Monday, 27 June 2022

New Feature release of AstroDMx Capture for all platforms

Nicola has made a new Feature Release for AstroDMx Capture for Windows, macOS, Linux (including  Raspberry Pi OS) and ChromeOS: Version 1.5.0.0

Mutatis mutandis

Release notes for 1.5.0.0

Nicola Mackin

27 JUNE 2022 AstroDMx releases

Overview

This version implements full support for Player One cameras as well as adding new Region of Interest functionality (more information below). In addition to this, the SVBONY SDK has been updated to the latest version.

New Cameras

Version 1.5.0.0 implements full support for Player One cameras (https://player-one-astronomy.com). The hardware used for the implementation was the Player One Mars C camera but any camera from this manufacturer should work. Full cooling functions have been implemented for this class of camera but are untested because the hardware used for implementation does not support any cooling features.

The cooling functions implemented are:

  • Set-point Cooler
  • Dew heater controls
  • Fan controls
  • Cooler power

New Functionality

As mentioned above, this version implements a new ROI (Region Of Interest) function. It is now possible to use the mouse to draw a rectangle or a square on the preview screen by clicking the left mouse button and then drawing the shape and size required.

If the connected camera supports ROI, then a message will appear asking if you want to use the region of interest. Clicking YES will reconfigure AstroDMx Capture with the new resolution and will automatically set the X and Y coordinates of the region. It is still possible to use the ROI sliders and ROI nudge functions to optimise the positioning and to track manually any movement in the object within the ROI that may arise from poor tracking by the mount.

This functionality makes it easier to select a precise region of interest. Once the ROI has been set, it is then possible to use a reticle if desired. An ROI selected this way makes it possible to better frame an elongated object such as a sunspot group, Saturn or Jupiter plus moons for example.

Updated Dependencies

The SVBONY SDK has been updated to 1.7.3 in this release. There are no other SDK or dependence updates.

The AstroDMx Capture project has now exceeded 77 KLOCs and is growing. More exciting functionality is being implemented so expect another release very soon.

AstroDMx Capture can be downloaded HERE

AstroDMx Capture is available for Windows, macOS, Linux including Raspberry Pi OS and ChromeOS.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Development of AstroDMx Capture

Development of AstroDMx Capture

The codebase for AstroDMx Capture has now reached 76 KLOCs (Thousands of lines of code), not including SDKs, plus about 13000 lines of internal documentation, giving 89 K lines in total. The growth of the codebase is due in part to the ongoing development of some advanced functionality that will eventually make it into a release. It is also due to the implementation of another family of cameras by Player One. The specific camera that has been implemented here is the Player One Mars-C II astronomy camera. More on this camera later…

What does the total of 89,000 lines of code plus documentation actually mean? To put this in an understandable and realistic perspective I will use a method that I have used before: 

The book 'iWoz', the autobiography of Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, is a fairly typical book in terms of size, if not content. It has 30 lines of text per page and 342 pages.

Therefore, if the whole of AstroDMx Capture was to be printed book fashion; to hold all of the lines of source code and internal documentation in AstroDMx Capture, it would require more than 8 printed volumes, each the size of 'iWoz' to contain everything; and the codebase is growing. The code is multi-threaded and uses polymorphism when needed, which is, in part, responsible for the efficiency and responsiveness of the software.

Implementation of the Player One cameras; specifically, the Mars-C II astronomy camera

The following is first light on the AstroDMx Capture implementation of the Mars-C-II camera. When bench and field testing is complete, Nicola will make a feature release to include Player One cameras.

Testing Deep Sky capabilities of the Mars-C-II camera

The Player One Mars-C II is marketed as a planetary, lunar and solar imager. However, it uses a Sony Starvis 2 IMX662 back illuminated CMOS sensor. It is a 12 bit, very sensitive, low noise device with no noticeable amp glow with low readout noise, and can make a useful un-cooled deep-sky imager. 

A Skywatcher Esprit 80 ED APO Pro Triplet Refractor was mounted on a Celestron AVX GOTO mount. A Player One Mars-C II camera was fitted with an LeNhance narrowband filter and placed at the focus. This filter passes two parts of the spectrum: H-alpha at the red end and H-beta plus OIII in the blue-green part of the spectrum. Effectively enabling limited narrowband imaging with OSC cameras.

An SV165 guide scope fitted with a QHY-5II-M camera was used for pulse auto-guiding with PHD2.

AstroDMx Capture for Linux was used to capture 30 x 2-minute exposures of M16, the Eagle Nebula with matching dark-frames, giving a total exposure of 1 hour.

