PixInsight – Load Default Project/Process Icons

So whilst Dave was processing our M45 QHY268C data, he mentioned how it is frustrating that he has to reload his process icons for his workflow every single time.

After finishing the communications/process diagram for IMT I decided to have a quick look if it was possible. Watching PixInsight startup I noticed access to a few files – banner and startup.scp. For me these were located in the C:\Program Files\PixInsight\etc\startup directory.

Looking through the documentation it seemed possible to add statements to the file which was possible once I had modified it as Administrator.

Method 1 – Load Process Icons

This will load just the process icons into the current workspace on startup. Add the line below to the bottom of C:\Program Files\PixInsight\etc\startup\startup.scp :

open "C:\Users\gingergeek\Pixinsight\Pixinsight DSW Process Icons V10.1.6.xpsm"

Save the file and restart pixinsight.

Method 2 – Load An Empty Project With Process Icons

Another method (preferred) is to create a new project (Empty-process-icons.pxiproject), load in the process icons. Save the project and then change the properties to make it read-only so you can’t accidentally overwrite it later on.

Add the line below to the bottom of C:\Program Files\PixInsight\etc\startup\startup.scp :

open "C:\Users\gingergeek\Pixinsight\Empty-process-icons.pxiproject"

Save the file and restart pixinsight.

I also modified the banner file (in the same directory as startup.scp) so it would show the IMT3b designation. I generator the ASCII art from one of the many online sites, if I can remember which one I will link it here.

\x1b[1;38;2;255;000;000m██╗███╗ ███╗████████╗██████╗ ██╗\x1b[39;21m
\x1b[1;38;2;230;000;000m██║████╗ ████║╚══██╔══╝╚════██╗██║\x1b[39;21m
\x1b[1;38;2;204;000;102m██║██╔████╔██║ ██║ █████╔╝██████╗\x1b[39;21m
\x1b[1;38;2;179;000;153m██║██║╚██╔╝██║ ██║ ╚═══██╗██╔══██╗\x1b[39;21m
\x1b[1;38;2;153;000;204m██║██║ ╚═╝ ██║ ██║ ██████╔╝██████╔╝\x1b[39;21m
\x1b[1;38;2;128;000;255m╚═╝╚═╝ ╚═╝ ╚═╝ ╚═════╝ ╚═════╝\x1b[39;21m
Our new PixInsight default project with process icons


The downside to both these methods is that if PixInsight is upgraded/reinstalled then you will lose the settings – not a disaster to be honest as they are easy to put back into place.

Processed Image (M45)

So visiting Dave one evening as we have not met for a while whilst I was updating software Dave processed the QHY268C data we took of M45.

M45 – PixInsight Processed Image

So I’m disappointed that although the image is a good first start I forgot to change the change setting on the gain which in SGPro is in the event settings and not in the top level sequence display 🙁

Dave ran the image through the annotate function of PixInsight. The galaxy PGC13696 near the bottom of the image is actually 232 million light years away.

M45 – PixInsight Annotated Image

Viewing Report 25th July 2020 – IMT3

21:47 – 00:23


GingerGeek and I were out imaging tonight. The sky unexpectedly cleared and we thought given the impending move of IMT3 to another site that we would try to gather some more data on M57, specifically LRGB and some additional Ha on the 12″.

We ran Autofocus on Luminance which gave 60,671 at 20.64℃ and HFR 6.5. We then started to image and after a few frames the temperature started to drop. In the main this is because we opened the dome last minute rather than a minimum of 2 hours before we used it so the dome was warm and now cooling down the optical train shifts.

M57 quick frame and focus

We refocused to 62,712 on luminance at 19.10 with an of HFR 5.15. We then ran the image acquisition and below is a screenshot of the guiding, which looked like it was going to cause an issue but it was ok. If it had then it would have been the local fog rather than anything on the mount. At midnight we performed a Meridian flip nice and early which afforded us to leave the observatory running and go to bed. Notice the graph below, the yellow line drops as we performed the meridian flip, this is due to the dome now shielding against next doors light !!!!!!!

