Friday, 25 September 2020

Maintenance release of AstroDMx Capture for Linux version 0.78.3.2

Nicola has made a maintenance release of AstroDMx Capture for x86-64 Linux.



Some users were experiencing a problem of the software crashing on startup. This was traced back to a problem not in the software, but in the CPU instruction set of some older x86-64 CPUs. This has been rectified in the maintenance release.

If users of version 0.78.3 have experienced no problem at startup then they should do nothing and just use the software as usual. Only if they experienced the startup crash should they install the maintenance release 0.78.3.2. There is absolutely no functionality difference between the version 0.78.3 and the maintenance release 0.78.3.2. The maintenance release just fixes the startup problem for older CPUs.

Meanwhile work continues on the macOS and Windows versions of AstroDMx Capture.

Monday, 21 September 2020

M27 with AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi, 64 bit Ubuntu MATE Pi OS, and an SVBONY SV305 camera.

A Skywatcher Explorer 130 PDS 130mm, f/5 Newtonian was mounted on a Celestron AVX GOTO mount. An SVBONY SV305 camera was placed at the Newtonian focus. 

A Raspberry Pi 4B was running  64 bit Ubuntu MATE for the Pi. AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi was used to capture 30 x 60s exposures of M27, the Dumbbell nebula with matching dark-frames

The best 26 exposures were aligned and stacked with Deep Sky Stacker. The final image was post-processed in the Gimp 2.10, Affinity Photo, Neat Image and ACDSee.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi capturing data on M27


The final image of M27


Once again, the SV305 worked nicely with the Raspberry Pi running a 64 bit operating system.

Even after a release of the software, the testing continues; looking for anomalies and possible bugs. The combination of the SV305 and AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi, is proving to be a very useful, low cost imaging platform.

Meanwhile Nicola continues to work on macOS and Windows versions of AstroDMx Capture.


Saturday, 19 September 2020

The SVBONY SV305 and the Raspberry Pi working well together.

A Skywatcher Explorer 130 PDS 130mm, f/5 Newtonian was mounted on a Celestron AVX GOTO mount.

An SVBONY SV305 production camera was placed at the Newtonian focus.

AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi was run on a Raspberry Pi 4B with the 32 bit Raspberry Pi OS. This system was used to capture 40 x 30s exposures of the globular cluster M15 as 16 bit Tiff files with matching dark-frames.

The best 36 frames were aligned and stacked in Deep Sky Stacker. The resulting image was post processed in the Gimp 2.10, Affinity photo, and Neat image.

Click on an image to get a closer view.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi capturing data on M15


The display transforms and the non-destructive display controls allow the 16 bit image preview to be nicely visualised.

Final image of M15


The system worked very well with the 32 bit version of Raspberry Pi OS (previously called Rasbian). Previous problems were due to us using a pre-production prototype that had different firmware. The camera always worked with te 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Ubuntu MATE for the Pi.

The Raspberry Pi 4B (also the 3B) in combination with the SVBONY SV305 camera makes a good imaging platform for long or short exposures. The SV305 is a very good, low cost astronomical imaging camera that now has its range extended across Windows, Linux and Linux for the Raspberry Pi ARM architecture. The same is true of the SV305 Pro.


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Mars with AstroDMx Capture for Windows, an 8” SCT with a 2x Barlow and an SVBONY production SV305 camera.

 

Until now we have been working with a pre-production prototype of the SVBONY SV305. Nicola has implemented this camera in AstroDMx Capture in Linux X64 and Linux for the Raspberry Pi (32 bit and 64 bit), and Windows. The tests reported here are with the production model of the SV305, which has newer firmware and works with the SDK for the platforms mentioned above.

A Celestron 8” SCT was mounted on an AVX GOTO mount. The scope was fitted with a 2x Barlow and an SVBONY SV305 camera was attached.

Mars was imaged using AstroDMx Capture for Windows using a region of interest of 800 x 600. A frame-rate of just under 100fps was used to capture a 5min Time-Limited SER file of 27,000 frames.

SER Player was used to process the file for gamma and gain, and re-save as a SER file. The processed and the unprocessed SER files were stacked in Autostakkert! 3. The best 15% of the frames in the processed SER file were stacked and the best 20% of the frames in the unprocessed SER file were also stacked. The resulting images were wavelet processed in Registax 6, post-processed and combined in the Gimp 2.10.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows capturing a SER file of Mars

Note the edge reticle with a centre indicator defines the limits of the region of interest.

