Auto Flats Summary

When we announced AutoFlats, we dumped what is essentially an entire user manual on the forum and this has likely created some confusion or at least some questions. Nobody wants to go through the entirety of the documentation unless they know that the end result of doing so will be of some benefit. So here we go… an attempt at brevity to capture what AutoFlats is and why it might be useful to you. AutoFlats is necessarily complex in its implementation so that it can cover the entire spectrum of workflows and use cases, but it is not (necessarily) complex to use. For most folks, it will be quite simple to set up and start using.

What is AutoFlats?

A new feature that allows you to create a normal DSO target, give zero regard or thought to flat frames, click “Run” and, when the sequence is completed, you have perfectly viable flat frames to use and never had to worry about how or when they were captured (note you have to worry about that one time when you configure AutoFlats to work for you).

When will it be available?

In SGPro 4.3. The beta will be made available to the public in the near future. Anyone with a valid SGPro license can try it out.

How does AutoFlats work?

When AutoFlats is running, it will automatically determine how to capture flat frames to your specification. This means that you don’t need to fiddle with exposure length or worry if the intensity of the light source changes over time. AutoFlats is pretty smart and, for most conditions, it can automatically figure out where to set the filter wheel, focuser, rotator and any other gear required to capture flats.

How does AutoFlats know what Flat Data to capture?

AutoFlats implements a very flexible system for definition of the flat data you want to capture. In addition it also automates many of the more common choices. For instance, you may want to, for every sequence you run, just add flat data for the light events that are currently active. Maybe you want to add flat data for all light events or maybe just for a single target. There are many different options available including a method to add flat data manually for custom needs.

If I capture my main target over multiple sessions, won’t AutoFlats keep recapturing the same Flat Data over and over again?

Nope. Even if all of your sequence and AutoFlats capture progress is lost or reset, AutoFlats will inspect what flats are currently on disk and only capture what remains.

Does AutoFlats run as part of my normal sequence or is it separate?

Either! Whatever best fits your workflow, AutoFlats can help. You can set AutoFlats to capture flats before or after a sequence session (or both) or, alternatively, you can run AutoFlats like its own mini-sequence completely outside the main sequence.

Does AutoFlats capture Sky Flats?

Yes, for both dusk and dawn! Further, AutoFlats will automatically calculate and point the telescope at the ideal position in the sky. No more fiddling with the telescope position for flats before starting the main sequence.

Does AutoFlats work with a light panel?

Yes, AutoFlats can be set to use a mounted light panel or a flat box that is placed over the scope’s aperture. You can provide it instructions on how exactly is the best way to point at said light source so that before or after the sequence, this activity can be automated. In other words, maybe your light panel’s position corresponds with the scope’s “home” position. When the session ends, AutoFlats will automatically move to “home”, illuminate the light panel and then start capturing data.

Can I control the order in which AutoFlats captures my flats data?

You can. AutoFlats has an extremely robust ordering system that will allow you to automatically order the capture sequence by one or many properties. For instance, you may have a very slow rotator and it’s very beneficial to capture in order of rotator angle so that the AutoFlats run has the smallest amount of rotator movement possible. Maybe you have a slow filter wheel and you want to minimize changes. There are more than a dozen properties you can choose from and, if none of them work, you can certainly order the flat capture manually.

Additionally, you can ask AutoFlats to pause before starting a new flat data event. In this way, you’ll have an opportunity to adjust any gear that isn’t automated before capture begins.

What if I start a sequence that captures sky flat data “before” the main sequence and it’s still too bright?

It’s no problem. AutoFlats can detect this by the way the first capture event fails. It’s also smart enough to know that it will grow darker soon and will wait patiently and try again.

If I capture flats with AutoFlats before a sequence starts, when will the first target in the sequence actually begin?

Good question. You can explicitly note that the end of the “before sequence” AutoFlats run should be paired with the start time of the first target in the sequence, but even if you don’t, AutoFlats will end its run when it’s too dark to continue and automatically start the first target.

Do I have to use AutoFlats? I prefer the existing in-sequence method.

No problem. SGPro will not remove the current method for capturing flats and AutoFlats will remain optional (but certainly highly recommended).