MPO Connections - Overview
MPO Connections is a combination of many utilities all accessed through one interface.
The main purpose of the suite is to control any supported mount and several popular brands
of CCD cameras. In some cases not all features are supported for all mounts and/or cameras
but the essential items of sending the scope to a given location and taking an image are
implemented. Whether your work is asteroid astrometry or photometry, variable star
lightcurves, or hunting supernovae, an automated imaging program can be easily setup and
run. Let the telescope and camera do all the work while you sleep!
This is made possible by a powerful yet simple scripting engine that automates any
supported mount/camera combination. With the script engine you can setup the CCD camera,
take images of any number of targets, switch filters, focus the camera, and much more.
In MPO Connections, a script is a sequence of commands that the program can execute
automatically. SmartScript makes scripting even easier by remembering previously entered
commands. For example, the GoToAsteroid command doesn't require that you know the position
of the asteroid beforehand. The position is computed at the time the command is executed.
If you selected GoToAsteroid, the next TakeImage automatically modifies the default
entries to match the number of the asteroid you selected. If you change the default time
for the TakeImage command from 60s to 120s, the next TakeImage defaults to 120s. Every
effort has been made to make script writing quick and easy.
Included in MPO Connections are two search routines that allow you to search several
databases of asteroids, deep-sky objects, and galaxies for objects well suited for a
nights run. You can then export the search results to a text file that can be
imported into the script engine, allowing you to quickly setup a script with the basic
commands that move the scope to the target and take an image.
A blinker is provided so you can review images as soon as they come in. This is a great
feature for supernovae hunters who can blink a just taken image of a galaxy against a
reference image while script moves on to take an image of the next galaxy. Its also
great for confirming an asteroid discovery almost in real-time.
Connections provides a focusing sequencer that takes an image, allows you to see that
image and adjust focus and automatically at a time-interval you specify take
the next image. The just taken image and previous image are displayed side by side so you
can easily see if your focusing moves are in the right direction.
While Connections provides easy manual control over focusing, it also provides for
"auto focusing". This is available to those who have an electric focuser that is
controlled through the LX-200, e.g., Meade, JMI, etc. or via a separate serial port. This
can be very useful during scripted runs to keep your images from losing focus due to
temperature variations in long overnight runs.
With each new image, Connections computes a value that indicates the quality of the
focus based on the size and profile of the star image. This figure is used to help assure
a solid focus even if youre not at the computer.
MPO Connections provides several methods within and without a script to keep your
scopes positioning within specified tolerances. The most basic method is to send the
scope to a moderately bright star and have Connections automatically center the star.
Since the position of the star is known, Connections can update the scopes computer
to keep it synced to its actual position.
A more sophisticated approach (AutoMeasure) takes a short image of the field. Based on
the currently reported position, Connections generates an internal chart and matches the
image to that chart. Once thats done, Connections knows the exact RA and Declination
of the image center and can update the scopes computer. Whats more, if the
intended and real positions differ by more than an amount you specify, Connections
automatically moves the scope to the intended position. Not only will the scope know where
its pointing but it will also be where you wanted.
Easy Database Updates and Conversions
The asteroid Minor Planet Center and Lowell asteroid databases provided with the
Connections CD are updated daily and so quickly get out of date. If you have access to the
Internet, Connections links you to these sites where you can download the latest versions.
Afterwards, run the appropriate conversion program. Theres even a user-defined
database to hold elements not yet available.