Click on an image to get a closer view

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Linux capturing FITS images of M16


The images were calibrated, registered, stacked and part processed in Siril and then post-processed in the Gimp 2.10 and Neat Image.

Final image of M16 showing the Pillars of creation


Then AstroDMx Capture for Linux was used to capture 30 x 1-minute exposures of M17, the Swan Nebula with matching dark-frames, giving a total exposure of 30 minutes.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Linux capturing FITS data of M17


The images were calibrated, registered, stacked and part processed in Siril and then post-processed in the Gimp 2.10 and Neat Image.

Final image of the Swan Nebula reoriented to the more familiar orientation.


Solar imaging with the Player One Mars-C II OSC camera

A Skymax 127 Maksutov was fitted with a photographic grade Baader solar filter and mounted on a Celestron AVX GOTO mount. A Player One Mars-C II camera fitted with an IR/UV cut filter was placed at the focus.

AstroDMx Capture for Linux was used to capture a 10,000-frame SER file of the active region AR3038 sunspots in Mono-8 mode.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Linux capturing a solar SER file of AR3038


 The best 10% of the frames in the SER file were stacked in Autostakkert! , wavelet processed in Registax 5.1 and post processed in the Gimp 2.10

Final , colourised image of the AR3038 region of the photosphere.


 The image reveals structure in the sunspots, some faculae and granulation.

The results speak for themselves. We look forward to further testing the camera on other operating systems and other astronomical objects, and to releasing the next version of AstroDMx Capture with support for Player One astronomical cameras.

For the long exposure imaging, we used a relatively low-spec computer with good battery life; the Star Labs Starlite notebook with a Pentium Silver n5030 CPU running Linux Mint. For the high-speed solar imaging, a PC Specialist 9th Gen i7 laptop with less battery life running Fedora Linux was used. The capabilities of the CPU and GPU in the imaging computer can significantly influence the rate at which frames can be saved as well as other factors such as the type of storage medium used. It is possible to save data that have been debayered in the application. Depending on the factors mentioned above, some of the debayering options may impact the rate at which frames can be streamed and captured.

AstroDMx Capture can be downloaded HERE.

AstroDMx Capture is available for Windows, macOS, Linux including Raspberry Pi OS and ChromeOS.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Capturing and processing solar images using native Linux software

Astronomers who routinely use Linux, frequently make use of a mix of Windows and Linux software to achieve their results.

AstroDMx Capture is an image capture program developed by Nicola Mackin that has versions for Linux (including the Raspberry Pi), macOS and Windows. This is the software that we use to capture SER files of planetary, solar and lunar data. It is also the software that we use to capture FITS and TIF long-exposure data of deep-sky objects. AstroDMx Capture was originally developed to provide stable and fast image capture for Linux, but has since been developed into a platform-independent program that is under constant development and refinement.

After the capture of a SER file for example, it can be stacked in Autostakkert! or sometimes Registax 5.1 running at native speeds in the Windows compatibility layer Wine. the name 'Wine' is a recursive acronym for 'Wine Is Not an Emulator'. No emulation or virtualisation is involved. What happens is that software calls to the Windows API are translated on the fly into POSIX calls (the system of compatibility for all UNIX and UNIX like operating systems) which are then executed by the POSIX compliant operating system (in this case Linux). Wine is very good and is improving all the time as it continues to be developed. However, not every Windows program will run easily in Wine.

One example of a Windows program that is difficult to get to run in Wine is Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor), an image stitching program second to none, that can be used to mosaic overlapping image panels, seamlessly into a larger composite image. It was a free offering from Microsoft for many years, but has now been withdrawn for no apparent reason, and with no replacement. Unless you already have it downloaded, the latest version of ICE is unobtainable. An earlier version of Microsoft Image Composite Editor 1.4.4 is at the time of writing, still downloadable from oldversion.com. Arguably, this was a nicer version of the software in that it was not replete with adverts. It is not straightforward to get this software to run in Wine and involves the construction of a Wine 'vat' or 'bottle' to contain everything that is needed.

Windows programs such as Registax 5.1 and Iris run well in Wine and can be used for wavelet processing of a solar, lunar or planetary image after stacking. For some reason Registax 6 does not always run properly in Wine.

Post processing can be done in the Gimp, a cross platform image processor that contains most of the functionality of Photoshop plus a plethora of plugins that increase its power.

For this demonstration we shall use the raw H-alpha data from May 14th and White light data from May 17th.

Everything can be done with native Linux applications

A Solarmax II 60, BF15 H-alpha scope was mounted on an  iOptron Cube Pro AZ mount. An SV305M Pro monochrome CMOS camera was placed at the focus and AstroDMx Capture for Linux was used to capture two overlapping 2000-frame SER files of the solar disk.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Linux capturing H-alpha solar data for one image pane


Siril was used to register, and stack the best 1801 images from the registered 2000-frame SER file

Screenshot of Siril stacking the best 1801 registered images


the same was done for the other overlapping pane.

