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    AlanP's Avatar
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    Default PoleAlignMax - here's help with Plate Solves



    PoleAlignMax is a free Program designed help the user greatly improve Polar Alignment of their Mount.

    The problem with a How-To for a Program is that steps required can be affected by the Equipment and Programs used with it. The free PoleAlignMax from the good guys that brought us FocusMax, seems to work well, but in a fussy cranky sort of manner… I gathered tips, pointers and other folklore to refer to as I battled to do my first Plate Solves, ever. If I can do it, you can too!

    I use MaxIM v5, an AstroPhysics GEM Mount, Sbig Camera and Refractor in an ExploraDome. Adjust some of this process for your Equipment.

    In MaxIM, under Flies/Settings/Files, make sure that Compress Captured Images is unchecked. And while you are here, fill out the Site and Optics information for Focal Length, Aperture and Obstruction for the Main Scope and Guide Scopes. I used the Load From Scope for the Site Location [good time to check that it is correct data] and the Universal Time comes in from my Laptop and Telescope Mount.

    In order to Plate Solve in PoleAlignMax [PAM], you have to first Plate solve in MaxIM. Sorry! Go to PinPoint Astrometry. I expect that the Detection Setup defaults might work, but I did change the Brightness value to 4.

    You will need a Guide Star Catalog. You can download the install file for GSC-1.1 from Index of / , courtesy of the good people at DC3. Under MaxIM's Catalog Setup, you will need to point the Path to your Guide Star Catalog. In my case, I accepted the GSC11 directory at installation, and so pointed to that location here in MaxIM. MaxIM does not have an Apply or Save Button on this page, so I played with this for awhile before the directory setting stuck. So be safe, go in and out to verify that it stayed pointed to the correct directory.

    Uncheck Fits scale and use the Set Pixel Scale to input your Main Camera information. When done, recheck the Fits scale box.

    I reset the “Use stars from magnitude” to 12 for the faintest Stars, hoping that it might save some time. I am not sure that it really does save time…

    Under View/Stretch Screen Window, I found that the Histogram needed to be set to High. Setting it to High seemed to be required By BOTH MaxIM AND by PAM. So if you get a failed Plate Solve, also check this setting. Note: this Value cannot be reset from Manual until you Zoom out fully. It stays greyed out in the Manual setting mode if you have moved in on the Histogram.

    So to solve a Plate in MaxIM, I picked a bright Star [Alkaid] and centered on it using the Crosshairs on the Image. [To get the Crosshairs in MaxIM, right click on the image and select Crosshairs.] Once centered, on the AP Handcontrol press RA/Dec/Rev button and then the number 9 button. On most other Mounts, you would Sync the Mount. On AP Mounts, Sync is a totally different function related to east-west of the Meridian setting…

    By being well centered on a Star and then Synching the Mount, you save yourself allot of time. Press Process in the Process button on the PinPoint Astrometry page, and it will present a solved Plate in the lower left box within seconds. Note that the further off-center the Star in your image, the more calculations in a spiral pattern are made by MaxIM before the Plate is Solved.

    If you missed the center of the Star and the calculations are running on for days [it seems], you can press the Stop button, center the Star better in a fresh image and then hit Process button again.

    Once the Program generates a solved Plate, press the Close Button. Open Observatory/Telescope and press the Sync button. This is the Sync information that PAM is looking for, not the Sync on your Mount but rather it needs the Sync from MaxIM, it starts it’s first calculation from that center point location information. Now you are done with MaxIM for now, sorta…. You loop through MaxIM after each Az and Alt adjustment Loop in PAM. You then center the Star, Plate solve in MaxIM, Sync that value in the Observatory/Telescope page, take another MaxIM image to update the Fit file data to that Sync value, and then press Run in the Polar Align tab of PAM.

    PAM- Install version 2.0.35. and also download the Zip File update for PAM V2.0.55. Copy the .Exe from the V2.0.55 directory and paste it in the PoleAlignMax Program Directory. The update only includes the .Exe File and a Fits image file used to test the Plate solve. That PAM_Test_Image goes in the Documents and Settings\….\PoleAlignMax directory.

    In the Main Screen for PAM, check under the upper Set Tab. Make sure that Version Check is unselected.

    On the lower Setup Tab, select the Centering Cross hair. Select the Use telescope box also. Input a Delay after slew value, like maybe 5 seconds. Latitude and Longitude should be picked up off the MaxIM data.

    The Plate Solve Tab- The PinPoint plate Solve Object Detection default values worked for me.

    Reference Catalog- for Max Mag., it makes sense to use the same value as in MaxIM, in my case 12. Catalog is GSC11. My Path is C:\GSC11 , the default install location from the downloaded Catalog.

