pixinsight to stack vs DSS? I have Pixinsight on my Mac and I can also run DSS using Windows also on my Mac using VMWare Fusion - but not quite so convenient.

In Pixinsight there are two scripts Batch preprocessing and also weighted batch preprocessing as well as many types of processes for individual operations. Which do you use/recommend?

In the Equipment Profile Manager I do set the profit as a default. I also use the File option to apply the profile to an existing Sequence. I also use the View Control Panel to check what is currently being used but I don’t use it to make changes because they don’t update either the Equipment Profile or the Sequence.

What I find with the Equipment Profile Manager is that it defaults to a New Profile when it is started e.g. I created a profile called “Example”, make some changes and save it. When I restart the profile manager it does list “Example” but starts with New Profile. It is easy to update a New Profile when the intention is to update a previously saved one e.g. “Example”?

I have played with ASTAP and it does work on images I added. Plate Solve2 didn’t seem quite so effective. I know these can default to Blind Solving and they seem to use this regardless of how the settings are adjusted. So perhaps they fail and fall back on ANSVR?

Simon

You must be using an outdated PixInsight version. The BatchPreprocessing (BPP) script is deprecated since version 1.8.8-6. You should not use BPP. In the current version 1.8.8-12, BPP is no more part of the PixInsight distribution.

I recommend you to update PixInsight to the current version.

Adam Block published excellent videos that show the usage of WeightedBatchPreprocessing (WBPP) script in detail.

Bernd

Terry - the endcap cap on my Esprit 100 is metal and overlaps about 1" - so completely opaque. Results may also depend upon how long the duration is.

I did read things are a bit non linear up to one second and then slow down. Also that bias frames are not that useful because of Amp glow, and only having the same duration and temperature (for similar things e.g. flats and lights) makes sense.

I sort of think of flat darks as a long (controlled) version of a “quick” bias frame, but without the benefit of allowing scaling of flats to lights with differing duration. For me, this doesn’t seem a big handicap and I plan to bring the setup in after an imaging session and build the appropriate flats, darks and flat darks e.g. setup an SGP Pro Sequence, just for that and select/modify to get what I don’t have.

Would a rotation of my image train e.g. after the focuser (but before the flattener and camera), I can rotate to frame a subject, require these to be redone, or is it “close enough” because dust bunnies and flats are more about at the camera end, rather than at the objective end?

Thanks Bernd. On my Mac the version reported is 1.8.8-8 but the Updater doesn’t say there any more updates to apply! So I have uninstalled and applied 1.8.8-12 with (now) three further updates it says:

___  __ \__(_)___  _____  _/_______________(_)______ ___  /___  /_
__  /_/ /_  /__  |/_/__  /__  __ \_  ___/_  /__  __ `/_  __ \  __/
_  ____/_  / __>  < __/ / _  / / /(__  )_  / _  /_/ /_  / / / /_
/_/     /_/  /_/|_| /___/ /_/ /_//____/ /_/  _\__, / /_/ /_/\__/
                                             /____/

PixInsight Core 1.8.8-12 Ripley (x64) (build 1531 | 2021-12-29)
Copyright (c) 2003-2021 Pleiades Astrophoto
----------------------------------------------------------------------

On 1.8.8-8 there was BPP but it says it is “deprecated” - so I haven’t tried it (and now I can’t with 1.8.8-12 after the reinstall). I have watched the first 8+ videos from Adam Block’s WBPP Playlist (there are 18/19 of them).

So I don’t have anything to “unlearn” e.g. I have only been using WBPP since it was available in my version, even before BPP was deprecated.

For my ASI294MC (I also have a mono camera), I have four types of file (and no bias files):

(1) Lights and (2) darks - both with the same “long” duration and temperature;
Also (3) flats and (4) flat darks - both with the same “short” duration and temperature.

Both the darks and flat darks will be in the darks folder. In Adam’s video #5 he discovers when checking the data that his sample data has some mislabelled as flats when it really should be darks. He moves the files to the darks folder (around 9:30).

So with lights, darks, flats and flat darks (but not bias), am I “good to go” for my ASI294MC? I know that PI can also integrate the lights into a single image but that it is discouraged.

In Adam’s video #5 around 11:00 and 11:15 the Control Panel shows the linking of the “long” lights and darks and later the “short” flats with flat darks. With Pixinsight associating the correct darks (or flat darks) with either lights or flats based upon having the same/similar duration. He is simply making the point that automatically (blindly) assigning the files would require the correct IMAGTYPE to be correctly set. He also sets some other options e.g. CFA (for the flats and lights) and separate CFA flat scaling.