The final image of Mars

Again, these results show that the SVBONY SV305 camera is a very capable device at a very reasonable price and that it has been implemented very well in AstroDMx Capture.

Monday, 14 September 2020

AstroDmx Capture for macOS and AstroDMx Capture for Windows.

As mentioned in the previous post; Nicola has been working on the implementation of our 12 bit Lumenera Infinity 2-2C microscope camera in AstroDMx Capture for Windows. There is currently no support for Linux and no SDK for macOS for this particular camera. The implementation is almost complete and I have done a little testing with some microscope slides.

AstroDMx Capture for Windows streaming data on a TS Jasmine leaf


High quality Tiff snapshot of the leaf TS


Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows streaming data on a root cap


I also tested AstroDMx Capture for Windows with an 8” Celestron SCT fitted with a 6.3 focal reducer, field flattener. A ZWO ASI178MC, 14 bit CMOS camera was placed at the focus of the SCT.

60 x 15s exposures of the globular cluster M2 were captured with matching dark-frames

AstroDMx Capture for Windows capturing 16 bit Tiff files of M2


The images were dark-frame corrected and Stacked in Autostakkert! 2 and the resulting image was post processed in Affinity Photo, the Gimp 2.10 and Neat image.

The final cropped image of M2


AstroDMx Capture for macOS was tested with an Atik 314L mono CCD camera on the Celestron 8” SCT with the 6.3 focal reducer.

30s Tiff images with matching dark-frames were captured of the globular cluster M15 and 35 images of M2. The data were dark-frame corrected and stacked in Deep Sky Stacker. The final images were post processed in Affinity Photo and the Gimp.

AstroDMx Capture for macOS capturing data on M15


The final cropped image of M15


Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for macOS capturing data on M2


Final cropped image of M2


These tests show that progress is being made towards the release of macOS and Windows versions of AstroDMx Capture in addition to the implementation of another camera in the Windows version, the Lumenera Infinity 2-2C.




Thursday, 10 September 2020

AstroDMx Capture for macOS, a Bresser Messier-AR-102-xs f/4.5 ED refractor, an Atik 314L mono CCD camera with a H-alpha narrowband filter.

Nicola has been working on implementing the Atik 314L and other Atik cameras in AstroDMx Capture for macOS and we have been testing the implementation.

The scope/camera combination were mounted on a Celestron AVX mount.

AstroDMx Capture for macOS was running on a MacBook Air computer.

40 x 60s exposures were captured of M16 as 16 bit Tiffs with matching dark-frames.

The images were stacked and dark-frame corrected in Deep Sky Stacker and post processed in the Gimp 2.10 and Affinity Photo.

Click on an image to get a closer view

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture of AstroDMx Capture gathering data on M16, the Eagle nebula.

The non-destructive software controls in addition to the image transform rendered the Eagle nebula easily visible in the preview.

M16 final image showing the ‘Pillars of Creation’.


Nicola is spending a little time implementing our Lumenera Infinity 2-2 CCD microscopy camera in AstroDMx Capture for Windows, which is causing a slight delay in finishing the macOS version. However, this is timely because we are waiting to see if SVBONY will produce a macOS SDK for the SV305/Pro. We will not wait long before release, but it has given a little time to work on our own camera for our microscopy. I shall publish results here when the Lumenera implementation is finished.


Monday, 31 August 2020

Release of AstroDMx Capture for Linux version 0.78.3

Release of version 0.78.3 of AstroDMx Capture for X64 Linux, and Linux for 32 & 64 bit ARM architecture on the Raspberry Pi 4B.

The Linux versions of AstroDMx Capture are being released first, to be followed quickly by versions for MacOS, Windows and FreeBSD.

The software can be downloaded from https://www.linux-astro-imaging.uk/

New features and new cameras are included in this version of AstroDMx Capture, and a new Logo represents the platforms on which the software now runs.


This version seems to have been quite a log time coming. However, Nicola has been working flat out on the programming, and the project has now grown to greater than 50 KLOCS (Thousands of lines of source code, not including internal documentation and camera SDKs). Moreover this release has involved significant code refactoring in order to bring the other operating systems on board. The lines of internal documentation exceed 11,000 lines of comments.

To put this in an understandable and realistic perspective: If a book had 50 lines per page, then to contain all of the lines of source code in AstroDMx Capture would require a minimum of two, 500 page volumes. This is a minimum because many lines of code actually require more than one physical line to contain them, as they can be quite long lines. In reality, the books would be much larger than this because they would also have to contain all of the internal documentation that allows the developer to understand the workings of the code when it is revisited for maintenance purposes or modification in the future. If we include the lines of internal documentation, an additional volume of about 240 pages would be required.

