Showing the FoV of your Telescope & Camera in Aladin
New 20th July 2015
Modified 3rd August 2015
When I have used Aladin in the past I realized that you could show the field of view (FoV) of various telescope and instrument combinations on images (try the HST Wide Field Camera to see how small it is) but I did not realise that you can create and save your own FoV and save them.
One way of doing this is described in the Aladin FAQ however this seems quite difficult to use. However there is a better way that was described by Adam Block in the August 2015 edition on Astronomy magazine. This method does not seem to be in the Aladin Manual or FAQ despite the tool being created in 2008.
Before you start you need to find the 'Plate Scale' of your Telescope and CCD and also the plate scale of and physical offset your offset guider chip if you have one. These measurements need to be in arc seconds. There are several tools on the web that enable you to calculate the FoV of a telescope & CCD combination or you can try my Excel Spreadsheet that allows you to calculate the FoV and other parameters for you telescope. This file is an Excel Template and you will need to save it to your computer with an appropriate name when you have filled the details in.
The next step is to download Aladin to your computer (if you have not already done this) and open it as normal.
1: Before you start select an object in the normal way - it does not matter any of the Messier objects are a good choice - here I chose M82. There is no real need to do this it just make showing the FoV of an instrument on a sky image easier.
2: From the Aladin menu select 'File' -'Load Instrument FoV' and the following window should open
As you can see the FoV for a number of Ground and Space based telescopes can be loaded as well as the Schulman32 created by Adam Block and is the subject of the article in Astronomy mentioned above. For this example highlight Schulman32 and then click on Submit (not load it as you might expect !). The overlay showing the FoV will then be loaded into Aladin. As normal graphics are transparent and are loaded as images on top of the base image. The Aladin screen should now look something like this:
The inner square shows the FoV of the camera used on the Schulman32 telescope overlaid in this case on a DSS image of M82. The small rectangle shows the FoV of the off axis guider chip and the two circles show the area where the guide camera could be rotated to to find a bright enough star to guide on. In this case there are two candidates at 3 and 5 o'clock and another at 1:30 which seems to require M82 to be moved a little off center.
The normal Aladin tools can be used to show the brightness of the guide stars either hovering the cursor over the image of the star, the cursor tip should show you the star ID & magnitude else load the Sinbad over lay and select the star of interest when the details will be shown below the image as normal.
A couple of tips at this point before we move onto creating your own FoV.
Creating your own FoV indicator(s)
The easiest method to create a FoV overlay is to use the 'Create your own' button on the Aladin Instrument Field of View page shown above. This should online footprint editor shown below.
The first thing to do is to edit the footprint name to something memorable preferably containing the telescope and CCD details. NB don't include double quotes and possibly other special characters in the name You will get a Java error when you try to load it into Aladin.
You now need to enter you first shape. I have a Canon 40D on a 203mm (8") f10 telescope which has a FoV of 2304 x 1532 arc seconds. To enter the FoV click 'New Rectangle' and enter the width and height in the box. There is no need for an offset as your main CCD will probably be centered in the telescope view. The offset is useful for adding other CCDs such as the guide CCD shown in the image above. The roll angle is not really important for the main CCD as you can alter the displayed roll when you load the FoV.
Clicking apply will generate the FoV as shown below.
You can now save the FoV or test it in Aladin first if you wish. The file will be saved with the extension .VOT, you may need to rename it and then move it into a folder where you keep your Aladin auxiliary files.
The other functions allow you to add extra FoVs for the guide chip and circles -useful for showing the swept area for the guide CCD as in the Schulman32 example above.
Having saved the .VOT file you can then use the 'Load it' button in the Instrument field of view to load it. All you need to do is then select it in the normal way and it will be shown in Aladin. The final result is below showing the FoV of a Canon 40D on an 8" f10 telescope. Here is a link to my FoV file for a DSLR with 60% sensor (compared to 35 mm film) on an 8" (203mm) f10 SCT
A tip don't do as I did above and include double quotes in the Footprint Name - this causes a Java exception when it tries to load and the load fails. I have tried editing the Instrument, Telescope, Description & Author fields so they make more sense in TopCat but Aladin fails to read the modified .VOT file correctly. It appears that editing the filename itself is not a problem.
Update - 24th July 2015
Following an email from the designers of Aladin and the footprint editor they have confirmed that TopCat changes the structure of the file when it saves the VOT. As a result the best way to edit the file is to change the 'values' in the VOT with an ASCII text editor.
For Windows users Notepad will not work as it does not understand the Linux line endings and shows the file as one long stream making it very difficult to edit. The best option for Windows users appears to be to use WordPad this shows the file correctly even though as downloaded from the footprint editor it has Linux line endings. If you use Wordpad ensure you save it as a '.TXT' file so no additional data is added as would happen in the other formats.
For Linux (based on Linux Mint) the standard character based text editor 'Pluma' understands that the VOT is written in XML and colours the fields and variables so it is clear what can be edited.
The following image shows the footprint VOT opened for edit in Pluma. Which ever editor you use you should only edit the value field for TelescopeName, InstrumentName, InstrumentDescription and Origin. You need to edit the ID="MyFootprint" if you did not change this in the footprint editor as these need to be unique.
You should enter the same description in the origin field in all your FoV files - I suggest your name or initials. That way you can sort by this to get all your FoV files shown together in the 'Instrument fields of view' window if you have multiple FoV files loaded.
As above it is Ok to change the filename to allow you to load the correct footprint. The line endings do not seem to matter either Linux or DOS(Windows) formats work ok.
Loading your FoV fields into Aladin at automatically at startup
If you are like me with a couple of telescopes and a few cameras from web-cams to DSLRs you will need end up with quite a lot of FoV files for different telescope / lens / camera combinations. When you have a few files it is easy to use the 'load it' button or else type 'load FoVfilename.vot' in the command line. However it would be a lot easier if all the FoV files were loaded on startup so they appear on the list with the professional telescopes. There is a way of loading the FoV files on startup using an Aladin Script file (these have the file extension .AJS), while this solves the immediate problem you have to create the script file and edit it every time you create a new FoV file. To get round this I have written a Windows Batch file that creats an Aladin script file 'on the fly' before Aladin Starts and then opens Aladin which executes the script file and loads all the FoV files.
The following is the batch file I use:
My automatically generated Aladin script file using a number of test field of views looks like this:
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