Plate solving in AA8

Cameras, telescopes, focusers and other hardware
Dave_S
Posts: 53
Joined: 11 Oct 2021, 10:09

Plate solving in AA8

Post by Dave_S » 21 Dec 2021, 21:16

Now that I have got AA8 'talking' remotely (Ethernet) to my setup, I thought it would nice to run everything, i.e. Capture, Guiding, and Plate Solving in a single package.

I am currently using Sharpcap with PHD2 for capture/guiding, and AA8 for processing.

As I am currently stuck under a blanket of cloud :( , I thought I would investigate AA8's Plate Solving ability, while sat at my desk in the study.

While I find Sharpcap's Plate Solving facility, both easy to use, and accurate (it uses All Sky Plate Solver), I am not finding the same with AA8. It could of course be me, but I am following the procedure as in the manual.

I set the target, and the FOV for my scope/camera, but unless I provide it with an image that is 'bang on target', it cannot find the co-ordinates. Even when going to the extreme, and setting the search zone as a 0 0 0 +0 0 0 'All Sky' zone, it cannot find the co-ordinates for the image

With Sharpcap, I slew scope to an object, using Carte du Ciel/EQmod, and 'click on' Plate Solve, and it comes back with the info very quickly. It even tells me how far off the target, the scope is pointing. If it not too far off, I can 'sync' it, and in a few seconds it will slew the scope, and put the object pretty much in the centre of the camera's sensor.

Am I expecting AA8 to do something that its not capable of, and actually chasing a"red herring" ?.

I have GAIA file installed, if that is what AA8 needs to use.

Iver
Posts: 75
Joined: 08 Jan 2019, 04:32

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Iver » 22 Dec 2021, 05:20

Hi Dave, great that you solved your ASCOM issue. My experience with AA plate solve is that once I click "OK" to solve, the image is almost immediately solved. So hang in there till you get it fine tuned. Just a suggestion once you do get an image solved if you move the courser off the image look at the bar under the image and above the tray you'll see the solved field in degrees. Check to see that it matches what you calculated it to be. I recently was made aware that the solver data is included in AA and separate from the star atlas catalogs.
Iver

Dunmunro
Posts: 158
Joined: 10 Jan 2019, 01:11

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Dunmunro » 22 Dec 2021, 08:10

Dave_S wrote:
21 Dec 2021, 21:16
Now that I have got AA8 'talking' remotely (Ethernet) to my setup, I thought it would nice to run everything, i.e. Capture, Guiding, and Plate Solving in a single package.

I am currently using Sharpcap with PHD2 for capture/guiding, and AA8 for processing.

As I am currently stuck under a blanket of cloud :( , I thought I would investigate AA8's Plate Solving ability, while sat at my desk in the study.

While I find Sharpcap's Plate Solving facility, both easy to use, and accurate (it uses All Sky Plate Solver), I am not finding the same with AA8. It could of course be me, but I am following the procedure as in the manual.

I set the target, and the FOV for my scope/camera, but unless I provide it with an image that is 'bang on target', it cannot find the co-ordinates. Even when going to the extreme, and setting the search zone as a 0 0 0 +0 0 0 'All Sky' zone, it cannot find the co-ordinates for the image

With Sharpcap, I slew scope to an object, using Carte du Ciel/EQmod, and 'click on' Plate Solve, and it comes back with the info very quickly. It even tells me how far off the target, the scope is pointing. If it not too far off, I can 'sync' it, and in a few seconds it will slew the scope, and put the object pretty much in the centre of the camera's sensor.

Am I expecting AA8 to do something that its not capable of, and actually chasing a"red herring" ?.

I have GAIA file installed, if that is what AA8 needs to use.
AA8's platesolving engine is designed to work with estimated RA and Dec, typically provided via the camera control's mount control interface. It can do 'all sky plate solving' but that is not it's forte. It's mainly used for plate solve assisted gotos, where after a long slew the mount may be a degree or so away from the intended target.