Guiding ok, notice the drop in the graph

The neighbours light continue to be a pain as can be seen here, I really cannot wait to move the observatory to it’s new dark site.


Finally managed to capture LRGB and Ha, below the RGB and Ha frames can be seen in PI. Note the central star is not visible in the Ha frame,

RGB and Ha raw frames

Finally I stacked 1 of each colour without calibration to see what it would look like.

RGB quick single stack no calibration

So we left the observatory imaging, I had a quick peek outside around 12:30am and there was water running off the dome and the outside windows of the orangery! The Observatory ran until the dome shut at 3:58am (it woke me up) when the light levels started to rise.

Image Processing Notes for CMOS Using Flat Darks

I thought I ought to document this so that I remember this is now the new normal for making a flat master for my CMOS camera, the ZWO ASI1600MM. The problem I found again after not processing images for some time, was that the normal way of processing without Flat Darks produces a master flat with embossed, so raised doughnuts across the image.

Batchpreprocessing – > Darks tab -> Optimization Threshold -> move from 3 to 10 – > this removes the dark entirely and also removes the amp glow but introduces loads of noise so clearly not right at all. So I contacted my friend Dave Boddington who is a bit of an expert on this topic and he gave me some good advice that has of course worked.

So first let’s detail what I am calibrating. On the 20th April 2020 I took a set go Ha frames of M84, these were 300s exposure and with a Gain of 193 and I believe an Offset of 21, however we had some changes over the previous week so driver the Offset is no longer stored in the FITS header. It was when we were using the ZWO native driver. The temperature of the cooler was set to -26℃. I have 8 of these frames.

M94 300s light

I also have a set of 10 darks at the same settings. However when using the Statistics tool Dave noticed the Mean of the image was 800 and the Mean of the Ha frame was 353. This is in a 16 bit notation. The camera however is a 12 bit camera and this means the Mean for the dark is 50 and the Mean for the Ha is 22, so a difference of 28 in 12 bit and 447 in 16 bit. I will come back to this later.

Mean of Ha 300s light
Mean of Dark 300s

First I created a Master Dark for the Ha frames using the normal ImageIntegration settings. I did not calibrate darks with Bias as you do not need bias with a CMOS cooled camera. Next I created a Master Flat Dark for the Flat frames using the same ImageIntegration settings.

Single 300s Dark with hot pixels and amp glow

Then I found the Ha images did not need to have the flats applied so I skipped that step for the narrowband images. Next I Calibrated the Ha lights with ImageCalibration and because of that discrepancy above which looks like it was induced by having the Offset for the darks set to 12 and the Offset for the lights set to 21 I added 600 as suggested by Dave Boddington to the Output Pedestal in the Output files section of ImageCalibration. I made sure Evaluate Noise was ticked and that both Calibrate and Optimise were unticked in the Master Dark section. Master Bias was unticked and so was Master Flat for the narrow band images as mentioned.

Calibrating Ha lights with Master Dark

This created a clean set of calibrated Ha lights that did not require flats to be applied.

Calibrated 300s Ha light with Master Dark

Next I had some issues in Star Aligning the frames. The error I received was ‘Unable to find an initial set of putative star pair matches’, due to the frames being very sparsely filled with stars and the background being quite light compared to the stars. A quick look on the PI forum showed increasing the Noise Reduction in the Star Detection section from 0 to 4 sorted the issue, with all but 1 frame being aligned. I was then down to 7 x 300s Ha lights. The final frame was very light due to cloud.

7 x 300s Ha Calibrated with Darks, Aligned and stacked

I then integrated these 7 frames together. I had a challenge with trying to get the hot pixels in a few areas to disappear using Cosmetic Correction and pixel rejection during stacking so I will remove these after by hand before combining into the larger set

hot pixels not removed

So in essence what I have learnt is that I need to have really clean filters and camera glass. That all the doughnuts are on the those surfaces and not anywhere else. That the flats must be between 22k and 26k for the CMOS cameras, although this has some tolerance either way. That I need to set the camera to the right Gain, Offset and Temp as the lights and that I need the right flats for the right lights!

