David's Astronomy Pages
Notes - Session 599.1 (2017-01-06)

2017-01-04 to 2017-01-07
Bullet ZWO ASI178MC - Arrival (2017-01-04)
Bullet ZWO ASI178MC - Installation (2017-01-04)
Bullet ZWO ASI178MC - Test Shots (2017-01-05 to 2017-01-06)
Bullet ZWO ASI178MC - First Light Images (2017-01-06)
Bullet ZWO ASI178MC - Further Test Images (2017-01-06)
Bullet ZWO ASI178MC - AllSky Images (2017-01-07)
Bullet Software Notes (2017-01-04 to 2017-01-10)
- SharpCap Notes
- Firecapture Notes
- PHD2 Notes
- DeepSkyStacker Notes
- MetaGuide Notes
- CCDSoft5 Notes
- SER Player Notes
- AutoStakkert Notes
- PIPP Notes

 ZWO ASI178MC - Arrival (2017-01-04)

New ZWO ASI178MC camera arrived today.

View of the ZWO ASI178MC camera
Image     Image
Image   Image

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 ZWO ASI178MC - Installation (2017-01-04)

- Installed ZWO Drivers (
- Confirmed connectivity and basic operation with SharpCap 2.9
- Confirmed connectivity and basic operation with PHD2 2.6.2

- Confirmed that a ZWO ASI178MC FITS Image file captured & saved by SharpCap can be opened in DeepSkyStacker
- After some work, managed to setup CCDSoft so that it can connect to and acquire images from ZWO 178MC camera.
- Confirmed SER video produced by SharpCap can be played by SER Player

Later on confirmed further parts of workflow over the new few days:
 - Stacking of 178MC images (SER file) in AutoStakkert,
-  Stacking / Processing of 178MC images (SER file) in Registax
-  Direct Transfer of a Stack from AutoStakkert to Registax for additional processing

First Test Shots with new ZWO ASI178MC camera (taking indoors)
Image   Image
 Test Image (12% size from 3096x1080 original)
13ms/0.013s, 1x1 binning, Gain 225, RAW8, Gray 8 bit  (#16_41_58Z_001)
(Taken with SharpCap,  FITS file displayed in CCDSoft)
  Test Image (12% reduction from 3096x1080 original)
50ms/0.05s, 1x1 binning, Gain 225, RAW16
(Taken with SharpCap, FITS file displayed in CCDSoft)
Colour Image   Detail of B/W plot above showing Bayer pattern
Image   Image
Test Image (12% reduction from 3096x1080 original)
Image details as above
(FITS file displayed in DeepSkyStacker with RGGB Debayering)
  Test Image (200% resize, cropped to small area)
Image details as above
(FITS file displayed in CCDSoft)

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ZWO ASI178MC - Test Shots (2017-01-05 to 2017-01-06)

Various test shots where taken with the new ZWO ASI178MC camera looking at distant objects that can be seen from my home.

Various Test Shots with new ZWO ASI178MC camera
(200mm lens on a tripod)
Wind Turbines
Animated Image
Short Video (12% size, 3096x2080 original )
121 x 14ms exposure, 0 gain, 1x1 binning, RAW16
2017-01-06 (#13_55_28Z)
200mm Lens on Tripod
(Frames acquired with SharpCap as a SER file
Animated GIF created using SER Player)
Trees - 680m distance
331 frames stacked (12% size)
Trees - 720m distance
0.02s, 3x3 binning (reduced size)
0.02s, 3x3 binning (reduced size)
0.11s, 3x3 binning (reduced size), grey scale
Distant Fire
CMOS Image (12% size, 1544x1040 original )
6ms exposure (single frame), 2 gain, 3x3 binning, RAW16
2017-01-06 (#13_55_28Z)
200mm Lens on Tripod
(Frame acquired with SharpCap as an AVI file)

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 ZWO ASI178MC - First Light Images (2017-01-06)

