Re: software

Christopher Erickson

I am sure that it won't help much but I have to express my sympathy for
Roland, the AP crew and all of the AP customers who are waiting for APCC.
After all, it is being written by a third party contractor (DC-3 Dreams) and
Roland gets to be the fall guy when promises made to him that he in turn
passes along to us get broken. And then broken again. And again.

In fact I'll bet that nobody is more-thoroughly stressed-out by the delays
to APCC than Roland, Marj, Howard and George.

For whatever it's worth Alain, I would bet that Roland would move heaven and
earth to get APCC finished and into your hands, if he could.

Christopher Erickson
Consulting Engineer
Summit Kinetics
Waikoloa, HI 96738


From: ap-gto@... [mailto:ap-gto@...]
Sent: Saturday, May 17, 2014 11:17 PM
To: ap-gto@...
Subject: RE: [ap-gto] Re: software

I am really sorry to have misread this document :

I mean I didn’t know I should not read the things in yellow.

It does not say that APCC is not available, and the problem is that it will
be available in a couple of weeks since now several years.

You keep talking about “the right software”, but I believe the right
software should be APCC, and unfortunately it is not available.

On the AP1600 I bought I was able to get +/- 0.3” periodic error in RA (from
+/-3 without PEC).

How do you calibrate the periodic error in the declination gear ? Which

No Roland, I really appreciate your products, I think that normally you make
great products, optics, mounts, but on this one… L

It would be really nice to get something working (I mean the way it was
advertised to be).

It’s a really hard job (to write such a software) because you have to derive
a tracking model, from a pointing model (the tracking model is the
derivative of the pointing model). It can be done with an integrated
software, it can’t work if you have to rely on several pieces of software,
unless you wrote them. You need a piece of software to acquire the images,
i.e. point, take an image (I mean with whatever camera the user may have),
reduce and compute the offset, you need to compute the pointing model, then
another piece of software to apply both pointing and tracking models under
regular operations, i.e. control the mount, and that part on a direct drive
mount we have here is 150000 lines of code alone.

I think you were optimistic 2 years and a half ago when you started to sell
the AP1600. Yes it can be used as a regular mount without encoders, but with
encoders it would perform a lot better and you know it (otherwise why do you
advertise it).

And at any rate, it is not correct toward your clients to advertise a
software which does not exist.

As I told you I use my encoderless AP with a Starfire 130mm, I get 3 to 4
arc seconds images, it’s not a high resolution system. I typically make 5 to
10 minutes exposures so I autoguide. I control everything with PRISM and
have no problems. Made the pointing model with PRISM, and the objects are
usually centered. The mount is a little bit of an overkill for such a small
telescope. The only thing that I don’t like is when pointing, the telescope
is allowed to point below the horizon. To me that should not occur, the
pointing algorithm is not correct, but all the other commercial mounts also
make that mistake. For the Starfire, no big deal, but I just wouldn’t put a
24 inch on a mount which has no hesitation pointing below the horizon. All
professional telescopes have tilt systems which prohibits bringing the
telescope below say 10° of altitude. They just cut power in case something
like this occur. Normally in fact there is a software tilt at 15° and then a
hard tilt (cut power) at 10°.

For reasons I can’t understand, 40 meters away, another AP1600, with
encoders, using the Sky X keeps doing weird things. Tonight, the owner
unparked, pointed at M83, and the mount or the software or both decided that
M83 (high in the sky) was toward China. The owner stopped the mount, brought
it back with the control paddle on the ASCOM driver, while looking through
the IPCAM. We can not figure out what’s going on. My temptation is to
disconnect the encoders and see if it would work better. Still that mount
has been here since 4 months and it seems pretty far from working normally.
Maybe we are the only ones.


De : ap-gto@... [mailto:ap-gto@...]
Envoyé : samedi 17 mai 2014 16:25
À : ap-gto@...
Objet : Re: [ap-gto] Re: software

Hi Alain,

You want to track a comet or a fast moving asteroid, you need to be able to
enter its speed and the mount takes care of the speed of the comet, the
refraction in the sky and the flexure of the mount.

