From the menu Edit → Preferences. Set the global preferences and options for the program.
You can change the program language from the list.
Select if you want to use Celsius or Fahrenheit temperature scale in the program.
The program record all the messages to a file. You can look at the log using the function in the Help menu. It also save the images in the case the auto-focus fail to find stars or when plate solving fail, they can be used later to help to adjust the parameters.
The log file and failed auto-focus images are conserved for a period of 30 days, then they are automatically removed.
In case of problem with a device driver you can get more detailed information by checking Verbose device log.
By default the program show hint text over the buttons, you can disable this option here.
Set the command to start a Python script. You can use a specific Python installation by changing the default value.
TCP/IP server port
Set the port the TCP/IP server will listen on. Use the default unless it is already taken by another program or if you run multiple instance of CCDciel.
Normally you not need to change the temporary file folder. This is only required on Windows if the default path based on your user name contain accentuated non-ASCII characters. Be sure you specify a path with only ASCII characters.
The base capture folder should be specified. The other configured sub-folder are created under this one.
File and folder name
You can specify how the image files are named and if they are stored in named folders. A typical imaging session will produce a great number of files, so this help to select files in the processing software.
One way of working is to make subfolders based on object name and select for file names all details; object name, the filter, a date sequence, exposure time, binning.
For folder name you have the choice between two date. One to make a folder with the same UT time as for the file name, the other is based on local time and change at noon to allow to put all the files for a given night to the same folder.
For file name, if Date/Sequence is checked the UT date and time is appended, otherwise a sequence number is appended. You can select a fixed sequence length or let unchecked for variable length.
You can reorder the different elements with a mouse drag and drop of the sequence number column.
Select the separator character you want between the fields.
The saved FITS files can be compressed with fpack to use less disk space.
You can save the image in bitmap format in addition to the standard FITS file.
Select also the file format you want. BMP and JPG are stretched 8bit images, PNG and TIFF are saved as linear 16bit, the same as the Save picture menu.
Each new observatory name is added to the preset list for an easy later retrieval.
This is useful if you transport the same equipment at different location.
But please do not use this option to work with different equipment, in this case you need a specific profile for each.
The information on top will be set in each FITS file for the OBSERVER, ORIGIN and TELESCOP keyword.
The latitude and longitude of the observatory is used to get the Alt/Az position of the object, or for the scope_alignment script. It is mandatory you set them before you can use the timing functions in the sequence planner.
The “Horizon profile” and “Minimum observing elevation” are used to compute the object rise and set time in the sequence planner. If this values are set the rise/set time are relative to this limits.
You can set only one value or both. In the last case the highest elevation is used.
The horizon profile file is the same as the local horizon line in Skychart.
Select if you prefer to use the azimuth counted from the North or from the South. This only affect some display in the program, the object azimuth recorded in the FITS header is always from the North.
Configure how you prefer to cool down and warm up you CCD sensor.
Consult your camera documentation to know if you need to limit the temperature change.
In this case check “Limit temperature change” and indicate the maximum rate in degree per minute.
Check the corresponding box if you want your camera to start cooling as soon it is connect to the program and indicate the target temperature you want.
Enter the camera pixel size and maximum ADU, or if applicable for your driver, check the box to get it automatically.
The maximum ADU is used to avoid saturated stars during autofocus and photometry.
The pixel size is required to speedup the astrometry solving by estimating the image scale.
Gain / Offset
Select if you want to manage the camera gain and offset from CCDciel or use the fixed value set in the camera driver.
If this box is checked you must set the gain and offset in the Preview, Capture and Sequence box. You must also set the gain and offset you want for the auto-focus and slewing operation.
This can work only if the camera driver expose this values. For ASCOM driver this is available only with new drivers using the version 3 of the camera interface.
Short exposure stacking
When Show stacking option for Preview/Capture/Sequence is checked this allow to stack the short exposure frames in real time for example to take 10 x 30 seconds instead of a single 300 seconds. This is useful for EAA or for the capture with some CMOS camera under specific sky condition.
You can let this option disabled to not risk an unwanted use during the imaging session.