First Light Images with new ZWO ASI178MC camera
(50mm lens on a tripod)
Moon (Phase 63%, Angular Diam 32' 20")
CMOS Colour Image (cropped)
500 x 10ms exposure, 120 gain, 1x1 binning, RAW16
2017-01-06 23:24h UT (#23_24_10Z.ser)
50mm Lens on Tripod
(Frames acquired with SharpCap,
Frames stacked & processed in  RegiStax 6)
Calculations (1x1 binning) :
Lunar Diameter (32' 20") = 209 pixels
Image Scale = 9.28 arc sec/pixel
Full Chip Area (3096x2080 px) through 50mm lens = 8.0 x 5.4 degs
Effective Focal Length = 53.3mm

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 ZWO ASI178MC - Further Test Images (2017-01-06)

Star Field (constellation unknown)

Image produced live in SharpCap using Live Stack facility with Align Star option enabled
Stacks 78 x 5s exposures, 6.5 minutes total exposure)

50mm lens on a tripod with no tracking
FOV 6.9 x 4.5 degrees
CMOS Colour Image (28% size, original 2664x1740 / cropped from 3096 x 2080 )
78 x 5s exposure (live stacked frames), gain 450, 1x1 binning, RAW16
Brightness, Constrast and Gamma adjusted
2017-01-06 23:10h UT (#23_07_28Z_Stack_78)
50mm Lens on Tripod
[ Larger Image, 40% size ]
Stars trails
14 stacked but non-aligned frames acquired with SharpCap using Live Stack facility
(stars are trailed as images taken with
50mm lens on a tripod with no tracking)
CMOS Colour Image (12% size, cropped)
14 x 5s exposure (live stacked frames), gain 350,
1x1 binning (3096*2080 original) , RAW16
50mm Lens on Tripod
Stars trail - detail
CMOS Colour Image (cropped)
Image details as above

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 ZWO ASI178MC - AllSky Images (2017-01-07 / 2017-01-08)

2.5mm, 170 deg FOV, 'all sky' lens supplied with ZWO ASI178MC Camera
For AllSky use it would be preferrable if the lens produced a smaller image onto the
7.4 x 5.0mm IMX178 chip in order to capture the view down to near the horizon at the
top and bottom of the image. The chip has plenty of pixels (3096 x 2080) to still preserve
good resolution of the sky compared to the Oculus camera.
It's not clear if the ZWO accessory lens could be moved to a position that
could give a smaller image, but still be focussed at ~ infinity
AllSky View taken with ZWO ASI178MC colour camera (170 deg, 2.5mm lens)
30s exposure with medium gain, single frame
Glare at bottom is from Moon lying just out of frame. North is on righthand side
 CMOS Colour Image (25% size, 3096 x 2080 original)
30s exposure , gain 250, 1x1 binning, RGB24
2017-01-08  01:03hUT
[Larger Image, 40% size] [ Full Size Image ]

See Further AllSky images with ZWO ASI178MC

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Software Notes (2017-01-04 to 2017-01-07)

Notes taken during initial testing and operation of ZWO ASI178MC camera with different software.

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SharpCap Notes

-  Select ZWO ASI178MC camera from 'ZWO ASI Cameras' section (not from the 'DirectShow Cameras' section).
   This is to allow direct access for best performance and control of the camera
-  USB Port on camera corresponds to bottom side of image.
-  Need to set ImageType to RGB24 in order to produce colour .png files, otherwise .png  files are B/W with a Bayer Pattern.
-  Maximum Frame Rates

30 fps at 3096x2080, 8 bit, (Full Size, raw8)
17 fps at 3096x2080, 8 bit, (Full Size, rgb24)
21 fps at 3096x2080, 8 bit, (Full Size, mono8)
18 fps at 3096x2080, 16 bit, (Full Size, raw16)