AA8 uses a compressed star catalog: 'platesolve.dat' for platesolving. To set up platesolving load an image from your astro camera and click on the platesolve icon on the left hand row of icons. Set the estimated horizontal field and set the tolerance to maybe 10%, if you know the FoV accurately. Enter the name of the image target, eg 'M3' or 'NGC2419' or the estimated RA and Dec of the image. You can use the default 4x3 degree search area for most images. If the fits image has the RA and Dec in the fits header you can click on 'current image' icon. If it doesn't solve check the vertical flip box and try again. If it still doesn't solve it could be because it cannot recognize the stars due to the lack of catalog stars in certain target images because the star catalogs often omit stars around very bright objects, like M31, or because the stars in the image are outside the star recognition algorithm, and you can adjust this in the Edit->Options->Stars tab. Once you have a successful solve read the View->Statistics report and then enter the exact horizontal field and reduce the tolerance to 2%. Click the 'save parameters' button in the platesolve window. From then onward, platesolves will be nearly instantaneous.

If you use AA8's telescope control (and you should) you will command the mount to slew to a target, then take a ~10 sec exposure, and then click on the Telescope Control's 'Center' Tab and the 'Goto (platesolve)' tab. AA8 will then platesolve the image, calculate the offset from the actual location to the target location and then command the mount to move to the target location, typically with 20-30 arc sec accuracy. Take another short exposure to confirm that the target is centred. I can start my mount from the parked position, do a ~90 degree slew to my first target (with no mount calibration stars), then take a ~10 sec exposure, use the goto platesolve command and have my target perfectly centred in my camera field in under a minute.

When you get AA8's platesolve engine calibrated, you can then use it and AA8's multistar autoguide and autofocus engines to completely automate target gotos and subsequent imaging runs, via the scripting function, or partially automate them via the Sequence->sequencer window, to set up the desired number of images and the interval between images and autofocusing. You can also tell the autoguider your desired dithering pattern.

Dave_S
Posts: 53
Joined: 11 Oct 2021, 10:09

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Dave_S » 22 Dec 2021, 10:53

Thanks for your input guys, it is much appreciated.

I will continue investigating AA8's Plate Solving function, indoors while this cloud persists. I don't want to be wasting imaging opportunities on it, while I have a very effective Sharpcap/All Sky Plate Solver combination to use.

As I said earlier, it would be nice to use AA8 as an "all in one" package.

Because it is so good at what it does, it would be nice if All Sky Plate Solver could be integrated into AA8, as it is`with Sharpcap, but maybe there is a good reason as to why it can't be.

Unlike at my old house (pre 2014), I don't have a fully equipped observatory with attached warm room now, just a permanent pier in the garden, and an Ethernet link to the Summer House/Shed. Although the mount remains on the pier, the telescope doesn't, so I have to attach it, and plug in the power feeds, 12V, 19V (Mini PC), and Ethernet, each time I use it, so I don't want' to waste imaging time, trying to get AA8's plate solving function working.

If its of interest, my setup comprises an HEQ5 Pro Syn Scan mount, Gigabyte Brix i7 Mini PC, Altair Starwave 115 Triplet, 60mm Guide Scope, Hypercam 294c Pro TEC, GPCAM 130 (guide camera), Skywatcher DC Focus Motor + Hitec controller, and a Hitec Dew Heater Bands Controller. I also have a 50mm illuminated Finder Scope, albeit made pretty much redundant by All Sky Plate Solver.

Dunmunro
Posts: 158
Joined: 10 Jan 2019, 01:11

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Dunmunro » 22 Dec 2021, 15:42

Dave_S wrote:
22 Dec 2021, 10:53
Thanks for your input guys, it is much appreciated.

I will continue investigating AA8's Plate Solving function, indoors while this cloud persists. I don't want to be wasting imaging opportunities on it, while I have a very effective Sharpcap/All Sky Plate Solver combination to use.

As I said earlier, it would be nice to use AA8 as an "all in one" package.

Because it is so good at what it does, it would be nice if All Sky Plate Solver could be integrated into AA8, as it is`with Sharpcap, but maybe there is a good reason as to why it can't be.

Unlike at my old house (pre 2014), I don't have a fully equipped observatory with attached warm room now, just a permanent pier in the garden, and an Ethernet link to the Summer House/Shed. Although the mount remains on the pier, the telescope doesn't, so I have to attach it, and plug in the power feeds, 12V, 19V (Mini PC), and Ethernet, each time I use it, so I don't want' to waste imaging time, trying to get AA8's plate solving function working.