Check Star alignment to align the frames on a reference star. This can be disabled if the guiding is good and you prefer to not move the frames.
It is possible to Save individual images before stacking. In this case they are saved in a specific folder named with the time the stacking start.
Use the menu File → Dark frame and File → Bad pixel map to define the dark and BPM to be applied to the images before the addition to improve the result quality.
If your camera support different readout modes you can activate the use of specific readout mode for different actions.
Then select which one to use for the different operations. Normally you want the select the best quality mode for Capture and a fast mode for the other.
With INDI DSLR this is a combination of the CAPTURE_FORMAT and TRANSFER_FORMAT property to select from RAW, FITS, or different JPEG quality.
This settings affect only the preview, the FITS files are always recorded in RAW format to allow further preprocessing.
If you use a color camera you can debayer the preview image by checking the corresponding box and selecting the color pattern for your sensor. The Automatic option use the value set by the camera driver of the DSLR raw file. If this not work try the other option in the list. You can also do some color balance with the cursors on the right. For DSLR raw files you can select to use the color balance set in the file. By default the background color is neutralized, this can be disabled if the image do not contain a classic sky background.
The reference image help you to frame a previous image, for example to continue a sequence.
Select the threshold and color for the display of the reference image.
The image clipping indicator level. You can set the low and high threshold in ADU for this indicator.
Bad pixel map
The bad pixel map prevent the auto-focus function to lock on a hot pixel.
Select the threshold for detection of hot pixels for the bad pixel map.
Select the preview rate for the video. Video require a suitable camera and is available only with INDI devices.
Configure the method to use to capture a flat series from a sequence.
For the twilight flat it is require to configure the automatic exposure as the sky lightness change a lot during dusk or dawn.
You can also configure this automatic exposure for a use with other light source.
At each exposure the program will adjust the exposure time between the two limits to maintain the image level.\
Set the shortest exposure time that give an uniform sensor illumination. This depend on the kind of shutter used by the camera.
Set the longest exposure time you want for a flat. You have to take the corresponding dark separately.
Then give an image mean level range that make an acceptable flat. Start with 80% of your camera full range but check there is no saturated part in the center of the flat image, specifically if the vignetting is important.
Select this method if you use dome flat or light panel.
You can also select automatic exposure, but at the difference of the twilight flat the exposure is adjusted only once for each filter, then the same exposure time is use for the series.
If you need to point the telescope at a specific position to frame the panel you can enter the required azimuth and elevation.
Select the camera ROI size of the zoomed window for the single star focus mode.
Normally a single pixel star is rejected as a hot pixel. If your optical configuration produce undersampled image with single pixel star you can check this box. But be careful to make a bad pixel map to reject the hot pixel.
If this is not already done by your focuser driver you can activate a backlash compensation. But be sure to let it disabled if the compensation is done elsewhere. Indicate the number of additional steps to use for the compensation, this must be greater than the actual backlash, don't hesitate to use a large value.
Indicate the direction the focuser will always finish to move, the best depend on your configuration. If you configure the auto-focus this control is disabled and will be set to the same as the focus move direction.
If it take some time for the focus position to stabilize after a move you can set a delay to wait after every focuser movement. This is more likely of use if the motor directly move the primary mirror of a SCT.
For each filter you can set an offset in focuser steps that will be applied to the focuser when you change the filter.
The filter exposure factor is used for the auto-focus functions and the automatic sky flat. For example if your R filter require 2x the exposure of the L filter and the Halpha 30x set : L=1 R=2 Ha=30
For narrow band filter this exposure factor can be very large. In this case you can use the option “Allow to select a brighter star for high filter exposure factor” in the auto-focus preference.
Temperature compensation and automatic triggering of autofocus after a temperature drop can be set in tab Sequence
This section is initially empty. It can be hard to fill with the right values for your specific equipment. It is strongly suggested you use the focuser calibration wizard to set the correct default parameters.
After the wizard is run it select the preferred Dynamic method. You can return at this page if you want to change the method or adjust some parameters.
