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25 Jul 2018
Glad to announce of release of INDI Library v1.7.4 on 2018-07-25. A few drivers were added in this release as we continue to improve & stabilize existing drivers.
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TOPIC: First night out with KSTARS/EKOS

First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24330

This was my first night out with a working set up. I finally got all my equipment working, and a single clear night.

My setup is as follows:
ES102ED FCD100 Scope
.8x Stellarvue reducer
Celestron AVX Mount
ASI1600MM-C main camera
ASI224MC guide camera
Stellarvue 50mm guide scope
Moonlite focuser with Moonlite stepper motor and controller

Basic experience follows:
Roughly aligning Polaris through the polar scope.
Connected all equipment and started EKOS/INDI

I started by running a focus routine on the Moonlite focuser, and this worked great on the first try.

I then wanted to align with preselecting 3 alignment stars using the auto routine in EKOS. I selected the first star which should have been high and to the west, and the scope pointed at the ground, so I stopped everything and disconnected EKOS.

I ran through the basic goto /alignment routine built into the hand controller (2+4 star align). Then moved the mount to the home position (basically pointed at Polaris), and reconnected EKOS. (as a side note: I set the park position to the current home position. But no matter what I tried, every time I parked the scope, it started slewing to some strange destination, and not the home position. I don't really need the park feature, but would like it if the scope could return to this home position and park so that I can tear down the equipment the next morning without needing to move it.)

This time I was able to point to objects using the built in mount controller for EKOS, and pointed and solved a few objects with no issue. The mount was able to correct it's GOTO and sync the proper location. From here on out the GOTO model seemed very precise.

I picked an object to image, and loaded my LRGB sequence I had made.

Went to the guide tab to start guiding and I began to quickly run into problems. It does not seem the data coming off the guide camera (ASI224MC) is coming across correctly. It's really garbled and pink/blue. I wish I took some images, but I didn't. I tried a bunch of the settings, including setting to 8-bit, RGB, 16-bit, and I modified the guiding software settings to different exposures, as well as tried some of the effects settings such as high contrast, additive, etc. Some of those settings had an effect on the final guiding images coming through, like additive (I think it was called) provided more regular images, but they were very dim, and any changes to gain or exposure length had little effect.

Eventually, I changed from the internal guider to PHD2, and loaded it up, picked a guide star, calibrated it, and started guiding. I switched back to EKOS, and it had already picked up the guiding signal from PHD2, and I started imaging my target.

I wish I could get the internal guiding working, because I'd prefer to use one program, but overall, I'm very pleased to get it all running and working in my first session, and can't wait to get outside again for another session.

In my second session, I'll now have a better idea how to start the routine, and I'll probably start guiding with PHD2 unless a solution presents itself for working with the ASI224MC through these message boards or elsewhere.

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24342

  • gbeaton
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I use PHD2 as well. Its a very good reliable software.

For park, put your scope in park position. In the INDI control panel, go to site management and click "current" and then "write data".

I've never used the auto align. I just tell it to go to may target and then do plate solve with "slew to target" (this syncs as well, or at least I thought it did.) I get perfect targeting although it may take a few iterations.

The colours in the guide image sound like you need to take dark frames and your gain is probably too high. Put the gain to 50%. Its better if the gain is not too high - this way, it will pick brighter stars to guide on that have higher SNR.

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Last Edit: by gbeaton.

First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24348

The gain range for the guide camera is 0-600, and by default it was set to 139. I also tried 300, and the image got brighter, but no luck, was still crazy coloring. Got another clear night tonight, so maybe a little more experimentation is in order. I'll retry the alignment method without using the auto align and see if that makes a difference.

As for park, that's exactly what I did. I selected use current, then write data. And when I selected park, it still slews until it's facing at the ground.

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24352

My personal opinion is that using PHD2 running on the remote computer is the best option. This is why I spent so much time writing code this past December to improve PHD2 support. The reason I think it is best is NOT because the internal guider is bad, but because it makes the most sense. So I have a remote computer, a raspberry pi which serves up my devices using an INDIServer. I also have PHD2 running on the PI. I have my laptop connected to that over wifi running KStars as a client for both the INDIServer and PHD2. This way, the computer running the guiding is extremely close to the guide scope and mount (it is attached to them) and does not depend on the wifi or ethernet connection to do the guiding. So even if I have some problem on my computer or if the internet somehow drops out in the middle of the exposure, the guider will keep guiding with PHD2 and the imager will keep capturing with the INDIServer. So as long as I can get my connection restored quickly, my image won't be ruined and it will download as long as I connect to the iNDIServer before it finishes the capture it was commanded to do. And because I'm running KStars on my laptop, I can monitor and command both the guiding and the imaging remotely, so I get all the benefits of running over wifi, but without the drawback of trying to guide over wifi.

