Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Automatic Meridian Flip in Ekos

Over the past couple of weeks, I worked on a new feature in Ekos: Automatic Meridian Flip.

Equatorial mounts flip after crossing the meridian in order to prevent the imaging equipment train from hitting the tripod. With Ekos, you can set an hour angle limit which if exceeded, the mount will be commnded to flip. The mount must begin tracking east of the meridian in order to the meridian flip to be commanded in Ekos.

When commanding a meridian flip, Ekos will suspend the autoguiding process and waits until the mount completes the flip. Once the mount begins tracking again post meridian flip, Ekos will plate-solve and make any necessary slew commands to bring the mount to the exact location it was tracking prior to the flip.

Next, it will automatically capture a frame and select a suitable guide star, performs calibration, and resumes autoguiding. If In-Sequence focuing is enabled, it will also capture and focus a suitable star. It then resumes the capture process form where it left.

All these steps are completely automated and require no user intervention! Watch the video below for a live demo of this feature!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

3D Cube FITS & Debayer support in KStars

Recently I was finally able to close BUG#305960 where a user requested support for 3D Cube FITS support in KStars. The FITSViewer tool always supported monochrome images since its inception, as this is what most CCD cameras in astronomy use. But single-shot color CCDs and DSLRs' utilization within the astrophotography world kept growing over the last few years.

Now the FITSViewer tool can display any 2D (monochrome) & 3D (color) cube FITS, and while most of the operations in KStars are geared toward single-channel images, the migration to 3 channel support was relatively smooth.

In addition to the 3D cube support, the FITSViewer tool can debayer images captured from color cameras and stored in RAW format with a specific color filter array (CFA).

DSLR users will gladly welcome this feature as they can inspect their color RAW images in color and may adjust the debayer parameters to produce a clear image of their target. Internally, KStars converts the debayerd image to a 3D Cube FITS without changing the RAW data at all. While the user may save the file as a 3D Cube FITS, it is not recommend. In fact, the debayer functionality should only be used to inspect the image, and the RAW image should always be processed under a dedicated astrophtography tool like PixInsight in order to carry out proper calibration procedure before any integration and registration processes.

In addition to DSLRs, the SBIG CCD INDI driver now also supports color CCDs. More INDI CCD drivers will have color support soon.