The Abbey Ridge Auto-Pilot (ARAP) software is an Observatory Automation Language developed by Dave Lane to automate the operations and image processing at the Abbey Ridge Observatory. It has been under constant development since 2003. In 2014, it was significantly enhanced and is now used to automate the Burke-Gaffney Observatory at Saint Mary's University.

ARAP runs powerful text-based scripts containing English-like commands, in effect creating a rich observatory control language, that makes it very easy to automate observatory functions. This language is called DTL (Dave's Telescope Language!).

It capabilities include:

  • Controls any ASCOM-compliant telescope
  • Controls any ASCOM-compliant dome
  • Controls any ASCOM-compliant focuser
  • Controls any ASCOM-compliant switch
  • Controls any CCD camera compatible with MaxIm DL/CCD
  • Auto-focuses the CCD camera using FocusMax, MaxIM DL/CCD, or Planewave PWI3
  • Has a built-in database including bright stars (by name), Yale Bright Star Catalog, Messier and SAC deep sky database (includes NGCs, many ICs, etc.), and the PGC galaxy catalog
  • Access many features of the Earth Centered Universe planetarium and telescope control software, including its huge object database
  • Images batches of objects automatically
  • Takes calibration images (bias, dark, flat)
  • Calibrates images
  • Does kernel (hot pixel removal, filtering, etc.) and FFT image filtering
  • Flips, mirrors, rotates, crops, resizes, aligns, and stretches images
  • Flattens background and removes gradients from images
  • Measures star sizes, star shapes, and sky background level to access focus and image quality
  • Solves plates and can sync the scope to the solved position
  • Supports both Boltwood and AAG Cloud Sensors
  • Controls X10-based power control devices
  • Controls an Optec Perseus Instrument Selector
  • Controls Pololu Maestro Servo Controller (up to 24 servos for robotic control)
  • Sends internet e-mails (with or without file attachments)
  • Receives email from a POP3 server (with or without file attachments)
  • Compresses files into ZIP¬†format and can upload them to an sftp or ftp server
  • Retrieve files, images, etc. from a web server
  • Computes a variety of astronomical calculations such as positions of the sun, moon (incl. illumination), and the planets
  • Converts from ra/dec to alt/az and vice versa
  • Calculates airmass, hour angle, sidereal time, etc
  • Does image combines (average, median, Sigma Clip, SD-Mask), but it also includes a custom noise-reducing, but photometry-friendly, standard deviation-based rejection combine method. Image combines can reject frames based on star size, star shape, and sky background level as compared to the average in the images to be combined.
  • Does RGB and LRGB colour combinations and colour balance and saturation adjustments
  • Does aperture photometry and area (box) photometry
  • Converts monochromatic or colour fits image files to jpeg files with a sophisticated "arcsinh" stretch algorithm. Both text and images can be added to jpeg images.
  • Can convert pixel position X and Y to RA and Dec and vice versa on an plate-solved image
  • Can load databases of comets and asteroids and compute their positions and magnitudes
  • Read and write Windows "ini" configuration files
  • Has extensive error handling capabilities
  • Has variables and arrays, basic math functions, logical and bitwise operations, flow control, sub-routines, etc
  • Add your own commands to extend the language
  • Comprehensive logging
  • Build complex scripts using subroutines (within the same script) and sub-scripts that act like new commands.
  • Can run external executable programs
  • Can send and receive Twitter tweets (with or without images) and direct (private) messages
  • Can send and receive Facebook Messenger page messages and images and post notices and images to Facebook pages
  • Can send and receive messages through an http web client interface (includes user and password protection).
  • Can interface with other programming languages via its Automation Interface
  • Can access, edit, and add records of tables in databases (eg. MySQL)
  • Can run more than once copy of ARAP at the same time
  • Can control an Automation-enabled version of ARAP from a non-Automation-enabled version

The comprehensive online manual includes its specifications and prerequisites. An installer for the full version can be downloaded here - it is fully functional, but will only run for 30 minutes. A licensed copy is $299US (introductory price) and includes one-year of support and updates.

 

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