APT - AstroPhotography Tool, The Imaging Catalyst


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APT - Astro Photography Tool v3.82
(released on 2019/12/11)
(next version in March 2020)

APT stands for "AstroPhotography Tool" and it is like Swiss army knife for your astro imaging sessions. No matter what you are imaging with - Canon EOS, Nikon, CCD or CMOS astro camera, APT has the right tool for planning, collimating, aligning, focusing, framing, controlling/tethering, imaging, synchronizing, scheduling, meridian flipping, analyzing and monitoring. All its features are packed in an easy and comfortable to use interface with design that had no alternative back in 2009 when it was released. Since then APT is constantly being improved and refined by the real experience of many astro photographers from all over the world including one of the APT authors. It works on MS Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10.
Time unlimited "demo" version of this astrophotography software is available in the Downloads page.
Here is a list of the main areas APT covers.

   Supported devices:
  • Seven generations of Canon EOS Models. Check the EOS models matrix page for details.
  • Most of the Nikon DSLRs. Check the Nikon models matrix page for details.
  • ASCOM / INDIGO / INDI compatible CCD and CMOS cameras - QHYCCD, ZWO, Starlight Xpress, Atik, Orion, Moravian, Celestron...
  • Native support for QSI cameras and filter wheels.
  • Native support for SBIG cameras and filter wheels.
  • Native support for Altair Astro cameras.
  • Native support for ZWO cameras.
  • TEMPer(Gold) and TEMPerHUM sensors. Never implemented in astro program before!
  • USB_Dewpoint sensor. Never implemented in astro program before!
  • Any serial control cable for Canon/Nikon. See a list of serial cable vendors.
  • KMtronic based shutter cable for Canon/Nikon. Easy to make yourself without soldering!
  • Shoestring Astronomy DSUSB/DSUSB2 and Biula Audio Trigger.
  • ASCOM / INDIGO / INDI compatible filter wheels.
  • Manual filter wheels / filter drawers.
  • ASCOM / INDIGO / INDI compatible focusers.
  • ASCOM / INDIGO / INDI filter wheel to focuser connection to apply filter focus offsets.
  • ASCOM compatible rotators.
  • ASCOM / INDIGO / INDI telescopes control.
  • Extended support for AstroHub and SirJolo Arduino based focusers.
  • Direct dithering (APT Dithering), when there is no guiding program.
  • Direct pulse dithering (APT Pulse Dithering) for self-guided solutions.
  • Unihedron and compatible Sky Quality Meter devices.
  • GPS receivers/dongles and smartphones.
  • Lacerta MGen auto guider.
  • Lacerta FBC Flat Box Controller.
  • Pegasus Astro - FlatMaster.
  • ArteSky - Flat Box USB.
User interface:
  • Dark adaptation friendly user interface.
  • Ringy Thingy - a unique way to edit numeric data in the dark, using only mouse or touch pad. More info and animation here.
  • Keys Thingy - a handy way to edit numeric data in the dark, using only mouse, touch pad or tablet. More info here.
  • Multiple color skins - OrangeRedGreyLight GreyGreenBlueWhite (click on the colors to see screenshots).
  • Easy-to-use imaging plans editor.
  • Automatic preview after every exposure.
  • Preview in fit or 1:1 scale modes (changeable with simple double click).
  • Images browser with thumbnails and delete function.
  • Image magnifier that supports 3x, 5x, 10x and 15x magnifications.
  • Possibility to track the imaging plan execution progress. Remaining exposures, time and estimated end time.
  • Pause / Resume function when plan execution is in progress.
  • EOS EXIF Temperature readings - Show them after exposure in plan is taken.
  • Displaying the current temperature (requires TEMPer or TEMPerHUM) and current dew point (requires TEMPerHUM).
  • Histograms - R, G, B and L histograms of the taken image.
  • Histograms Stretching - per channel and automatic.
  • Graphs to show Temperature, EXIF, Humidity, DewPoint, CCD Temperature/Power, Guiding, Sky Quality changes during the night.
  • EOS camera shutter counter displaying on camera connection (Digic III and latter).
  • Monitoring of your laptop and camera battery energy level as well as the camera free space.
  • Notifications for low PC/Camera battery, low Camera space.
  • Small floating window when APT is minimized to show the current state.
  • Corrected image (right orientation) in Preview and LiveView by live flipping of the image horizontally and/or vertically as well as rotation, for easier object framing.
  • Sharpening and Negative image effects in Preview and LiveView.
  • Gamma and Brightness image effects in Preview and LiveView.
  • LV++ - LiveView image intensification in real time to show fainter objects.
  • LV Stack - Stacks the LiveView images in real time to help fainter objects framing.
  • Alignment aid - Rotatable/Movable cross.
  • Collimation aid.
  • Pixel Aid with various image statistics - Median, Std Dev and etc.
  • CCD Flats Aid to determine the right flats exposures and to create imaging plan.
  • Bahtinov Aid - powered by the Bahtinov Grabber technology to provide focusing with sub-pixel precision with a mask!
  • FWHM (Full Width Half Maximum) focusing method.
  • HFD (Half Flux Diameter) focusing method.
  • Automated focusing with ASCOM focusers using FWHM or HFD.
  • Darkness clock and Deep Sky Darkness (DSD) calculator.
  • Meridian Flip clock.
  • Automated Meridian Flip.