Viewing Report 27th March 2020 – IMT3 12″

Viewing time period – 17:18 – 02:07

Cooling down telescope ready for tonights viewing

IMT3 Cooling down

M94 and NGC 3395/3396 are the 2 targets for tonight, some luminance on M94 and RGB on NGC 3395/3396 if I get enough time. I always try to open the dome early to give at least 2-4 hours cooling before I use.

View from the bridge

When I was about to start with autofocus I tried to recenter back on the target but the mount respond and it transpired that the mount thought it was out of balance. I went to the dome and the mount was beeping proving it was out of balance. So I turned the mount off, manually moved the scopes pack to the park position and then turned the mount back on and all was well.

@19:57 I performed the autofocus for the night on Luminance which scammer in at a position of 75282 on the focuser.

1st AutoFocus run

@20:10 I started an imaging run of 24 x NGC 3395/3396 with Luminance filter. Once done I planned on grabbing RGB frames before moving on to M94.

NGC 3395/3396 Luminance

@22:32 I started on the RGB frames for NGC 3395/3396 after refocusing on the Red filter.

Single Blue frame for NGC 3395/3396

@1:40 I slewed to M94 and changed the filter to Luminance. I performed a refocus and shifted from 77895 to 75884 on Red filter by accident. So we (I had Bob on Zoom by this point) refocused on the Luminance and the new focus position was 74884. So the difference is 1000 for Luminance to Red. I also changed the step size for the focuser temperature compensation from 531 to 431 to see if the HFR is more stable.

A new autofocus on Luminance

I noticed tonight that PHD2 lost the Use Direct Guide check mark twice and thus complained about pulse guide not being supported. I had to stop guiding, disconnect the mount in PHD2 and go into the settings, check the Use Direct Guide and reconnect the mount and start guiding again. Something to look into possibly.

Quick frame and focus 20s of M94 Luminance

@02:07 I went to bed and left the scope gathering another 2 hours of Luminance data on M94.

Addendum …….

The following day I took the ZWO ASI1600MM CMOS Camera off the back of the 12″ and cleaned the sensor window. What I found was the dark dust doughnuts disappeared and the rest for the doughnuts were actually on the filters.

Before cleaning Flat from Luminance on ASI1600MM
Flat from Red after cleaning sensor window
Flat from Green after cleaning sensor window
Flat from Blue after cleaning sensor window

Things to still resolve……..

  1. Check out why WSX is loosing connection and shutting the dome
  2. Fix Slew Here and Centre Here in SGPro that does not work
  3. Clean filters for the 12″ to get rid of doughnuts
  4. Clean sensor for QHY168C

Image processing notes for travel setup

So I managed to go out and quickly bag a few images of M13 to test the travel scope on the night of the 1st to the 2nd September. It was relatively cool and clear. The main aim was could I take images that were not overexposed on stars whilst capturing the fainter stars at the same time. Also I wanted to make sure I could process an image too.

So all in I took 10 x 5 minute exposures but unfortunately I had not read the Skywatcher manual and had not locked up the focus tube. This meant that the first 3 frames were out of focus so I tightened the locking latch and then took the other 7.

On processing the image I noted the black (white) band to the top and right of the image where I had not switched off the setting for Overscan. I could not PixInsight to recognise it properly so I simply pre-processed the image and then cropped it out before processing.

Overscan area present

I managed to get Photometric Colour Calibration working which helped get the colour just right. I then processed in my usual way using the following workflow.

Photometric Colour Calibration Results
Photometric Colour Calibration Settings
  1. Calibrate with Flats and Darks only no Bias as it is a CMOS camera
  2. Integrate the frames
  3. Align
  4. Perform Cosmetic Correction
  5. Debayer
  6. Crop
  7. ABE
  8. Background Neutralisation
  9. Platesolve
  10. Photometric Colour Calibration
  11. Histogram Stretch
  12. TGVDenoise
  13. ACDNR
  14. Curves
  15. Dark Structure Enhance
  16. Exponential Transformation
  17. 2nd set of Curves
  18. SCNR for green

The final image was ok for the short amount of data I obtained and proved my capture setting and workflow worked