The two panes for the final mosaic




Hugin Panorama creator was then used to stitch the two panes of the final mosaic image.

Screenshot showing the two images loaded into Hugin


The two images moved into their relative positions in the final mosaic

Choosing alignment points for the two overlapping panes. As the alignment points are chosen they are automatically position refined by Hugin

The final Hugin stage before the stitching process is completed

Siril is then used again, but this time to wavelet process and deconvolve the final image to sharpen it
Wavelets processor selected

Wavelets applied

Deconvolution applied

The resulting image was then post-processed and reoriented in the Gimp 2.10

Final H-alpha image

Full Size image

Processing White light Bridge camera images with Siril

Equipment used

A Panasonic DMC-FZ72 Bridge camera with 60 x optical zoom and fitted with a Baader solar filter was placed on a static, sturdy tripod and 131 images of the Sun were captured.

The images were precisely cropped in AstroCrop to facilitate their eventual stacking.

Selecting the region to precisely crop in all of the images


AstroCrop progress

The images were then registered in Siril and the best 125 images were stacked


The resulting image was then wavelet processed and then deconvolved  in Siril as previously shown, to sharpen it


The resulting image was then post-processed and reoriented in the Gimp 2.10

Final White Light image

Full Size image

It is clear that what can be done in Windows, or in Linux, using Windows programs running in Wine, can also be done equally effectively using native Linux applications.

AstroCrop and AstroDMx Capture can be downloaded HERE.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

The Sun in Ca K-line, H-alpha and White light on May 14th 2022

Ca K-line light

A CaK PST was mounted on an iOptron Cube Pro AZ mount and an SV305 Pro monochrome camera was placed at the focus. Overlapping, 2000-frame SER files were captured of two halves of the Sun. 

Click on an image to get a closer view

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Linux capturing Ca K-line SER file data


The best 65% of the frames were stacked in Autostakkert!, wavelet processed in Registax 5.1 and post-processed in the Gimp 2.10.

The Sun in Ca K-line light



H-alpha light

A Solarmax II 60, BF15 H-alpha scope was mounted on an iOptron Cube Pro AZ mount and an SV305 Pro monochrome camera was placed at the focus. Overlapping, 2000-frame SER files were captured of two halves of the Sun. The best 65% of the frames were stacked in Autostakkert!, wavelet processed in Registax 5.1 and post-processed in the Gimp 2.10.

The Sun in H-alpha light


White Light

A Panasonic Lumix DMCFZ72, 60x optical zoom bridge camera fitted with a Baader solar filter and mounted on a static tripod was used to capture 135 images of the Sun. The mages were precisely cropped in AstroCrop, Stacked in Autostakkert!, wavelet processed in Registax 5.1 and post processed in the Gimp 2.10.

The Sun in White light


The images were colourised mildly to represent the part of the spectrum being used to capture the image.

AstroCrop and AstroDMx Capture can be downloaded HERE.

AstroCrop is available for Windows and Linux. AstroDMx Capture is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux including the Raspberry Pi.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Lunar Studies with AstroDMx Capture, a Skymax 127 and a ZWO ASI178MC

A motorfocus modified Skywatcher Skymax 127 f/11.8 Maksutov was mounted on a Celestron AVX mount and a ZWO ASI178MC camera was placed at the focus.

AstroDMx Capture for Linux running on a Linux Mint laptop was used to capture 1200-frame SER files of different regions of the 77.7% waxing Moon. 

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Linux capturing a Lunar SER file


AstroDMx Capture has customisable reticles that can be placed on the preview screen at arbitrary positions to help with manual tracking should the Moon tend to slowly drift in the fields of view. This minimises the useless edge regions that occur if drifting takes place.

Screenshot showing the reticle placed over a feature for manual tracking


The best 85% of frames in each of the SER files were stacked in Autostakkert! and wavelet processed in Registax 5.1, both running in Wine. The final images were post processed in the Gimp 2.10.

Results

Click on an image and click again to get a closer view.

Give the large images time to download after clicking.

Tycho region


Plato region


Copernicus region


Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus Arzachel region


Mare Tranquilitatis, Palus Somni region


The ZWO ASI178MC camera is a good match for the Skymax 127 Maksutov and AstroDMxCapture makes the capturing of SER files a simple matter. It is also possible, if preferred, to capture AVI files but the more modern and simpler SER file is to be preferred. One reason is that, if required, 16 bit SER files can be captured, which is not possible with AVIs. The customisable reticle is a very useful feature as it can be used to delimit the edges of the preview image in addition to facilitating manual guiding of lunar, solar and planetary imaging sessions.