You want to follow an exoplanet (easy to do in theory), you want to keep the
star on the same pixel during hours. You need to guide again.

Turns out I cannot do all of that with an AP mount (and that’s close to
20000 dollars worth of mount+encoders not counting the shipping and
importation fees in a foreign country). So it is very frustrating that after
two years of commercialization, with advertising giving the impression it
could be done, it just can’t be done.>>

Yes, you can do all of that with the AP 1600 mount. people are doing this
all the time, ecven with our older mounts. I do it myself. With the right
software controlling the mount, you can do anything you want. By itself, the
mount controller is a simple servo, it has no software in it to do any
calculations such as orbital elements. The keypad is also a simple device,
which cannot be connected to any outside software. However, the mount servo
can be controlled via computer software on your laptop, and people using
Prism do these things all the time in Europe. They also do it via The Sky6
and other software.

The mount with the encoder can be controlled precisely to sub-arc second
position in both axes with computer software via ASCOM platform, or via
direct AP command structure. It's just that we do not have our own AP
planetarium software, but since there are many available, it is doubtful
that we will ever develop our own like Prism or The Sky. Soon, Maxim DL
version 6 will be available, which can do so many new things to control a
mount as well as the entire observatory, and it will work perfectly with
every mount that we sell, and even our old ones.

We have developed a mount which can follow and track objects according to
input commands from outside software - even without the absolute encoders on
the two axes. We can power and track both axes to any speed in very precise
increments from 0.1 arc second per hour to 5 degrees per second in a smooth
controlled motion. All it requires is 3rd party software to determine what
speed the axes should move at any given time to track specific objects,
software that is available to amateurs. We do not have AP version of
something like Prism or ACP or The Sky6, or MaximDL, or any of those type of
control programs, however our mount can use their commands to do what you

Roland Christen

-----Original Message-----
From: 'Alain Maury' amaury@... [ap-gto] <ap-gto@...>
To: ap-gto <ap-gto@...>
Sent: Sat, May 17, 2014 1:07 am
Subject: RE: [ap-gto] Re: software

I agree perfectly with you Rolando, you can spend 12000 dollars on a mount
and obtain perfectly round images manually (no software) using short
exposure times with a consumer camera. You can even stack a lot of exposures
and produce decent images, if the object is bright and if the F/ratio is not
too high. 1200mm focal length, 9 microns pixels, 1.5 arc second per pixel on
the sky, 2 pixel images, 3 arc seconds FWHM images.

But this I can also do with many low cost Chinese mass produced mounts
(NEQ6, NEQ8, etc…)

Then if you have maybe a bit more focal length, and you would like to use an
Halpha filter, then forget your consumer camera, forget 30 seconds unguided
exposures, you need to guide. No way around it.

You want to track a comet or a fast moving asteroid, you need to be able to
enter its speed and the mount takes care of the speed of the comet, the
refraction in the sky and the flexure of the mount.

You want to follow an exoplanet (easy to do in theory), you want to keep the
star on the same pixel during hours. You need to guide again.

Turns out I cannot do all of that with an AP mount (and that’s close to
20000 dollars worth of mount+encoders not counting the shipping and
importation fees in a foreign country). So it is very frustrating that after
two years of commercialization, with advertising giving the impression it
could be done, it just can’t be done.

This image is a 10 minutes
unguided image, tracked using the orbital elements of the asteroid. The
small elongation you see is because the orbital elements were not correct at
the time. (when an asteroid comes close to the earth, its orbit is changing
in real time). Also the asteroid was relatively low when the image was done
(clearly not at the meridian). How come I can’t do such an image with an AP
mount ?

To say it more clearly, I have 15 robotic telescopes here, and I have
definitively banned Bisque mounts from here (I keep those ME still working,
4 out of 7 in the past, but when a problem occurs, like when the declination
starts to stall, because of a gross misconception problem, I send them back
to Bisque for repair and the owner sells it in the USA as used. The fix I
got from Bisque was “purchase an ME2”). You also won’t find Bisque mounts
anymore at PROMPT (Cerro Tololo) for the same reason.

