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Which Software For Planets? For Guiding?

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Posted by Daniel Johnson on July 2, 2003 23:07:25 UTC

For planets with a webcam, an excellent FREE program (yes, free) is Registax, which you can get from
http://aberrator.astronomy.net/registax/ .
A similar free program is Astrostax. I've tried them both. In their current versions, Registax is the clear winner, but the authors upgrade them from time to time. These and other similar programs will take images from your digital camera or webcam and stack them automatically, so that, say, 140 pictures of Jupiter are exactly registered with each other and then averaged. Registax also allows some farily decent processing to bring out further detail. (I then process things a bit further with Adobe Photoshop, a $500 program, of which I use perhas $100 worth--probably the more limited versions such as Photoshop Elememts or Photoshop Limited Edition would have served, but not having used them, I don't really know).
You asked about autoguiding. Well, friend, a dedicated autoguider costs over $1000 by itself. That's the bad news. The good news: there are experiments going on with using webcams and low-cost software for autoguiding. I've spent the last 3 nights fiddling with AstroVideo , a program costing about $30 , which advertises many features, including autoguiding. I haven't tried actual photography with it yet, but I hope to do so the next moonless, clear weekend. My preliminary experiments suggest that it should work at least for guiding wide-angle shots, using my LX200 GPS 10-inch to guide an 80mm refractor, which I use for film photography. It may--just barely--allow guiding of the 10-inch as the photographic lens with either the refractor in photography, or (more probably) an ETX-90 as the guide scope. The longer focal length of the 10-inch requires much more precise guiding, and the smaller aperture of the 80mm or 90mm guide scopes makes fewer guide stars visible. I only get one good weekend out every couple of months, but I'll let you know when I find out.

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