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    Richard S. Wright Jr.
    Senior Moderator

    Well, I’m off to the Texas Star Party, and as the door closes behind me, we have a new and somewhat exciting Daily Build for everyone on all platforms. I’ll have this for all platforms on a jump drive with me in Texas, so if we meet on the field, hit me up!

    One update to live stacking is on the fly frame rejection. This is just the first attempt, but once the door was opened, I’ve all sorts of ideas to make Live Stacking the new “thing” in imaging. I don’t know if you’ve tried it yet, but it’s not just blindly accumulating frames, it’s also registering them, and it supports color previews for most color cameras using our X2 camera interface. You can even save the original FITS files, and just live stack longer exposures as well to see how your image is developing. I also fixed a bug regarding alignment, so if it didn’t work for you before, give it another try with this update.

    First, @Focus3 now works better with DSLRs on Windows, and now can automatically subtract dark frames. The routine that determines the frame sharpness doesn’t really need this, but I’ve heard from several customers with bad columns that the sharpness algorithm gets fooled, in particular when @Focus3 searches for an area of high contrast for selecting a subframe automatically. This feature can be turned on in the “Characterize Autofocuser” window.  Also, one caveat… the camera must have a shutter. @Focus3 can change the exposure time dynamically, so I don’t want anyone waking up in the morning to a dialog that says “Please cover your telescope” that has been on the screen since 2:30 a.m. Probably on the clearest night you've seen in months too. ;-)

    There are two big changes to LTI as well. For starters, LTI no longer disables OpenGL. This was a frequent complaint of the earlier tech previews. Also, potentially bigger news is that LTI does not assume you have a Paramount. You still need TPoint and the Camera Add on to make use of its functionality, but if you have a smooth tracking mount you can now make use of the take series feature for unguided imaging runs that include meridian flips (many GEM’s should work) and unattended autofocusing during the night.

    Now… bigger news on the device support front!

    First some fixes: FLI PDF focusers have had some issues, and those have been corrected. MoonLite NiteCrawlers now report the temperatures correctly below zero, legacy Paramount’s with MKS 4000 and MKS 5000 are now supported on Linux and Raspberry Pi. We also added MoonLite Mini-V2 controller to the Linux lineup (it was already available for all other platforms).

    Both the Canon and Nikon (via Backyard Nikon/Windows only) updates brings the plug-ins up to the latest Canon SDK and devices, and there is now the ability to expose only the green pixels. Well, of course they are all exposing, but only the green pixels are downloaded into an image one-quarter the size of the native resolution (the two green pixels in the bayer matrix are summed). We already have support for red only (for Ha images), and Green/Blue (for OIII), but it was brought to my attention that many people in the AASVO Variable star program are using DSLRs for photometry, and to do so they need only the green pixels before any debayering is performed. Tada… you can now collect your light curve data with TheSkyX and your Canon or Nikon camera.

    On the Raspberry Pi, the very first beta of Canon DSLR control is now available via “Vanilla DSLR”. It works… but is cranky. There is still some work to do, but the do-it-yourself crowd can now have at it. It’s based on the gphoto2 library and yes other DSLR’s will be forthcoming. Although gphoto2 provides access to most DSLRs, there’s still some device specific tweaking that has to be done, and you have to make sure your Pi “let’s go” of the DSLR once you’ve plugged it in. You may have to “eject” it before attempting a connection. This is pretty early beta for this feature.

    New Stuff
    Starlight Instruments now has their own focus controller (not based on Optec’s Focus Lynx), and we have support for that on all platforms.

    There is a new Sky-Watcher SynScan plug-in for all platforms as well. Any Sky-Watcher mount that can be controlled with a SynScan hand controller can now be natively supported via this plug-in. Native WiFi control of SynScan mounts is also coming soon to iOS!

    I know a lot of people have been waiting a long time to see this day, but a brand new, built-from-the-ground-up QHY 2.0 X2 plug-in is now shipping, on both Windows and macOS (Linux/Pi coming soon – I already have it running in house). I helped some, but the major kudos goes to QHY who literally burned their low-level SDK and drivers to the ground and started over with an emphasis on code quality and cross-platform capabilities. I hope this investment pays off for them, and I’m very pleased to see more stable support for their devices now in our software. Most of their cameras should work, but work will be continuing to cover their very wide range of devices. I will even have a QHY camera (a 128c) on one of my scopes next week at the Texas Star Party. 

    Okay, out of town for a week now, hope I haven’t broken anything – LOL. See you in Texas!




    Wow, what a lot of great work! Have loaded the latest build but weather here in CO not conducive to much imaging for me on the nights I have available. But hopefully soon. Planning on attending AIC for first time this year (if they ever get the registration info up on their site!) so will definitely look you up there!




    @focus3 worked flawlessly at TSP with my PDF focuser.  I tnever failed in the whole week. I guess something on the order of 80 focus runs.

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