A number of You-tubers have said that they use DSS for stacking and then Pixinsight vs PI for both, but then go on to say that when they compare one with the other they have to admit that they often prefer the results from DSS with PI afterwards. Of course, what is "preferable is subjective, too. Assuming you have PI, when is DSS preferable e.g. to get started as a Newbie, for some feature that PI has yet to include or where the result is better?

There are features of WBPP, like the Calibration Diagram - that I like and also the flexibility (that I assume is also in DSS). It also has a nice interface, so much to like, but when is DSS or PI preferred, for what it produces? On my Mac running PI or DSS isn’t a problem e.g. I also run some Windows only programs (just one click away).

Simon

You correctly outlined the necessary calibration files and settings in WBPP. One additional hint: setting the correct Bayer pattern (for ASI294MC: RGGB) is also necessary because SGP doesn’t write the FITS keyword BAYERPAT.

I never used DSS, so I cannot draw a comparison between the performance of DSS and PixInsight regarding data reduction. However, I engaged myself in finding the correct way to perform image calibration with PixInsight and wrote a tutorial about this topic ( For beginners: Guide to PI's ImageCalibration | PixInsight Forum ). I cannot imagine that using DSS has any advantage over PixInsight for preprocessing. The use of the WBPP script greatly simplifies the workflow, and the detailed logfile that WBPP saves gives you all information that is needed in case of an issue. I highly recommend you to use PixInsight (v1.8.8-12) and WBPP v2.3.2. If you need further information concerning PixInsight, please ask your questions in the PixInsight forum.

Bernd

Simon,

If I change orientation, I always redo the flats (I use a master flat dark, though I accept that flat-darks are fairly quick to produce) as they are correcting for two things. First, dust bunnies, and these will tend to be on the camera sensor window (at least these will be the most prominent) and so will not change with camera orientation. Second, though, is vignetting, and that will change with the orientation of the camera. Generally I try not to change camera orientation, but if I do, I point the scope to the zenith after finishing imaging, pop a home-made flat-panel on the top of the dew shield and shoot my flat frames. Then I take the scope off and put it away with the camera still attached. Lazy, but convenient :grinning:
Terry

Hi Terry

Redoing flats - always a good idea but is it necessary for field rotation (framing the target)?

Here is a picture of my setup - scope with focuser, with field flattener (1:1), focus motor, OAG, guide camera and image camera (ASI294MC). I haven’t tried it, but I can also transfer the OAG, guide camera and image camera to another scope e.g. an SCT (for the brave) by varying only the extension tubes in front of the OAG.

IMG_2303

The guide camera and image camera are aligned with both sensors stacked with long both edges aligned and the prism also aligned. There are no further adjustments e.g. to focus moves everything together.

For AP it is a sealed setup, when attached and mostly sealed when removing the assembly including the field flattener. I do need to clean the optical window of the imaging camera (I have a new APSC style cleaning pad/solution because you can see a smear on it, otherwise not too bad e.g. dust bunnies.

For rotation, I can either loosen the back of the focuser e.g. for initial setup of the whole assembly using the a pair of locking plates. I don’t need to touch this because the whole OTA and imaging assembly can be rotated in the mount cradle. This allows framing of the target and another area of sky for the guide camera (not needed).

The dust bunnies are largely attached to the optical window of the imaging camera, so don’t move about and the effects on a flat e.g. adding/removing from the mount (including rotating) shouldn’t require regeneration? At the same exposure temperature/gain (0 C and 120 gain) there shouldn’t be a need to redo flats, darks or flat darks man that flats and dark flats even with rotation to frame the target? Or they can be done the next day? The vignetting shouldn’t change anything if I rotate the OTA for framing?

Simon

In SGP Pro, I have the Camera (and Telescope) correctly configured in Equipment Profile Manager. Will also be setting up the Focus, Plate Solve and Auto Guide tabs. I will be collecting flats, flat darks, darks and lights from my ASI294MC to stack with Pixinsight, with enough to get started with WBPP.

I did some practical astronomy on 14th. The sky was very clear and the moon was out (super bright and only 3 days from full moon). I was wanting to test the capability of a new filter L-eNhance which I had inside my image train. Prevusly I setup plate solve and was able to try it out. The plan was to do a first sequence and collect some data without trying to collect enough maningful subs but it didn’t quite work out.

I had forgotten how difficult it is to use the scope with this type of filter and not have a way to swap it out. I always thought a filter is fit and forget. This may be true of UV/IR cut filters or an L-Pro that I also want to check. I didn’t want to take it out, put it in and using SGP and not having an EFW convinced me that this is almost a necessity and not just a luxury. A small EFW was ordered after considering the impact on balance and my future needs.