AstroDMx Capture can be downloaded HERE.

AstroDMx Capture is available for Windows, macOS, Linux including Raspberry Pi OS and ChromeOS.

Friday, 22 April 2022

Using an SV305M Pro with a Barlow lens, tilt adapter and AstroDMx Capture for Linux

It is a common problem with H-alpha solar imaging with CMOS cameras that if a Barlow is introduced into the optical train Newton's rings frequently become evident in the image where they were not present if a Barlow has not been used. It has been found that a tilting mechanism can eliminate Newton's rings by using a correct tilt angle.

Click on an image to get a closer view

The equipment used

A Coronado Solarmax II, 60, BF15 H-alpha scope mounted on a Celestron AVX mount. A ZWO tilting mechanism was used to attach the SV305M Pro camera to a x2 Barlow lens which was then placed in the diagonal.

The slight tilt can be seen

AstroDMx Capture for Linux was used to capture a 2500-frame SER file of the Sun.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture capturing the SER file data


The SER file was registered, stacked and wavelet processed in Registax 6 and post processed in the Gimp 2.10

Below are four process renderings of the active regions imaged AR2993, AR2994 and AR2995 revealing details of the surface structure.

Normal monochrome image


Colourised normal image


Monochrome half-negative image


Colourised half-negative image


It can be seen that considerable detail of the sunspot active regions and filaments has been captured. The various renderings of the image can be used to explore and examine the various details of the structures.

The SV305M Pro USB 3.0, CMOS camera performed well in combination with the tilting mechanism and the H-alpha scope to produce a detailed image without Newton's rings.

AstroDMx Capture can be downloaded HERE.

AstroDMx Capture is available for Windows, macOS, Linux including Raspberry Pi OS and ChromeOS.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Flat-fields and sensor dust

In the previous article we looked at the correction of vignetting by the use of flat-fields and we explained exactly how flat-fields work.

In this article we shall look at a situation where there is no vignetting but where problems arise that require correction by flat-fields. Flat-fields are required if there is dirt or dust on the sensor or optical window in front of the sensor and when cleaning fails to cure the problem.

AstroDMx Capture has the facility to capture flat-fields and to apply the master flat-field in real-time which makes the process of capturing clean data more efficient and pleasant.

For this experiment we used an old DMK 21AU04.AS camera that has accumulated dust and dirt on the sensor over the years, and which we now use for flat-field testing.

To capture flat-fields we place a variable illuminated panel on the front of the telescope.


The panel is of the sort sold by  Amazon as a Light box tracing drawing board. The device has even illumination across the panel and variable brightness control which facilitates setting the optimal illumination for the flat-fields.

AstroDMx Capture for Linux was used to capture 20 flat fields by the built-in flat-field capture routine which captured the flat-fields and produced a Master Flat-field.

Click on an image to get a closer view

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Linux setting up to capture Flats

Capturing 20 TIFF file flat-fields. The exposure giving 52% maximum in the histogram
About 50-60% maximum is generally the correct exposure for flat-fields

Capture of the flat-fields is complete

Setting up to load the Master Flat that has been created

Loading the Master-Flat

This is the Master Flat that will be applied

Master Flat is loaded but flat-field calibration not yet activated

Activating the flat-field calibration

When the flat-field is applied to the data stream

When the flat-field is NOT applied to the data stream


Using flat-field calibration in a Solar imaging session

An APO 66mm f/5.5 refractor fitted with a Baader solar filter was used with AstroDMx Capture for Linux to image an area of the Sun using a DMK 21AU04.AS camera.



Screenshot of the imaging session imaging the Sun in White light with AstroDMx Capture

The dust spots can be seen all over the image of the Sun

Screenshot showing the same view when the Master Flat is applied in real time in AstroDMx Capture

It can be seen that the dust spots have all disappeared, removed by the flat-field.

AstroDMx Capture for Linux captured a 2500 frame SER file of the Sun. The best 80% of the images were stacked in Autostakkert! The resulting image was wavelet processed in Registax 5.1 and post-processed in the Gimp 2.10.

Resulting image of part of the solar disk

The image was then oriented correctly and colourised slightly in the Gimp 2.10

The large sunspot groups AR2993 and AR2994 can be seen appearing around the limb of the Sun. Smaller sunspots and some granulation and plage can also be seen, but the blemishes due to dust on the sensor are gone.

AstroDMx Capture can be downloaded HERE.

AstroDMx Capture is available for Windows, macOS, Linux including Raspberry Pi OS and ChromeOS.