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The Joy of Scripting
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

As those who know me know, I'm late to the game really when it comes to this image automation stuff. I have never used Orchestrate, and my brief encounters with CCDSoft are best described as "two ships passing in the night". As a programmer, I never found Visual Basic to be my cup of tea, but I did like JavaScript and I've done several projects over the years inside and outside of Software Bisque that required considerable use of JavaScript. The fact that TheSkyX can be automated with JavaScript was not lost on me, but until Matt added the imaging components to this engine it was never with more than a playful curiosity that I'd try scripting some telescope operations.

Starting with the scripting examples Matt provides in the /Common/Users/Java Scripts folder and the scripting documentation I started playing with image acquisition using the camera and telescope simulator. The more progress I make, the more this is transforming my own imaging routine. Take Series is an nice feature, but mostly what I use it for is a single image run at at time, or to build a dark library with different CCD temperatures and bin modes. Now, with a script I can slew to a new object and start a new series. I can leave one running and go to bed now and in the morning my scope is parked with the OTA pointing away from where the rising sun might hit it. Soon I will be able to sleep again!

Like many of our users I'm waiting for Matt to add dithering to the Camera Add On. I decided to write my own dithering script while waiting that works with ProTrack. This is the kind of task where a scripting language really shines. I've seen some scripting "capabilities" in other packages that are really nothing more than a list of commands (and to be fair, I did much the same thing in Seeker), but with a true scripting language (yes yes, I'm sure you could do this with VB for years..), I can do things like create loops. Call sin() and cos() to create a circular or spiral pattern, and slew the scope to those positions before taking a new image, etc. And of course I can do it on my Mac!

Since I can't get enough sky from my back yard for a good test, this last weekend I went down to my dark sky site and setup a Paramount ME with a scope and my modified Canon 5D. This was also a good opportunity to field test the new Canon DSLR plug-in bits, especially the OSC RAW Bayer option (you _really_ need the latest daily build btw if you want to try this). I used the attached script to do a dithered acquisition of M106 for a period of four hours. I then climbed into my tent, fired up my space heater and laptop and worked on some other projects for a little bit. A brief moment of panic struck when I heard the mount slewing loudly all of a sudden. No need to fear... I realized immediately that it had simply reached the meridian and the next slew had caused a meridian flip. Confident of my TPoint model, I did not even bother to check that it was back where it needed to be (although upside down!). I was not disappointed in this the next morning when I went over the data!

The image ( shows about two hours worth of the data. The skies were a little soft and clouds kept coming through and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees C during the night. About half my data has out of focus stars, and a few exposures are too dark to use. It was of course crystal clear while I ran my 300 point TPoint run for ProTrack! This is of course one of the advantages of ProTrack... although it got quite cloudy from time to time, I never lost a guide star... because I wasn't guiding anyway.

Of course focus... well, you can guess what I want to script next right? Once I can slew AND focus... ha ha ha ha... my powers will be complete! Muhahahah ;-)



Posted 03-18-2013 2:22 PM by Richard Wright


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