KStars v3.5.0 is released!

KStars v3.5.0 is the result of a few months of incredible work in terms of performance and stability. The Team could integrate in Ekos the excellent StellarSolver library, providing fast source extraction, HFR computation and plate-solving, and the very helpful Analyze module, giving an overview of the full observation session in a glance. My contribution to the project was a full framework of User Interface tests that runs headlessly in CI, and that the Team will be expanding as new features and bugfixes are implemented. Read more at Jasem’s Ekosphere.

ASCOM support for Omegon EQ-500-X

Following my porting in C# of its INDI driver, I’m pleased to announce ASCOM support for the Omegon EQ-500-X equatorial mount. Look it up on the ascom-standards.org scope driver page!

This ASCOM driver is available in version 1.2 and passes the conformance tests successfully. It provides slew-to-coordinates and timed pulse-guiding functionalities, and was tested with Stellarium and TheSkyX.

Note that the ASCOM conformance tester reports two issues, related to the precision of the coordinates. While the validation expects sub-arcsecond precision, that is, with seconds as decimal ss.ss, the mount does return right ascension and declination with integer seconds. The mount is actually able to adjust under one arcsecond, but will just not report that much precision.

The driver runs with with ASCOM 6.4, and supports 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7, 8 and 10. The installer package can be downloaded from my GitHub repository. The source of 1.2 is released under the LGPL-2.1 license.

INDI Support for Omegon EQ500-X

I’m pleased to announce INDI support for the Omegon EQ500-X Equatorial Mount.

The EQ500-X is a sturdy and efficient mount that is relatively lightweight. It has a pad which controls rate and movement. With a polar alignment tool to speed installation up, it is a neat equipment for backyard astrophotographers.

The INDI driver, available in release 1.7.8, provides geographical location support, precise go-to, safe positioning with meridian flipping, coordinate syncing and timed pulse guiding.

Check INDI Device Entry support page and the Astroshop.eu product page.

Plate-solving the Markarian Chain.

Widefield Markarian Chain in Leo - 2016
Widefield Markarian Chain in Leo – 2016

In astrophotography, plate-solving is the process of correlating stars in the field of view of a telescope with stars in a reference catalog. The name refers to the photographic glass plates that were in use for survey catalogs during 19th and 20th centuries.

By matching the relative position of light sources in an input capture with known star positions from its catalog, the plate-solver returns the sky coordinates of the field of view. Automated observatories use those results to align their target iteratively, but also to refine their mount model and optimize their slewing time. Information such as optical reversal, size of the field of view and pixel scale are very important to reduce the complexity of the task.

Human observers generally target a well-known star then hop from star to star until they are close enough to the target object. Conversely, plate-solvers match triangle proportions against a huge number of reference combinations, taking the astronomer’s old joke “can you see those three stars shaping a triangle?” to the letter.

(pic: widefield Markarian Chain in Leo, 2016, solved by astrometry.net)