58 fps at 1920x1080  (rgb24), Turo USB 40
116 fps at 1280x1024, 8 bit  (rgb24), Turo USB 40, High Speed Mode
116 fps at 1280x1024, 8 bit  (raw8), Turo USB 40
126 fps at 640x480, 8 bit (raw8), Turo USB 40

Hardware Binning 2x2
38 fps at 3096x2080 / 1544x1040, 8 bit (Full FOI, raw8), binning 2x2

23 fps at 3096x2080, 8 bit, (Full Size, raw8), Turbo USB 40
30 fps at 3096x2080, 8 bit, (Full Size, raw8), Turbo USB 60 - fps frame rate can be speed up using Turbo USB slider.
24 fps at 3096x2080, 8 bit, (Full Size, rgb24)

24 fps at 3096x2080 / 1544x1040, 8 bit, (Full Area, rgb24), binning 2x2 (software)
24 fps at 3096x2080 / 1544x1040, 8 bit, (Full Area, rgb24), binning 2x2 (hardware)

- SharpCap CPU 20% when previewing pictures at 30 fps

- Output files in CCDSoft

Mono8 .fts files view ok in CCDSoft,  Raw8 files show Bayer pattern
2x2 Hardware Binned Raw8 file,  shows Bayer pattern

32 bit file can be opened in CCDSoft (image displays ok but histogram doesn't show a proper histogram graph)

 -  SharpCap 2.9 Prone to frequent crashes (need to learn what not to do !) and hope bugs will be released in future versions

-  Debayer Preview (set to either 'On' or 'Force RGGB')

- Preview Image is coloured, but captured images/video may not necessarily be in colour.
- Video colour and video file format is dependant on the Capture Format setting
   - RAW8  produces an AVI video file containing B/W frames displaying a bayer pattern.
   - RGB 24 produces an AVI video file containing Colour frames. 
   - RAW16 produces a SER video file  containing Colour frames (playable using SER Player as 16-bit RGGB)

- Video file sizes are enormous
    - 73 frames (1x1,  3096x2080) captured using RAW16 format, produce a SER file with filesize 896 MB
    - 96 frames (1x1,  3096x2080) captured using RGB24 format, produce an AVI file with filesize 1.7 GB

- When Output Format is set to 'Auto'
   - exposures of <5s will be saved to a video file
   - exposures of >=5s will be saved as an individual file
   - RBB and Mono at 8 bits will be saved to either AVI or PNG (depending on exposure length)
   - 16 bits per pixel or Raw Modes will be saved to SER or FIT (depending on exposure length)

- The bias offset is adjusted with the "Brightness" setting

- To speed up FPS
  - adjust the USB traffic value
  - adjust the zoom function to see it helps
  - select Debayer Off (it takes up CPU time

Misc Notes

- Software Binning performs a sum, whilst Hardware binning gives average (jneed to check)
- Check stability of mean Bias values in a sequence of Bias files
- White Bal (R) 60
- White Bal (B) 80

the cooled version has different back focus distance
the 2.5mm lens is CS lens whose back focus distance is 12.5mm
what you need is a C lens whose back focus distance is 17.5mm

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Firecapture Notes

- Not yet used, the interface look more complicated that SharpCap's

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PHD2 Notes

- Select  'ZWO ASI Camera' from camera list
- Image displays in B/W. (no colour display which is ok for autoguiding)

- Certain on-the fly changes are possible during an autoguiding run
    a) The 'Use Subframes' option (Advanced Setup/Camera Tab) can be toggled on/off  (quite a nice feature)
    b) The 'Search Region' size (Advanced Setup/Guiding Tab) can be made smaller/larger (a nice feature, but
    be careful of increasing region so much that a brighter offset star becomes included in search region,
    autoguiding will jump to this new star)
    c) The 'Exposure'  (pull-down list) can be changed  (quite a nice feature)

- Live Stacking looks a really neat tool for realtime
- Questions
  - how are bookmarks used?
  - what is 'Enable Server' ?
  - Guiding Assistant doesn't work with simulator.  Does it work with live camera ?

