Ursa Minor Pro Planetarium and mount/DSLR control software - 2

Ursa Minor Pro Planetarium and mount/DSLR control software

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Ursa Minor Pro is a planetarium and telescope controller program for advanced hobby-astronomers.

The program can display the night sky as can be viewed from the Earth from any position and any time. The map can be easily positioned and zoomed showing fields of view ranging from the entire visible sky down to a detailed "finder chart" for a faint distant galaxy. You can use flexible search functions to locate any kind of celestial objects such as stars, variable or double stars, deepsky objects or planets of the Solar system. The map also can be printed for observations, even in mirrored or rotated mode for several types of telescopes.


Main features

Controlling telescopes

Ursa Minor Pro can control several types of telescope mounts.

Displaying star charts

Colorful, highly detailed and customizable map of any part of the sky can be displayed. The map can be easily positioned and zoomed. The program can work with several star catalogs. The most detailed amongs them is the USNO-A2 catalog, which contains data about 500 million stars up to 18-20 magnitudes. This catalog, as most of the astronomical databases, can be freely distributed and downloaded from the Internet for educational and research purposes. However it's free, downloading such a huge volume of data (more than 6 gigabytes) can be difficult. When you purchase Ursa Minor Pro, you will receive a free copy of this catalog.

On the following screenshot you can see Ursa Minor showing a star map with magnitude limit of 18. The displayed region is the area of Stephan's quintett and NGC 7331 galaxy in the Pegasus constellation. The field is less than one square degrees.

By modifying field of view (zooming in and out) the program control magnitude limit automatically. By controlling magnitude limit the switching between star catalogs will be also performed automatically. This operation can be disabled when you prefer manual settings.

Solar system

The program displays position of the Sun, Moon and planets regaring to given time and date, or can draw orbital tracks for given time period. The positions are calculated with a very accurate algorythm. Display or print a monthly calendar (for any month) with the phase of the Moon, great for planning observing sessions! Large amount of minor planets and comets also can be displayed. These positions are calculated by an up-to date catalog, which can be upgraded periodically from the homepage of the Minor Planet Center.

Deepsky objects

Displaying deepsky objects by different symbols for each type of object. Galaxies and nebulaes are symbolized reflecting their apparent size and orientation. Flexible filtering options are available to control visibility of deepsky objects.The program works with a rich deepsky catalog containing more than 78000 objects. Filtering deepsky objects can also be done by an automatic or manual way. Filtering can be done in object type basis, for example enabling a bit more galaxies than other objects or completelly disable any kind of objects.

Star hopping

This function will be interesting especially for beginners. This means a visual guide to help locate a popular deepsky object by showing a virtual path, jumping star by star leading to the selected deepsky object. The program advises this route by its internal database containing real starhopping tips collected by amateur astronomers. Star hopping was never easier! Print a hard copy of map, and use it in the field to help identify objects.

Observing tips

Plan observing sessions with Observing tip finder that instantly gives you a list with popular sights. This list will be generated upon given date and time, and by choosen telescope size.

Searching for various types of objects

Ursa Minor Pro has a powerful Find feature so you can easily locate any object (more than 2 million of them!) from the program's astronomical databases. You can locate stars by many identifiers:

  • Common name
  • Bayer and Flamsteed sign
  • SAO, PPM, Hipparcos, Tycho catalog identifiers
  • Durchmusterung designation (Bonner, Southern or Cordoba)
  • Variable star identifers
  • Name of double stars, as listed in WDS catalogue (Washington Double Star Catalogue)

For nonstellar objects:

  • Messier catalog number
  • NGC or IC number
  • UGC, PGC identifier

For comets and minor planets:

  • Provisional id
  • Number
  • Common name

Projections and mirroring

Several projections and optional mirroring mode. The program easily can demonstrate features of different projection modes such as orthographic, stereographic or gnomonic.

Activate night vision mode for in-the-field use

Change the computer screen to red to preserve dark adaptation. Great when using Ursa Minor at your telescope.

Controlling telescopes

One of the most popular functions of the program. It can control a large variation of GOTO telescope mounts. All of them are supported directly, so you don`t have to obtain other software components, such as Ascom driver. Telescope can be directed manually by arrow buttons or more conveniently with a gamepad. Positioning to any object is as easy as a simple mouse click. If the seeked object is not exactly at the center of the field of view, the program can drive the telescope slowly on a spiral line, so the object will appear soon.

