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What software do you guys use and do you use a motor focuser? I'm going to upgrade crawford and am considering some sort of autofocusing tool. Love to know what everyone else uses.

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I'm low tech, bahtinov mask w/10s exps. enlarged in Eos Utilities on a lap top. Been looking at this;
http://www.goldastro.com/goldfocus/
sounds interesting, but not sure at this time, looking to put $ towards a ccd and the mask is working for my level/ability.
Charles, there was a good article in Astro-Technologies sept/oct issue on fine (critical) focus. I don't think it is exactly what you'd be looking for (ie hardware,software selection), but good overall concept discussion. Marc
cool thanks Marc. I just got a pod and pier being installed this weekend. Think my next upgrade is a morotized crawford focuser that I can rig up to MaximDL. That'd be pretty cool. Wonder if it focuses before each shot, etc.
I have a manual focuser and use CCDops to focus. But need to find a better way...took me over a half hour last night and still not sure it was at best focus.
I use a fully motorized MoonLite CS focuser on my AT8RC, and I'll be adding a similar MoonLite CF to the triplet refractor that's coming tomorrow.

http://www.silvren.com/astrophotography/focuser/

For software, I use FocusMax, which is a totally awesome little piece of software. I can achieve focus in about 30 seconds, and it's much better than I could ever get by hand. Between filters I just press one single button in FocusMax and voila, done. Here's a screenshot of me telling FocusMax to 'characterize' my system, a process you only need to do once:

http://www.silvren.com/astrophotography/focusmax/11-10-2010/1.html

After that, it knows exactly what to do, and focus is 30 seconds or less. Every time, spot on.

MoonLite's might be a little pricey, but you get what you pay for. They can easily hold 8lbs vertically, and more with some models. And my time is better spent capturing photons than spending 30 mins trying to get focus by hand.

Jeff
Lol, amen brother...you may have just sold me.
Im sold. In two weeks im getting one of these for my refractor. Like how you use nexremote on your laptop, forgot that softare exists, much easier than the hand remote.
Yea - what I do is use two laptops, I create an ad hoc wireless network and remote control the imaging laptop with the other (which has a larger screen) via wireless with Remote Desktop or RealVNC. I've since replaced my imaging laptop with a Toshiba Netbook:

http://us.toshiba.com/computers/laptops/mini-notebook/NB300

I can get about 7 hours off the provided battery on this thing. I love it. I have a little home for it, so the screen doesn't shine on anything, and it's kept out of the weather, the Lapdome junior:

http://www.lapdome.com/products.html

I use two 75 amp hour marine batteries wired in parallel for 150AH total. I have a 400W inverter atop them and 3 outlet DC outlet. I've been able to keep two laptops (after their batteries die) and all my gear running off this for over 24 hours straight:

http://www.silvren.com/misc/batteries.jpg

So I run NexRemote on the imaging laptop, and I have a wireless gamepad attached via USB:

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Cordless-Rumblepad-Vibration-Feedbac...

With that I can slew the scope wirelessly around via gamepad (or NexRemote, but the gamepad is much more accurate). It also is great for alignments. I never have to touch the hand controller or computer.

I image in a dark field 20 miles from my house, so during the cold I sit in my truck with the heat on and I can do everything from inside it, slew the scope, focus, control the camera/filter wheel, etc. My driveway is just too light polluted.

Jeff
that's pretty classic setup there Jeff. I like it!!! Talk about improvising to put your telescope where you want it.

In your imaging software does the software refocus every once in a while or just int he beginning of your session?
For me personally, as I'm not in an observatory yet and I don't have oodles of time to image, and as the weather here in D.C. just plain old *sucks*, I normally focus once or twice per evening now tops. I'll swing over to a suitable star (Mag 5 I believe, but honestly it's been a while so I forget, it's all in my notes), focus and swing back to my target.

BUT - FocusMax is the cats meow. I know of lots of people who run completely automated with it, either via ASCOM scripting or ACP, etc. And they do temperature compensation to make up for changes in the OTA, etc. There's a thermometer in the focuser.

ACP: http://acp.dc3.com/index2.html

So, one might just fire off an ACP program - I watched Warren Keller do this online while we did an ad hoc tutoring session. He lives here on the east coast, but has a monster setup in New Mexico that he remote controls. He would shoot 5 red lights, then slew to a suitable star and focus with FMax, return to target, plate solve, shoot 5 blue light frames, etc. All automated.

FMax can get pretty complicated. You can do all sorts of stuff with it. But the basics work flawlessly, and if you have a good focuser (MoonLite, Feathertouch), it's a great combo.

Jeff
yeah that sounds unreal, focusing before each color sub. That'd be ideal really. Definitely the best way to get the most out of your optics.

You've got me fired up to get this Jeff.
There's a great Yahoo group for FMax and some super helpful people there. I've had all my questions answered promptly. If you do opt for a MoonLite, the owner (Ron) will answer emails in a few hours usually. Really helpful guy. And what a gorgeous product. The anodizing/paint is so smooth and clean.

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/FMaxUG/

Jeff
Jeff, that sounds like a pretty cool setup. Had a question; when using the wireless gamepad is that going through NexRemote? If so, does NexR recognize the gamepad on it's own? Thanks, Marc

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