- I encountered a problem whereby I couldn't connect to ST-10 CCD camera using CCDSoft after previously
  having the camera connected in PHD2.   I put this down the robust way in which I closed PHD2.  The camera should
  probably be disconnected using PHD2 software, before closing the appliction. 

- Dark Defects Map can be made quite quickly.  This ensures that autoguiding isn't upset by hot pixels.  
  Hot Pixel defect list are stored in C:\Users\..Username..\AppData\Local\phd2\darks_defects

- Entering a larger search region is helpful if the scope produces large tracking errors and/or the image scale is very small.
- Setting 'Assume Dec orthogonal to RA' is helpful if the scope has large periodic error or you're dealing with very bad seeimg

FireCapture Notes

- Select "ZWO" from camera interface options
- Software gives a warning on opening "You're running an ASI camera. Take care with the USBTraffic setting. Whenever you see broken/split frames or image hangs try reducing the USBTraffic value using the cog-wheel button".

- Much more complicted interface (where to start ?)
- Camera Temperature 30 -39 degC
- Software doesn't seem to be able to save images as FITS (apparently this is only an option with ASI178MM, monochrome camera).
- AVI, SER and BMP are the only save format options.
- Toolbar can be user configured.

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DeepSkyStacker Notes

-  Confirmed that a ZWO ASI178MC FITS Image file captured & saved by SharpCap can be opened in DeepSkyStacker
-  DeepSkyStacker Live monitors a folder for new images and stacks them based on specified criteria.
-  RAW16 FITS files will by default display as B/W images showing a Bayer pattern.  To display them in Colour go to Options/Settings/Raw & FITS DPP Settings, and check the option 'Monochorm 16 bit FITS Files are RAW files created by a DSLR or a colour CCD camera'. Ensure Camera field shows 'Generic RGGB'  (the Bayer format used by ASI178MC)

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MetaGuide Notes

- Select 'ZWO ASI178MC' from Camera Selector list than appears when software is started
- Software halts with Microsoft Visual C++ Runtime Libary error: "This application has requested the Runtime to terminate it i an usual way. Please contact the application support team for more information." MetaGuide process uses private memory of 1,725,744 K (very large number for a process that's just been opened).
If laptops WebCam is selected instead of the ZWO camera, MetaGuide starts up ok. (MetaGuide Process Private memory 119,348K)
- AstroGeeks Yahoo groups contains a post that describes exactly this problem where Metaguide is crashing with the latest ASI USB3 high resolution cameras. The solution given was to use the latest drivers from ZWO  (V1.3.9.8). The author of the post was using Meteguide V5.2.9 (Beta Version) (available at (http://www.astrogeeks.com/Bliss/MetaGuide)
- Checked driver installed for ZWO ASI178MC from Driver CD supplied with the camera. It was v1.0.0.3, dated 2014-11-23 (from SuZhou ZWO Co. Ltd).
- Downloaded Driver: ZWO ASI Camera driver Setup V1.3.12.28 from First Optics ZWO Cameras.
- Ran new driver setup. The driver now shows as v1.0.0.4, dated 2014-11-24

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CCDSoft5 Notes

- CCDSoft5 wasn't able to immediately gain access to the ZWO 178MC camera, but it can be made to access the camera using an ASCOM link (see below)

- Instructions for getting CCDSoft5 to be to connect to and take pictures with ZWO 178MC camera are as follows:
  1) Obtain and install CCDSoft™ ASCOM Camera Plug-In for CCDSoft

 We need to add AscomCCDSoft.dll to  "C:\Program Files (x86)\Software Bisque\CCDSoft Version 5\Camera Plug Ins" folder.

