By checking Abort Darks for Light Frames, the time between civil dusk and the first target start time can be used to accumulate dark and bias frames. One possible way to acquire darks is by selecting a number of series with one or more dark or bias frames. That way you will get a number of each before the first targets start time. You can do something similar for the dark and bias phase after light frames. When Abort Light and Dark Frames at Dawn is checked, the dark/bias frame series will be aborted when it is time for dawn flats. These two options can take advantage of all available time to get calibration frames if desired.
By checking AutoRun, CCDAutoPilot will start automatically after a 5 second delay, link to all specified software and immediately begin to run a session. For best results, the Session Start time should be defined by checking Begin Session Relative to Sunset. This can lead to a true Auto Start operation if your hardware and software responds properly. For example, Maxim will load and connect to the camera, FocusMax will load and connect to the focuser, TheSkyX will load (but not connect to the telescope until it needs to slew the telescope), and any other programs will load and link to their hardware if possible. AutoRun can be enabled by either double-clicking on the CCDAutoPilot icon or double-clicking on a CCDAutoPilot System Profile or shortcut. If a shortcut to either CCDAutoPilot or a System Profile is placed in the Windows Startup folder, the session will start when the PC is powered up! By including a suitable windows command called shutdown either directly or in a command file called by Run 8, the PC will shut down at the end of the session. When AutoRun is checked and CCDAutoPilot is started, the AutoRun can be aborted by unchecking AutoRun within the first 5 seconds of starting.
By checking Loop Session, CCDAutoPilot can be configured to run continuously. It will start at the Begin Session Time you specify, run through all the session phases of calibration frames before light frames, light frames, calibration frames after light frames and handle any dome/roof openings, cooler warm-up's that you specify. If adverse weather conditions occur, the session will conclude for that evening, and be ready to start the next night. See the warning about weather conditions.
This can be used in a couple of ways. When Auto Date Correct is checked, the same target(s) will be run night after night, with the start date(s) adjusted if the dates before adjustment are in the past. Future dates will not be affected. Be aware that the start time(s) will not be adjusted so that eventually your starting altitude will get lower as the days progress. Even when running manually, Auto Date Correct eliminates the tedium of having to correct starting dates in the target list.
CCDAutoPilot is now more tightly integrated with CCDNavigator (version 3.0.14 or later). When the path to a CCDNavigator session plan is specified, CCDAutoPilot will check that folder for a session plan whose date corresponds to the current date approximately 2 hours before sunset or session start time. If such a plan exists, it will be automatically imported and run at the appropriate time. The plan can also be imported using the Target menu, Import from CCDN. If any targets other than those specified in the session plan are active, they will be automatically unchecked. If any targets have the same name as the session plan, their coordinates, session plans, etc. will be updated automatically to conform to the CCDNavigator session plan. By entering a number of session plans for different dates, multiple target acquisition plans can be entered at one time and CCDAutoPilot will choose the session plan with the current date. Note: If there is no session plan with a date that corresponds to the session start date, no output file will be generated for CCDNavigator consumption, even if one is imported manually. If you import a session plan manually using the Target menu and make subsequent edits on the CCDAutoPilot session page, those edits will be overwritten by the automatic import of the original session plan if you have checked session start based on a time or sunset. To prevent this, move the manually imported session plan to another folder before starting the CCDAutoPilot session.
This is a very powerful partnership between CCDNavigator and CCDAutoPilot that can change your imaging paradigm from ad-hoc target selection to advanced seasonal planning. By previewing and choosing targets of interest in CCDNavigator and deciding how you want to image them, CCDAutoPilot will be informed each evening with the targets in your seasonal plan that are available tonight and instructed to capture only the number of images needed to achieve your goals for these targets. This lets you optimize your imaging opportunities and never inadvertently pass on a chance to capture data for targets you want, regardless of the season in which you are imaging.
When a CCDNavigator session plan is successfully concluded, the session results are placed in a specific folder. When CCDNavigator is next started, the results are imported into CCDNavigator to aid in planning a subsequent session to meet the desired goals. See CCDNavigator Help for details. The CCDNavigator goals/results database is separate from that maintained in CCDAutoPilot.
If the session path is specified, using the CCDAutoPilot menu Target/Import/From CCDNavigator will automatically import the current session plan. If the path is empty, the normal windows navigation window will be presented. (To clear the session path, simply click on the navigation button, and then hit Cancel on the windows navigation window.)