The process doesn’t end with writing the code. Next, the code has to be compiled and linked. In order to do this the compilers and cross compilers have themselves to be compiled so that they are optimised for the platforms and processors. The initial compiling is done in debug mode and only when it looks as though everything works, is the project compiled in release mode. However, before a release can be made, extensive bench-testing has to take place in release mode to make sure that all of the supported cameras and all of the features work as intended. This is an iterative process leading to a final release of the software.

The aim has been to build a single code base to facilitate development and management across the operating system platforms. The software for Linux, Windows, MacOS and FreeBSD all look similar and are operated in the same way. The FreeBSD version is limited to the DMK, DFK and DBK cameras, UVC cameras and Tethered Canon and Nikon DSLRs. The reason for this is simple lack of SDK support by the camera manufacturers. We considered it particularly worthwhile to include FreeBSD because we were able to support DSLR tethering, so FreeBSD can use supported Canon and Nikon DSLRs for capture with full computer control over the camera. Incidentally, DSLR tethering should also work with other manufacturer supported tethering, but we have been unable to test other makes of camera.

New cameras supported

1) SVBONY SV305 Pro

2) QHY 5III178C

3) QHY 5III178M

New Features

1)  Nicola has implemented Live view for supported DSLR cameras. The resolution of the live view is specific to and determined by the camera. This is a useful function to aid focusing on bright objects such as the Moon.

2)  This version of AstroDMx Capture brings online the latest SVBONY SV305 Pro camera, which is much like the original SV305, but also has a guide port. It has a larger metal body, so it is likely that it will be more efficient at dissipating camera heat, particularly important for long exposures. It works on all tested X64 Linux distributions as well as 32 bit Raspberry Pi OS and 64 bit Rasbian. The original SVBONY SV305 camera doesn’t work on the 32 bit Raspberry Pi OS. However, it works fine in 32 bit Ubuntu MATE on the Raspberry Pi as well as on the 64 bit version of MATE and 64 bit Rasbian.

3)  High quality, uncompressed Tiff snapshot capture has been included in this version of AstroDMx Capture. This is of particular use for scientific imaging such as microscopy that may not be using movie files (SER or AVI) for subsequent stacking.

4)  Motion detection triggered capture of all supported files has been incorporated into AstroDMx Capture. This feature is particularly useful for the monitoring of nesting box cameras or for cameras monitoring wildlife, or for any other situation where motion detection is required.

5)  Software image controls now have Gain implemented in addition to Gamma, Brightness and Contrast. By default, the software controls are non-destructive, in that they do not affect the saved data. In this version, there is the option to apply the software controls to the saved data for 8 bit data. This is useful if the camera has few or no built in controls.

6)  New reticles have been added: An edge indicator, a rule of thirds grid and a simple, diagonal cross hairs reticle.

Raspberry Pi implementations

32 bit Ubuntu MATE


32 bit Raspberry Pi OS


In both of these cases, note that AstroDMx Capture is shown on the desktop in Ubuntu MATE (It is also in the menus); and also in the menus for Raspberry Pi OS.

Imaging of the 89% waxing, Moon with the SVBONY SV305 Pro camera, a Skymax 127 Maksutov and AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi running in 32 bit Ubuntu MATE.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Raspberry Pi capturing a SER file of the Palus Somni using an SVBONY SV305Pro camera

Resulting image after stacking, wavelet processing and post-processing

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Raspberry Pi capturing a SER file of the Tycho region using  an SVBONY SV305 Pro camera

Resulting image after Stacking, wavelet processing and post-processing

A taste of things to come

Nicola is working to release AstroDMx Capture for FreeBSD, MacOS and Windows as mentioned at the start of this article. Below are some results from AstroDMx Capture for Windows.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows streaming data from the SVBONY SV305 Pro of a Cyanobacterium Nostoc under a transmission microscope.

Snapshot of the field of view showing the filaments of Nostoc cells

Maintenance release will be made if bugs are discovered.

Watch this blog for further information about AstroDMx Capture.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

The SV305Pro camera with AstroDMx Capture for Windows and 32 bit Raspberry Pi

 In the absence of any clear skies for the testing of AstroDMx Capture developments, the next best thing is to do the testing using a microscope instead of a telescope. Scientific imaging ranges from the very small to the very large and distant. Using a research-grade trinocular microscope enables the camera, in this case the SV305Pro to be attached to the camera port of the microscope and used as a scientific imaging system. 

