AstroScheduler: a different approach to astroimaging

Let’s state it clear: the year 2016, at least in Italy, is one of the worse years weather-wise. It is already mid-September and the number of total integration I did this year is so scarse that I may barely process one or two images, not more.

But I didn’t sit down in front of the PC simply waiting for a better weather forecast: I exploited these later months in order to start mass coding a new exciting software, that I hope it will be helpful for all of you as much as it is useful and fun to develop to me.

I am talking about AstroScheduler. What is it? It is basically an application that falls in the cathegory of the so called “system integrators”. its role is to be able to execute an entire night of imaging from dusk to down autonomously.

Being a system integrator, AstroScheduler relies on other application in order to perform different tasks, in particular it exploits:

  • Maxim DL for imaging and autoguiding
  • Focusmax (the latest freeware version) for focusing
  • Any ASCOM mount for telescope positioning
  • The offline version of Astrometry.net, thanks to the ASPS tool, for plate solving

As a system integrator, AstroScheduler relies on the fact that all the above applications are already working fine to you when you do your typical (manual) imaging session.

In the future I plan to support PHD2 as guiding application. Other applications’ support may be suggested by the users or potential users alike.

One thing is sure: AstroScheduler was born as a personal need so it reflects my needs, but it will be up to you if and what AstroScheduler will support and implement in the future.

If there is anyone that would like to be in the beta-tester program please let me know. The ideal beta-tester should be able to use AstroScheduler and test all its features in almost any clear night, in order to speed up the testing phase.

The User Interface I decided to implement is very simple, no bells or twistles. The reason is that, in my experience giving the user many possibilities of customizations and display information leads to confuse rather then give more control of what we are using.

AstroScheduler’s main feature is that you don’t need to run AstroScheduler to be able to program your night session. You may just open the Notepad application and write the meta-commands supported by AstroScheduler anytime and anywere you want. You then only need to open the script file into AstroScheduler and let hit the “Play” button.

astroscheduler_screenshot_01

And this is a sample of the script file. This is an actual script that I used during the last Star Party at Saint Barthelemy to image the emission nubula Sh2-155 in Cepheus.

@ 2016-00-02 21:45:00
# Messa a fuoco su: SAO20281 22 51 23 61 41 49
# Target: Sh2-155 22 56 48 62 37 00
mount on
maximccd on
maximccd mount on
fmax on
# Determina la posizione iniziale
maximccd image Luminanza 1 1600 60 solve.fit
solver blindsync solve.fit 450 5.2
# Vai alla stella di messa a fuoco 22 51 23 61 41 49
mount gotoeq 22 51 23 61 41 49
maximccd image Luminanza 1 1600 60 solve.fit
solver nearsync solve.fit 450 5.2
mount gotoeq 22 51 23 61 41 49
waiting 15
maximccd image Luminanza 1 1600 60 solve.fit
solver nearsync solve.fit 450 5.2
mount gotoeq 22 51 23 61 41 49
# Messa a fuoco
fmax focus
# Vai a Sh2-155 22 56 48 62 37 00
mount gotoeq 22 56 48 62 37 00
maximccd image Luminanza 1 1600 60 solve.fit
solver nearsync solve.fit 450 5.2
mount gotoeq 22 56 48 62 37 00
waiting 15
maximccd image Luminanza 1 1600 60 solve.fit
solver nearsync solve.fit 450 5.2
mount gotoeq 22 56 48 62 37 00
guider expose 3
waiting 5
guider calibrate 3
guider track 3
stable 60 0.2 3
maximccd nimage 24 Luminanza 1 800 600 sh2-155 2 3

I’ll explain the commands later on, but I think it is already quite readable.

Feedback is appreciated as usual!

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