Aluma 8300 gives occasional blank image

Discussion in 'Aluma Series' started by Greg Crawford, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    I've recently put a new Aluma 8300 into service. Several times throughout the night the Aluma delivers a blank image, by which I mean that all pixel values are zero. This creates a number of problems for autofocusing (the software assumes a longer exposure is needed) and mapping (the last retry is blank and fails). Is this a known problem and is it likely to be caused by the hardware or the software? I am controlling the camera with MaxIm DL Pro 6.20, and using the Diffraction Limited MaxIm DL's camera choice in TheSkyX.
     
  2. KrisW

    KrisW Staff Member

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    Hi Greg,

    I'm a hardware engineer working on the Aluma cameras. We extensively test all our cameras and I have never experienced this issue. It obviously should not happen. Could you please give me more details so I can thoroughly investigate it?

    1. Can you tell me your camera's firmware revision? It should be in Camera Settings in MaxIm DL.
    2. Did you have the cooler on? What was the sensor temperature and approximate cooler power?
    3. Were you taking light or dark frames? What was the exposure time?
    4. Could you send me the FITS header of one of those blank images? (it should contain the answers to the two questions above)

    Those details may help me pin point the problem. Since it is a highly unusual issue, it will require some investigation.
     
  3. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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  4. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    OK, here are the details:
    1) Camera firmware is 16.
    2) Cooler was set for -25C and was around 61% power.
    3) I was taking light frames.
    4) See attached.

    More comments: The camera was connected to MaxIm DL and was being accessed through TheSkyX software as "Diffraction Limited MaxIm DL Camera". I was using the focus technique in TheSkyX and every time a blank image came up the software failed to detect the star being focused and so increased the exposure time.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Hi Greg,
    Thanks for the info - our team appreciates the timely response.

    Do you know if the camera exhibits the same issue when binned 1x1 instead of 2x2 ?

    Thanks
    Colin
     
  6. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    Hi Colin and Kris W,
    Tonight I tested this out and found that the problem remained when binning was set to 1 x 1. To search for the problem elsewhere, I disconnected the camera from the selection of "Diffraction Limited MaxIm DL Camera" in TheSkyX Pro, and directly accessed the camera using MaxIm DL Pro version 6.20. I did not experience another blank image. I used the Focus routine in MaxIm DL Pro without the blank images re-occurring and was able to successfully focus. This suggested to me that the problem related to the interaction of MaxIm DL Pro with TheSky X Pro, and, at least for the time being, could be avoided by only using MaxIm DL Pro. However, I immediately ran into another problem. I have the Aluma Self-Guiding Filter Wheel and so setup the Camera in MaxIm DL Pro with "Dual Chip Mode" selected. When I go to the Guide tab in MaxIm DL and take an exposure I get either an image with lots of thin vertical white lines with an error message saying:

    "Camera 2 Information
    Error in plugin callback (519) - Could not set FITS key 'EGAIN'
    Error in guide camera plugin callback 519
    Camera Idle
    No cooler control"

    or a small white image with an error message saying:

    "Camera 2 information
    Could not acquire target
    Could not find target star in ...
    Guide star not found
    Camera idle

    Since descriptions might be inadequate I have uploaded two screen capture files.

    One extra comment. While trying to get MaxIm DL to work with the Aluma camera, I found that MaxIm DL would hang immediately after the first button in the camera control window was pressed. This was fixed by opening Setup|Options|Advanced and checking both options for a separate thread for both camera and filter wheel. I nearly went crazy until I discovered this. It might be worth putting it in the initial instructions in the manual.

    Guider Image.PNG 2019-04-26 (2).png
     
  7. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Greg - thanks for the update.

    The threading thing will be mentioned in future, or an update will automatically have them checked - we're aware, and I'm pretty sure I had posted something about this already, perhaps in a different person's discussion thread.

    This message "Error in plugin callback (519) - Could not set FITS key 'EGAIN'" is related to MaxIm trying to update the FITS header info in the guider image, and can pretty much be ignored. Am hoping that it will get cleared up in a future release. It's more of an annoyance than anything.

    What happens if you try grabbing a few frames from the guider on it's own, not in guide mode, just manually exposing?
    e.g. go onto the Guider tab, and select Expose.
    Do you get these "spiky columns" ?

    The "all white" could be fully saturated pixels on the guide sensor.
    It would be helpful to have the FITS files for both spiky and white autoguider images, if you could upload here.
     
  8. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    OK, here (attached) is the FIT file of the Guider Expose. The clouds have come over and this is taken inside the domed observatory, but it looks exactly the same. I'll have to work out how I took the one which is all white.
     

    Attached Files:

  9. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Thanks, will review.
     
  10. KrisW

    KrisW Staff Member

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    Hi Greg,

    Sorry for the late response but for some reason I didn't get notifications about your recent posts.
    I got involved in case it was a hardware issue with the camera but it seems it's software so I have notified our software engineer to look into it.

    The guider image with vertical lines looks like a saturated image. Maybe there is a light leak? Could you try to cover it completely and take another picture with the guider? Did you take any bias frames with the guider? Do they look okay or are they all saturated as well?
     
  11. Adam Robichaud

    Adam Robichaud Staff Member

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    Hi Greg,

    Kris asked me to look into a possible software problem here. Would you be open to letting me access your setup remotely via TeamViewer?