The tests done here were using a Raspberry Pi 4B fitted with heat-sinks and a cooling fan, all within an open-sided acrylic case.

The Pi that we routinely use has an attached USB 3.0 SSD drive onto which results are written.

Click on an image to get a closer view.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi running on 32 bit Rasbian

The filamentous alga Spirogira was imaged.

Snapshot of part of a Spirogyra filament


Snapshot of another filament at lower magnification


A SER movie file was captured showing the presence of some small, active Copepods close to the algal filaments

The short exposure experiments are now complete and demonstrate that the SV305Pro camera functions well with AstroDMx Capture for the Raspberry Pi in both 64 bit and 32 bit Rasbian, the official operating system of the Raspberry Pi.

It is important to remember at this stage that the tests so far have been with 8 bit short exposures. What is now required is to do 16 bit long exposure experiments to test the performance of the camera in this mode. There will be no release of the software until the camera works in all modes, and we are satisfied that the SDKs work correctly.

Stop press! The long exposure problems with the SDK seem to have been fixed so a release of the 32 bit version will be made soon, supporting the SV305 Pro, but it looks unlikely at this stage, that the 32 bit version will support the original SV305. When these problems are sorted out, a maintenance release will be made to support the original SV305 in 32 bit Rasbian.

Friday, 14 August 2020

The SV305Pro camera with AstroDMx Capture for Windows and 64 bit Raspberry Pi

 AstroDMx Capture is being developed as a single code-base for multiple operating systems. It is a huge project that now exceeds 50 KLOCs (a KLOC is a thousand lines of Source Code) and this does not include the many thousands of lines of internal documentation within the code. 

This might all seem to some observers like the never-ending story. In a sense, it is, because AstroDMx Capture will continue to be maintained and increased in capability. The bulk of the compiling is done on a Fedora Linux machine using cross-compilers where required and only compiling in a native environment for MacOS or Windows when necessary.

The incorporation of the Windows operating system into AstroDMx Capture is what has taken quite a lot of time. This is because Windows is not a POSIX compliant operating system, and so does things frequently, in a fundamentally different way to the POSIX compliant UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems such as Linux, MacOS and FreeBSD. 

This is all quite ironic. To explain what I mean, I will give a short excerpt from a book that Nicola and I are writing, and will be publishing when we get time. 

'In the early 1980’s there were three branches of UNIX development: Firstly, UNIX system III from the Bell laboratories UNIX Support Group. Secondly, Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD®) from the University of California at Berkeley.  The third branch of UNIX development was Microsoft’s XENIX®, a version of UNIX that ran on the X86 family of processors’ and licensed from AT&T Corporation. In fact, in the early 80s, XENIX had the largest installation base of any UNIX system. UNIX fragmentation produced compatibility problems between UNIX versions which gave rise to the formulation of the POSIX® standard (Portable Operating System Interface for UNIX), which was an attempt to standardise the system-call interface in order to maintain compatibility between operating systems.

Even Microsoft with Windows NT had a go at being POSIX compliant. This because they wanted to win an Air Force contract. The Federal Information Processing Standard required that some types of government software purchases had to be POSIX compliant. Microsoft incorporated the Microsoft POSIX subsystem into the first versions of Windows NT. However, the Windows NT POSIX subsystem did not incorporate a POSIX shell or any UNIX commands. However, the system was sufficiently POSIX compliant to win the contract. They continued with incorporating SUA; a Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications. This was finally removed in Windows 8.1. It is important to understand that being UNIX does not depend on, for example, having a certain kernel; it depends on meeting a number of criteria, mainly POSIX compliance, to conform to the Single UNIX Specification. If Microsoft had gone all of the way in making Windows POSIX compliant, Windows too could have been classified as UNIX. This was obviously not what Microsoft wanted,' which is a huge shame!

The irony goes even further because having removed their Subsystem for Unix-base applications (SUA) in Windows 8, Microsoft have now implemented in Windows 10, WSL (Windows subsystem for Linux) that allows Linux applications to run in a sort of Wine in reverse compatibility layer. WSL2 on the other hand, actually incorporates a Linux kernel in a Virtual environment, yes a Linux kernel sitting alongside the Windows kernel!, so Linux applications can run on a Linux kernel without the requirement for a Wine-like compatibility layer. However, this seems to me to be half-hearted and certain ports and functions cannot be passed through to the WSL2. Microsoft have done this because their Azure cloud systems essentially run on Linux machines and they want a command-line Linux to be available to developers from within Windows.

