SharpCap's easy to use and rapid polar alignment procedure is improved in SharpCap 2.10 with better star detection and plate solving, more accurate adjustment measurements and some handy hints on how good your polar alignment needs to be so that you know when to stop adjusting! You can use the tool to measure your polar alignment accuracy without having a SharpCap Pro license, but with a Pro license you will be able to see live updates on screen showing the current polar alignment error as you adjust your mounts altitude and azimuth.
You can see the guidance phase of the SharpCap Polar Alignment in the screenshot below, showing the correction needed to get polar alignment - which is to move the highlighted star into the yellow target - and the directions and distances that you need to move your mount's Alt/Az adjusters.
New in SharpCap 2.10, Live flat frame correction uses the high speed multimedia accelerator instructions built into modern CPUs to allow a flat frame correction to be applied to each and every frame captured, even at USB3 video speeds (Note: a high performance CPU is required when using high frame rates with USB3 cameras). Although flat frame correction has been largely associated with deep sky imaging, it's now an essential part of many Solar imaging workflows to help remove Newton's rings and other artifacts arising from the use of narrowband solar filters.
Planetary and Lunar images will benefit from using live flat frame correction too as it eliminates dust donuts caused by specks of dust on the sensor, camera window or filter. Of course, you can use the flat frame correction feature while deep sky
imaging in SharpCap too - for example while Live Stacking to correct for uneven illumination of the sensor due to vignetting.
Not only will SharpCap apply flat frame correction to every frame that comes from the camera, it will also assist you through the process of capturing a master flat frame by capturing and averaging a series of flat sub frames.
Dark subtraction is another feature, like Polar Alignment, that has been improved in SharpCap 2.10. It's now possible to create and use master dark frames that have a greater bit depth than that of the frames being captured, preventing level quantization in the master dark becoming an issue when stacking large numbers of frames. Dark frame subtraction is of course a great tool to use alongside SharpCap's Live Stacking feature to get the very best images from your EAA session.
Just like the flat frame creation tool, SharpCap has a dark frame creation tool that will help you create averaged master dark frames and store them in a dark frame library.
If you use an ASCOM focuser with SharpCap then this is the feature for you! Previous versions of SharpCap had a range of tools to help measure the quality of focus of the image to assist with focusing (and accurate focusing can be one of the hardest parts of Astrophotography). Now in SharpCap 2.10 there are two important new features which can be activated from the Focus Score Graph when using one of the Focus tools and an ASCOM focuser.
The first new feature is the ability to make SharpCap perform an automated focus scan over a user-definable number of steps. Once the parameters are set up, you simply press either the 'Scan In' or 'Scan Out' button and SharpCap will work through a sequence of focuser movements, measuring the quality of focus at every step. The result will be a graph - like the one shown below - showing how the focus varied with the focuser position. In this case (on a planetary target using the 'Edge Detection' mode), higher scores indicate better focus, so the point of best focus is at the maximum of the graph.
One, perhaps, for the slightly Nerdier user, but the ability to write your own scripts using SharpCap's built in Python scripting language opens up a whole new world of possibilities. In SharpCap 2.10, a full standard Python library is included, which makes using standard Python coding techniques much easier. Some examples of scripts that have been written by SharpCap users include automation for all-sky cameras, automation of filter wheels for LRGB planetary imaging, automatic image capture with text labels being added to each image after capture and automation of eclipse observing sequences. You can even control SharpCap from another application using 'Pyro' - a Python remoting package!