Suprisingly the plate solving worked suprisingly well. I did have a couple of issues with updating some of the data and WiFi not workign down the garden - that’s fixed. The update was done afterwards but plate solving was really very good even through the filter.

I don’t have auto focus setup as it needs some estimates to setup the curver with my camera/scope/focuser but I did use the HFR tool. One of the reasons to try SGP was to automate a sequence that also includes auto focus.

I had some issues with my mount because my Hand Controller has broken. It is now fixed with a change in the Mount. At the time, I wanted to polar align - using PoleMaster. I did that before starting up SGP. Again, no issues with the L-eNhance filter in place. Normally I would then do a one star align and if that was a success, go on to do a 3 star align, both using the Hand Controller. I couldn’t do that with a working Hand Controller. A few other issues and the clouds rolled in…

With SGP PRo, how does the slew to a target, plate solve and iterate to get on to the target, update the model of the sky that EQMOD/ASCOM keeps? Is it a substitute for using the Hand Controller to do the equivalent of a 3 star alignment with the appropriate choice of stars? I can see that the plate solving tells the scope where it is and in a sequence it can find the target, but I wanted to setup the model outside of the Hand Controller and which would normally get disconnected. My understanding is the Mount isn’t too clever and only the Hand Controller maintains the corrections. I think EQMOD/ASCOM can also d o this but with many more points. Is it done outside of SGP or is there the options to feedback the corrections and enhance the model? There is lots (too much) documentiion in SGP to know where to start beyond the basics of getting the scope setup in the profile.

Is there a definitve guide (worked example) for setting up limits in EQMOD and also SGP so that the basic limits are programmed into EQMOD so that it would do a safe meridian flip if SGP stopped working and STP doing it at an optimium time. Since a sub would max out at about 5 minutes, I wanted to set SGP for about 10 minutes past. perhaps using the scope controls within SGP or EQMOD won’t prevent the scope going past these limits?

Simon

Simon,
In two of my scopes I don’t have a filter wheel - one of them is a SharpStar 15028HNT, a very fast scope that took me ages to get the right back-spacing. What I did on that scope was to put a ZWO filter drawer in the train as I don’t change filters that often (I use an OSC). It was easier than going for an EFW solution. On my RedCat, I just screw a filter into the supplied threads - that one is easier as back-focus and spacing aren’t really an issue with a Petzval design. When you use a multi-narrowband like the L-eNhance, IDASNBZ, etc., all you need do for autofocus is bump up the exposures a bit. For me I find broadband filters work fine at 3 seconds for autofocus, but I go up to 8 seconds for my L-eXtreme. I use ASTAP for plate solving (within SGPro) and I’ve found that a 5 second exposure seems to work fine whatever filter I have in. Now my scopes are F/2.8 to F/5 so if your scopes are faster / slower you will need to adjust exposure times appropriately.
In terms of EQMod, you are best off checking out this - Using EQMOD with SGPro (sequencegeneratorpro.com)
It explains how to set up EQMod to work with SGPro (actually it is really more the method to use with plate solving). What you will find if you try to create a model in EQMod is that it will start to fail to centre objects after a while - the method described in this document creates an offset in EQMod which is a kind of offset on RA and Dec that is correcting for non-perfect alignments that gets updated every time a plate solve is carried out - these are the DxSA and DxSB numbers in the panel.
In terms of Meridian flips, the above document covers that well. What I have done is create mount limits in EQMod that are well beyond where SGPro will initiate a flip but still safe in terms of pier crashes, etc. EQMod will then simply stop the mount when it hits that point rather than let it continue on to do any damage.

Terry

Hi Terry. Thanks for the info: EQMOD. I have a small ZWO MINI EFW - also an OSC user. I wanted to keep $$$ filters (L-Pro and L-eNhance) safe and relatively free of dust so having them in an enclosure seemed a good idea. My scope is an esprit 100 and had a very small Losmandy Dovetail (5"). With OAG and EFW and 2nd camera the existing Dovetail was balanced in declination with only half gripped. I ordered a longer 14" Dovetail that gives headroom and moves cradles further apart.

I have been interested in getting my cable management sorted. I have a new Mini PC to mount on the OTA - ordered some bolts. All s/w setup OK with SGP. Downloading new s/w not the best idea (hindsight is wonderful) but I now have a network folder with copies for next time.

Getting everything to work (first time with a controlling App like SGP) is (for me) a bit of a daunting task. Trial continues and I’m working through the “SGP - the 1st week”.