Nicola has virtually completed the implementation of AstroDMx Capture in Windows, but it  has been nowhere as straightforward as working within the constraints and confines of regular Windows frameworks, whilst protecting against the future effects of systems that have bee deprecated by Microsoft, such a Direct Show.

Testing AstroDMx Capture for Windows with the SV305Pro camera

Click on an image to get a closer view

The SV305Pro is the most recent member of the SVBONY family of cameras.

From left to right are the SV105, SV205, SV305 and the SV305Pro.

Note the blanking plug that we have inserted into the guiding port of the SV305Pro to prevent accidental attempts to insert the camera data cable into the guiding port.

The SV305Pro camera was attached to the camera port of a research-grade trinocular microscope.

AstroDMx Capture for Windows was used to capture data on Nematode micro-worms from the SV305Pro camera on the microscope.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows streaming data from the SV305Pro


A SER file was captured of the nematodes


Snapshot of some nematodes captured by AstroDMx Capture for Windows

The camera worked almost flawlessly with AstroDMx Capture for Windows and good results were obtained. There are however, still some issues that may be SDK related, and further testing will be required to resolve them.



Testing AstroDMx Capture for 64 bit Rasbian on a Raspberry Pi 4B with the SV305Pro camera

Click on an image to get a closer view.

The RaspBerry Pi workstation with two monitors and the Trinocular microscope with the SV305Pro camera

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture on the main monitor

Screenshot extending across both monitors with the capture windows dragged onto the right hand monitor.

A SER file was captured of the moving nematodes

Snapshot of nematode worms captured as a high quality tiff

The Raspberry Pi has a 64 bit SOC and it is perhaps surprising that only recently a 64 bit version of Rasbian, the official operating system of the Raspberry Pi computer has been available. This test demonstrates that on the 64 bit Rasbian OS the SV305Pro worked well.

If tests on the 32 bit version of Rasbian go well, the Linux and Pi versions of AstroDMx Capture will be released ahead of the MacOS and Windows versions. Before this can happen, Nicola has to complete the implementation of Atik cameras with the new SDK and sort out some last minute bugs introduced during the code refactoring that has been done.

Stop press! The long exposure problems in the SDK seem to have been fixed, so a release will be very soon supporting the SV305 and the SV305 Pro in 64 Bit Rasbian.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

More Proof-testing of AstroDMx Capture

This article shows results from AstroDMx Capture for Windows and 

AstroDMx Capture for FreeBSD

In all of these tests the camera was placed at the Cassegrain focus of a Skymax 127 mounted on a Celestron AVX mount.

AstroDMx Capture for Windows and an SV305 camera


A 1000-frame SER file was captured at maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 of a region of the 51.4% waxing Moon.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows capturing lunar data

The best 90% of the frames captured were aligned and stacked in Autostakkert! The resulting image was wavelet processed in Registax 6 and post processed in the Gimp 2.10.

Processed image

A 2500 frame SER file was captured with a Region of interest (ROI) of 1440 x 1056.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows capturing a ROI and using a reticle

The best 50% of frames were aligned and stacked in Autostakkert!, wavelet processed in Registax 6 and post processed in Affinity Photo and the Gimp 2.10

Processed ROI



AstroDMx Capture for Windows and a QHY 5L-II-M camera


2000 frame SER files were captured of two regions of the 65.3% waxing Moon.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows capturing lunar data

The best 50% of the frames captured were aligned and stacked in Autostakkert!, wavelet processed in Registax 6 and post processed in the Gimp 2.10.

Screenshot of processed image

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for Windows capturing data

The best 50% of the frames captured were aligned and stacked in Autostakkert!, wavelet processed in Registax 6 and post processed in the Gimp 2.10.

Processed image




AstroDMx Capture for FreeBSD and a DMK 21AU04.AS camera

2,500 frame SER files were captured of the 54.1% waxing Moon. The best 50% of the frames were stacked in Autostakkert! running in Wine and wavelet processed in Registax 5.1 also running in Wine. The final image was post processed in the Gimp 2.10 running natively.

Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for FreeBSD capturing data


Processed image


Screenshot of AstroDMx Capture for FreeBSD capturing data

Processed image

These results show that the AstroDMx Capture software is functional on Windows and FreeBSD as well as, we have previously shown, on the original Linux and on MacOS. Nicola is sorting out issues with the single code base that will ultimately make the maintenance of the project code, more manageable.
FreeBSD has been included because it has been possible to implement DSLR cameras as well as the Imaging source DMK and DFK. There are no SDKs available for FreeBSD, but nontheless, the cameras that Nicola has implemented make FreeBSD a viable imaging platform.