Select the auto-focus method:
Performance comparison V-curve and dynamic focusing:
|Method||Target field||V- curve focusing||Dynamic focusing|
|Slew to database star||Always a bright star||+++||+++|
|Slew to database star +|
Allow to select a brighter star
|Narrow band filter||+++||+++|
|Stay in place||Medium bright stars||++||+++|
|Stay in place||Faint stars||+||++|
|Stay in place||Narrow band filter + faint stars||-||-|
|Dynamic focusing can work in the bottom non-linear part of the V-curve. HFD as low as 4 (twice minimum)|
|V-curve focusing requires a peak HFD value of typical 15 to 20. Below peak value HFD is 10, the focus result will be less accurate.|
Option valid when running from a sequence
If the auto-focus fails to find stars and the journaling to file is active, the image is saved in the same folder as the log so you can review them later to help to adjust the parameters.
V curve parameters
The autofocus routine finds the focus in four focus movements using the slope information from the V-curve learning.
Temperature compensation and automatic triggering of autofocus after a temperature drop can be set in Sequence
It is important the program know your telescope focal length to estimate the image scale to speedup the solving process. Enter telescope focal length, or if applicable for your driver, check the box to get it automatically.
You can also adjust the timeout (in seconds) for a solve operation.
For each software you can adjust a few option to make them work quickly and reliably with your images.
man solve-field, for example
PlateSolve 2 options
You can adjust how to correct the mount position after plate solving a control picture.
If your mount allow to sync anywhere select “Mount sync”, if not select “Pointing offset” to make the correction in software.
“Pointing offset” can be useful if your telescope use a pointing model, this avoid any problem by using Sync with the model, but this can result in a wrong position to be reported in other software.
With Eqmod it is best to disable the pointing model and select “Mount sync” here. With EQAscom, in Alignment/Sync select “Dialog based” and “Nearest point”. With INDI EQmod select “sync mode=standard sync” and “alignment mode=nearest point”.
Then set the precision you want/can reach and the maximum number of pointing/correction retry before to give up. Beware that any backlash in the mount drive can limit the possible precision.
Set the parameters (exposure time, gain, offset, binning and filter) for the control exposure. This must give enough stars with your telescope/camera combination for the astrometry resolver to work.
If your mount need some time to stabilize after the movement you can increase the delay to wait before to take the plate solving picture.
Configure here what you want to do when the mount reach the meridian.
Automatic flip options
The first two parameters allow to loss the minimal time during a capture sequence. Set the difference between them as long as the capture exposure time. Otherwise the sequence can be paused until it reach the time for the flip.
Also be sure the flip do not start too early because this can be the cause of mount sync error in case of polar alignment error or telescope cone error because many mount do not accept to sync across the physical meridian.
To avoid error during the flip procedure it is important the mount and program observatory coordinates and time are set precisely.
Actions to take as part of the meridian flip:
Precise centering of the target using plate solving after the flip is done automatically and only require you configure the plate solving correctly.
For PHD2 you need to set the network name of the computer running PHD2 and the port number.
Check if you want to start PHD2 if it is not running when connecting. Indicate the command to start PHD2, the default value correspond to the default PHD2 installation on the different platform.
Set the options for dithering between the exposure, the number of pixel (in the guide camera) and if you want to dither only in RA (if you have a lot of DEC backlash).
If the option Dither while downloading from the camera is checked the dithering will start as soon the previous exposure is complete, making profit of the image download time to advance on the dither.
The settle tolerance define how we consider the autoguiding as good after a dither operation or after it start.
It must stay within the number of pixel for Min.time. But we wait for the maximum of Timeout if this is not possible.
Set also the maximum time to wait if a new calibration is required.
Star lost recovery
In the case the guide star is lost we can cancel and restart the current exposure after a number of guide step without star. This is for the case we know the current exposure will be lost anyway so there is no need to loss more time by completing this exposure.
Then if the star is not recovered after a given time we can try to restart the guiding. This is useful if the star as moved just out of the search area. But this can also make the sequence to continue with an unacceptable offset, this can be avoided by checking for target drift. A value of zero disable this function.
