New Features in CCDAutoPilot 5.0 Basic

Enhanced User Interface

Through continuous improvement and feedback from CCDAutoPilot’s many users, the user interface has been further enhanced to make your session planning fun and straightforward. After setting up your focusing and guiding preferences, as well as some other customizations, there are four simple steps to starting your automated session: Setup, Session, Options and Run. While there are many configuration settings and options behind the scenes, these basic steps will get you from starting to running an automated session as soon as possible. The Automation Assistant , based on many years of user inputs, will alert you to possible incorrect settings that you can correct before you commit your session. And, even if you still overlook something, you can correct settings and choices while a session is running due to CCDAutoPilot's new Concurrent Session Editing.

Focus on Targets and Data

With CCDAutoPilot 5, the entire data acquisition phase is available on a single tabbed window, called Session. Targets can easily be entered manually, from a text file, a prior FIT file, a CCDNavigator session plan or a Starry Night observing plan. You can set exposure series manually or by templates that were saved as such from a prior session. There are two default templates included. Additional templates are created by simply memorizing the existing settings and giving them a name of your choosing. Templates can be developed and customized for all session phases to simplify data acquisition planning. Exposure goals can be defined and reviewed the next day to determine how many additional frames remain to be acquired. This is perfect for those multi-night acquisition plans. You can customize folder locations and file name templates as you wish to meet your workflow.

Concurrent Session Editing

A session can be modified while it is running! This allows you to get started as soon as possible and fine-tune the session while underway. You can even change the number of exposures for a given series while that series is in process!

Data Quality Assessment

When this option is enabled, each data frame is analyzed for average Full Width Half Maximum (FWHM) star sizes by TheSkyX or PinPoint, or for FWHM, Aspect Ratio and Background by CCDInspector v2.5 or later. You set your upper limits for these parameters and CCDAutoPilot will escrow those exposures failing to meet the criteria into a separate folder of your choosing. No more blinking through frames to find the good ones!

More Integration Options

CCDAutoPilot now supports full integration with TheSkyX for planetarium functions, telescope control and plate solving. It also provides integration with Maxim’s native focus routine, in addition to FocusMax and CCDSoft's. Support for Alnitak AstroSystems FlipFlat and FlatMan is more tightly integrated. TheSkyX/TheSky6 can be used for planetarium functions while ASCOM is used for telescope control. In short, CCDAutoPilot is flexible enough to control nearly all astro-imaging related equipment the way you want to control it.

Automatic Color Combine Ratio (G2V) Measurement

One push of a button measures your color combine ratio with a G2V star that is automatically selected when used with TheSkyX/TheSky6. Without TheSky, you can manually point your telescope to a suitable star for equally automatic measurements. No taking of images, stacking, importing into another program, etc. The color combine ratio obtained is extinction-corrected as if you had taken the data at the zenith. No further extinction correction is needed.

Automatic Camera Measurement

One push of a button measures your camera read noise and, if set up properly, your camera's conversion gain. Another button and your sky glow is measured. With this data, you can determine optimal sub-exposure times, camera cooling and even the number of dark frames needed.

One-Click Setup Procedure

CCDAutoPilot further simplifies your system setup with one-click ease. You can define and measure your color combine ratio, optimize dithering and measure your camera performance with one click as well. Once you system is setup, you will never need to recalibrate your autoguider or rotator for any target you want to image unless you change the configuration of your imaging system.

Boltwood Cloud Sensor Support

Full support for either a local or networked Boltwood cloud sensor (or equivalent) is included via an independent thread. User selectable options for a cloudy condition include either aborting the run or waiting for a specific period of time for the clouds to clear. In the latter case, the run continues when the Boltwood reports clear conditions.

Predictive Auto-Guiding Technology

Once initialized, CCDAutoPilot will calculate optimal guiding parameters independently of a simple calibration routine. No more worrrying about mount hysteresis or guide vector assymetry. No matter where you point your telescope CCDAutoPilot will determine the best guiding parameters for your imaging system. Predictive guiding supports camera relays, DirectGuide, MicroGuide and, for AO users, automatic mount bumping calibration. And, it works with your optional manual or automated rotator at any position angle.