If its of interest, my setup comprises an HEQ5 Pro Syn Scan mount, Gigabyte Brix i7 Mini PC, Altair Starwave 115 Triplet, 60mm Guide Scope, Hypercam 294c Pro TEC, GPCAM 130 (guide camera), Skywatcher DC Focus Motor + Hitec controller, and a Hitec Dew Heater Bands Controller. I also have a 50mm illuminated Finder Scope, albeit made pretty much redundant by All Sky Plate Solver.

setup 1.jpg
That's a nice setup.

I am fortunate to have a roll off observatory here at the Arizona Sky Village. I have a CEM60 and CEM120 in the observatory, each carrying a 10in SCT (F5/F7 respectively) fitted with an Orion Starshoot Pro camera (APSC OSC). Each mount has a netbook control computer and I control the netbooks from the house remotely via a wifi link using Chrome Remote Desktop ( I get each desktop displayed in a tabbed window in the Chrome browser, for easy switching between them. I command each mount to goto a target, setup a sequence for one, then the other, then watch a movie.... :D The CEM120 mount is fitted with an OAG (ASI 120MM mini) and I typically use 5 or 6min subs and will track and image the same target for most of the evening. The CEM60 uses a ~50mm F4 guidescope (and GPCAM 130) and I typically use 4 or 5min subs, and will autoguide all images. AA8's platesolver works almost flawlessly, and when it doesn't solve the issue is almost always clouds...so I keep a Chrome tab open on our local all sky camera:

https://astroscenes.com/weather/

or I have gone below the local horizon.
Last edited by Dunmunro on 23 Dec 2021, 20:34, edited 1 time in total.

Dave_S
Posts: 53
Joined: 11 Oct 2021, 10:09

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Dave_S » 22 Dec 2021, 19:54

I started out in astro imaging, when I retired in 2002. The first project was to build a roll-off-roof observatory, and after the first winter I added a warm room :) . The RoR obsy worked fine, unless it was very windy, which caused problems with the 12" SCT on a fork mount. So in 2008, I built an octagonal 'turret' (see attached pictures from 2008). I removed the RoR, and replaced it with the rotating turret.

In 2014, I fell victim to Cancer, and underwent major surgery to remove a section of my Bowel. Not knowing what the future would hold for me, living in a rural village, and a wife that doesn't drive, the sensible option was to move house, which we did in 2015. At this point, I gave up astro, sold all of the equipment, concentrated on my photography.

Nearly 8 years on, I'm still here, fit and well, and enjoying life. Had I known this would be, we would not have moved from our home of 30 years, and I would still have my observatory.

Back in the day, I had various refractors, up to 110mm, and 8", 10", and 12" Meade SCT's. When Meade was made in the US. :)

I started out with AA3, AA4, then AA5, which I still had, so I was able to purchase the upgrade to AA8.

There are few examples of my astro images from back in the day (pre 2014), on my website at:- https://davesimaging.wixsite.com/mysite

Dunmunro
Posts: 158
Joined: 10 Jan 2019, 01:11

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Dunmunro » 23 Dec 2021, 20:46

Dave_S wrote:
22 Dec 2021, 19:54
I started out in astro imaging, when I retired in 2002. The first project was to build a roll-off-roof observatory, and after the first winter I added a warm room :) . The RoR obsy worked fine, unless it was very windy, which caused problems with the 12" SCT on a fork mount. So in 2008, I built an octagonal 'turret' (see attached pictures from 2008). I removed the RoR, and replaced it with the rotating turret.

In 2014, I fell victim to Cancer, and underwent major surgery to remove a section of my Bowel. Not knowing what the future would hold for me, living in a rural village, and a wife that doesn't drive, the sensible option was to move house, which we did in 2015. At this point, I gave up astro, sold all of the equipment, concentrated on my photography.

Nearly 8 years on, I'm still here, fit and well, and enjoying life. Had I known this would be, we would not have moved from our home of 30 years, and I would still have my observatory.

Back in the day, I had various refractors, up to 110mm, and 8", 10", and 12" Meade SCT's. When Meade was made in the US. :)

I started out with AA3, AA4, then AA5, which I still had, so I was able to purchase the upgrade to AA8.

There are few examples of my astro images from back in the day (pre 2014), on my website at:- https://davesimaging.wixsite.com/mysite

dome1a..jpg dome 2a.jpg
I'm an AA3 veteran as well!