Finally we can abort the current sequence after some time. Useful if the target is behind tree or cloud, maybe the next target is at a better position.
Guiding drift control
If the current guide position drift by more than the configured value a message is show in the log and eventually the current exposure is canceled and restarted. We can wait for the delay to let the guiding to recover before to restart the exposure.
Set the number of pixels for dithering between the exposure.
Dither only options
With this option no auto-guiding is done but the program can initiate dithering between the exposure.
Here you set the mean duration of the dithering guide pulse send to the mount. This duration depend on the imaging scale and the mount guide rate. An additional wait time can be configured to let the mount stabilize after the dithering.
The Dome preference let you configure if you want to automatically manage the dome with the mount park/unpark function.
If you check the box Allow to open the dome when safety status is bad or unknown there will be NO check for the safety before to open the dome. Use this setting only if your safety monitor is not functional until the dome is open.
If you check the box Automatically slave “Dome Park” to “Mount Park”, every time you unpark the mount from CCDciel the sequence to open and initialize the dome will be taken. And every time you request to park the mount the corresponding action to close and park the dome will be taken.
Beware to carefully test this procedure before use and be prepared if something go wrong. What to expect if for example the telescope do not respond to the park request but the roof is then closed and hit the telescope? This case can be secured by using hardware switch on the mount that prevent the roof motor to start.
If you are not sure please do not use this function and open/close your dome with manual action and visual inspection.
For each of the unpark and park function you need to select the action you want in the order require by your setup. For some configuration you need to open the dome first or unpark the telescope first.
If some action is not require by your setup just ignore it, you not need to fill all the rows. For example if unparking the dome also open the shutter select only “Unpark the Dome”.
But be sure to put “Unpark the telescope” and “Park the telescope” somewhere, otherwise the telescope will never be unparked and any slew will fail.
You can also wait for an additional delay between each operation to let time for the mechanical part to stabilize.
Select the planetarium application you want to use.
You can use the planetarium to select a target, or to display a solved image or image frame.
Check if you want to start Skychart/SAMP/HNSKY if it is not running when connecting. Indicate the command to start the program, the default value correspond to the default installation on the different platform, but you may have to adapt for 32bit version on Win64 for example.
Beware this settings will never close your observatory, even in case of rain! See the Safety monitor below if you need this actions.
You define here the parameters to pause a running sequence when the weather condition are not optimal.
When bad condition are detected the program do the following:
When it is clear again it run the target initialization procedure, the same as when the target is first selected, checking for time range, slew with plate solving, start autoguiding, eventually going to the next target if this one is no more observable.
When you select to use a ASCOM ObservingCondition driver, you need to set the limits for every sensors here.
For INDI the limits are the Warning level of the weather driver.
You can also set a delay to wait after the weather is good again to avoid to start/stop continuously if a sensor is just at the limit. See also if your driver can average the measurement over a period to avoid this behavior.
Select the actions you want to run when the Safety monitor detect dangerous conditions.
Beware that by default it do nothing!
The order to run the different actions depend on your specific equipment and need to be carefully tested.
For example if it rain you want to close the dome as soon as possible, but maybe the mount need to be parked first. In this case you must also test what it do if the telescope cannot park because of cable disconnection or other reason.
Use the function “Call external command” if you need additional actions not available in the dropdown list.
For two actions you need to set a parameter:
If you configure the Dome operation to be slaved to the mount park/unpark you only need to use the “Park the telescope” action here to also park and close the dome as configured.
This let you set some global actions taken during the execution of a sequence.
You can select to Start new exposure as early as possible, without waiting for the previous image to be saved and displayed. With this option checked you can save a few seconds between each exposure, the gain is more important when using a big camera sensor with short exposure time.
This apply to capture sequence and preview loop.
When the previous option is active you can do some measurement on every image.
The Automatic HFD measurement let you monitor the image quality and record the mean HFD in the log. The exposure time must be at least of 30 seconds to let the time for this measurement without perturbation of the sequence.
Recenter sequence target that drift
For various reason you may observe the target to slowly drift in the image field during the night. The obvious symptom is large black border around the final image after registration and stacking.
