Meade Lunar Planetary Imagers
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Meade's exciting new LPI (Lunar Planetary Imager) can be used on any telescope for making images! It's VGA resolution (640x480) color CMOS chip is capable of creating high-quality lunar and planetary images, as well as daytime terrestrial images. And with the capability to make long exposures, you can digitally capture bright deep sky objects with the LPI system that only costs a fraction of a typical astronomical CCD imager system.With an effective magnification similar to a 6mm eyepiece, the Meade LPI produces images that are inherently high magnification with no additional adapters, making it the perfect tool for imaging the Moon, planets, and small, bright deep sky objects. Using a barlow lens with the LPI will increase the magnification even more, and installing the LPI is just as easy as sliding in an eyepiece. Autoguiding with the LPI requires an Autostar-equipped Meade telescope. Standard equipment includes cables with the Autostar Suite for linking the PC to the "RS232" port of these telescopes so that the software can make corrections to the telescope as the LPI tracks on a star. Autoguiding with the LPI is as easy as making an image- An initial image is downloaded, and one only has to draw a box with the computer's mouse over the star to be tracked. When used in tandem with the LX200GPS with Smart Drive activated, stars as faint as 10th magnitude may be used. Making lunar and planetary images with the LPI is simple. A hobbiest will find that they only have to do the following to make images that they will be proud of: * Install the Autostar Suite software in your PC. * Connect the USB cable to the camera and the PC. Windows will recognize the new device and a dialog box will appear asking if you want to install the new drivers. With the Autostar Suite CD disk still inserted in the computer, click "OK". * Open Autostar Suite, click the "Image" drop-down menu at the top of the program and select "LPI Imaging". The camera's dim red L.E.D. "on" light will glow indicating you are connected. * Click the drop down menu under "Object" and select the type of object that you will image, use "Moon" for taking images of the Moon for example. * Center up the planet or region of the Moon that you wish to image with an eyepiece. Remove the eyepiece from the telescope's focuser, and slide in the LPI camera. * The image will appear on the "Live" box on your computer at this time. You can now focus the telescope to get the sharpest image. Use the "Magic Eye" tool of the program to determine best focus. * Hold down the left mouse button and draw a box around a region of interest, and let go The LPI will "track" on that region during the exposures. * When you are ready, just click the "Start" button and you will start tracking and stacking images. You can take and stack as many iamges as you like. * Click "Stop" to finish. The LPI software will automatically name and save your final image. It is that easy! As your familiarity of using the LPI software improves, you can over-ride all of the automatic settings and take control of nearly every aspect of the imaging process to further improve your imaging skill. For example, the exposure settings can be user-controlled from .001 to 15 seconds. The LPI software automatically aligns multiple images images and combines them into one superior image. Generally speaking in making an astrophotograph there are still factors that can ruin an otherwise perfect image. Some of these factors would be moments of poor seeing, or high turbulence in the atmosphere, a gust of wind shaking the telescope, poor alignment that would cause poor tracking, even a small bump to any part of the telescope can cause problems. With the LPI system, the software's "Min Quality" setting can be set to discard all of the poor quality images and only combine the high quality images at or above the setting chosen. Other features include taking dark frames with the LPI, or saving every image taken instead of just the final stacked image. Below are most of the primary features of the LPI software interface for controlling the camera: * Live - Displays what the imager sees in the "Live" tab in the display area. * Exposure - This is the exposure time in seconds (from .001 to 16 seconds), the up and down spin buttons adjust the exposure up and down by .5 f/stop. * Gain and Offset - Are like contrast and brightness on a TV. These controls are sent directly to the camera. * Histogram - Displays a histogram of the image in the Live tab. It uses a monochrome converted image which is an average of the RGB of each pixel. * Stretch Controls - The sliders below the histogram control the stretch of the image. The top one is black and the bottom one is white. The numbers below the sliders are the stretch values. The left one is black the right one is white. * LOG Checkbox - This makes the histogram response log. * ROI Checkbox - Makes a histogram in the region of interest (ROI) of the red rectangle in the Live display area drawn by the user. * Magic Eye Focus - This displays a graphical representation of the focus. The two orange triangles grow together to indicate better focus. The red lines indicate the maximum obtained. * Avg Checkbox - This will average the last 5 focus values to smooth out the noise in the image. * Reset - This will reset the red max indicators of the Magic Eye Focus tool. * Start - This will start co-adding images and continuously display the current image in the Live tab and the co-added image in a new tab with the filename as the tab. The Min Quality, Evaluation Count, Object Name, and filter selection will be used for this image. The start button will be relabeled "Stop". When Stop is pressed the co-added image will be saved as the file type selected and in the "Image Folder" under the Object Name. If there is already a file with this name then a number will be suffixed to the name. * Min Quality - This selects the minimum quality that is acceptable to co-add an image. * Evaluation Count - This is the number of images skipped when Start is pressed to determine a quality range. * Object Name - This is the filename that will be used when the Stop button is pressed. * Kernel Filter - This will insert the selected kernel filter in the image stream. When co-adding the image, the filter is applied after the co-add but is only used for display. It is applied again when the image is saved such that it is only applied once to the co-added image. * Images Status - This displays the number of co added images. * Quality Status - This displays the quality of the last camera image. * Centroid - When you draw a rectangle around a bright object in the Live display area, two crossed lines represent the centroid of the rectangle (ROI). The rectangle will move with the centroid to keep it in the middle. This way it will track the bright spot any where on the image. The centroid is used by the shift and combine algorithm to determine how much to shift the image by.