Automatic Guide Exposure

Set your minimum and maximum guide exposure and your desired guide star level and CCDAutoPilot does the rest, adjusting the guide exposure to get your desired signal level.

Integration with TheSkyX as well as TheSky6

CCDAutoPilot seamlessly integrates with TheSky allowing you to work interactively to select, frame and manage imaging targets. See when your targets rise, set and transit the meridian as well as user definable altitudes for starting and ending exposures. Twilight conditions are reported for optimal session planning. Integration with TheSkyX includes the ability to use its greatly improved plate solving capability for pointing correction and data assessment.

Integrated Auto Guider Calculator

The CCDWare guide calculator is now incorporated into CCDAutoPilot. Additionally, the guide calculator minimum and maximum move as well as aggressiveness may be directly loaded into CCDSoft via a single click. The calculator will automatically determine whether camera relays, DirectGuide or MicroGuide is being used and will calculate and load the optimal settings accordingly.

Advanced Pointing Technology

When you slew to an object, CCDAutoPilot, confirms that you are at the exact coordinates you indicated in your target list. If there is any error in your pointing, CCDAutoPilot will correct your telescopes pointing. If desired, a pointing error tolerance can be specified for more demanding pointing precision. If you are using a rotator, CCDAutoPilot will fine-tune the rotator position to meet the target's Position Angle.

Automatic Guide Star Recovery

A passing cloud, cosmic ray hit or gust of wind can potentially ruin a nights imaging run. With AGSR technology, CCDAutoPilot will detect a missing guidestar, recenter your target, and continue the imaging session.

Seamless Rotator Control

CCDAutPilot supports automatic control of the Optec Pyxis, RCOS PIR, Astrodon TAKometer and any rotator meeting the ASCOM standard. Rotate your FOV indicator in TheSky, right click on your target and select Slew To Target. You rotator will now rotate to the precise Position Angle in the sky. No more fumbling with rotator positions vs actual position angles.

SkyStar Focusing

SkyStar allows you to focus on stars outside your field of view and return to your target with arc-second accuracy. SkyStar has been improved so that it works with both CCDSoft and TheSky as well as with Pinpoint. In addition, SkyStar will ensure your focus star is always in the center of you FOV for precise on-axis focusing. SkyStar is unique in that it is the only off-target focusing routine that allows you to plate solve with a filter other than the filter you use for focusing.

Focus Control

CCDAutoPilot provides many new focus options to ensure your exposures are as sharp as ever. If using parafocal filters, you can now select which filter you will use for focusing, select when to focus during multi-filter imaging sessions and program initial FocusMax exposures for each filter to save valuable imaging time. You can even specify a temperature change at which to schedule a focus.

Reusable System Profiles

Once you have CCDAutoPilot configured for your imaging system, you can save your system profile for each imaging configuration you use. This allows you to characterize many imaging configurations and save them for later use, thus eliminating the need for re-initialization of your system. Alternate system profiles can be loaded by simply clicking on them.

Enhanced Target Lists

Target lists now include your calibration frame settings so you can plan your entire evening's data acquisition and apply it to your system in one move. Perfect for remote observatories!

Log Examiner

Search your session log file for specific information. Great for finding repeating events like focus position, download time, etc.

And Many More Improvements and Additions

See the online help for more details


New Features in CCDAutoPilot 5.0 Professional

Event Notification

CCDAutoPilot can optionally notify you by email or text message to your cell phone of the start of a session, the start of your target acquisition and completion of the session. It can even email the session log as an attachment.

Control File Interface

Using a simple text file, CCDAutoPilot 5.0 can be controlled by external applications to pause, resume or abort a run. Integrity of the controlling application is also provided. Additionally, notifications of control events can be sent via email or text message to your cell phone.

Enhance Cloud Sensor Monitoring

If desired by the user, CCDAutoPilot will abort a session upon high humidity, excessive wind and various forms of Cloud Sensor measurements. Again, email or text message notification is optionally possible.

Calculated Color Combine Ratio

Once your color combine ratio is measured, CCDAutoPilot will track each sub-exposure's altitude and provide an extinction-corrected color combine ratio for each target's set of exposures.

