Last updated 22 Apr 2017

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Software used at Great Shefford

Camera Control Software

Maxim DL/CCD 5 from Diffraction Limited. (supplied with Apogee cameras) provides the interface between PC and the CCD camera

Astrometric reduction

Astrometrica (Herbert Raab) provides professional quality astrometric reduction, track & stack, automated moving object detection and more.

Star Catalogues

UCAC-3 (The Third US Naval Observatory CCD Astrograph Catalog) was released on a double sided DVD containing 8Gb of binary files during September 2009. Herbert Raab added support for UCAC-3 to Astrometrica in version 4.6.1.384 in January 2010 and it has been in use at Great Shefford since 7th January 2010. A number of improvements have been made to the UCAC-2 catalogue (see here) including extending the coverage to the entire sky.

UCAC-3 is the most accurate general astrometric catalogue available at the moment, with positional errors better than 0.1" and is used at Great Shefford for all reductions.

UCAC-2 (The Second US Naval Observatory CCD Astrograph Catalog) was released on three CDs by the USNO at the end of July 2003 and the CDs were received at Great Shefford a week or so later. By 19 Aug 2003 Herbert Raab had issued Astrometrica version 4.3.0.325 with support for the new catalogue.

UCAC2 did not cover the entire sky, but extended from the south pole to about +45 declination. See here a plot of the coverage from the USNO.

UCAC2 was used at Great Shefford for all reductions within its coverage.  Outside of this area USNO B1.0 was used (see below).

Magnitudes derived from measures using UCAC2 have been found to be about 0.5 mags fainter than the equivalent using the USNO A2 or B1 catalogues. 

USNO B1.0 was used at Great Shefford from 2003 March until 2003 August for all reductions reported to the MPC wherever possible. This catalogue is currently only available by downloading small parts over the web from http://www.nofs.navy.mil/data/FchPix/ . Astrometrica can use this catalogue directly. It is significantly more accurate than...

USNO SA2.0 is used on occasion when fast preliminary reductions are required (at about 650Mb this catalogue fits easily on a hard drive). Normally positions would be re-reduced using UCAC-3 before reporting. 

The Hubble telescope GSC 1.1 is used for telescope position synchronisation by Pinpoint from within Maxim DL/CCD during observing runs.

Automatic focussing

FocusMax by Larry Weber and Steve Brady is available free at http://www.focusmax.org/ and can automatically control a number of focussers if Maxim DL/CCD and the ASCOM platform are installed. The Meade LX200 GPS focusser is supported by version 3.4.0.14 and this has been found to be very effective at Great Shefford, being accurate and fast. Recommended. 

Polar Alignment

PoleAlignMax by Larry Weber and Steve Brady is available free at http://www.focusmax.org/ and allows accurate and fast polar alignment using a CCD in conjunction with either CCDSoft or Maxim/DL to take images and either Pinpoint or The Sky to accurately work out the centre point coordinates of those images. PoleAlignMax was used to align the equatorial mount of the 16" telescope at Great Shefford in June 2005 and was found to be easy to use, fast and accurate. Recommended.

Image manipulation and astrometric reduction

Pinpoint from DC-3 Dreams software (Bob Denny), including customised version of Bob's Visual Pinpoint Visual Basic program. Allows full manipulation of FITS images to be done from other programming languages. Visual pinpoint is used at Great Shefford to update the FITS headers in images with the astrometrically reduced plate centre etc. Highly recommended.

Time synchronisation

Dimension4 version 4.5 from Thinking Man Software (Rob Chambers) updates your PC's clock over the internet using one of over 100 time servers. Version 4.5 (released Feb 2004) includes a history of time adjustments that can be exported or graphically displayed, very useful to verify how well synchronised the pc clock was kept during a session. On Windows 7 needs to run as an administrator to allow the system clock to be updated.

Orbit determination

FindOrb from Project Pluto (Bill Gray) providing a number of different orbital determination methods to calculate orbital elements from astrometric observations in either MPC or NEODys format. Highly recommended.

Satellite identification

Sat_ID Satellite identification program for astrometrists from Bill Gray allows standard MPC formatted positions of a satellite to be identified with known satellites from a set of recent satellite orbital elements

Exposure management

Custom written Visual Basic program (CCDCamCtl)

Ephemeris interpolation

Custom written Visual Basic program (EphInterpolator)

CCD image logging

Custom written Visual Basic program (CCDLog) that extracts details from FITS headers using Pinpoint and writes into a Microsoft Access 2000 database for later analysis.

I have been writing Visual Basic programs on and off since version 2 back in 1993 and most of the software in use has been developed using Visual Basic version 6 but conversion to VB.NET is in progress.

Both Maxim DL/CCD and Pinpoint allow Visual Basic (and other computer languages) to easily access the functionality within them (by providing a COM interface) and CCDCamCtl uses this technique to automate the process of acquiring images.

Maxim also uses the same facility to embed Pinpoint functions within normal Maxim operations, so for instance, having taken an image with Maxim, it can be reduced astrometrically using Pinpoint from a menu option in Maxim, allowing the real image centre to be used to synchronise the telescope to where it is actually pointing, all within a few seconds.


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