Re: AP1100 coming, least hassle plate solver?

Dale Ghent

Yeah, I've had my Mach1 since 2008 and only got APCC Standard two, maybe three years ago. I have been using Pro only for the past year or so. My reason for not jumping on the APCC Pro bandwagon much earlier was because I desired to keep my personal software ecosystem small and buying SGP just so that APPM could plate solve was rubbing me the wrong way, and I disliked the "manualness" of having to switch which software was connected to my camera to do modeling and then imaging afterwards. I had ended up with TheSkyX due to another project so, since APPM could use ASCOM to drive the camera and TSX for solving, I bit the bullet and upgraded to Pro so that I could see what models were all about, and I'm glad I did despite the remaining issue of the hardware shuffle. TSX is still a bear, though, and running it for solving purposes did impact the battery life of the laptop I used at the time quite noticeably when imaging at an unpowered site. I still wanted something better.

The pieces for that "something better" (for me, at least) fall into place with the upcoming APCC Pro 1.9 release. Ray and Astro-Physics were gracious with integrating two things in to the APPM component that are crucial to attaining this:

1. The ability to use NINA as a camera, just like how it uses SGP, MaximDL, and others as image sources
2. The ability to directly use the free, lightweight, and open source solver known as ASTAP

(1) means that I can keep the camera connected in NINA full-time, as I use the native QHY driver that I wrote in NINA to drive it. No more hardware shuffle between apps. That "manualness" I griped about is a thing of the past with this ability.

(2) means APCC Pro can now do a modeling session without having to purchase or subscribe to 3rd party software. It can get its images through the camera's own ASCOM driver (if the user desires) or NINA, and solve though freely-available ASTAP. For NINA, it means we don't need to extend the very intentionally small subset of the SGP API we implement so that APPM could solve through it. APPM can now solve directly using ASTAP, cutting out the middleware of NINA, SGP, or other interstitial apps when it comes to solving. That's great.

With those two developments, I realized that I could take things a step farther and now automate APPM modeling within NINA's own sequencer using APPM's ability to be ran via the command line in an "unattended" mode. NINA 1.11 introduces what we call the Advanced Sequencer and a plugin system that can be used to extend that sequencer's functionality. I wrote a plugin called "Utilities for Astro-Physics Mounts" (U4APM for short) that implements a sequence instruction (""Create APPM Model") that runs APPM and manages it within the sequence. You can drop this sequence item anywhere into your workflow in Advanced Sequencer to do a modeling run.

U4APM is ready to go and I've been using it for my own sessions in conjunction with APCC Pro 1.9 test releases. I don't want to jump ahead of Astro-Physics on this stuff but I've got a video that details its use when 1.9 hits the streets. Basically, I set up my sequence for the night in the afternoon and run it. It then waits for astronomical dusk where upon it unparks the mount, runs an autofocus operation, then starts APPM. It does its 73 point model in half an hour and APPM activates the results of that run. NINA then goes on to image whatever is next (or waits for the object to rise above my local horizon, if that's needed).

Regarding other aspects of APCC integration, there is the ability to use meridian and horizon limits. You can use these today as they don't depend on APCC Pro 1.9:

For horizon limits, NINA groks the .hrz file that APCC (and Stellarioum, and TSX) uses to define the local horizon, and NINA's Advanced Sequencer has a trigger that you can use to start imaging an object once it clears your trees/house, and/or stop imaging it once it descends below them. You would specify your .hrz file under Options > General > Astrometry.

For meridian limits, there's another NINA plugin authored by Francesco Meschia called Smart Meridian Flip. It can read in APCC's .mlm file format. This means that the meridian limits that you've defined for your mount will be used in the sequence, and your mount can flip accordingly. The flip (or pause) will happen 10 seconds prior to the defined limit for the current declination being reached. Got lots of room and you can image for another hour or two past the meridian before flipping at a given declination? This will let you do that.

So, with 2 plugins and the built-in horizon limit functionality, NINA 1.11's Advanced Sequencer can take full advantage of the information that you plug into APCC Pro: modeling, meridian limits, and horizon limits. The only thing that's left to do is for APCC 1.9 to be released, which I think is pretty soon given Howard's giddiness ;) It's my hope that APCC is further developed with features that can be employed by external applications and, if such functionality is made available and is suitable, I intend to expose it through U4APM.

On Jul 21, 2021, at 11:19, Dean Jacobsen <> wrote:

When I got the Mach2 last year and was trying to learn APCC Pro and APPM, I was relieved to see that I could interface APPM with SGP using PlateSolve2 as en easy to use solution. I still use it.

Is the NINA integration at that point yet? I am one of those who adheres to the "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" philosophy. I would be willing to try it.
Dean Jacobsen
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