CCDAutoPilot uses the single line data file of the Boltwood family of cloud sensors and other cloud sensors that conform to this file structure. With this facility, multiple observatories can share a common cloud sensor as long as it is networked to each observatory. Set up the cloud sensor to write the single line file. Use the File Path button to navigate to the location where this file is written. To clear an entry, simply hit Cancel after hitting . The remainder of the settings depend on whether a version I or version II cloud sensor is being used. The cloud sensor status will be checked once per minute. The run abort condition is set if the cloud sensor reports very cloudy or rain.
Wait for Clouds to Clear: When checked, if clouds come in and the cloud sensor is not "very cloudy", light frame acquisition will pause for the time specified waiting for the clouds to clear. If it clears before the specified time, the run will resume, if not the Run Abort Condition will be launched. If this is not checked, 3 successive reads indicating a cloudy condition, without an intervening clear condition will cause the Run Abort Condition will be launched. An intervening clear condition report "resets" the counter and 3 more cloudy conditions without an intervening clear will cause the Run Abort Condition will be launched.
Tracking Off while Waiting for Clouds to Clear: When checked, mount tracking will be turned off while waiting for the clouds to clear.
Park while Waitinf for Clouds to Clear: When checked the mount will be parked while waiting for the clouds to clear.
The following are Professional Edition features only.
Abort Session if Humidity Greater Than: When checked, the Run Abort Condition will be launched if the humidity exceeds the specified level.
Abort Session if Wind Speed Greater Than: When checked the Run Abort Condition will be launched if the wind speed exceeds the specified level
Abort Session on Loss of Weather Info: When checked, the Run Abort Condition will be launched if the weather monitoring thread fails or the cloud sensor/weather system stops updating for the specified time. See the Cloud Sensor Notes.
Abort Session if Too Light: When checked, the Run Abort Condition will be launched during light frame acquisition if the sky is too light, i.e. the Cloud Sensor reports the Too Light condition (3). This is useful to set to terminate the session after dawn if an incorrect user setting allows the light phase to continue too long.
Run Abort Condition
Should any adverse weather condition be set, including very cloudy, rain or water on the rain sensor, CCDAutoPilot will attempt to perform the certain Shutdown steps on the Options page - turn off tracking, park the telescope, park the rotator if one is used and that option is checked on the Options page, Shutdown tab, close the dome and run the final application (Run 8 only) - whether these are checked or not. Any scheduled calibration frames, except for flats using the sky as a flat light source, will be acquired. The guider will be stopped if running. The camera cooler will be warmed up immediately
at the end of any calibration frame acquisitions only if checked on the Options page, Shutdown tab. A failure of any of these attempts will not impact subsequent steps. Actions and activities from Run 4 onwards on the Data Acuisition tab will occur.
Caution and Disclaimer
Both the Cloud Sensor documentation and common sense advise against relying on this device to protect valuable equipment. It is mainly intended as a monitor of sky conditions. See the Cloud Sensor documentation for details. CCDAutoPilot responds to changing sky conditions as a convenience to the user and in no way should be considered a fail safe approach. The most reliable usage, again without guarantees, is to have a direct connection between the Cloud Sensor and the dome control hardware emergency close switch with no intervening software. The dome controller should be on an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to be able to close the dome in the event of a power failure.
None of this is any substitute for an attendant.
Custom applications can be run at the points in the session indicated below.
ASA Slew: When checked, CCDAutoPilot will run whatever application is entered after the mount has slewed to the target either at the beginning of a target session of after crossing the meridian. This is used for ASA mount training. To enter an application, hit the to navigate to the specific application to be run. If the application requires any arguments to follow the application, enter them manually in the arg space. To clear an entry, simply hit Cancel after hitting
Pre-Slew: When checked, CCDAutoPilot will run whatever application is entered right before the mount leaves the target. This is used for PHD2 support. To enter an application, hit the to navigate to the specific application to be run. If the application requires any arguments to follow the application, enter them manually in the arg space. To clear an entry, simply hit Cancel after hitting
Post-Slew: When checked, CCDAutoPilot will run whatever application is entered right after the mount has slewed to the target This is used for PHD2 support. To enter an application, hit the to navigate to the specific application to be run. If the application requires any arguments to follow the application, enter them manually in the arg space. To clear an entry, simply hit Cancel after hitting
SQM Data File: When checked, use the button to navigate to the Sky Quality Meter data file, as written by the SQM reader application. When active, the sky quality, as measured in mag. / arc-sec ^2 is added to the FITS header with the keyword MPSAS.
CCDNavigator3 Session Plan Path: Use the to navigate to the folder that contains the session plan. To clear the entry, again hit the and press Cancel. See the Enhanced Automation topic for suggested usage.
Control File Path Professional Feature Only)
Use the button to navigate to the Control File Path.To clear an entry, simply hit Cancel after hitting . See the Control File Editor topic for details on this file structure.
Cooler Setpoint Recovery: Some camera coolers, Apogee for example, have firmware that increase the cooler setpoint if the percent power used by the cooler exceeds a predetermined level. Since the evening generally cools down, this artificial increase in cooler setpoint becomes less necessary. Checking Cooler Setpoint Recovery will try to reset the imager cooler temperature to that entered on the Options page, Startup tab whether Set Imager Cooler is checked or not.
Slew Dome to Scope (AutomaDome and TheSkyX (X2) only): The setting determines how frequently CCDAutoPilot should adjust the dome slit position to the telescope. (There is no need for any auxiliary VB script to maintain this alignment as CCDAutoPilot does this internally.) This time should be chosen such that the telescope doesn't move out of the slit when tracking a long exposure. For most systems, 4 min. or so should work fine. If more frequent adjustments are desired, the dome/telescope system should be checked over an extended period of time (hours) to verify proper centering and tracking. To disable this facility, set the update frequency to 0 min.
Home Before Moving Shutter: Some domes need to be at the home position in order to provide power to open and close the shutter. This class of domes should have this box checked. If the shutter power is provided independently so that homing is not required, this box may be unchecked and the dome will not home before opening or closing the shutter.
Shutter Timeout: CCDAutoPilot will log If the shutter doesn't complete its activity, either open or close, within the specified number of minutes and optionally notify the user. This is primarily intended for notifying the user of this issue. The session will continue after the timeout period is reached. This setting will be used in concert with Abort Session on Open Failure is checked to determine when to abort the session. A zero value will cause the error message and optional noticifcation every time the dome is opened or closed, regardless of how long it takes to complete its movement but the session will not be aborted if Abort Session on Open Failure is checked. It is highly recommended a suitable non-zero be entered.
Dome Response Delay: This setting determines how long CCDAutoPilot will wait between certain TheSkyX dome commands. This is necessarily adjustable for some slowly-responding domes. The default setting of 5 sec. works for most domes.
Weather Abort on Slew Failure: If there is a slew failure for whatever reason in TheSky6 or TheSkyX, the Run Abort Actions will be executed. If the slew failure prevents the mount from moving at all, the mount may not be able to go to the park position. Caution: Before engaging this option, be sure your dome or roof can clear the telescope with the telescope in any position. If this is not the case, do not check this option.