    If you put the PAM_Test_Image File in the correct Documents and Settings\…\PoleAlignMax directory, pressing Test Path will now plate solve that Test Image. TaDa! But it only means that the GSC Catalog and the Test Image are in the correct directories, and has nothing to do with the Plate Solves required in the Pole Align Tab….

    Polar Align- Set the Slew East/Slew West to your need. I tried a long Telesope RA Slew first and it failed miserably. I suggest starting short at 5 degrees. I used 1 second exposures. Now press Run, and hopefully it takes off and Plate Solves.

    The Program expects the image center Lat/Long values in the Fits Image Header to match the Sync in MaxIM. So once you press Sync in MaxIM, MAKE SURE to take an additional image in MaxIM just after the Sync and just before pressing Run in PAM. That way the image center Lat/Long values will match. I skipped that last MaxIM image several times, and had PAM fail to plate solve.

    That’s all the hard stuff. PAM will work on Az adjustment and then Alt adjustment. If your error is very large, I suggest that you look at the Pole Error Map that it provides and just make a reasonable adjustment yourself to speed up the process. As you get closer, the offset that it wants you to make will start showing up on the Computer Screen, and the Star you are using won’t take as much effort to re-center.

    After is has you adjust Az, PAM has you recenter a bright Star and then Sync before pressing next in PAM; to move on to Alt adjustments. The Sync that it is asking for is on the Mount and not the Sync in MaxIM Observatory\Telescope page. So on the AP Handcontrol press RA/Dec/Rev button and then the number 9 button to Sync the Mount.

    Remember that I suggested starting Telescope RA Slew at 5 degrees. Once the error dropped below 5 Minutes in both Axis, I increased this value to 8, and then 12, and then finally 16 degrees. I quit at less than ½ minute error in both axis, with 16 degree RA Slews. This makes for great GoTo performance and flatter Guide Charts. Now if the white fluffy Michigan Nebula would move out….

    Hopefully this information fills in some gaps for others, that would like the benefit that PoleAlignMax offers, but maybe couldn’t get past some of the Program issues. AlanP

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    Officina Stellare Veloce 200mm f/3 Riccardi Honders, AT10RC at f/5.4, Vixen DED 108SS f/5 Refractor, AP1200GTO Mount, ATS Tripod, 8' ExploraDome. AP Mach1 Mount, AP Eagle Tripod at Cottage SkyShed POD. Cottage Scopes; GSO 12" carbon fiber tube RC at f/6.05, Officina Stellare Veloce 200mm F/3 Riccardi Honders, AT8RC, ARO 150mm f10 Mak, Orion Optics UK OMC140DL Mak, (3) Celestron C5 f/6 SCTs. Cameras: (2) SBig ST-4000XCM, SBig ST-4000XM [mono], SBig STL-4020M, QSI 540wsg-8, QSI 683ws-8, QSI 583wsg, Apogee Alta U8300M, Atik 450C, Starlight Xpress SXV_M8C on C6 SCT Hyperstar. Webpage: Mystarrynight[dot]Info

  2. #2
    AlanP's Avatar
    AlanP is offline SUPER GIANT
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    Default

    Clear skies last night allowed for some imaging and guiding. X and Y RMS dropped dramatically. I have some orthogonal issues, affecting GoTo slews across the Meridian. But slews on the same side of the Meridian now place the Stars on or near the Crosshair. And even slews across the Meridian placed the Star in the Finder Scope.

    I ran a one hour session on the AO-8 without having to reset it. The AO-8 is on the second Refractor, and corrects flexture issues. The first Scope does the guiding. So guiding motion off the main Scope added to flexture can be handled by the AO-8 for a period as long as one hour.... This will make sense to some out there, I am sure.

    Meantime, I took advantage of the improved guiding to run some dual 40-minute subframes of IC5070. AlanP

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    Officina Stellare Veloce 200mm f/3 Riccardi Honders, AT10RC at f/5.4, Vixen DED 108SS f/5 Refractor, AP1200GTO Mount, ATS Tripod, 8' ExploraDome. AP Mach1 Mount, AP Eagle Tripod at Cottage SkyShed POD. Cottage Scopes; GSO 12" carbon fiber tube RC at f/6.05, Officina Stellare Veloce 200mm F/3 Riccardi Honders, AT8RC, ARO 150mm f10 Mak, Orion Optics UK OMC140DL Mak, (3) Celestron C5 f/6 SCTs. Cameras: (2) SBig ST-4000XCM, SBig ST-4000XM [mono], SBig STL-4020M, QSI 540wsg-8, QSI 683ws-8, QSI 583wsg, Apogee Alta U8300M, Atik 450C, Starlight Xpress SXV_M8C on C6 SCT Hyperstar. Webpage: Mystarrynight[dot]Info

 

 

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