Friday, February 14, 2020

KStars v3.4.0 is Released

Celebrate Valentines' Day with some KStars Love! Happy to announce the release of KStars 3.4.0 on February 14th, 2020 on Linux, MacOS, and Windows.

What's new with this release?

The Linear Focus Algorithm.

Hy Murveit continued to work on linear focusing algorithm. This is an alternative auto-focus algorithm available in the Process section of the Focus tab.

You can think of this algorithm as "slow and steady". It should be less sensitive to backlash and measurement noise, but will likely take more samples to achieve its minimum HFR than a successful polynomial search. If you are having issues with auto-focus, you should consider trying this out.

It takes regularly sampled HFR values, i.e. (mostly) moving the position inward by a fixed amount--step size in the 1st pass of the algorithm, and 1/2 step size in the 2nd pass. The polynomial algorithm varies the change in position. Linear rarely changes direction, and mostly moves inward. In its first pass it takes a number of samples inward to establish a V-curve and an approximate minimum-HFR position, then makes a 2nd inward pass looking for that minimum. It only samples the HFR after an inward move. When it needs to move outward, e.g. in between the the 1st and 2nd passes, it moves outward much further than needed, and then moves back in before capturing an image.

The system should be at rough focus before the algorithm starts. The most important parameter is the step size, which needs to be found experimentally. See the screenshot as to how it was chosen (step size = 25) for a Moonlight v2 focuser. Recommend that full-field and the SEP detection algorithm be used with it.

Faster Solver

Robert Lancaster added an option to use Sextrator as the primary method to identify stars within an image. This has two benefits:

1. It removes the python dependency, which was a painful issue for MacOS users.
2. It vastly improves the solver speed, according to some early reports from our beta testers.

You can turn on the Sextrator option in settings. 

You can see the solver in now noticeably faster and more reliable than before!

Improvements & Bug Fixes

  • Fixed a few memory allocation issues to reduce the process memory usage.
  • Fixed DSLR ImageToFITS loading when auto convert is used.
  • Fixed focus direction for relative DC focusers.
  • Improved reliability of setting snoop property for the active profile.
  • Fixed File name sanitization issues.
  • Communication with remote INDI Web Manager is now mostly asynchronous.
  • Align property labels in the INDI dialog vertically on top.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

KStars v3.3.9 is Released

We kickoff 2020 with a brand new KStars v3.3.9 release for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

This release incorporates the continued improvements to KStars base while introducing new long-awaited features in a few areas.

Stretch Controls

Hy Murveit implemented adjustable and fast stretch controls for mono and color images within the FITS Viewer. These allow fine changes in Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights clipping even for high resolution astro-photos.

Adjusting the controls do not change the underlying data, only the previewed image. After any stretch adjustment is made, the user can always revert to the automatic stretching again by clicking on the small wizard icon at the bottom right corner of the controls panel.

Experimental Linear Focusing Algorithm

Hy Murveit developed a new experimental linear focusing algorithm.  Linear focuser is a simple autofocus algorithm that always scans in, sampling at regularly spaced intervals. It may be slower than the other algorithms, but the hope is that by minimizing direction changes backlash will be minimized and the algorithm may provide more stable autofocus results.

This change also introduces an interface that hides the implementation of the autofocus algorithm, and future changes may moved the other existing algorithms into this framework.

Linear focuser mainly works well when started near the ultimate focus position. It depends on the step-size, max-travel, and tolerance parameters, which should be chosen well. It may take more iterations to find focus than the other algorithms.

Piotr Zyziuk improve Focus Module in Ekos by adding autofocus support for DSLR's that use manualfocusdrive command by gphoto instead of rel_focus_position for example, Nikon Z6 manual focusing only works in the "liveview" aka "preview" mode (with mirror up). In "non preview" mode the focus motor is only controllable by the autofocus engine. This change should also be applicable to Canon cameras.

New western Sky Culture

KStars now includes an option for a new standard western sky culture, thanks to work by Edgar Scholz over at The constellations from this sky culture are based on work by H.A. Rey. They are often more intuitive and easier to remember than the classical Greek and Roman inspired constellations. The new sky culture mixes the best more intuitive representations from both worlds in addition to completely new shapes painted by Mr. Scholz himself.

Aquarius in a different Sky Culture

Bug Fixes

  • Bugfix for re-connecting a weather device initializes the weather display.
  • Fix off-by-one bug in stretch.
  • Fix video streaming resize crash on Windows.
  • Fix minor EBN issues.
  • Account for exposure less than 0.001 seconds in the file name.
  • For windows, when index 1 is selected from the combo box it should be considered REMOTE.
  • Bugfix for re-connecting a weather device initializes the weather display.
  • Making the Columns in the Align view resize automatically.
  • Add markers for the documentation configuration pages, add some info about sky cultures
  • Abort plate solving when slewing is detected.
  • Fix crash when focused object is either asteroid or comet and the data is loaded.
  • Fix bug re filter-change-autofocus.
  • Reset guiding calibration if the mount moves and "Always Reset Guide Calibration" option is set.