Saturday, June 9, 2018

Modernizing my imaging setup

Yes, I'm finally going to move into the 21st Century by adding software mount control and plate solving! Along the way I'm consolidating all my cabling with both a 12V power hub and powered USB 3 hub.

I've resisted this move until now because it sounds really complicated and my imaging laptop wasn't up to running Astrotortilla. But the long winter gave me plenty of time and I've got a new laptop, too. And I have the motivation of doing something similar for the new imaging setup at the Minnesota Astronomical Society's Cherry Grove Observatory. (More about that in a coming post.)

What's New
  • Power: My old wet lead-acid batteries have been replaced by smaller sealed AGM batteries, giving me a total of about 108Ah in the field (assuming an 80% discharge). This should be enough for four summer nights of imaging. The batteries can be connected in parallel.
  • Software: BackyardEOS and PHD2 are now joined with StellariumScope, Stellarium, and Astrotortilla. ASCOM for everything, which permits me to do away with the cable from the guide camera to the mount! TeamViewer for remote monitoring and control.
  • Cabling: A RIGRunner power hub and separate powered USB3 hub have been added. This means I only need to run one power cable to the mount, and one USB cable. All the cables now join securely using Anderson Powerpole connectors. A small DROK DC step down converter now acts as the power supply for my DSLR. This attaches to the power hub. 
  • "Remote Control" via TeamViewer requires a wireless router for those times when the internet is available. I can control everything from my Android tablet.
ASCOM isn't nearly as difficult to implement as I had thought. Install the correct platform and drivers and you're good.

On the other hand, Astrotortilla has been a minor nightmare. The main problem has been the field of view that has to be specified. It really has to bracket* the FOV of your images. I have it solving now nice and fast, and working in conjunction with BYEOS and my mount.

    *After running a lot of test cases I'm not so sure this is true. It seems like solving success mainly requires that the long axis of your image is slightly larger than the actual FOV. The short axis can be almost anything greater than zero and smaller than the long axis.

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