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Thread: Automation with SGP

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    Default Automation with SGP



    I really like SGP. I can program a target during the day. Once it's dark I just get everything powered up and PHD2 calibrated, then run the sequence. SGP slews the scope, plate solves and centers the target, autofocuses, then starts imaging. It communicates with PHD2 to pause when needed. With my AVX mount I could have it do an automatic meridian flip. It takes a plate solve image, flips the mount then centers again. PHD2 calibration is flipped and away it goes again. I could have it do one target all night long. The meridian flip is not currently working with my CEM60 but hopefully that will get fixed with the next version of the iOptron ASCOM driver.

    Like Astrotortilla, plate solving is one of the trickiest thing to get going in SGP but it has a fail-safe of using astrometry.net as a backup, either online or a local installation. With the backup I have not had it fail to solve. To make everything work correctly you need to make sure all of the equipment and specifications are entered correctly but once done you can save the profiles and make new sequences easily.

    It's really a powerful program and I really like it. Support is great on their forum and the developers are always there to help. It's also a lot more reasonably priced for a full automation package than others on the market.

    Chris
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    Default Re: Remote Control of your Observatory Wirelessly

    The plate solving thing is the part that bothers me. So basically you have to figure out the center of your target using Astrometry.net and enter the celestial coordinates in to SGP? It would be so much easier if AstroTortilla worked with it.

    I thought the pier side problem was supposed to be straightened out by the last iOptron update that was like 2 weeks ago?

    How much is SGP? If I remember correctly it was $100 but there was also an add-on which I don't know how much that was or if its already in that $100?
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    Default Re: Remote Control of your Observatory Wirelessly

    Quote Originally Posted by Jameedon View Post
    The plate solving thing is the part that bothers me. So basically you have to figure out the center of your target using Astrometry.net and enter the celestial coordinates in to SGP? It would be so much easier if AstroTortilla worked with it.
    It doesn't work with AstroTortilla per se, but AstroTortilla is just a front-end user interface for the Astrometry.net plate-solving engine. And SGP does work extremely well with Astrometry.net. So well that I use a local copy of Astrometry.net as my primary plate solver rather than as a backup as Chris describes.

    You can enter the coordinates by hand, as you describe, if you so choose. But the easy way to aim at your target is to go on Astrobin and find a photo of your intended target. You paste the URL of the photo into SGP, and your targeting is done, easy-peasy. Or you can use a local copy of a photo, but that takes a bit longer, since it has to plate-solve the photo from scratch, whereas the Astrobin method uses photos that are already solved.

    Plate-solving for aiming the mount is automatic, just as it is if you use AstroTortilla.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jameedon View Post
    I thought the pier side problem was supposed to be straightened out by the last iOptron update that was like 2 weeks ago?
    That update was just for the hand controller. We are still waiting on the ASCOM driver update, which will (we hope) fix the meridian flip issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by cmassa View Post
    My experience with this is with SequenceGeneratorPro (SGP) which will not autofocus with DC focusers.
    I actually use a DC focuser with SGP and it works moderately well, if you adjust all the backlash out of the focuser. I use a beta version of the FocusPal application from Shoestring Astronomy that simulates a stepper focuser. On the hardware end, it knows it is running a DC motor, but it uses the ASCOM interface for a stepper focuser. SGP is therefore able to use it. Backlash is a bit of an issue, but for the most part it works well enough that I can rely on it.
    Last edited by KathyNS; 01-17-2015 at 02:01 PM.

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    Default

    Keith,

    My next question about SGP was gonna be can you load a photo and solve from it, and I'm surprised it can because I was pretty sure that it couldn't, SGP just gained a bit more of my interest. Does SGP take longer to solve like AT does when the photo is a star field and packed with stars?

    What do you mean by you use a local copy of astrometry.net rather than a back up? Why is there a primary and a back up, and what does Chris use as a primary if astrometry.net is his back up?

    Do you own a scope with a stepper motor? I'm curious if SGP's auto-focus works better with a stepper motor than with a DC motor, as far as the best focus? And what is backlash in a focuser and how do you get rid of it so the auto-focus function you described works good?
    -Jamee
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    Default Re: Remote Control of your Observatory Wirelessly

    SGP also has a great framing and mosaic wizard (an extra $35) which I highly recommend. Type the name of your target by common name or catalog number and it presents you with an image of that part of the sky. Since it knows your FOV, you then draw a box on the image and can move it around until you have framing the way you want. It then puts these coordinates into a sequence. If the box you draw is bigger than your FOV it will automatically create a mosaic from it. It's easier if you see it:

    sgp plan.jpg

    I just typed in 'horsehead' and left it at 4 deg FOV. SGP downloaded the image and I drew a small box on the image and SGP made it the correct size for my FOV. This was the profile for my AT65 on the CEM60 mount. I can click and move the box around to frame the target how I want. When I then create the sequence, the images come out exactly the same. I have never typed in coordinates for a target. As Keith said, you can also feed it a downloaded image from the internet. It would be nice if it could get targets directly from Stellarium but once I got used to the framing wizard I haven't missed it. I will usually look for targets in Stellarium and then just type it into the wizard.

    Here is an example of a mosaic. This is plan I used for the Pelican/North America Nebula image I posted a while back. It automatically creates all 6 targets and puts the coordinates into your sequence.

    SGP Mosaic.jpg

    Chris
    OTA's: TPO 10" f/4 Newtonian, Celestron 8" EdgeHD SCT, 0.7x Edge reducer lens, Astro-Tech AT65EDQ, Astro-Tech 50mm guide scope
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    Default Re: Automation with SGP

    This thread, to this point, was originally part of this thread: Remote Control of your Observatory Wirelessly. It was split off and moved to avoid hijacking the original thread.