Make auto guiding easier

The program can interoperate with an autoguider program by monitoring its guiding commands. Ursa Minor receives these signals and sends them to the mount on one cable with goto, manual movement and DSLR camera controlling signals. The result is fewer cables and fewer troubles. On the image you can see how monitors Ursa Minor the signals of the autoguider program.

Controlling DSLR camera

Ursa Minor can control the exposition of a Canon EOS 350D or compatible DSLR camera. You can make multiple frames easy as shown in the following image.

Eyepiece or CCD field of view

This feature is useful for preparation for an observing session. Eyepiece field of view symbol can be displayed, and you can see which part of the sky will be visible through your telescope. Not only eyepiece fov, rather CCD frames and off-axis guider frame can be displayed. For longer exposure astrophotography it is essential to use guiding. Off-axis guider is an excellent way, because it uses main tlescope, and fainter star can be choosen for guiding. However, adjusting off-axis guider, and centering guider star in autoguider camera is a bit difficult. Ursa Minor's "Field of view adjustment" feature can help you. By this way you can graphically shift or rotate CCD and guider prism symbols on map to seeking a proper guiding star. When you have finished, proper rotation angles and shifting values are displayed in the dialog box, and you can use these values for rotating guider on your telescope.

Printable sky maps in PDF format

High quality printable maps in PDF format can be created easily with Ursa Minor.

Transparent dialog boxes

During observations, you may need to keep open the telescope controller and CCD frame settings dialog boxes. These windows are relatively large, therefore they overlap large area of the displayed sky map. Is such situation the Transprency feature can be useful. The level of transparency can be adjusted and even switched off.

Extra info:

Controlling telescopes with Ursa Minor program

Goto telescope mounts are getting more and more pupular. Not only high-end telescopes has computerized control, but cheaper and simpler ones. These telescopes, after properly adjusted to the northern pole, can automatically position to any selected target. All of them has a hand controller, that is an intelligent device with built-in astronomical database. However, the scope can be directed by its handcontroller, but controlling it with an astronomical software from a laptop can be even more convenient and powerful. The program can have larger database, it may has more accurate positions. The program also can have other useful functions, for example observation planner ob observing tips.

The Ursa Minor Pro can control telescopes equipped with goto mount. This way is more convenient than using the original hand controller, because you can easily choose any object by a single mouse click on sky map. Additionally, Ursa Minor's database contains far more stars, deepsky objects, minor planets and comets.

After the connection is established between the telescope mount and the computer, the scope can be directed to any object selected by a mouse click. After the object is located, automatic tracking can be enabled to follow object's virtual movement on the sky.
Controlling goto telescope with Ursa Minor Pro Controlling goto telescope with Ursa Minor Pro
Supported telescopes

Ursa Minor supports these Goto scopes and protocols:

Commercial telescopes with built-in goto function

Ursa Minor supports these models listed below. For controlling them you won't need to install any additional software components, such as ASCOM driver.

Popular telescope mounts from Sky-Watcher . These are equipped with Synscan handcontroller, which have a serial port:

  • Sky-Watcher EQ6 pro
  • Sky-Watcher HEQ5 pro
  • Sky-Watcher EQ5 goto
  • Sky-Watcher EQ3 goto

Ursa Minor Pro can control these mounts also without the original hand controller. By this way, we make a connection between handcontroller socket of the mount and one serial port of the computer. However by this way we cannot use the handcontroller, but the program gives more flexibility. The program give us some extra functions, such as locating objects through a spiral line, when the positioning was not precise enough.

  • Sky-Watcher HEQ5 pro
  • Sky-Watcher EQ6 pro
  • Sky-Watcher EQ5 goto
  • Sky-Watcher EQ3 goto (direct controll)

Protocol of older Nexstar models. The Synscan's protocol is similar to them:

  • Celestron Nexstar - 1

Protocol of new Nexstar models, such as GT 104 Maksutov-Cassegrain:

  • Celestron Nexstar - 2

Controlling Meade Lx200 compatible telescopes. The Gemini and Fornax mounts are also compatible with LX200:

  • Meade LX200

Controlling non-goto mounts

Some non-goto telescope mounts can be modified by using additonal motors and electronics. By this way they can be controlled with Ursa Minor Pro.

