In astrophotography, using thousands of dollars of equipment to capture images of deep sky objects as you carefully track them across the sky is only part of the imaging process. Equally important is the task of combining and processing the captured images to produce your final astrophotograph. That’s where tools like Photoshop, PixInsight, Astro Pixel Processor, Siril, and even the Gimp would traditionally be put to work. But a new tool is gaining a foothold in the astrophotography world–Affinity Photo. Affinity Photo is just as capable as Photoshop for a fraction of the price. If that doesn’t make it attractive enough, the latest version (1.9) has added some astrophotography-specific capabilities, including the ability to stack astro exposures–a very important task in astro image processing.

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My imaging setup.

Modern astro imaging involves a lot of moving parts, and controlling those parts can be a daunting task for new imagers. For example, imaging a deep sky object involves taking multiple long exposures of the object with a camera that is being made to very precisely track the object while it is being imaged. Generally, the camera uses a telescope as its lens, and the telescope is mounted on an equatorial mount that is motorized and/or computerized so that it tracks the motion of the object very precisely as it moves across the sky from east to west. Thankfully, there are software packages available that will manage much of this complexity for you.

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The other evening I was doing some imaging using my refractor on my iOptron GEM45 mount, and ran into a bit of a snag. I use N.I.N.A to manage my imaging runs, and I set up N.I.N.A and the iOptron ASCOM driver (iOptron Commander) together to handle the meridian flip needed during the imaging run. But while the meridian flip had worked just fine in previous imaging sessions, this time the meridian flip failed, and I had to manually intervene. But why?

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Post-processing astro images is probably one of the most challenging parts of the astro imaging process. So I’m always on the lookout for tools that can help me improve my images. One tool I recently added to the toolbox is Denoise AI from Topaz Labs.

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The Standard Desk Calcumeter, H. N. Morse circa 1910

A few months ago in a little consignment shop in our locality, I stumbled across something I’d never seen before. Stamped as “The Standard Desk Calcumeter,” it appeared to be some sort of calculating device. Since I have an odd fascination for such things, and since the price tag on it was only $12, I snatched it up. A little research confirmed that it was a cleverly-designed mechanical adding machine, where the digits were entered using the tip of a stylus on the rotating disks visible through the front plate. The Reset wheel on the far right side provided a quick and easy way to reset all the wheels to zero.

When I first obtained it, this machine was a bit on the grubby side, and the reset wheel was very difficult to turn. It was apparent that it had not been used in many years (unsurprisingly). It would be a bit of a restoration project.

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I’ve been running my NexStar 6SE scope in the field using an old 12V 7-Ah gel cell battery for awhile now, but it’s kinda heavy and has to sit on the ground, meaning I have to pay attention to not getting the power cord wrapped around the mount as I slew the telescope. I really wanted to find something that was light enough to attach to the arm of the mount itself but still had enough power in it to run the scope for at least an evening. Surfing some of the message boards, I found several reports of people using battery packs from TalentCell. The message board posts claimed up to several nights of observing with their battery packs. It sounded like I had found the answer.

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Having recently gotten myself a new Windows 10 laptop (an Acer Aspire E 15 that I really like), I’ve been going through the process of getting everything set up and installed the way I like (I’m kinda anal retentive about that). That gives me cause to explore new possibilities, like “how can I get my Google contacts and calendar (from my Android phone) to sync up with my installation of MS Outlook on my laptop (which I use for email)?” I’ve asked that question before but never found a decent answer. This time, though, I found a great solution, and it’s free!

GO Contact Sync Mod is a utility I found that runs in the background on my laptop, reaching out to Google’s APIs to keep my Google contacts and calendar sync’d with those in MS Outlook. It has a straightforward user interface where you can define the rules for reconciliation (like “if there is a conflict, the Google contact should overwrite the Outlook contact”). You can tell it how often to perform the sync and it will do so quietly in the background. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and it works so well that I forget it’s there.

(Why don’t I just use GMail and omit MS Outlook entirely? I have my own domain, including email addresses, so I don’t use a GMail address. And I much prefer MS Outlook’s interface to GMail.)

If you’ve been geeking out for a couple decades, chances are you at least saw the Radio Shack ProbeScope at some point in time.

The Radio Shack ProbeScope
The Radio Shack ProbeScope

I bought one back in the late ’90s and found it to be fairly handy for a number of things. Its sampling rate, as I recall, was 4MHz, meaning you could use it to at least detect the presence of RF in a circuit. I also used it to help me debug the code I wrote to emulate serial communications in the microcontroller for my Digital Setting Circles project.

The ProbeScope included a floppy disk with software on it for both DOS and Windows that allowed you to view the waveforms on your PC by connecting the ProbeScope to the PC’s serial port. Alas, the software was written back in the 16-bit days and won’t run on the 64-bit operating systems on most modern PCs. Plus, who has a floppy drive to read that disk anymore? But if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know I have a habit of finding ways to revive old but still useful technology that’s long since been left behind.

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So, you probably saw the post I put up a day or two ago about having just gotten a Celestron NexStar 6SE telescope. I’ve been having a ball with it so far. My plan last night was to try using my digital camera to take some video of Jupiter and then run it through Registax software to see what came out of it. I followed the instructions posted on this page at Stargazer’s Lounge. I can’t claim to have done anything original here–just followed the cookbook.

My final image of Jupiter, created from video processed by Registax
My final image of Jupiter, created from video processed by Registax

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