The improvement in pointing performance that TPOINT makes possible is usually spectacular; a telescope which previously required painstaking use of finding charts and manual searching, or time-consuming preliminary acquisition of a nearby bright star, can, after TPOINT modeling, place the images of faint objects directly into the center of the field of view of even a high-power eyepiece.
TPOINT is a must for unattended robotic telescopes. CCD observing becomes a simple matter of commanding the telescope, carrying out the exposure and then, on readout, finding the image of the object under study centered in the frame - every time. In the case of the best observatory instruments, TPOINT helps maintain pointing at the 1-2 arcsecond level, allowing fully automatic acquisition. Amateur instruments routinely achieve 1 arcminute performance, in some cases better than half that figure.
Apart from making target acquisition swift and assured, a less obvious benefit of TPOINT is that with appropriate telescope control software (for example based on the Tpoint Software TCSpk and CPK libraries) tracking can be significantly improved. This comes about through the continuous correction of mechanical effects such as cyclic errors in setting circles and encoders, but also as a result of accurate polar alignment. Sites where Polaris is invisible are no problem for TPOINT, which can measure polar axis error to accuracies expressed in arcseconds simply from analyzing pointing in whatever region of the sky happens to be accessible. The TPOINT figures dictate the precise adjustments that need to be made to align the polar axis optimally, important if field rotation is to be minimized.
Two versions of TPOINT are available. One, jointly developed by Tpoint Software and Software Bisque, is a Mac or Windows-based system which is fully integrated with the telescope control facilities in the package TheSkyX. The other, the "pro" tool, which uses a traditional command-based user-interface, is available from the original author through Tpoint Software. This latter version is the same as that in use at major observatories; it runs under MS-Windows, Linux or Mac OS X. By special arrangement it can also be built for other Unix platforms.