My Favorite NINA Plugins

It’s finally time for a “my favorite NINA plugins” post. There are an ever-growing collection of plugins that extend NINA’s functionality. I haven’t tried them all, but I’d love to share what I’ve found helpful.

The screenshot below shows the ones I currently have installed.

I just did my first imaging session with Lightbucket today. I saw a YouTube video about it (Dylan O’Donnell, I think) a while back and I initially thought “that’s cute, but I won’t use it.” I was wrong. After you set up the plugin, your image stats show up on Lightbucket within a few seconds of each sub you take. I think it’ll be really fun to watch my star chart fill in. Here’s my profile there:

As far as I can tell, Hocus Focus is the #1 way to do autofocus in NINA. Cuiv (from YouTube) talked about it when it came out and he recommended it over the internal NINA focus routine that he helped write. When I change filters (e.g. L-eXtreme vs no filter), I do have to change the autofocus image exposure length. Once I learned that, I haven’t had any issues with focus. Gotta love automatic razor-sharp focus.

I don’t have a webcam pointed at my scope, so Point 3D is the next best thing I’ve found. It shows a 3d model of where your telescope is pointing on your Imaging tab. I keep it small and in the corner, but it’s helpful to me to make sure the scope is doing what I expect. Warm fuzzy, if you will. Point 3D does sometimes have a frame of erroneous data (i.e. the 3d model shows the scope pointing in some weird direction, usually 180deg out in RA from where it is), but that only lasts about a second and hasn’t been a problem for me. (Perhaps the dev needs to use quaternions or fix his Euler angle gimbal lock issues…who knows.)

Three Point Polar Alignment (TPPA). This is a dead simple way to do polar alignments. Back in the day, I used my CGEM’s internal polar alignment routing coupled with Nebulosity’s bullseye overlay on a looped image capture do to the same thing. I was never a fan of polar scopes, although I know plenty people love them.

I’ve compared TPPA with PHD2’s drift analysis and SharpCap’s alignment. If I get a TPPA alignment under 1 arc-minute, the other two always show under 2 arc-minutes of error (usually pretty close to 1 arc-minute). It’s quick and that’s plenty for my image scale and up to 10 minute subs.

Orbuculum gives you more options in NINA’s Advanced Sequencer. It lets you sequence things like “image M45 until it’s below 30deg above the horizon then move to M42.” It’s great for Advanced Sequencer users who want to image multiple targets and like to get sleep.

Robocopy (aka Remote Copy) is a great way to automatically copy all your new data from your telescope computer to a network drive. You can run this as part of your existing Advanced Sequencer routine or you can run it (through Advanced Sequencer) by itself whenever you feel like it. I like setting the option to show the command line/terminal window, but I’m a command line kinda guy. Works great either way.

I thought I’d use the Scope Control plugin, but I don’t. If I need to do manually move my mount, I just use my mount’s control window or the ASCOM controls.

There are some of my installed plugins I haven’t really tried yet or didn’t find that useful…

For Exposure Calculator, I just haven’t gotten around to seting it up. I’ve been using my STF-8300 for over a decade and I think I have a rough empirical feel for what it needs exposure-wise. Also, there are varying thoughts on what’s best for exposure length (reference the recent TAIC video about signal-to-noise ratio).

I haven’t really messed with Orbitals either. I was hoping it would make it dead simple to target the moon. I’ll get to that one day.

I recently added Shutdown PC. When I first set up my backyard pier, I just kept my mini PC on all the time. Now that the weather’s hot, I started paying attention to how I’m abusing the mini PC. So far, I’ve been manually shutting down the mini PC after I get done transferring data. I do plan to try out Shutdown PC before long.

Those are my thoughts on NINA plugins. What else is out there that people use?

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