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What to do if the Scheduler is Driving you Mad!
Hello everyone,

I am scheduling observations for tonight and almost threw my computer out of the window. If that can happen to me, it sure as hell is going to happen to others. So rather than having to buy a new computer or up your blood pressure meds, here are a few suggestions to make things go more smoothly.

1. Take some time to set everything up correctly. Think of it like flying an plane. A pilot doesn't just take off down the runway, they run through a checklist first. Before you even think of starting up, make sure everything is working properly. In our case that means meticulously setting up every detail of our imaging system. Once ready to go, use this pre-scheduling checklist:
  • Check to make sure you have the right imaging system
  • Check to make sure you have the right location
  • Check to make sure you have the right night
  • Set the weather and seeing conditions to what you expect. It is best to schedule no more than a few hours before you start imaging so that you have a good idea of what the conditions will be
Now that's not so bad is it? What I did was forget to set my weather and seeing conditions. I got some unexpected results and started second guessing everything. When I opened other tools, such as the exposure calculator, I again forgot to make sure that I was using the right weather and seeing. As a result, I ended up with a big inconsistent mess that I was unable to make any sense of.

2. Give the Scheduler lots of hints about what you want. Even with its highly advanced AI, ST4 is not a mind reader. Computers have an annoying way of doing exactly what you tell them to. So tell it exactly what you want:
  • Use the project priority to tell the Scheduler which projects you think are the most important. Pro tip: right-click in the Priority column for an imaging project to change the priority directly from the Scheduler.
  • Carefully consider what the minimum IQ should be for each project. Avoid low minimum IQ settings (C and lower) as much as possible. If you tell it you only need "D" level images, it gets lazy and gives you the crappy images that you asked for. Demand better images, even if that means having to wait. Pro tip: right-click in the IQ column for an imaging project to change the IQ from the Scheduler.
  • Log your observations via the Observations tab of each Imaging Project. Assign a quality value to each image, and set a minimum acceptable quality. SkyTools will use this information to tell the Scheduler what it needs to do to finish the project the next night.
3. Use the Auto Scheduler. Probably because I am trying to force as much as possible out of the limited observing time available to me, I usually schedule manually, by adding one project at a time. Do as I say, not as I do. 

SkyTools 4 is new. It likely still has some bugs in it. You may not have set everything up exactly right. But never forget that it is smarter than we are. Unless you have good reason to suspect that it is broken, listen to it.  If it wants to spend the whole night getting the H-alpha filter for one project, then just sigh, throw up your hands, and do what it tells you to do. Big Grin
Clear skies,

SkyTools Developer

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