Changing background values on STi images. Causing guiding problems and star fades.

Discussion in 'STF Series CCD Cameras' started by JoshuaHufford, Apr 22, 2017.

  1. jerryyyyy

    jerryyyyy Cyanogen Customer

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    Thanks for the response... I already found my user name has caps in one machine and not the other :(

    On the centroid. Thinking of the relationship to binning I suspect without looking at the math in detail that the centroid is probably only slightly different with the binning different.

    I do not know how you select the stars for the multi-star but a suggestion might be that if you could get some measure of variance of the individual stars centroids, you could just use the stars with the lowest variance... I know when I look at the autoguider images some stars are clearly more stable than others (at the edges).

    If you had this measure of variance across multiple images... like the RMS cumulative measure, a user could vary the binning and select the binning with the lowest variance. You also might allow the user to set the maximum number of stars used in multi-star and then again look at the RMS and see what happens.

    I am big on variance. In the old days when i ran a flight simulator we tested pilots with marijuana (yes THC- you can look it up). What we found was that the THC affects pilot performance more on the variance or performance than on the mean performance, i.e. they became less reliable in the control movements.....

    Typical study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1849400

    Cheers
     
  2. brew

    brew Standard User

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    So, is there a fix for this problem yet (the varying guider images from the St-i)?

    I upgraded to Maxim 6.20, and am still seeing problems. This has been going on for 3 years now?

    It usually guides for awhile but eventually flakes out enough that ACP either runs unguided images (wasted time) or just gives up.

    I can see the varying images as each guider image is taken; most are good images but every so often a white one shows up.

    I use either multi-star or single star, doesn't seem to matter. Either way I keep seeing White Screen of Death images which can confuse guiding.
     
  3. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Brew, can you check what drivers and firmware you have for your ST-I ?
    Use the Upload a File button to the lower right to upload a PrtSc screen shot of the driver checker driver tab, and then on the driver checker firmware tab, Get Firmware.
     
  4. brew

    brew Standard User

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    I had updated drivers, etc last time.

    Rechecked drivers, it says firmware and drivers are up to date. Attached screen shots.
    DCFirmware.PNG DCMainStart.PNG DCUptoDate.PNG
     
  5. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Ok thanks. This may take some digging.
    Can you zip up your MaxIm settings and attach using [Upload a File] button to the lower right?
    That way we can do a quick review and make sure nothing obviously wrong.
    Is this readily reproducible - or does it happen rarely?
    Does it happen when you run things fully manually or just under ACP control?
     
  6. brew

    brew Standard User

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    OK, here is my Documents/Maxim DL6 folder. I did the whole folder, rather than just Settings. Again, I am running 6.20 Maxim.

    The brightening of images occurs with or without ACP. I am guiding with multistar in the vague hope of better survival of the guider, but the issues clearly occur with both single and multi star guiding.

    Trying to watch the intensities of the guide images, the typical guide exposure is roughly 1000-1200 ADU. When the image goes white the average intensity is maybe 4000 ADU or more. This prevents using Simple Autodark - if the autodark image happens to be a high value one, the guider images will have almost all zeros and no guide star is found. If I flush the autodarks or change the exposure slightly (generating a new dark), images will be OK other than when a white screen is encountered.

    I have been saving guider exposures, trying to see the issues. Oddly, the saved images do not seem to show the whitening as drastically, although I am not completely sure of this (I keep changing things to try and get something to work). It may be that the images presented on the screen are not completely processed / stretched? Halfblack.JPG AfterBlack.JPG

    Another odd thing - If guiding is stopped for a bit, for example to go autofocus, when it starts up again I get a weird half-white screen (attached above). This shows no stars and fails with no guide star found. The next exposure will be normal (in this example the mount was not yet tracking, hence the star trails). When guiding manually in Maxim guiding will fail after the Half Black screen; I have to manually re-expose a frame. ACP is usually able to recover and get guiding going although sometimes it gives up and runs unguided.
     
  7. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Did you happen to get a FITS image of the half-white screen? This looks like something might be failing in the hardware like the shutter is slow/sticking. Can you pass along the serial number of the camera? (it's in tiny print on the back end of the ST-I).
     
  8. brew

    brew Standard User

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    I don't have a fits file; when I zipped my Settings file I had several thousand guider images, so the file was over 1Gb. I deleted those images to keep the zip manageable.

    Your shutter theory is interesting. Another pattern I see looks like an oscilloscope wave, kind of a filled in sine wave alternating white black. Maybe that is due to the shutter "stuttering" as it moves across or something...