A mount like that is about the price of a decent car, and in the car
industry nobody sells cars with a defect without recalling them when the
problem is identified and fixing it for free. Nobody tells you our car was a
lemon, but if you buy the new model, we fixed the problem on it (exactly
what Bisque did with the ME), nobody sells a car saying basically “you can
use it in first gear, but in 2 weeks the correct software will appear, and
then you will be able to use your car the way it should work and use it in
high gear”. Mainly when the 2 weeks are about 2 years now.

The thing is AP mounts are about to go the same way here. It is not a mount
which I can recommend, even though I wish I could. Mechanically it’s OK, old
technology, but OK, but softwarewise, no way. It’s been a very frustrating
experience so far with the AP1600. It would be time for the APCC software to
become available and it’d better work. There are several direct drive mounts
out there which perform flawlessly (and not only in the 30 seconds unguided
exposure mode with short focal length), and winter nights are too cold for
me to spend time trying to fix software problems which should have been
fixed before commercialization and publicity was even made... (in the south,
we are now getting to winter). I like when a client buys a mount, ships it
here, I spend one week on it or less setting up everything, and then it
works and he can enjoy the sky and me some tranquility (or observe with my
telescopes). I have an AP1600, bought from a client who could not use it
(with a 16 inch astrograph), he sold everything out of frustration. I use it
with a Starfire 130 for now, and it works. In the early time (with the
former client) I won’t tell you how many times I went there to recover the
mount after the telescope decided it was better to photograph the ground
(old ascom versions of the driver now it behaves correctly). Another client
has also an AP1600 with a useless set of encoders, has been here for months,
and after problems with the sky 6, then the sky X, then the latest version
of the sky X, yesterday it failed doing a pointing model till the end,
crashed, parked. Parking, which by the way does not work correctly from the
SkyX (it parks where the driver wants, and once there parks somewhere else,
like at the pole, even after doing the “set park position” in the sky X).
Howard Hedlund has been a big help, but the truth is, we are still very far
from having that AP1600 working correctly, and we still have to guide if we
want to produce good images, while there are several people in the same
observatory who have forgotten what guiding means.

I am sorry but one does not spend this amount of money to make 30 seconds
unguided exposures on M57 using a lightweight refractor… I mean you can, but
most customers want more. One does not spend 7000 dollars of “high
resolution encoders” just to have a deluxe homing device (“Pinnacle of

A frustrated Alain (and I am not even talking about how my client feels
about it).

De : ap-gto@... [mailto:ap-gto@...
<mailto:ap-gto@...?> ]
Envoyé : vendredi 16 mai 2014 20:21
À : ap-gto@...; george@...
Objet : Re: [ap-gto] Re: software

Hi Mark,

I appreciate that you are giving advice to keep things simple. The mount
itself requires NO SOFTWARE at all to operate. It already has everything
needed to go to an object and track it. The keypad has tens of thousands of
objects in its memory, so you really don't need planetarium software. It can
go anywhere in the sky and access any RA/DEC co-ordinate that your little
heart desires.

For the beginning astrophotographers who think you need fancy suite of
software to take astrophotos, hearken to this message:

If you are starting out, just attach your camera to your mount, and if it is
a digital consumer camera, set your exposure time to some value and press
the shutter. At the end of the exposure time, you will have a picture, and
no software was used to obtain it. No software was needed to obtain it.

You will need to mechanically polar align the mount to a reasonable
accuracy, but that is easily done via a polar scope or lacking that, via a
drift alignment. Once you do that, you should be all set to do basic
astrophotography. I do this myself all the time, even today after years of
imaging with the most complex setups.

If your images show trailed stars (because your scope has long focal length,
or you have not removed the PE of the worm gear, or because you are taking
very long exposures), why then you might want to invest in a simple guider
system. Which can be as simple as a 10x finderscope and strudy mounting
bracket (such as we sell), and a cheap and cheerful digital 1.25" CMOS
camera such as the QHY 5-II. They really work, believe me!! You can use PHD
to do the guiding and send the guide signals directly to the mount via a
cheap serial cable.