  • Sky Quality tracking with Unihedron device or by manually entered user estimations.
  • Objects Browser with 545 or 19,596 deep sky objects (in short or extended list) , 78 alignment stars, 2 start maps to use for size, coordinates selection and GoTo alignment. Available are audio extensions as additional download packages!
  • Possibility to enter/import/export data for custom objects in the Object Browser.
  • Field Of View calculator tuned for you camera and telescope.
  • Object framing aid.
  • Object Calculator that shows the actual object scale tuned for your camera and telescope as well as the size in pixels.
  • Sound notifications.
  • Multi-monitors support.
  • Tooltips help - Shows description per every feature (there are translations in English, Dutch, Polish, German, Portuguese, French, Italian, Bulgarian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Czech, Greek and more are coming).
  • Sky Quality NELM (V) to/from MPSAS (B) convertor.
  • DARV - Drift Alignment by Robert Vice method - experimental. Never implemented in astro program before!
  • FITS file header viewer.
  • 28 keyboard shortcuts.
  • PointCraft for images plate solving.
  • Ability to frame object with simple click in a solved image ("Aim" mode in PointCraft).
  • GoTo operations confirmed with plate solving ("GoTo++" mode in PointCraft).
  • Temperature compensation of the focus position.
  • Focuser backlash measurement aid.
  • Check lists creation for easier setup, packing, imaging.
Camera operation:
  • Multi-camera operation.
  • Multi-camera synchronization and dithering.
  • Flexible exposures control. Each exposure can be made with different ISO, Duration, Image Quality, Binning, Filter, count and ending pause.
  • Storing destination selection (Camera/PC/Camera+PC for DSLRs).
  • Flexible naming and grouping of the stored images - combination of 17 naming options (including EXIF temperature) and
    8 grouping options.
  • Light, Dark, Flat, Dark Flat, Bias, Focusing/Farming and Mixed exposures plan types. The Bias plans use automatically the fastest supported speed. For EOS the Flat plans use AV dial mode.
  • Light Auto plan type for EOS for easier eclipse imaging in AV dial mode.
  • Possibility to schedule for defined time or event and/or loop plan execution.
  • Delayed plan start.
  • Horizontal or vertical plan execution.
  • EOS Lens control (Digic III and latter).
  • EOS Lens aperture control during plan execution.
  • DSLR White balance control.
  • DSLR and CCD Live View support. It is quite helpful for focusing in combination with Bahtinov or other focusing mask.
  • LiveView automation - tunes LiveView parameters for maximum sensitivity.
  • Controlling the CCD temperature.
  • CCD cooling and warming aids.
  • Region of Interest (ROI) in CCDs for faster focusing.
  • "Center ROI" button to locks the ROI to the image center allowing alignment.
  • Color preview of FITS files.
  • AntiVibration pause before exposure. This is the needed pause after the mirror is picked up and before the real exposure, in order to eliminate the vibrations caused by mirror moving.
  • Automatic enable/disable of the Mirror Lockup camera function depending on the selected Anti-Vibration pause (Digic III and later).
  • EOS Mirror lockup control without serial cable for Digic IV and later.
  • Auto synchronization of the DSLR camera's clock on connection.
  • Disabling EOS camera auto power off when APT is used.
  • Automatic conversion of DSLR raw files in TIFF format
  • Planetary panel to record DSLR Live View stream in sequence of JPGs, with automation features.
  • Internal commands API for advanced session automation.
  • Plate solving with PlateSolve2 made by PlaneWave Instruments in both DSLR and CCD modes.
  • Blind plate solving with All Sky Plate Solver made by Giovanni Benintende in both DSLR and CCD modes.
  • Plate solving with AstroTortilla in both DSLR and CCD modes.
  • Advanced GoTo by Alt/Az offset to use the AstroTortilla polar alignment routine.
  • PHD2/PHD Auto-Dithering, exposure Auto-Canceling and real-time monitoring of the distance to the guide star.
  • MetaGuide Auto-Dithering.
  • AstroArt Auto-Dithering.
  • Lacerta MGen Auto-Dithering, exposure Auto-Canceling and real-time monitoring of the distance to the guide star.
  • Lin_guider Auto-Dithering, exposure Auto-Canceling and real-time monitoring of the distance to the guide star.
  • Possibility to disable dithering for particular plan.
  • Possibility to call external scripts and programs.
  • Possibility to interact with Cartes du Ciel (CdC). Import mosaics, observing and frames lists in the Object Browser.
  • Possibility to interact with Computer Aided Astronomy (C2A). Import .COS and .C2A lists in the Object Browser.
  • Possibility to interact with SkytechX.
  • Possibility to interact with Hallo Northern SKY (HNSKY) Import mosaics in the Object Browser..
  • Possibility to interact with Stellarium and act like ASCOM bridge/proxy.
  • Import from AsimoPlan mosaic panels coordinates as Custom/ToDo objects in the Object Browser.
  • Import from AstroPlanner lists as Custom/ToDo objects in the Object Browser.
  • Import from www.telescopius.com / www.dso-browser.com lists as Custom/ToDo objects in the Object Browser.
  • Import from Deep-Sky Planner lists as Custom/ToDo objects in the Object Browser.
Additional features of the FULL version :
  • Ours thankfulness about your appreciation for the involved in APT work and support!

