Re: using a Simulator

Derek S wrote:


  • I would like to spend some time learning my mount in the comfort of my office(the real reason is the RV is in the shop, so I am stuck at home.)  Any is there a document somewhere on how to do this?  I have been using sharp cap and the skyX so for, but would like go move to APCC and NINA(I think).  I assume that the mount on a tripod is all of the hardware I need and I can use the ascom camera simulator, I think.

    Any pointers or suggestions would be appreciated.


Plagued by bad weather for two months I have done this quite a bit, and it is both easier and harder than you might think.


I use NINA and APCC, so what I do is set up a NINA profile for “simulator” so as not to mess up my usual profile as I go back and forth.  In your case you might just start one with the idea of migrating it later.  Each profile has all the equipment and other settings like focal length, options choices, etc.


In APCC I do it live, as it really does not need anything different for indoor/simulation and outdoor.


APPM is different, come back to that…


Skipping details like configuring APCC as there’s a ton of info on that….


Start APCC first (doesn’t have to be, simpler, easier to see what happens).


In NINA, set up equipment for the NINA Simulator Camera.  Here’s an annoying aspect – you have to hit setup and configure it for the sky survey each time you use it, it reverts to something else.  You can then do things like filter wheel, rotator, focuser, etc. if you really want to but are not needed; there are simulators for all.


I recommend NOT trying to use the guider in daylight, even though in principle it also has simulators.  Other stuff like weather, etc. as you like.


I also recommend now you choose daylight objects, i.e. do NOT try setting the time to the middle of the night.  I did that once, things got really wacky.  Just use stellarium or some such to pick targets (obviously invisible) that are up now.  The camera simulator will automagically download images of those objects when you take an image, based on the RA/DEC of the mount at that moment (you can even build in pointing errors in the camera setup).


In theory you can set all this up to do plate solving but in reality I have never had much lock solving the simulator images.  Once in a while it works, often it does not.  I tried TSX also, same result.  Maybe I had something set up wrong, however what I do is build test sequences and leave out any auto-focus (that just won’t work as it relies in getting out of focus images back), and leave out any center, center-and-rotate, auto-center after flip and similar functions.  Stick to slew only, nothing that requires a plate solve.   Or… try plate solve if you want to, but it’s rather boring for sky survey images if it works.


I’ve tested meridian flips a lot in that mode, and I would think you could work out all the horizon, meridian limits, even things like counterweight up slews and tracking if you want.


APPM: Because I couldn’t get sky surveys to plate solve, I never got APPM to work at all in daylight.  Your mileage may be different.   Now in actual dark, it works great using NINA as a camera, and using ASTAP as a plate solver – just last night every single point worked first try.  You could try it with the NINA simulator, and even if plate solving fails, at least you know you have the connection working.  But it’s not like you need a model the first time(s) you are out.


Some things, like NINA’s polar alignment, won’t really work (I mean, moving the mount won’t change anything), though there’s a lot of exploring you can do.


But remember, every time you disconnect the camera, if you want to use the sky survey, you have to set it up again next time you connect.


Oh… all this presumes you are using version 1.11 (Nightly or Preview edition).  Which is worth using.  I wouldn’t even start with the released or beta version, the nightlies are technically unstable, but a heck of a lot of people use them every night.


Final thought: just in case, it is most useful if you do all this where you can see the mount, and hit emergency stop or stop or just yank the power if it goes nuts.  Also, I’d recommend leaving the clutches a bit loose just in case you do end up colliding with the tripod/pier as you are experimenting, things then slip nicely and do no harm (but you need to properly follow the manual to correct the position afterwards).


Ask questions, a lot of us are without clear skies, so we are probably doing similar indoor stuff!




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