If this sounds too simple, then consider that one of our guys, (George of
AP) has that very system attached to both of his scope setups, guiding a
160EDF and 175EDF refractor on two mounts. He guides some very high end
astrocameras with simple Baader Variofinders, which are basic low power
finderscopes. His images are pinpoint perfect (I just wish he would post
some of them because they are very very good - you hearing me George?).


-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Striebeck mark.striebeck@... [ap-gto]
To: ap-gto <ap-gto@...>
Sent: Sat, May 10, 2014 4:50 pm
Subject: RE: [ap-gto] Re: software

Just to throw some more into the mix:

I tried many software packages for various tasks (focusing, TheSkyX, PHD...)
What I finally settled on is actually not too expensive:

1. PHD for guiding

2. SequenceGeneratorPro + Framing Wizard for image acquisition, framing,

PHD is free, SequenceGeneratorPro is $99 + $39 for the framing wizard.

For convenience, I still use TheSkyX - but only as a convenient planetarium
software - not for image acquisition. I could probably replace it with a
cheaper, free planetarium software.

But I can only support what somebody further up said: before you automate
something (e.g. focusing), figure out how to do it manually. There are so
many moving parts (quite literally :-) that you need to have a good
understanding when you automate and especially to analyze and fix any


On Sat May 10 2014 at 2:38:55 PM, 'Alain Maury' amaury@... [ap-gto]
<ap-gto@...> wrote:

I have been using prism since 1995, early versions then J, but now have used
many other software because I needed to. The thing is I never used the light
version. There is a web page which explains the

Seems the answer is partially yes, i.e. you will be able to point using the
ASCOM driver, but not make a pointing model for example. If you have
specific questions, there is a forum for prism in English. not too many activities since that
software is mostly well known and used in France (many automatic
observatories there using that software only).


De : ap-gto@... [mailto:ap-gto@...]
Envoyé : samedi 10 mai 2014 12:20
À : ap-gto@...
Objet : Re: [ap-gto] Re: software


Since you seem to know Prisim so well, please explain the differences
between the full and the light version. I'm only looking for something to
operate 2 different mounts ( Takahashi NJP Temma II via ASCOM, and an
AP-1200. Will the light be a complete system to work these mounts and
perform as a planetarium program?


On Saturday, May 10, 2014 2:47 AM, "'Alain Maury' amaury@...
[ap-gto]" <ap-gto@...> wrote:


You are right about the sky and ACP, it’s only _required_ for people who
have Bisque mounts. Still I have one observer here who has an AP1200 and
uses ACP and maxim and the sky (I have a telescope farm with 15 robotic
telescopes working in the Atacama desert, 3 of them have AP mounts). You
can of course use ACP and the sky to control your AP mount, but it’s not
needed, it’s just that the sky map in maxim is really primitive.

For APCC, I was just talking about the price of software, piling up, and up…

For the pointing model, indeed there are cases where you don’t need one. I
have an AP1600 with a 130mm Starfire, and it points mostly well. But this is
a bit of an overkill (such a big mount for such a small refractor). As soon
as you put some load on the mount, you really need a pointing model, I don’t
believe you can use a 20inch RC scope (small field of view) on an AP mount
even a 3600 without a pointing model.

Another software I forgot to mention which sometimes is really a lifesaver
is a skysolve type software, i.e. a software able to find the position of
the telescope in the sky when it is lost (and you are not near the scope).
Skysolve (normally at but
I just tried and there is some DNS problems with the site) , Elbrus
(, or Prism do that.
Very useful for a mount without a homing device.

There are many other software one may want to use when qualifying a robotic
telescope (something to measure the quality of the focus and the tilt of the
focal plane, some polar alignment help, all sky camera, weather station,
cloud detection).

