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@Focus3 Technical Preview for TheSkyX Pro
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

For some time now, the new @Focus3 focusing method has been available in the Technical Preview of TheSky LTI. I've been working on some bug fixes, corner cases, etc. and several customers have sent me logs of when it has failed. Getting it into the Pro version of TheSkyX is not trivial either as it's not just a drop in function call replacement, but rather a new paradigm for focusing.

As of today's daily build however, it is possible to use @Focus3 from within TheSkyX Professional without having to flip back and forth between it and LTI. I want to stress that this is still a technical preview, and it's not available to the scripting engine yet, nor is it available in the take series feature like it is in LTI. I've gone as far as I can with the simulators and focus targets across the room, and the last bit of work needs to be done against real stars "in situ" so to speak. End users with some technical acumen who have nothing better to do are encouraged to give it a try. It seems to work great 99% of the time, and those 1% failures are instructive. Focusing by frequency content is not a new frontier, and I've been reading plenty of literature in the computer vision field as I've been working on this. Nevertheless, low light, star fields, the Moon, etc at high magnifications with poor seeing, and various focal ratios, etc. There are few variables that introduce some interesting permutations.

In order to keep from being mobbed by muggles who stumble upon the "@focus3" button and have unrealistic expectations for a technical preview, the feature is hidden and you have to pass a test to turn it on.

Under Windows, the test is simple:

  1. Find the folder where TheSkyX Professional is installed (where TheSkyX.exe is installed, and not to be confused with TheSkyX's Application Support Files folder).
  2. Create a new folder within that folder called "enableAtFocus3".

Not a hard test is it? For macOS users, it is only slightly harder, but since you are smart enough to be on a Mac, I suspect you can handle it too. Right click on TheSkyX, and "Show Package Contents". Create the new directory in the /Contents folder.

Case matters if you're on Linux or have a case-sensitive file system running on your Mac.

If you've been using @focus3 from LTI, clicking on the @Focus3 button is about all the direction you need to get you where your used to being. For those just getting started, I've created a short video tutorial to help you get going.

@Focus3 Video

A couple of notes... the latest code check-in adds a little more smarts to the @Focus3 routine. Instead of failing on saturated pixels, it will lower the exposure time automatically and retry. Eventually it will give up.  In the same manner, if the detected stars are too dim, it automatically increases the exposure time. What this implies is that the exposure time passed to @Focus3 is really just a "guess". If star's are not saturated, and have plenty of signal (the majority of cases), it will be fast (subframes help a lot too). Switching to a narrowband filter without increasing the exposure time also results in some trial an error. This will get better and there are some things I can to to speed this up, but for now this is one of the core features to be tested.

Also for LTI early adopters, there are two new checkboxes on the Setup page. You can now optionally photo verify (CLS) on a meridian flip, and you can force an autofocus to occur right after the meridian flip.

Clear skies, and enjoy!


P.S. Probably, the NEXT daily build after this, we'll expose it to everyone without passing a test and that includes making a scripting interface available for it.

Posted 10-13-2017 10:21 AM by Richard Wright
Filed under: ,


Louie Atalasidis wrote re: @Focus3 Technical Preview for TheSkyX Pro
on 11-03-2017 9:51 PM

Hi Richard

On Windows I had to right click on the TSX pro and locate file location....then create a new folder renamed to "enableAtFocus3"

Didn't work just going to TSX Pro folder....for those that might stumble.



Brian Rickard wrote re: @Focus3 Technical Preview for TheSkyX Pro
on 11-08-2017 5:40 AM

It sounds as if may have first been working with the Application Support Files (ASF) folder*—where TSX stores settings—rather than the installation folder—where the application and resources are stored.

*Note that this is a descriptive term, and not the name of the folder. See the link under step 1 in Richard's article for more information.

peter27284 wrote re: @Focus3 Technical Preview for TheSkyX Pro
on 11-09-2017 8:26 AM

I'd like to know if this can be used to focus on just ONE star.  I ask, as its a nuisance to focus the spectrometer.  There is only one star to work with in the FOV.  I would suspect this will work so long as the star is not saturated.  Is this correct?


Richard Wright wrote re: @Focus3 Technical Preview for TheSkyX Pro
on 11-10-2017 6:59 AM

Yes Peter, 99% of the time when the auto-find subframe is on it just ends up being a single star. If the star is saturated, @focus will attempt to reduce the exposure time as well.

Anat R wrote re: @Focus3 Technical Preview for TheSkyX Pro
on 11-12-2017 7:23 AM

I have tried AtFocus3 and the best focus point was not repeatable. Please see my TeamViewer screen record (160MB):

Do you have any comment? Thanks.

Glen Fountain wrote re: @Focus3 Technical Preview for TheSkyX Pro
on 11-17-2017 6:17 AM

I’m looking forward to seeing this focus on the moon or an object/Nebula, something other than a star. Really cool Richard. I’m also excited about your new screen stretch function. That will be another nice added touch to TheSkyX.


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