Saturday, July 30, 2022

KStars v3.6.0 Released

KStars v3.6.0 is released on 2022.07.30 for MacOS, Linux, and Windows. It's a bi-monthly bugfix release with a couple of exciting features.

Linear 1 Pass Algorithm

John Evans contributed a new Focus algorithm: The Linear 1 Pass Algorithm. When using this algorithm, Ekos initially performs like the Linear algorithm in establishing the first pass V-Curve and fitting a curve to it to find the solution. Then, however, it moves directly to the calculated minimum. Key features include:

  • The algorithm compensates for focuser backlash, providing that backlash is consistent.

  • The algorithm is fast, taking 1 pass to identify optimum focus.

  • The algorithm uses more sophisticated curve fitting to pinpoint the optimum focus position.

  • The algorithm is highly configurable with user control over many parameters like step size and number of steps.

Early tests by various users shows very promising and stable results

Polar-alignment V3

Hy Murveit introduced a new Polar Alignment method based of plate solving. The original polar-alignment error measurement scheme has not changed. The user interface has changed slightly--different messages and a new LED display to indicate progress.

The original polar-alignment refresh/correction method still exists (if you choose the MoveStar or MoveStar & Cal Err refresh methods).

A new polar-alignment refresh/correction method is provided called PlateSolve. It allows for corrections of larger polar-misalignment in a single pass, does not depend on the image display, and may be more reliable if your plate solving is working well.

A new alternative to MoveStar is the PlateSolve method. This can polar align mounts with larger alignment errors in a single procedure. A similar triangle is displayed on the image display, but it is not central to this scheme. 

Rather the user should concentrate on the Updated Error line at the bottom of the display, and attempt to zero the Altitude and Azimuth errors. Also, arrows display the direction the mount needs to move to reduce error.

The method works by plate-solving images as they are captured, and then estimating the user's knob-adjustments from the plate-solve solutions. Note that, since knobs may be moved during exposures, some images may have large star trails and plate solves may fail. Be patient and allow the system to capture a clean image before relying on the error estimate. 

Image ROI Statistics

Madhav Prabhu made his first contribution to KStars by adding Region-Of-Interest (ROI) selection in FITS viewer where users may view statistics for a particular region of the image. The stats include average, median, and standard deviation.

You can select from existing probes of varying sizes (50x50, 100x100..etc), or you can simply hold down the Shift key and drag the mouse to create your own rectangle.

Profile Scripts

For complex equipment profile that have inter-dependencies requiring script execution or programmable delays, the new Script Profile edit provides complete control over the driver startup sequence.

You may define a Pre-Delay and Pre-Script before a driver is executed (e.g. script to turn on the observatory electricity), and define a Post driver delay and script if desired. For some drivers like Pegasus Ultimate Power Box, it is often desirable to start this driver before other drivers so that all configuration is loaded.

Geographic Map Update

Ed Lee made his first contribution to KStars by replacing the old geographic map from a new high quality version from NASA. This should play more nicely on larger monitors and high DPI displays.

Misc. Updates

Small but important quality of life improvements to KStars & Ekos.
  • Hy Murveit Show number of clipped pixels on fitsviewer status bar if show-clipping is enabled
  • Akarsh Simha Improve the manual focus dialog for the SkyMap
  • Sophie Taylor Correct nomenclature for Linear1 focus algorithm with "R2" -> "R²", and add a default and minimum value for R² limit
  • Akarsh Simha Further improvements to Add Catalog Object UI, including auto-filling data from text.
  • Sophie Taylor Improve tooltips for GPG expert settings
  • Akarsh Simha Various fixes and improvements related to DSO catalogs and visibility.
  • Akarsh Simha Refactor `DmsBox` widget and improve the Add Catalog Object form.

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