The rotating turret is a nifty design and your images look superb. I hope all goes well for you in the future.

merlin66
Posts: 23
Joined: 08 Jan 2019, 05:38

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by merlin66 » 27 Dec 2021, 20:57

Dave,
Good to hear about your journey...and your current situation.
Your rotating top looks like the "OctoDome" I used way back in the 1980's. Worked well for me.

AstroBernd
Posts: 52
Joined: 17 Mar 2019, 16:23

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by AstroBernd » 22 Jan 2022, 16:41

@dunmunro, thanks for the comprehensive summary on the plate solving centering function in the "telescope" function. I searched for the "platesolv.dat" file you mention in the program folders of Astorart, but couldn't locate it.
I was using it happily in AA7 with 80-95% success rate. In AA8 however, i have a 100% failure rate right now, which is bad, as it is a real timesaver to get the objects desired centered well.
I am using relatively short focal lengths (400 or 560mm) with relatively large field of views (APS-C color camera), i.e. 2.4° or 3.2° on the long axis.

Here is my sequence:
1. check the parameters in the "find coordinates" window. It starts always with the default params (13.5", 10%), which are way off from my own parameters. (Would be nice it if recalled the last settings).
2. I will load and adjust them from my "platesolve" folder for the scope/ camera combination used.
3. After first real image, i will do a plate solve and usually it works (unless i have e.g. a very bright star in the image). The new palte solve in AA8 seems to be requiring more
4. After first goto and sync the the "telescope" window, i want to do a "center (plate solve)". It will maybe read the "telescope coordinates", but always fails in AA8 (no coordinates measured) for the "measured coordinates".

as mentioned, i had it working most of the times in AA7.
I have read all the posts on "plate solve" issues here but can't find my error.
Any thoughts on what i may be doing wrong?
Thanks in advance
Bernd
Dunmunro wrote:
22 Dec 2021, 08:10

AA8's platesolving engine is designed to work with estimated RA and Dec, typically provided via the camera control's mount control interface. It can do 'all sky plate solving' but that is not it's forte. It's mainly used for plate solve assisted gotos, where after a long slew the mount may be a degree or so away from the intended target.

AA8 uses a compressed star catalog: 'platesolve.dat' for platesolving. To set up platesolving load an image from your astro camera and click on the platesolve icon on the left hand row of icons. Set the estimated horizontal field and set the tolerance to maybe 10%, if you know the FoV accurately. Enter the name of the image target, eg 'M3' or 'NGC2419' or the estimated RA and Dec of the image. You can use the default 4x3 degree search area for most images. If the fits image has the RA and Dec in the fits header you can click on 'current image' icon. If it doesn't solve check the vertical flip box and try again. If it still doesn't solve it could be because it cannot recognize the stars due to the lack of catalog stars in certain target images because the star catalogs often omit stars around very bright objects, like M31, or because the stars in the image are outside the star recognition algorithm, and you can adjust this in the Edit->Options->Stars tab. Once you have a successful solve read the View->Statistics report and then enter the exact horizontal field and reduce the tolerance to 2%. Click the 'save parameters' button in the platesolve window. From then onward, platesolves will be nearly instantaneous.

If you use AA8's telescope control (and you should) you will command the mount to slew to a target, then take a ~10 sec exposure, and then click on the Telescope Control's 'Center' Tab and the 'Goto (platesolve)' tab. AA8 will then platesolve the image, calculate the offset from the actual location to the target location and then command the mount to move to the target location, typically with 20-30 arc sec accuracy. Take another short exposure to confirm that the target is centred. I can start my mount from the parked position, do a ~90 degree slew to my first target (with no mount calibration stars), then take a ~10 sec exposure, use the goto platesolve command and have my target perfectly centred in my camera field in under a minute.

...