The difference between the standard EQ6 and Syntrek is the Syntrek has the Skyscan motors and a different basic hand controller. It does not have the Synscan goto hand paddle but it does have the autoguide port. The syntrek mount can slew up to 800X and has basic feature's superior to the Standard EQ6. This mount can be controlled with Ursa Minor Pro, giving true goto functionality for you.

  • Sky-Watcher EQ6 Syntrek

The Sky-Watcher EQ3 and EQ5 can be bought with faster motors and goto feature. But the old ones with slow motors also can be converted into goto mounts. However, the positioning speed won't be so fast, these can be good cheap alternatives. We have developed the Ursa Minor hand controller. This is an universal hand controller, and it can work with several motors with different gear ratios. It has an USB interface to provide connection with computer. Ursa Minor Pro program supports these hand controllores.

  • Medium sized mounts (Sky-Watcher EQ3, Sky-Watcher EQ5, TAL) (Under development)

 Controlling the small and lightweight Multi-Functional photo head (Merlin) or Autotracking mounts. These have originally no goto function, but it is possible to convert them into a real GOTO telescope. With a special cable they can be connected to telescope, and Ursa Minor can control them. By this way we can have a very cheap goto mount. The simpler and cheaper Ursa Minor Skytour program also can controll them.

  • Sky-Watcher Autotrack direct


Using an autoguider

For making long exposure astronomical photos, the precise guiding is necessary. Most of the popular telescope mounts has an autoguider port. Through this port, the mount's motor driver circuit can accept correction pulses. The Ursa Minor program has no built-in autoguder function, but you can use other program for doing this.

The Ursa Minor hand controller (goto kit for upgrading medium sized mounts) has built-in autoguider interface. It can be connected to the computer via USB port, and it needs no special cable or interface. The hand controller emulates a virtual serial port, and it accepts Meade LX200 GPS compatible autoguider commands (pulseguide). This is one of the most convenient way of autoguiding.
Searching object on a spiral line.

Adjusting the mount exactly to the celestial pole is not too simple. When the adjustment is not precise enough, it can occur, that the scope will not point exactly to the selected object. The difference can be as big as one degree. When we use telescope with small field of view (for example Maksutov scope) it can occur, that the target is out of the field of view. In this case the program's "Searching on spiral line" feature can be very useful. By pressing a button, the program will slowly move the scope around a spiral line, and perhaps the desired object will appear soon in the field of view. The image below shows a typical spiral path.
Searching object on a spiral line.


Using USB gamepad

When you use the telescope without a hand controller, doing it by keyboard and mouse can be uncomfortable during observations. For more convenient use Ursa Minor supports standard gamepads. All functions can be used by keyboard and mouse, but the most important ones such as positioning and modifying speed can be performed by pressing buttons on gamepad. You can drive the telescope by gamepad keeping your eye on the telescope when you are seeking an object. You can make observations even komfortable by using wireless (bluetooth) gamepad.


Auto guiding and controlling telescope on a single cable

The Ursa Minor program doesn't have built-in autoguider but it can co-operate with an existing autoguider program. Tested programs are: GuideMaster and PHD guiding. Through a virtual serial port, the autoguider program connects not to the telescope mount directly, but tot he Ursa Minor program. Virtual serial ports are works exactly the same way as the real ones, but these are emulated by a software. The Ursa Minor program will recognize the guiding commands from the autoguider program and sends them to the telescope on the same cable that used for goto and manual movement. The result is fewer cables: One single cable for guiding and telescope controlling.

At the first step you sould install a virtual serial port pair driver. This driver emulates a port pair, and ties them together. One program can connect to the first port of the pair, and other program connect to the other port. All data sent by the first program will be received by the other program and vice versa.

From the Ursa Minor, choose the "Telescope / Connecting with autoguider program..." menu. A small window will appear. Choose the port number of the first port of the virtual port pair from the drop-down list. Press the Connect button, and the Ursa Minor starts listening on the port.

Important: Please start autoguider monitoring in Ursa Minor before make connection with the autoguider program.

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