    I will see if I can create the half image again and capture the file. I assume that manual guider exposures get saved...

    My serial is 11279.
     
  9. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    The wave could be indicative of failing components in the ST-I, a bad cable/corrosion in the connectors.
    Maybe our expert @Bill can comment.
     
  10. Bill

    Bill SBIG Service and Repairs Staff Member

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    Highly unusual, perhaps it should come in.

    -Bill
     
  11. brew

    brew Standard User

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    Attached are the HalfBlack fits file, and the exposure after it which is normal.
    This happens when in Guiding tab:
    No calibration being used.
    Expose image 3 seconds. Get HalfBlack.
    Expose image 3 seconds. Normal.
    Track. OK, except for occasional White screens where the intensity goes from Normal ~1000 to ~4000 or more.
    Stop Tracking.
    Expose - Get HalfBlack again.
    Expose - normal again.

    I also attached a screen grab of the Oscillating pattern. I didn't manage to grab the fits, didn't realize it wasn't saving the Expose images (only the tracking images). This pattern popped up when I was doing Expose operations, but I can't reproduce it.
    Oscillate.JPG

    If I send it in, what do I expect it to cost? I worry I might be pouring money down a rabbit hole.
     

    Attached Files:

  12. brew

    brew Standard User

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    By the way, Bill: I am the guy that sent in my STF 8300 a couple of times for the problem of getting half the light on the St-i. I finally figured out what the problem is.

    When the camera is disassembled (removed from the mount, remove the top plate to see the prism, etc) there is no problem.
    Reassemble, the top plate (with the T-thread) covers half of the prism, blocking the light. The top plate extends over the prism! The design prevents light from hitting the entire prism.

    I can extend the prism a very slight amount before blocking the imaging chip, but not nearly enough to get the whole prism in view.
     
  13. Bill

    Bill SBIG Service and Repairs Staff Member

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    Ah yes, Robert. How are you? Sorry you're having troubles. Your ST-i images are like none I've seen before in this model. The image above looks like something that used to happen with the old ST-2000's when it would saturate. We called them Jail Bars or Grill Marks. That isn't what's happening here but the look is similar. Older ST-i's, like yours, sometimes had problems in the power circuitry (on the shorter board inside the tube). The usual failure mode is no shutter movement and/or black images but that doesn't seem to be what is happening here. If you'd like, call me tomorrow, 805 308-6979, maybe we can do a TeamViewer session and I can get a better idea about how the shutter is actually working. Just the ST-i, USB cable and the computer is all we'd need.

    Regards,

    Bill
     
  14. JoshuaHufford

    JoshuaHufford Cyanogen Customer

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    So I realize I'm bumping an old thread here, but since I'm still having the same problem and I started this thread I saw no reason to start a new one.

    After taking a couple year break from imaging due to mount problems and being very busy I'm getting back into it again. I'm currently running version 6.30 and I still have this problem with the STi camera where the background value randomly increases to the point where the star is lost in the noise. And without a doubt the problem is worse when the ambient temperature is warmer. When temps are below 0C it would happen maybe once every 3-5 minutes, with temps 10-15C it happens about once every 30 seconds. Is this just going to be a fact of life with this camera? I don't think the camera has enough value to send it in for repair and frankly with all the other reports of the same behavior from others it seems more like a design problem of the chip and not a malfunction.

    I'll be happy to help out with any testing if there is something that can be done to help fix this. And my mount usually tracks well enough that loosing a guide sub from time to time doesn't ruin an image. The biggest annoyance with this problem is I turn off the audible alarm of a guide star fade because with it turned on using this camera it gets old constantly hearing the warning sound going off. But now if I really do loose the guide star because of clouds or whatever other problem, I don't have the warning sound.
     
  15. Dan Crowson

    Dan Crowson Standard User

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    Josh,

    I'd add that I continue to have this issue as well and it is just as you mention - worse when warmer. I have three of these ST-i's and different setups. I sometimes have better luck if I increase the exposure length. With my mount, I can and tend to use 9-10s guide exposures which helps to minimize the issue unless the guiding program picks up something in the bad exposure and and attempts a big move.

    This hasn't annoyed me enough to move to a different camera but the (non-SBIG) CMOS setup I have ready to go will use a different guide camera.

    Dan
     
  16. JoshuaHufford

    JoshuaHufford Cyanogen Customer

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    Bumping this in case it was missed.
     