Iver
Posts: 75
Joined: 08 Jan 2019, 04:32

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Iver » 22 Jan 2022, 18:21

Hi ,after you fill in the solve parameters be sure to press the "Save Parameters" button. Is your scope connected to AA so the Ra and Dec are written to the fits. header?
There are two plate solve options "Plate Solve" and "Plate Solve immediate" if you are using the "Plate Solve" be sure to click the highlighted box to load the current images Ra. and Dec. My experience with AA plate solve is better then 99% solve and almost immediate.
Iver

Dunmunro
Posts: 158
Joined: 10 Jan 2019, 01:11

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by Dunmunro » 22 Jan 2022, 23:22

AstroBernd wrote:
22 Jan 2022, 16:41
@dunmunro, thanks for the comprehensive summary on the plate solving centering function in the "telescope" function. I searched for the "platesolv.dat" file you mention in the program folders of Astorart, but couldn't locate it.
I was using it happily in AA7 with 80-95% success rate. In AA8 however, i have a 100% failure rate right now, which is bad, as it is a real timesaver to get the objects desired centered well.
I am using relatively short focal lengths (400 or 560mm) with relatively large field of views (APS-C color camera), i.e. 2.4° or 3.2° on the long axis.

Here is my sequence:
1. check the parameters in the "find coordinates" window. It starts always with the default params (13.5", 10%), which are way off from my own parameters. (Would be nice it if recalled the last settings).
2. I will load and adjust them from my "platesolve" folder for the scope/ camera combination used.
3. After first real image, i will do a plate solve and usually it works (unless i have e.g. a very bright star in the image). The new palte solve in AA8 seems to be requiring more
4. After first goto and sync the the "telescope" window, i want to do a "center (plate solve)". It will maybe read the "telescope coordinates", but always fails in AA8 (no coordinates measured) for the "measured coordinates".

as mentioned, i had it working most of the times in AA7.
I have read all the posts on "plate solve" issues here but can't find my error.
Any thoughts on what i may be doing wrong?
Thanks in advance
Bernd
Dunmunro wrote:
22 Dec 2021, 08:10

AA8's platesolving engine is designed to work with estimated RA and Dec, typically provided via the camera control's mount control interface. It can do 'all sky plate solving' but that is not it's forte. It's mainly used for plate solve assisted gotos, where after a long slew the mount may be a degree or so away from the intended target.

AA8 uses a compressed star catalog: 'platesolve.dat' for platesolving. To set up platesolving load an image from your astro camera and click on the platesolve icon on the left hand row of icons. Set the estimated horizontal field and set the tolerance to maybe 10%, if you know the FoV accurately. Enter the name of the image target, eg 'M3' or 'NGC2419' or the estimated RA and Dec of the image. You can use the default 4x3 degree search area for most images. If the fits image has the RA and Dec in the fits header you can click on 'current image' icon. If it doesn't solve check the vertical flip box and try again. If it still doesn't solve it could be because it cannot recognize the stars due to the lack of catalog stars in certain target images because the star catalogs often omit stars around very bright objects, like M31, or because the stars in the image are outside the star recognition algorithm, and you can adjust this in the Edit->Options->Stars tab. Once you have a successful solve read the View->Statistics report and then enter the exact horizontal field and reduce the tolerance to 2%. Click the 'save parameters' button in the platesolve window. From then onward, platesolves will be nearly instantaneous.

If you use AA8's telescope control (and you should) you will command the mount to slew to a target, then take a ~10 sec exposure, and then click on the Telescope Control's 'Center' Tab and the 'Goto (platesolve)' tab. AA8 will then platesolve the image, calculate the offset from the actual location to the target location and then command the mount to move to the target location, typically with 20-30 arc sec accuracy. Take another short exposure to confirm that the target is centred. I can start my mount from the parked position, do a ~90 degree slew to my first target (with no mount calibration stars), then take a ~10 sec exposure, use the goto platesolve command and have my target perfectly centred in my camera field in under a minute.

...
In the AA8 Demo version the platesolve star database is called platesolve.DAT and it's 71990KB in size. In the full version it's called astroar8.DAT and is the same size.

You have to save the parameters after you set up the platesolver via the platesolve icon on the left side of the AA8 window.

AstroBernd
Posts: 52
Joined: 17 Mar 2019, 16:23

Re: Plate solving in AA8

Post by AstroBernd » 23 Jan 2022, 12:08

Thanks dunmonro for the quick reply. Yes I have the astroar8.DAT in the AA8 directory.
I save and load my platesolving parameters as you described and both the platesolve or immediate platesolve work well.
However, the platesolve in the telescope control (center platesolve) never works for me in AA8 (it did in AA7),

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