This was obtained via an installer at https://www.bisque.com/sc/members/evwark/files/AscomCCDSoft.zip.aspx
 Downloading the zip file 'AscomCCDSoft.zip' and executing the enclosed nstaller 'AscomCCDSoft.exe'  created a folder at 
    "C:\Program Files (x86)\Software Bisque\CCDSoft Version 5Camera Plug Ins"
     containing two files:  'AscomCCDSoft.dll'   and  'README CCDSoftAscom.txt'
I believe this folder location is an installation error, so I copied AscomCCDSoft.dll file to
   "C:\Program Files (x86)\Software Bisque\CCDSoft Version 5\Camera Plug Ins"

(The offical Installer seems to be one that can be downloaded from
   however downloading and executing the installer from this location produced errors do to with folder path
   "C:\Program Files (x86)\Software Bisque\CCDSoft Version 5;C")

    2) Install "ASICamera ASCOM"

 We need to run "ASICamera ASCOM Setup.exe" that comes in the ASCOM folder contained on the ZWO 'Driver CD'
(You may or may need to install the ASCOM Platform. I didn't but it may already have been on my computer).

   3) Finally open CCDSoft5 and select/connect to the ZWO ASI178MC camera

From CCDSoft's Camera Control / Setup, select 'ASCOM Camera'

Clicking on (camera) Settings. This gives the ASCOM Camera Chooser, from where we can select 'ASI Camera (1) '
or 'ASI Camera (2)'. Having choosen one of these options, click on Properties to see 'ASI Camera Setup V6.0.2.13'
If the camera is plugged into a USB port we should see 'ZWO ASI178MC' as a connected camera.
Adjust properties for camera as required (i.e. image type, gain, offset etc)  

Click OK twice to return to the Camera Control / Setup tab. Now click on Connect

- The above instructions should also work for other ZWO cameras.
- I found the best image type to use was Raw16 with the MonoBin option.  This produced smooth black/white images in CCDsoft
   (Y8 could be used without MonoBin option (smooth but lower quality). However using Raw16 without MonoBin produced B/W images with a Bayer pattern. Raw8 pictures without MonoBin also produced images with Bayer pattern unless binning of 2 or greater was used.)

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SER Player Notes

- A full size video of ASI178MC images (3096x2080) cannot be played at 100% zoom or indeed any zoom setting greater than the maximum size available the application window on the screen.  On my laptop (screen resolution 1920x1080) the maximum zoom setting is 44%.
- SER Player provides good control on frame playback rate, and offers the ability to play video in reverse , or play back and forth from a particular frame point.
- If 'Enable Debayering' option is unchecked in Tools/Processing frames are shown in B/W with a Bayer pattern.
- Several processing options available for Gain/Gamma, Colour Channel Alignment , MonoChrome Conversion and Frame Crop.
- Several Save Frames Options (Save to SER,  Save to AVI, Save to Animated GIF, Save to Images)
  with options to select Frame range, to apply processing and adjust certain header fields (Observer, Telescope)
- Save To Images can save as .jpg, .bmp, . png,  .tiff
- When saving frames as individual image files, ensure to tick the 'Apply Processing to Frames Before Saving' option in order to get colour images, otherwise 178MC images will be saved as B/W images displaying a Bayer pattern.

AmCap Notes

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AutoStakkert Notes

- AutoStakkert - Guides & Tutorials http://www.autostakkert.com/wp/guides/

- Open SER file containing frames captured by SharpCap or other capture program
- Use Analyse button to analyse each frame for quality image, and place them in ranked order
- Define Stack options.
- More than one stack option can be defined (eg P10, P30, P50, 50 frames, 100 frame)
- Use More Files options to send stack to Registax for further processing (eg. Wavelet processing)

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PIPP Notes

- Very useful for batch conversion/resizing of images of various types to other types,  for example
 a) produce Colour .PNG files from set of Raw16 .FIT files,
 b) resize a set of .jpgs to smaller size for publishing

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