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Adventures in Guiding
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

My job is spread among many products here, and I do a reasonable amount of work on the imaging pipeline, mostly camera plug-ins... well, almost entirely imaging plug-ins, and of course pestering the daylights out of Matt and Evan for features I too want in the Camera Add On (like DITHERING!!!). A lot of Camera Add On work has been held up by weather here, just like you, we can't test dithering, guiding code, or new focusing routines on cloudy nights.

Slowly, the weather has been clearing, and AIC (like everyone else in the world, we are often driven by show dead-lines) is now this weekend, and we have some great goodies to unwrap.

First, some significant reworking of the Orion Star Shoot autuoguider code. It seems the relays cables really only worked "sometimes". I have to remind myself everyone doesn't have Paramounts, and those pesky cables are important.

Second, an update for the Lodestar guider is due. That interlaced chip really gave me a lot of grief, but with some help from Starlight XPress, in the latest version you have to work really hard to get that venitian blind effect. I no longer have to guide binned, which is great since the Lodestar has those big sensitive pixels. Also, no small thing here... the next Starlight Xpress plug-in will work with ALL of their guiders, not just the Lodestar, and it will work with other Starlight Xpress cameras as well. Starlight Xpress is now fully in the X2 fold as of this weeks (impending as of this writing) daily build!

Evan has also added direct guide "like" (a.k.a. pulse guiding) capabilities for non-Paramount mounts. No more pesky guider cables... I lost a whole night myself working on the SSAG guider code because I had the wrong cable. All those RJ-what's it's... although there is the "ST-4 Standard", it seems everyone doesn't really use the word "standard" in the same way sometimes... as a pirate once said, "it's more like guidelines really...".

I've saved the best for last... Houston, we have DITHERING! Kudo's to Evan and Matt for that! I tweaked the final code, but the real work was already done for me. You can specify how many pixels to bump between exposure on the take series tab, specify a settling criteria, and you can even see the dither bump occur on the guider graph, and literally watch it settle back down after the move (depending on your setup and settings... sometimes there is no settle time needed).

Personally, I still prefer ProTrack on a Paramount to guiding, but from my back yard, I can't always get a sufficient model (very little sky visibility), or I'm time constrained. In a lot of cases, guiding is a great and convenient alternative. It can be tricky though as you have to watch for a variety of issues, such as cable drag, differential flexure, or loose mountings. For a while I thought I had poltergeists in my guiding system. I had great guiding until I'd go into the house, and then guiding would unexpectedly go to pot. One evening while working on the above, I was sitting there when... it happened. The guider graph just went nuts....and it corresponded to the moment my outside central AC unit kicked on (I live in Florida after all). The vibrations from that monster were reaching my patio, and of course traveling right up my tripod legs to the scope. The correlation was perfect, you could see the jump and "static" when the unit came on, and the immediate settle when the unit went off. I wonder how many other people who experience guiding problems don't think about things like this, trucks driving by, etc.

All that guiding code to test... spread over four months, I managed to get some narrow band data from my back yard, these are all done with 20 minute guided exposures:

The proof of the taste is in the pudding they say. I'm looking forward to what our customers can do with these new updates as well!

Posted 09-09-2013 2:03 PM by Richard Wright


Frank wrote re: Adventures in Guiding
on 10-09-2013 11:07 AM

You know someone would ask.....when do we see it?

Keep up the good work.


Richard Wright wrote re: Adventures in Guiding
on 10-09-2013 2:19 PM

Next daily build. We are announcing it at AIC this weekend, "officially".


snovosel wrote re: Adventures in Guiding
on 11-13-2013 1:40 PM

Richard, well done all around.  Q re the Lodestar.  Should we be downloading a new driver from Starlight Xpress?

destrehandave wrote re: Adventures in Guiding
on 02-03-2014 7:32 PM

Great!  Can you do pulse guiding / corrections using TheSkyX using a starlight express AO unit controlling a non-Paramount mount?  Maybe an AP controlled by The Sky X?


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