Filter Focus Offset Measurement Wizard

In addition to automated measurements for determining optimal sub-exposure times, CCDAutoPilot V5 automates G2v ratio measurements for color balance, a wizard is added for determining your filter offset measurements. In a short time, you can fully quantify the focus effects of your filters.

Multiple Targets

CCDAutoPilot supports multiple targets. Easily select targets using TheSky's built in databases of millions of objects. Interactively select your targets using TheSky's FOV indicator to frame and rotate your objects exactly where you want them. Seamlessly image targets at any rotation angle, on either side of the Meridian with either your fork or equatorial mount. Additional information is provided in the utility windows to assist in target planning.

Powerful Multi-Target Importers

Creating complex target runs for astrophotography and survey work is easily accomplished using CCDAutoPilot's powerful import features. Using CCDNavigator, many additional catalogs are available for target selection with easy importing into CCDAutoPilot. Support for Text, CSV and Starry Night allow you to import targets from almost any application or database. You can export your target list as welll in CSV format.

Support for TheSkyX Camera Add On

In addition to MaxIm DL and CCDSoft, the Professional Edition now supports TheSkyX Camera Add On for image acquisition. CCDAutoPilot will use the camera, filter wheel, focuser, guider and dome as controlled by TheSkyX Professional for a simplified, all-in-one software interface. (This feature requires TheSkyX Professional, build 6820 or later.)


Quick and Easy to Setup
Image Single or Multiple Targets
Flexible Session Options
Automate and Run All Observatory Functions
Keep Perfect Focus All Night Long
Automatic Auto-Guiding and Tracking
Options, Tools, Wizards and Customizations to match your workflow


CCDAutoPilot5 takes observatory automation to a new level, simplifying the user experience and saving time.  By using templates for each of your own imaging plans, setting up a new target run is a snap. What used to take a good part of the evening to set-up, now takes just a few clicks.  I can pick targets and select the type of imaging before dinner, and rely on CCDAutoPilot5 to safely run the observatory throughout the night, waking up the next morning to folders of image and calibration files ready to process, with all the equipment parked and shut-down.  During an imaging run, CCDAutoPilot5 shows exactly what is happening - it’s amazing to watch everything run robotically and not have to worry about all of the intricate details that would be necessary without it doing the work for you!  This was the stuff of science fiction a decade ago, but the future is here using CCDAutoPilot5 to automate your observatory whether it’s in your own backyard, or at a remote site halfway around the world!
-  Steve Fry, CA, USA

As a former beta tester of CCDAutoPilot 1.0, I want to say the improvements are fantastic. Thanks for the hard work, reasonable price, and great support. I never dreamed you could make my setup a point and shoot camera, except, it points automatically as well.
- Gerald Miller, OK, USA


From Version 4 users...

I have owned CCDAutopilot2 and 3 and did not hesitate to upgrade to this feature-rich new version. In 3 short years, CCDAutoPilot has evolved into an exceptionally capable data acquisition and automation tool aimed at both the professional and amateur astrophotographer. It integrates with many software programs and hardware devices, and is supported exceedingly well by its author
- Martin Pugh, Australia

CCDAutoPilot4 is taking imaging to even higher levels of perfection than version 3 had already achieved. John has paid a lot of attention to feedback from his users and has introduced major new features that will facilitate observatory automation, instrument calibration, session planning and reliability of imaging sessions. I could not imagine operating my remote observatory without CCDAutoPilot4.
-Emmanuel Schallit, France

John listened to his users and made a great product even better in CCDAutoPilot4. There are more tools and parameters to help with target planning and data capture. You can even change some parameters while the system is running a session. The new capability of being able to access a network shared cloud sensor is a real bonus for unattended automation.
-Paul Mortfield, Canada

CCDAutopilot4 improves on the already impressive functionality of CCDAutopilot3 and delivers on the promise of unattended astroimaging. With features such as automatic guide star exposure and fully automated meridian flips, CCDAutopilot4 takes the guesswork out of nightly imaging. John's attention to detail and impeccable customer support make CCDAutopilot4 the perfect automation tool for astrophotography.
-Wes Stauffer, CA, USA