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24353

The internal guider works best in my opinion if you are running over a cat5 connection or if you are running your indiserver on the same computer as KStars.

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24358

rlancaste wrote: My personal opinion is that using PHD2 running on the remote computer is the best option. This is why I spent so much time writing code this past December to improve PHD2 support. The reason I think it is best is NOT because the internal guider is bad, but because it makes the most sense. So I have a remote computer, a raspberry pi which serves up my devices using an INDIServer. I also have PHD2 running on the PI. I have my laptop connected to that over wifi running KStars as a client for both the INDIServer and PHD2. This way, the computer running the guiding is extremely close to the guide scope and mount (it is attached to them) and does not depend on the wifi or ethernet connection to do the guiding. So even if I have some problem on my computer or if the internet somehow drops out in the middle of the exposure, the guider will keep guiding with PHD2 and the imager will keep capturing with the INDIServer. So as long as I can get my connection restored quickly, my image won't be ruined and it will download as long as I connect to the iNDIServer before it finishes the capture it was commanded to do. And because I'm running KStars on my laptop, I can monitor and command both the guiding and the imaging remotely, so I get all the benefits of running over wifi, but without the drawback of trying to guide over wifi.


This is pretty much exactly what I'm doing. Running KSTARS/EKOS and PHD2 on the laptop at my telescope, and I'm screen sharing to my desktop via wi-fi rather than running cables into the house or trying to guide remotely, etc. So far it's worked great. Apple's screen sharing is fairly robust, and I can even drag files off of the shared screen onto my inside desktop to check images full res if I need to.

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24370

I am not sure you quite understood what I meant. Your current setup involves running everything on the laptop at the telescope and then using VNC to connect to it from inside the house. I have done that before and you could do that with many programs and of course you can do that with KStars as well if you prefer. In fact, I did that all the time when I first started using KStars since there was no Mac version. The real power with KStars and INDI and the thing that makes it unique though, comes from the fact that you can connect to the devices on a remote computer in a similar way to ASCOM and then control them over the network. So basically, you could run the INDIServer and PHD2 on the computer that is at the telescope, but then run KStars on the computer inside the house.

This method has a large number of advantages over running everything on the computer at the telescope and just using VNC. It is for these advantages that I and several other people worked for a year to port KStars to Mac. By doing it this way you can put an inexpensive computer like a raspberry pi at the telescope so you don't care if it gets damaged and in fact mine is attached to the side of the telescope. The wires are also shorter running between the devices and computer because they never have to come off the scope. Your more powerful (and expensive) computer can be inside the house running KStars, not on the remote computer. This will also distribute the load between computers. The more powerful computer can be doing plate solves, downloading files, running the planetarium software, and managing sequences. The less powerful computer at the scope just has to handle the INDIServer and guiding.

But to be honest, those aren't the main reason I did it. The main reason I abandoned the VNC approach and spent all that time porting KStars to Mac is because VNC can be quite laggy. It is a lot more pleasant to be controlling a piece of software on the computer you are currently sitting at, rather than trying to control it over a VNC connection. With the approach I am outlining, the only thing you need to use VNC to do on the remote computer (at least with my setup) is to change some settings in PHD2 and to shut down the remote computer.

I have not completely abandoned the approach you described, however, since it also has advantages sometimes. I keep that as an option for when I go to star parties. So then I can have the raspberry pi run the whole show and I can put my laptop to sleep and just use VNC to check on the system every now and then. This will save significant power since my laptop draws about 2.4 amps at 12 volts. The other way this could be used would be to have more than one scope setup, each with a raspberry Pi strapped to it, and have them set up to run using the scheduler. So this way you could have a robotic telescope basically.
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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24371

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I think it's helpful for others to understand the intentions of the programs, and various use cases so that others don't have to learn everything on the fly.

I had read, and understood that this is the way INDI worked, and have connected from a desktop client install to the version on my laptop out by the telescope. But it was just a second full EKOS/Kstars install. And I just realized by reading your post I could have just put the server. In fact, I would love to support Stellarmate and have a PI version running at the scope, but didn't make the effort to explore it since there have been so many bandwidth issues reported with other software (not specifically INDI) in running the two cameras I have, which are both USB3 and tend to eat up lots of bandwidth.

