Equipment Control

This program controls the telescope mount, the dome and the cameras. I use the TPoint tool to create a pointing model so that when I slew to a new target star, the star appears close to the spectrograph slit position in the guide camera’s field of view. While it does have guiding capability, I prefer to use PHD2 for that purpose.

Monitors the target star position and tweaks the telescope position to maintain the star image within the slit. So far I’ve been using it without trying to optimize performance, but I expect I will need to do that as I target dimmer stars.

Data Processing

This is the program I have been focusing on most recently. For me it’s been a steep learning curve, especially for low resolution spectroscopy. A helpful Toolbox in English is now available.

MaxIm DL is a full-featured program for astronomical imaging that I’ve been using for years. It doesn’t have much support for spectroscopy, but I’ve found the Graph feature very useful for making a quick check of spectral image saturation, in which case, I delete the image file.

vSpec has several useful features, especially when doing wavelength calibration. Frequently I have experienced software crashes, usually when I inadvertently use it in ways I’m not supposed to. The English translation from the French could be improved (both the user interface and the Reference Manual) so I have been gradually editing my own copy of the Manual as I use the program..

The main thrust of RSpec seems to be for viewing spectra in real time and supporting slit-less spectrographs. While my current focus is different, I always keep a copy of RSpec around for quickly viewing spectral profiles (drag and drop FITS files directly into the main window) and for comparing any two profiles in the same window (one red, “main”, another blue, “reference”). Being able to toggle between a second X-axis or Y-axis often comes in handy.

When you need a reality check on your workflow, it’s not a bad idea to check your results by running your data through an alternate pathway, such as BASS Spectro. As of January 2024, the BASS Project User Guide “Draft” is dated 17th December 2019, so it is unclear whether the documentation is up to date.

It looks like ISIS was designed to support spectrographs from Shelyak Instruments and since mine, the DADOS spectrograph from Baader Planetarium is not one of those listed under Spectrograph model, I stayed away from it. Also, I had difficulty installing GNUPLOT.


This program from TGRMN Software is an extremely useful tool for changing names of image files. Renaming files is an essential in going from the files automatically saved by TheSkyX to the files needed for example in specINTI.

Notepad++ is great for editing configuration files. Newly created configuration files must be saved in the _configuration subdirectory of the specinti_editor_en. To load a new configuration, restart specINTI.

This is a very useful website when it comes to planning a night of observations. In the iObserve section, you can create a list of target stars. Once you have specified the latitude and longitude of your observing site, you will see plots of the altitude/airmass of each selected star over the course of the night. Good for finding the best viewing time for each star.

Of course, we mustn’t forget SIMBAD, the website of CDS, the Strasbourg Astronomical Data Center, which provides a database of over 6 million stars and a comparable number of non-stellar objects. Given that any particular star can have up to ~50 different identifiers, SIMBAD offers a way to quickly find an object and look up its characteristics.

This heavily used website will take any starfield image that you upload and figure out where it is in the sky. It is an excellent tool for confirming that the star you think you are imaging is really the one you want.

This online tool from NASA analyzes any FITS file looking for errors. It is useful for finding the cause of problems when opening or saving FITS files among different applications.