After many years, I stopped using cloud detectors (boltwood, AAG, etc…)
because they are fooled by cirruses. An all sky camera with a software
counting the number of stars on the image is a much better solution. Any
cloud, you see immediately the number of stars decreasing and you can take
action (or the software does). Not that it hurts taking images through
cirruses, but might as well not take images you are not going to use.

And that’s just about image acquisition J


De : ap-gto@... [mailto:ap-gto@...]
Envoyé : vendredi 9 mai 2014 23:50
À : ap-gto@...
Objet : Re: [ap-gto] Re: software

Lets not make this any harder than it already is.

MaximDL doesn't require MaxPoint. MaxPoint is a stand alone program
that builds a pointing model (similar to T-point and similar programs).
With your AP900, you may not need a pointing model. Mostly it will
depend on the scope you are going to use. In addition, if you use the
ACP/MaxIm combination, ACP has a built in pointing model . And of
course APCC will have a pointing model. The pointing model is something
you worry about after you see if you need one.

ACP will not work with TheSky for control, it requires MaxIm. (I use
TheSky for whatever collective software Bisque uses nowdays)

FocusMax is freeware is a program that only focuses your telescope. It
does need control of your mount and camera but acheives that through
MaxIm or TheSky.

CCDComander, ACP, CCDAutopilot are all full service observatory
contollers. MaxIm will establish imaging sequences, keep dome and
telescope working together, provide guiding and so on. I ran my
observatory for years with just MaxIm but it has it's limits as far as
automation is concerned. It can't do a meridian flip (including
controlling your camera and guiding during the flip), address multiple
targets, initiate focusing, and a bunch of other stuff the full service
programs do. The observatory controller is waht lets you sleep at nights.

FWIW, the essential applications that I use to automate my observatory
are ACP and MaxIm. I do use MaxPoint but that's just personal
preference. I also have FocusMax but never use it. I have PemPro
(excellent program) but only use it to do a Polar Alignment every year
or so. I'm still using the PEC table that was shipped with the AP1200.

On a typical night I crank out between 300 and 1500 images on one or
more targets. At the end, ACP parks the mount and the dome and shuts
everything down. It would shut the shutter too if I wanted it to. All
the time I'm in my warm, cozy bed catching some zzz's.

It's a challenge but doable.

I don't think you can expect APCC to take the place of programs like
MaxIm or ACP.


On 5/9/2014 5:36 PM, 'Alain Maury' amaury@... [ap-gto] wrote:
If you want to automatize your telescope and camera, you need (i.e. really
required) several other software, and in the end, it becomes very costly,
without talking about the fact that one day, one day, APCC will be
available… (you never know J ).

For the skyX, you need indeed the camera add on, you need the tpoint add
on, you need the dome add on, you don’t need, but it’s nice to have the
database add on. You also need something to calibrate your periodic error
(pempro ?).

Then the camera control is nothing fancy I find (in the sky X).

If you take maximDL, you need maxpoint, and maybe other software (I never
tried to control a full observatory with Maxim).

In practice, many people use both, in fact several software like focusmax,
or CCDcommander, ACP, CCDautopilot use both (the sky to control the mount
and maxim for the cameras)

Also, yes, forgot, a sequencer to automatize the observations so that you
can take advantage of all your investment even when you sleep. Of these
CCDcommander is the less expensive and ACP the most complete. These
sequencers perform also the very important task of controlling the weather
station so that you don’t shoot while the telescope is receiving rain on the
optics J

We are talking several thousands of dollars for all this.


De : ap-gto@... [mailto:ap-gto@...]
Envoyé : vendredi 9 mai 2014 09:18
À : ap-gto@...
Objet : [ap-gto] Re: software

Do you want software for mount control, camera control, or both? Sky6 is
legacy- SkyX is the current offering from SB. Great software, but you have
to purchase the camera add-on for camera control, which I can't comment on
because I haven't used it. Maxim DL is fantastic for imaging and observatory
control, but the planetarium simulator is not as good as SkyX.

What kind of camera are you using? Do you have other devices to control
(e.g. filter wheel, rotator)?

There are a lot of option out there-- but definitely more limited for mac

Join to automatically receive all group messages.