I don't have any issues with power since I've got electricity out to my scope, but do like the aspect of running an inexpensive PI unit on each scope since I have three currently. I do experience some issues with lag but in general it's not been a huge issue. I think Apple's screen sharing approach might be a little more robust than VNC. Since I'm still connected wirelessly, I wonder what it's like transferring 32mb images across every minute. Seems like it should be able to do that without much issue if I'm imaging 60s or longer per image. It should be enough time for it to get over the wire without any issue.

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24373

Well if you want to try out using the Raspberry Pi's, you can use my script to get it all set up. It won't cost you anything but time since you already have Raspberry Pis (and maybe an extra SD Card):

github.com/rlancaste/AstroPi3

Then you can see what you like better. I specifically made that to support both major use cases. As I said, sometimes at star parties, I think it might be nice to turn off the laptop and let the pi do everything, but at home I definitely prefer running KStars on my laptop. I like to keep my options open.

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24383

Lead_weight wrote: I then wanted to align with preselecting 3 alignment stars using the auto routine in EKOS. I selected the first star which should have been high and to the west, and the scope pointed at the ground, so I stopped everything and disconnected EKOS.


I'm not sure what "Auto Routine" you're talking about exactly here? For your mount, you need to perform the 2-3 stars alignment using the hand-controller before connecting to Ekos.

I ran through the basic goto /alignment routine built into the hand controller (2+4 star align). Then moved the mount to the home position (basically pointed at Polaris), and reconnected EKOS. (as a side note: I set the park position to the current home position. But no matter what I tried, every time I parked the scope, it started slewing to some strange destination, and not the home position. I don't really need the park feature, but would like it if the scope could return to this home position and park so that I can tear down the equipment the next morning without needing to move it.)


How did you set park position? To set parking position, just right-click anywhere on the sky map, but not TOO close to Polaris, and then from the menu go to Celstron and then -> Set As Parking Position. Next time you park, it should go there.

This time I was able to point to objects using the built in mount controller for EKOS, and pointed and solved a few objects with no issue. The mount was able to correct it's GOTO and sync the proper location. From here on out the GOTO model seemed very precise.


Yes! This is the correct procedure.

I picked an object to image, and loaded my LRGB sequence I had made.

Went to the guide tab to start guiding and I began to quickly run into problems. It does not seem the data coming off the guide camera (ASI224MC) is coming across correctly. It's really garbled and pink/blue. I wish I took some images, but I didn't. I tried a bunch of the settings, including setting to 8-bit, RGB, 16-bit, and I modified the guiding software settings to different exposures, as well as tried some of the effects settings such as high contrast, additive, etc. Some of those settings had an effect on the final guiding images coming through, like additive (I think it was called) provided more regular images, but they were very dim, and any changes to gain or exposure length had little effect.


I've had several issues with getting my ZWO ASI120 to guide correctly as well. Were you able to select "LUMA" in the ASI driver? You probably don't want to guide on color frames due to increased noise. Ideally, you don't need to use filter. I will try today to test my ZWO camera again and check what settings were used to make it guide properly and I'll report back.

Eventually, I changed from the internal guider to PHD2, and loaded it up, picked a guide star, calibrated it, and started guiding. I switched back to EKOS, and it had already picked up the guiding signal from PHD2, and I started imaging my target.

I wish I could get the internal guiding working, because I'd prefer to use one program, but overall, I'm very pleased to get it all running and working in my first session, and can't wait to get outside again for another session.


Absolutely! I'll try to check these issues today with my observatory. I usually use my faithful Lodestar X2 for guiding, but I'll mount the ZWO ASI today as well and see how it goes. Thank you for your patience!

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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24392

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[/quote]I've had several issues with getting my ZWO ASI120 to guide correctly as well. Were you able to select "LUMA" in the ASI driver? You probably don't want to guide on color frames due to increased noise. Ideally, you don't need to use filter. I will try today to test my ZWO camera again and check what settings were used to make it guide properly and I'll report back.[/quote]

I've got the ASI120mm and haven't had any issues with it after updating its firmware when I started using Stellarmate. The thing that just occurred to me and that I find strange is I see weird colours too even though its a monochrome camera! So something not right there :-S
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First night out with KSTARS/EKOS 6 months 4 weeks ago #24398

Hmm i am not sure I understand the zwo issue. i have been using the usb3 zwo asi 120 monochrome with KStars since last December with no problems (so about 15 months?). It doesn't show colors? It has worked very well as a guider. I have tried it on the mac but usually it is attached to my raspberry pi. I Have always been using the latest version of kstars and indi.

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