You can observe this because you are not auto-guiding. But also when guiding with a separate guide scope because of slow flexion of different mechanical and optical parts.
With this option the program plate-solve every image taken during a sequence to compute the drift from the initial target position. If the drift is larger than the value set, it plan a recenter before the next exposure.
To make this possible it is required the image exposure time in the sequence is larger than the astrometry timeout.
The last point to check is the drift value you set here must be larger than 1.5x the slew precision and also larger than 2x or 3x the dithering if any.
This options are in addition to the autofocus frequency available in the Plan definition.
If your focuser can measure the temperature you can set here the temperature coefficient (in steps per Celsius) used to adjust the focuser position between the exposures, or to shift the auto-focus V curve accordingly. The coefficient is positive if the focuser needs to move UP in position when the temperature drop. The routine will adapt the focuser if the temperature difference is larger then 0.5 degrees.
Note that for a reflector telescope you have to turn the focuser OUT to correct for tube shrinkage. For a refractor you have to turn the focuser IN since the change in refraction coefficient is dominant and much larger than the tube shrinkage.
The temperature coefficient will help to reduce the number of autofocus actions required. It will work best when the temperature drops slowly and all parts of the telescope have time to adapt to the changing ambient temperature.
The compensation factor has to be measured empirically. Start with an almost zero factor=1 and monitor the autofocus focus position in the log as function of the reported temperature. When you have enough data points which show a repeatable temperature coefficient enter the estimated factor in this menu. Some telescopes like a SCT could have less predictable coefficient and you most likely have to disable the coefficient and rely on the autofocus routine only.
If the factor is set well, the result of each autofocus routine run should be close to the previous focus position.
The temperature of the last focus operation in a session is saved to make a first correction the next time you start the program, so if no change was done in the mean time you recover a not too bad focuser position.
You can also request to run an auto-focus procedure if the temperature change is more than the configured value.
The autofocus can also be run periodically after a given time interval.
When using a computer with limited resource it is good to use this resources for the main job of capturing images as quickly as possible. This can be improved by reducing the quality of the images show on screen or by totally disabling image display when a sequence is running.
None of this option affect the quality of the saved images.
Low quality image scaling use simple pixel resampling to scale the image on screen. This iimprove the speed a lot but can produce moire pattern with OSC sensors.
Do not display image during capture totally disable the display of the image during a sequence. This is a good way to optimize the inter-frame delay, but also look at the option Start new exposure as early as possible
When the option to not display the images is set, you can temporarily change this behavior using a new button that appear on the right of the visualisation tool
You can configure email notifications that are send by the program on different conditions.
First you need to configure and test the email configuration so the program know how to send you an email.
Look at your email provider documentation for the values you need here, there is normally information how to configure an email software.
Important security information. This email configuration is saved on a separate file in the program configuration directory. The user name and password are obfuscated so they cannot be read directly in the file, but they can be read from CCDciel that otherwise cannot send you an email. So be careful to not send this file to anyone, and be sure you not use an important email account in this configuration.
It is strongly advised you create a low privilege email account to send this notifications.
Set the SMTP server address that accept outgoing request on the SMTP server port. Check the corresponding box if the server use SSL/TLS for the connection.
Indicate the User name and Password to connect to this server, and the sender From email address that is generally the same as the user name.
Finally indicate the Destination address that will receive the message. If you prefer to receive the messages on your phone, this destination address can be an email to sms gateway.
You can test this configuration with the button Send test email. This show a message if the email can be send or if there is connection error to the server. If the email is send successfully look at the destination mailbox for the message. Do not forget to also look at the Spam box.
Then select the notifications you want to receive. It is probably best to start with all the notifications, then remove the “Sequence normal end” if you want to receive only error notifications.
When you stay near the telescope during the capture it can be good to be alerted by some sound if something require your attention. For this case CCDciel can spell the message that are normally only show on screen.
You can configure the kind of message you want to ear from the Voice configuration tab.
A Test button allow to be sure the voice spelling is working and let you adjust the sound volume with the computer settings.