What’s New in SharpCap 3.1
The last version of SharpCap, the best astrophotography software, has been released this week (12 February 2018). A lot of improvements and new functionnalites has been added (download link at the bottom of the page). Here are the most important :
This doesn’t have all the power of the main histogram – for instance it only updates a couple of times per second to conserve resources and it doesn’t support the selection area option, so it always shows the histogram of the entire frame, but it makes up for that by always being available.
Auto Restore of Camera Settings
SharpCap 3.1 automatically saves camera settings when you close a camera and then restores them the next time you open that camera. This behavious is enabled by default, but if you prefer to return to the old way of working, the auto-restore can be disabled in ‘general’ tab of the SharpCap settings.
Ever wondered whether you are using the right gain or exposure when deep sky imaging? Whether 6x ten minute exposures really do give you more detail than 12x five minute exposures? No more guesswork required with the new SharpCap Pro Smart Histogram feature. In combination with the results of Sensor Analysis (see below), SharpCap can measure the sky background brightness for you and then perform a mathematical simulation of the impact on final stacked image quality of using different gain and exposure combinations. You can also see graphs showing the impact of using longer or shorter exposures (or lower or higher gain) than suggested.
If you try this using a modern, low noise, CMOS sensor you might be pleasantly surprised to find out that the optimal exposure length isn’t nearly as long as you imagine and that maybe the complexities of guiding will become a thing of the past (The use of long – 5 to 10 minute or even longer – exposures in traditional deep sky imaging is not required to see faint targets, it’s actually required to deal with the high typical read noise of CCD sensors. Since the optimal exposure length is proportional to the square of the read noise and CMOS read noises can be 1-3 electrons instead of 8-10, exposures can often be much shorter with no loss of quality).
The basic form of Smart Histogram takes the form of a pair of coloured bars along the top of the histogram area :
Ever seen those graphs provided by camera manufacturers of Sensor gain and read noise? Wondered how they were created? Well, they used to be a lot of manual adjustments and tedious measurements and calculations, but now SharpCap can perform those measurements automatically for you to generate a custom sensor analysis of your very own camera.
Why would you want to do that? Because the sensor data that is produced feeds into the SharpCap Smart Histogram functionality, which provides accurate guidance on the best gain/exposure to use for deep sky imaging based on the characteristics of your imaging sensor. With those numbers, SharpCap can perform a mathematical simulation of the amount of image noise that would occur in a whole range of different gain and exposure values and guide you to the ones that will give the best result.
Run a sensor analysis (Tools Menu) on your camera in RAW8 and RAW12/16 mode (or MONO8 and MONO12/16 for mono sensors) and SharpCap will save the results and use them to provide Smart Histogram guidance in future imaging sessions.
This lets SharpCap use your connected ASCOM mount (or ST4 connected camera) to guide the telescope and track on screen image features. Currently it is designed to work with high speed (Solar/Lunar/Planetary) imaging. SharpCap analyzes several frames per second and tracks movement of features between those frames – when the movement exceeds a threshold it will begin to make adjustments to bring the image back to it’s original position. An initial calibration step must be performed so that SharpCap can learn which way and how fast the image moves for the various mount movement directions.
Blind Plate Solving
SharpCap 3.0 contained integration to ‘Astrometry.Net’ based local plate solvers, but it required you to have a connected ASCOM mount as it used the mount pointing as an initial estimate of location to allow the plate solve to complete quickly. SharpCap 3.1 also contains blind plate solving (on the tools menu) which does not require a connected mount, it will just run your local copy of AstroTortilla/ASPS/AnSvr on the next frame and show the results in the notification bar.
Download Sharpcap 3.1 Free
Download Version 3.1.5027.0 (12 February 2018)
Note : For full list of the new features / improvements in SharpCap, please visit the official website here