    Cheers,
    -Adam
     
  12. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    Hello Adam, (and Kris and Colin),

    Nearly there I think. After some hours of swapping things in and out, I discovered that the source of the autoguider image with vertical lines was the HDMI cable between the camera and the guiding filter wheel. After I replaced it, the vertical lines disappeared. However, the guider frame remains problematic, in so far as it is an image with all values at zero. I will upload it.

    In setting up the Aluma camera and guiding filter wheel with the MaxIm DL Pro software, I noted that one is not supposed to allocate guiding to a second camera, but check "dual chip mode" and use only "Camera 1" on the setup tab. However, one had to choose between Camera 1 and Camera 2 on the Guide tab for a guiding image. The size of an image after selecting Camera 1 seemed to indicate that the software was accessing the main imaging chip, therefore, despite the advice about setup, I chose Camera 2 on the Guide tab. This resulted in the blank guide image.

    Adam, if there is not a way forward given this information, I am willing to let you use Team Viewer to access my setup. However, if there is a way forward without it we might get around a large time difference. I am assuming you are in the US Eastern time zonw (I know you are in Canada). I am in the Eastern Australian time zone, at 10 hours ahead of UTC.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 1, 2019
  13. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Greg, to be clear:
    Selecting Dual Chip Mode lets "Camera 1" can have a guide camera (in the self guiding filterwheel or a Remote Guide Head). This will be "Camera 2" in the exposure tab and guiding tabs.
    If you don't select Dual Chip Mode, then Camera 2 could be a completely different and unrelated camera such as an STF402.

    Did you power off the camera before changing the HDMI cable? Otherwise the guider and/or main body electronics can be damaged.

    Adam says he's willing to work with you on timing. (Yes, we're UTC - 4 right now).
     
  14. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    Hi Colin,

    Yes, I powered off the camera before changing the HDMI cable. It was hard to miss all the multi-coloured stickers warning about not plugging in or unplugging cables into the I2C/FW/AO sockets without powering down. I thought I'd make sure by not plugging in or unplugging any cable without powering down. I only swapped the HDMI cable for the first time a few hours ago and my problems developed well before then.

    Tell Adam I can work within Canada business hours. I'm retired now and can stay up till dawn if necessary.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
  15. Adam Robichaud

    Adam Robichaud Staff Member

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    Good news re: the vertical lines disappearing. There are a number of reasons that the guide image could be coming back blank: a bad HDMI cable/sensor, improperly set guider Gain/Offsets, invalid settings, etc.

    If you can zip up the folder My Documents\MaxIm DL 6\Settings and send it to me, then I can verify that your camera is set up to image properly, though I suspect it is.
    The other thing that would help is if you could open up "MaxIm DL > Camera Control > Camera 1 > Setup Camera > Advanced" and take a screenshot of the resulting DL Config window (one for both with the "Main Sensor" and "Ext Sensor" tabs shown). This will tell me if your camera's guide sensor calibration was properly set.
     
  16. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    Adam, I think I've got this right. See attached.
    DL Config 1.PNG DL Config Ext.PNG
     

    Attached Files:

  17. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    Adam,

    I just tried a third HDMI cable and the vertical lines returned to the guider image. When the second HDMI cable showed no vertical lines, but just a blank frame, I thought it had solved the problem; but the cable number 2 must have been faulty one. So if two out of three HDMI cables show a frame with vertical lines, that frame remains as the problem.
     
  18. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Hi Greg - i don't like the look of the eGain value for the guider - so will want Adam to check into that and everything else.

    Please set your site and optics parameters in MaxIm. This is necessary if you want guiding to work (after we solve the guider camera issue).

    File... Settings... Site and Optics tab.
    Make sure to do the latitude/longitude/elevation, and the telescope parameters (focal length, diameter, obstruction) and guide scope parameters.
    Since you are using the self-guiding filter wheel, it has a focal reducer, so set the guide scope focal length to be 0.7x main scope.

    I also saw a reference to OneDrive in your settings. Am curious how you are using OneDrive.
     
  19. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Greg, I was just talking with Adam, and the eGain is ok for the guider. We have one more idea based on reviewing the settings.

    Can you try the following:
    We want to try to set the threading settings ON in the camera 2 setup. To do this, we will temporarily turn off Dual chip, we will set camera 2 to a Simulator, we will turn on threading for camera 2, and then we will turn on Dual chip again.

    1. Launch Maxim.
    2. open the Camera Control window
    3. Turn off (uncheck) Dual Chip Mode
    4. Under Camera 2, press Setup Camera
    5. Select Camera Model as Simulator
    6. Ok
    7. Options
    8. Turn on both of these: Advanced [x] Access camera from separate thread [x] Access filter wheel from separate thread
    It should now look like this:
    camera2thread.png
    9. OK
    10. Under Camera 1, Options, check that both of these are still on: Advanced [x] Access camera from separate thread [x] Access filter wheel from separate thread
    11. Now turn Dual Chip Mode back on.

    The point of that is to make sure multi-threading is on for everything. This might be causing the problem.
    Try taking a couple images with guider and let's see what we get. (Can be done with scope capped, a dark should look like a normal dark, and a light ok).
     
  20. Greg Crawford

    Greg Crawford Cyanogen Customer

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    Mo
    OK. Here are two images taken with the guider after making the changes you suggested.

    I'm about to turn in for the night (3:42 am), business tomorrow. Keep the instructions coming and I'll resume when I'm free.
     

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