  • Automatic EOS Lens focusing (using FWHM or HFD) - built into the Lens Panel. Never implemented in astro program before!
  • Framing Masks - a multi session aid to help orienting the camera by same angle and position during multiple nights or after meridian flip. Never implemented in astro program before!
  • Ability to store PointCarft results in Object Browser for future use in different nights or after meridian flip.
  • Ability to show only the currently visible stars in the Object Browser for easier selection of alignment stars.
  • Ability to show only the currently visible objects in the Object Browser.
  • Ability to configure APT to check if the target is above the horizon before every GoTo or GoTo++.
  • Ability to schedule plan execution for beginning of Deep Sky Darkness (DSD).
  • Powerful and easy to use Commands/Script Editor for imaging session automation.
  • Notifications for refocusing when the temperature changes or closing dew point to avoid un-needed heating (requires
    TEMPer(Gold) or TEMPerHUM or focuser with temperature sensor).
  • HD Video recording for Digic IV cameras from the Planetary panel. Requires lens or T-ring with focus confirmation.
  • Support for Lunatico GNS - Good Night System to get alarm for problem with the imaging session on your smartphone.
   Details and important information can be found in the User's guide page.


APT friends:

     Lacerta QHY CCD      Quantum Scientific Imaging     Kendrick Astro Instruments AstroHobby   
Knightware     USB_Focus Spike-a Hoshimiya Asimoplan
    Amateur Astrophotography eZine JTW Astronomy Deep Sky Dad    
Practical Astrophotography Magazine

    Astro Zero Unihedron   

Gerd Neumann jr.   
 Ontario Telescope and Accessories    The INDIGO Initiative rDUINO SCOPE - Arduino Due based Telescope control system (a.k.a. GoTo)     Online Astronomy Society Academy




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