  17. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Joshua and Dan, for us to investigate, we need specific information, and how to reproduce the issue.
    A) let's update everything to eliminate obvious sources of the problem, and
    B) if there still is a problem, we need specific information and a way to reproduce the problem.

    I know you guys have probably done much of the following, but it only takes 1 small thing to cause issues.
    Once we know the environment is good, then we can move on to investigating the root cause and see if it can be fixed.

    A) Eliminating obvious problems:
    1) Check over the hardware
    1. Start by checking over the USB cabling and connections.
    a. Ensure you have the USB 2.0 cable inserted properly in the back of the camera, and that it is not loose or under strain.
    b. The cable should be tied up nearby so it isn't flexing as the scope moves around. Zip ties are your friend.
    c. The USB Mini B connector in the ST-I is a bit of a weak point, and it can pull off the circuit board or the retention mechanism that holds the cable can stop doing it's job.
    d. If there is a connector problem, it can be sent in to @Bill for repair.

    e. Make sure the other end of the USB 2.0 cable is connected directly to a port on the rear of the PC.
    Eliminate any USB cable extenders and hubs. If you can't, let's discuss what you have and why.
    Unpowered hubs and extenders are usually a source of trouble.

    f. Make sure the USB 2.0 cable is either the one originally supplied, or an appropriate substitute.
    The supplied cable is about 15 feet (3m) and has heavier power wires than a lot of cheap cables.
    The ST-I is very sensitive to proper operating voltage and must get sufficient current.

    2) Software and computer setup
    Some vendors like HP, Lenovo, Dell have auto-update utilities to check for needed updates on the PC.
    a. Check for BIOS updates for your PC. Check the PC manufacturer / motherboard manufacturer website for updates.
    b. Check for device driver updates for your PC. Again, check the manufacturer website
    c. Chip vendor updates:
    Intel-based PC:
    https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/intel-driver-support-assistant.html
    AMD-based PC:
    https://www.amd.com/en/support

    d. Windows Updates - get current. Reboot and update again after every install of an update.
    Check for Optional driver updates.

    e. Check Windows Power management isn't interrupting communication.
    https://forum.diffractionlimited.co...connects-turn-off-usb-selective-suspend.7848/

    3) Camera setup
    a. Launch the SBIG Driver Checker. Click About/Help to see the version.
    If it is not 4.05, then update it:
    https://diffractionlimited.com/downloads/SetupDriverChecker64.exe

    b. Current driver version
    Confirm you have SBIGUDrv.dll 4.99 Build 7 or 5.1.1.0, like this:
    4.99 build 7:
    sbig_driver_499.png
    or 5.1.1.0:
    sbig_driver_5110.png
    If not either of those versions, then you need to [Update].

    c. Check the Firmware tab:
    sbig_driver_sti_firmware.png
    It should show firmware 2.37.
    If it doesn't, then update the firmware.

    4) Application Software
    Make sure you are running current software.
    e.g. MaxIm DL Pro 6.29, CCDOps 5.66, TheSkyX 10.5.0 Daily Build (latest was something like 13246)


    B) Diagnosing the issue
    We'll need to know the following:
    a. Camera Serial Number
    b. What sbigudrv.dll version and firmware version in the camera.
    c. What application software program(s) you are using, specifically, with what exact version number, and if 64-bit.
    d. How to reproduce the issue - what exact steps do you take to make the problem happen.
    e. How can you tell there is an issue
    f. Save the sample images showing bad ones and good ones.
    These must be in FITS format, unprocessed.
    We can't do anything with JPGs as data is lost, and XISM files are useless for diagnosis due to the way PixInsight processes the data.
    So ideally, from MaxIm DL Pro.
    If it happens during guiding in MaxIm, you can save the tracking and calibration images and guide log.
    We'll want these. Keep in mind this can be a lot of files.
    guide_optons.png
    We'll also want the MaxIm logs from the same time when you see the issue.

    C) General Remarks
    There are a lot of factors that can affect the image from the ST-I.
    • It's an uncooled camera that does not have the benefits of big thermal mass like an imaging camera
    • Operating temperature changes externally have an impact
    • Frequent use of the shutter warms up the camera, and draws more current
    • USB bus traffic caused by other devices (mount, focuser, GPS, keyboard, mouse) can affect performance
    • Exposure time could vary a small amount with temperature and USB bus activity
    • There is a fair bit of variation in the ON Semi/Kodak KAI-0340 CCDs - it's an analog device, and each one is unique
    • Warranty is long expired on virtually all ST-I cameras, so if a repair is needed, @Bill would be reasonable in cost
    • If it's a used camera (new to you), only the previous owner would know its history and any problems
    • Some components like the capacitors in the camera age with time and temperature, eventually they get out of tolerance. This is true of all electronics.
    We're interested to help you out, see what's going on, and to investigate.
    We can't redesign the camera electronics with replacement parts - many of the ST-I's components simply don't exist anymore.
    So, let us know what you find, and we'll see if we can help.
     