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    Default Re: Automation with SGP

    Quote Originally Posted by Jameedon View Post
    Keith,

    My next question about SGP was gonna be can you load a photo and solve from it, and I'm surprised it can because I was pretty sure that it couldn't, SGP just gained a bit more of my interest. Does SGP take longer to solve like AT does when the photo is a star field and packed with stars?

    What do you mean by you use a local copy of astrometry.net rather than a back up? Why is there a primary and a back up, and what does Chris use as a primary if astrometry.net is his back up?

    Do you own a scope with a stepper motor? I'm curious if SGP's auto-focus works better with a stepper motor than with a DC motor, as far as the best focus? And what is backlash in a focuser and how do you get rid of it so the auto-focus function you described works good?
    SGP comes with something called Elbrus as it's standard plate solver. It's a bit finicky and doesn't always work - it needs good hints (general area of the sky and FOV) and a good image. If using the Mosaic wizard, it feeds the hints automatically. When it works it solves in less than 5 seconds. It can also work with the Pinpoint plate solver but that is another $150 from another company. I used the trial and it works every time almost instantly. Basically I (and most others) have Elbrus set as primary because it is fast with astrometry.net as a backup. Astrometry.net generally takes anywhere from 15-60 seconds. Astrotortilla is actually using a local installation of the Astrometry.net database files instead of online. Since I always have an internet connection I just use the online version. You can also tell SGP to use local files, even the ones already installed for AT if you want. The online version never fails. I have found the local version to be slower, sometimes a couple of minutes to get a solve. Some people just use Astrometry.net as the default solver.

    I have stepper motors for both scopes - a Rigel Systems for the stock SCT focuser, and a Moonlite Stepper for the Moonlite focuser on my AT65. Both can be controlled by the Rigel USB-nstep controller. I really can't get rid of backlash in the focuser other than tighten the gears a bit but only on my SCT. SGP has backlash compensation which moves it back a few steps after a focus move. I haven't needed it for the AT65 because there is very little but am still playing with the SCT focusing. SGP has a bit more trouble with focusing long focal length SCT's. SGP does not work with DC motors unless you do as Keith pointed out which is to fool SGP in to thinking you have a stepper with another piece of software. The autofocus routine does a WAY better job than I do with a Bahtinov mask. I set it to autofocus every 1 deg C temp change and once per hour otherwise. It also focuses on target changes.

    To get around the meridian flip issue with the CEM60, for now I just set several targets on one side of the meridian. I've been running the Cone Nebula until it crosses the meridian, SGP then moves to the next target (M101) which is coming above the trees in the east. It pauses and restarts PHD2 as it needs.

    Chris
    Last edited by cmassa; 01-17-2015 at 04:15 PM.
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    Default Re: Automation with SGP

    Quote Originally Posted by Jameedon View Post
    My next question about SGP was gonna be can you load a photo and solve from it, and I'm surprised it can because I was pretty sure that it couldn't, SGP just gained a bit more of my interest. Does SGP take longer to solve like AT does when the photo is a star field and packed with stars?
    SGP itself doesn't do the plate solving. It refers that task to helper software. It has three choices, of which I use Astrometry.net. Performance probably varies among the three programs. It would be reasonable to expect slower performance on more complex images, but I haven't done those tests.

    What do you mean by you use a local copy of astrometry.net rather than a back up? Why is there a primary and a back up, and what does Chris use as a primary if astrometry.net is his back up?
    SGP has the option to use one of three different packages for plate solving. I forget what the others are - at least one of them costs money - I use the downloaded version of Astronomy.net. If your primary plate solver fails, you can set it to go online and use the web-based version of Astrometry.net. In my case, it wouldn't do me much good, since it's the same database and the same software engine and the same results. But if you were using one of the others, it might be useful to have a backup plate solver. Of course, the web-based version is considerably slower than a downloaded version.


    Do you own a scope with a stepper motor? I'm curious if SGP's auto-focus works better with a stepper motor than with a DC motor, as far as the best focus? And what is backlash in a focuser and how do you get rid of it so the auto-focus function you described works good?
    Both my scopes have DC focusers. Not good planning on my part; I blame my $cottish heritage. A stepper motor focuser would definitely work better.

    Backlash is just backlash. Here is a photo of the focuser I use:
    81 GSO LF wi DC motor.jpg
    As you can see, there are gears between the motor and the focuser shaft. You tighten up the red knobs to adjust the mesh of the gears. To have the software pretend that it is a stepper focuser, you need to have the mesh of the gears really tight.

    The auto focus function works acceptably. It is far from perfect. The software is trying to keep track of how far it has moved the focuser. But since it has no data, it has to estimate, based on the time and current sent to the motor. That is not a precise calculation, since there is no exact model. A stepper motor is much more precise, because the software can count the steps and know exactly how far it has the focuser.

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    Default

    Thanks for all the info. I've got questions but I'll have to ask them later because I'm about to go run around town taking care of business.
    -Jamee
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    Default Re: Automation with SGP

    Here is what an autofocus run on my SCT looks like. The AT65 with the shorter focal length makes a much nicer looking curve:

    SGP AF.jpg

    My stepper controller has a temp sensor so I can have it focus when temp changes. I can also just do temp compensation if I want. I have figured out that the AT65 needs to move in 9 steps for every 1 deg C drop in temp and the SCT moves in 65 steps for every degree. I do that when doing Ha imaging as the autofocus routine can't get bright enough stars to do autofocus in short exposures.

    My SCT stepper from Rigel Systems: 88 CPC stepper small.jpg

    Chris
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