CCD Commander Automated Imaging

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Images taken using
CCD Commander

Mike Sherick NGC7000Franck Bugnet M82M33Make J Shade Medusa NebulaDave Sandage Bubble NebulaMassimo Bernardi Crab NebulaMassimo Bernardi NGC6976Mike J. Shade NGC660Gamma Cygni

Imagine setting up for a night of imaging, falling asleep, and then waking in the morning with images of multiple targets - each autoguided and autofocused.  Your mount is parked and you have darks and flats for all your images.  With a quick glance you confirm that all your images were guided successfully and your camera temperature was stable throughout the night.  All of this is a reality with CCD Commander.

CCD Commander will control your CCD camera exposures, your mount movement, and your focuser to completely automate your night's imaging.  CCD Commander allows unlimited combinations of these different actions to give you full control of your telescope and camera.  The simple to use Graphical User Interface makes these complex configurations very easy to setup.

CCD Commander allows you to create an imaging session using a number of different actions.  These actions can be setup in any order and you can have any number of them - allowing for unlimited unattended imaging possibilities.  Some available actions are:
  • Take an Image
    • Automatically take any kind of image with a CCDSoft or MaxIm DL controlled camera(s) (guided or unguided & dark, bias, light, or flat).
    • Automatically find a guide star - adjusting the guide exposure as necessary, or use a guide star at a specified location and start autoguiding with a CCDSoft or MaxIm DL controlled guider (internal or a second camera).  This allows unattended guiding while looking anywhere in the sky.  A guide star is always visible at the right guide exposure!
    • Wait for the guide star to reach the specified error before starting the exposures.
    • Automatically dither the guide star within a user-defined window.
    • Automatically dither the mount within a user-defined window (when not autoguiding).
    • Automatically flip a GEM at the meridian, plate solve to match the pre-flip image location, acquire a new guide star, and continue imaging.
    • Automatically rotate the camera 180 degrees after the meridian flip (with an instrument rotator).
    • Automatically calibrate the images using a predefined set of calibration frames.
  • Go to any RA/Dec coordinate or TheSky defined Object
    • Includes meridian flips for GEMs.
    • Enter coordinates in either JNow or J2000.
      • CCD Commander will precess J2000 coordinates to JNow immediately before slewing to the target.
      • Allows the coordinates in an action list to remain valid for years after you first create it.
    • Coordinates can be retrieved from TheSky6's extensive catalogs (if available), or entered manually.
  • Plate Solve and Sync or Offset
    • Performs an Plate Solve through CCDSoft & TheSky, MaxIm DL & PinPoint LE, or the full version of PinPoint.
    • Either syncs the mount to the Plate Solve coordinates, or computes the offset difference from the current mount position.
    • Optionally slews to the originally desired coordinates for optimal pointing accuracy.
    • Additional features available for moving to a new location and retrying the plate solve.
  • Focus using
    • FocusMax (any star in the field, or specify the star to use)
    • FocsuMax AcquireStar (automatically slew to a bright focus star)
    • CCDSoft @Focus
    • CCDSoft @Focus2 (automatically slew to a bright focus star with TheSky6)
  • Rotate an instrument rotator
    • Rotate to any position angle.
    • Rotation angles are valid anywhere in the sky.
      • Position angle is automatically recomputed based on a meridian flip.
      • Guider calibration coefficients are automatically recomputed when the rotator moves ensuring proper guiding regardless of rotation angle and pointing location.
  • Dome control
    • Perform a number of dome control functions at any time in your script.
  • Intelligent Temperature Control
    • Enable or disable the CCD cooler at any time.
    • Enable or disable the CCD fan at any time.
    • Intelligently set the CCD cooler to the coldest temperature possible from a list of acceptable temperatures.
      • Automatically wait for the temperature to stabilize before continuing the action list.
      • Settable maximum cooler power.
      • Settable maximum time to wait for the set power to be reached.
      • Very useful to avoid thermal runaway.
    • Unintelligent temperature setting for when stabilized temperature is not important.
  • Wait for any RA/Dec coordinate or TheSky defined Object to reach a minimum altitude
  • Wait for any specified time
  • Park the Mount
    • Real park for mounts that support a park function.
    • "Simulated" park for mounts that cannot park on their own.
      • CCD Commander will keep the telescope in one position until the operator can shut down the mount.
      • Prevents the mount from tracking into an object - even if the mount cannot disable tracking!
  • Automatic Flats
    • Exposure time computed automatically to achieve the specified target ADU value.
    • Dusk and dawn flats.
      • Automatically start the flats at the proper time, regardless of what is happening in the current action.
      • No need to worry if your action list will finish in time for the flats to occur.
      • Dawn flats can start at Astronomical, Nautical, or Civil Twilight.
    • "Screen" or "Dome" flats
    • Flats for every filter taken in any order (RRRGGGBBB, or RGBRGBRGB, or any other).
    • Once the proper exposure is determined, CCD Commander can either keep the exposure constant across all flats (for one filter) or continuously adjust the exposure to maintain the target ADU.
  • Run an External Script
  • Skip to any later point in the action list at any time
    • Start imaging a target at an exact time, regardless of what was happening before
      • Start imaging one target, then skip to the next as soon as it becomes visible
    • Schedule a shutdown at a specific time
Performing Survey work is easy with CCD Commander. Using the built in Import function, you can add nearly unlimited targets to you action list. Simply define the actions you want to perform for each target (like Move to the target and Take an Image), create a target list, and push a button. CCD Commander will automatically create all the actions for each target.

In addition to all of these functions, CCD Commander also has an asynchronous Cloud Monitor that always runs simultaneously to the action list. This Cloud Monitor watches the output from the cloud sensor. As soon as the predefined conditions occur, CCD Commander can pause the action list, park the mount, and/or close the dome - protecting your valuable equipment from the harsh conditions. When the skies clear, CCD Commander can open the dome, slew back to the previous coordinates, and continue your action list with the next action! This provides the ability to image in any kind of condition, without the worry of damaging your equipment or loosing imaging time due to passing clouds. The ultimate in unattended operation!

CCD Commander also creates two plots for easy checking of your imaging session's performance.  The first is a plot of your guide errors so you can see if the tracking and guiding performed well.  The second is a plot of the CCD temperature so you can ensure the cooler maintained your set temperature.

For more details, Take the Tour!

Download a fully functional 45 day trial version of CCD Commander here!

Join the CCD Commander Mailing List by clicking here.

CCD Commander currently works with:

TheSky v6.0.0.33 or later (32-bit Professional Edition only) by Software Bisque
ASCOM Telescope Drivers v2
CCDSoft v5.00.153 or later by Software Bisque
MaxIm DL v4.11 or later by Diffraction Limited
PinPoint v4 by DC-3 Dreams, SP (optional)
FocusMax v3.3.29 or later by Larry Weber and Steve Brady (optional)
Optec Pyxis Instrument Rotator (optional)
Precision Instrument Rotator by RC Optical Systems (optional)
TAKometer by AstroDon (optional)
Automadome by Software Bisque (optional)
Digital Dome Works by Technical Innovations (optional)
ASCOM Dome Drivers (optional)
Boltwood Cloud Sensor by Diffraction Limited (optional)
AAG CloudWatcher by Lunatico Astronomia (optional)

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Images taken using
CCD Commander
Mike Sherick Lagoon NebulaJon Talbot vdB98Pelican HeadMike Sherick Sh2-240Mike J. Shade NGC620Paul Luckas NGC3372 Mosaic
Massimo Bernardi NGC7331Mike J. Shade NGC1985Dumbell Nebula