  18. JoshuaHufford

    JoshuaHufford Cyanogen Customer

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    Colin, thanks for the detailed response.

    If you go back to the beginning of this thread you can see that this problem has been ongoing since I bought the camera. I realize it is well past the warranty and now even discontinued, however considering many others have had the same problem, and I've had the problem using 3 different computers across 2 different identical cameras I think it is in the best interests of DL to help with this problem to keep customer loyalty in tact.

    I know for a fact that I have had the problem using the original supplied USB cable, and I am 98% sure that I am still using that cable, and I currently have that cable connected directly to the PC. However, can you provide a link to a 15ft. cable that will provide the proper supply power, I will gladly buy a new one just to be sure.

    My current cable setup has a strain relief at both the pier and at the dovetail so there is no chance of any strain on any connectors, I was VERY particular about this.

    I am current with all Windows Updates, I'm currently running Windows 10, and the same problem persisted on 2 different Windows 7 PCs that I used previously.

    USB selective suspend is turned off, I've checked this multiple times.

    I'm currently running Maxim 6.30, again this has been happing for years over several versions of Maxim.

    I've attached a current screenshot of my SBIG drivers, when I check the firmware I simply get a message saying the camera doesn't require firmware updates.

    I will check to see if there are any Bios or other PC updates that are available, however I prefer to not do that remotely incase something goes wrong. However the fact that several users all report that the problem is worse the higher the ambient temp really points to a hardware not a software problem.

    I will get the camera serial number next time I'm at the observatory.

    As far as reproducing the problem, simply taking autoguide images is all that is needed. Please look at my initial posts in this thread, there is a lot of detailed information including guide images. If you need new images I will gladly supply them. I know there is a problem when the star disappears in a wash of background noise that shouldn't be there and I get a guide star fade warning.

    I realize this is not a cooled camera, but when say 1 of every 20 guide images has substantially more noise that the previous, then the very next image is back to normal, that is not explained by simple thermal noise.
     

    Attached Files:

  19. Colin Haig

    Colin Haig Staff Member

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    Thanks for the detailed response.

    Some comments:
    1. SBIGu64.sys is out of date in your screenshot.
    Disconnect the camera, and update the drivers again.
    Then plug the camera back in.

    Since you are remote from the observatory, here's a trick that may work:
    Launch Device Manager.
    Look for SBIG USB Devices - and expand that.
    Look for a SBIG USB-64 Camera with Firmware.
    Right Click. Disable Device.
    disable_device.png

    If you have more than one SBIG camera, you may need to do this for both.
    This will temporarily disable it.
    Update the drivers using SBIG Driver Checker. Quit/Done.
    Then come back to Device Manager, and re-enable the camera.
    Wait for a bit for Windows to see it again.
    Run SBIG Driver Checker, and confirm that all drivers listed are as shown in my example screen shots, dated 2020 or newer.


    2. Camera Serial number -
    Since you are remote, one way to get the info is with CCDOps.
    Get it here if you need it:
    https://cdn.diffractionlimited.com/downloads/InstOps.exe
    Launch CCDOps 5.66
    Camera ... Camera Info
    Give me a screen shot of the Camera Info.
    It will look like this:
    STI_serial_ccdops.png
    It will show firmware version and serial number.

    3. We will want new images based on current firmware, drivers, and software.

    I'll review the other material, however, there are lot of people in this thread, with varying circumstances, and few instances where the facts are fully documented.
    Your reports are credible - I do believe you are seeing something; however, we need all the facts and evidence in order to know what is going on.
    e.g. "high ambient temperature" is vague; air temperature of 31C is specific.
    So, let me know when you can round up the extra info, and we'll move forward from there.
     
  20. JoshuaHufford

    JoshuaHufford Cyanogen Customer

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    I've posted a picture with the STi serial number and other information, and I've also managed to update the driver by your tip of disabling the camera. Please let me know if all of my drivers are up to date?

    Next night of imaging I will be sure to record all of my guide images.
     

    Attached Files:

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