Wireless All Sky Camera

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About: Most of the things I build usually relate to either astronomy, physics or woodworking in general.

An all sky camera is a device designed to take pictures of the entire sky over a certain amount of time, usually to monitor meteor showers or other astronomical phenomena.

I built mine to monitor the northern lights. I live in the Yukon and we sometimes get beautiful aurora displays during the night. However, I also have a day time job and I need my 8 hours of sleep. I created this camera to record a movie of the entire night. That way, I can replay the movie in the morning and never miss any aurora night.

Step 1: Requirements and Materials

My requirements for this camera are the following:

  • needs to photograph most of the sky
  • needs high sensitivity to low light
  • should be weather proof
  • no wires should run to the house
  • needs to be autonomous
  • needs to create a movie from pictures and upload it to the internet
  • needs to start at dusk and stop at dawn

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the device should include its own computer and send the pictures using wifi. As for the camera, I decided to use an astronomy camera that would be small enough and was powered over USB.

Here's the list of materials:

  • ASI224MC camera from ZWO (ASI120MC or MM works too and is cheaper)
  • wide angle lens Arecont 1.55 (It gives a wider field of view than the lens that comes with the camera)
  • Raspberry Pi 2 (or 3)
  • 64 GB micro SD card
  • Wifi module (no need if Raspberry Pi 3)
  • Short right angle USB cable
  • 4" ABS pipe with end caps
  • Acrylic dome

I thought about adding a dew heater but after a few month of testing, I never got any frost on the acrylic dome. This is possibly due to the heat produced by the raspberry pi itself.

Step 2: Wiring

In this instructable, I will assume that you already have raspbian installed on the SD card.

The wiring is relatively easy. Plug the USB cable to the camera on one side and the raspberry pi on the other. Plug the wireless dongle into one of the 3 remaining USB ports of the pi. Insert the micro SD card in its slot and plug the raspberry pi to its 5V adapter.

In order to keep things tidy, you can fix your camera and computer onto a plywood board like I did on the picture.

Step 3: Build the Enclosure

The enclosure is made of a 4" ABS pipe, a flat end cap and a threaded end cap with its lid.

The flat cap goes on top and is drilled to the diameter of the camera. The threaded cap goes at the bottom and a hole (for the extension cord) is drilled in the centre of the lid.

The acrylic dome can be fixed onto the top end using weather proof silicone. I used an acrylic ring but it makes things more complex than they need to be.

You can now fix the enclosure onto your deck, your roof or any other location with a good view of the sky.

Step 4: Software

Update: If you need to change the way the capture works, you might have to make changes to the C++ source and compile it on your Raspberry PI. To do this, follow PeterD192's detailed instructions in the comments.

Update 2 (Nov 11th 2016): I have set up a GitHub page with an install script to make things easier for everyone: https://github.com/thomasjacquin/allsky If you use it, you shouldn't have to use any of the following instructions.

Original Instructions:

In order to capture images with the camera, we need to run a program in the terminal. ZWO provides an SDK in order for developers to communicate with the camera. Using this SDK, I modified one of their C++ example and compiled it for the raspberry pi. Here's a list of dependencies that need to be installed in order to get the program running.

  • OpenCV to capture the image of the sky (You can get a compiled version here)
  • Sunwait to calculate the civil twilight of your location. There is a compiled version in the archive. Make sure you copy it to your path:
    sudo cp ~/allsky/sunwait /usr/local/bin
  • Required dependencies:
    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install libusb-dev libav-tools gawk lftp entr imagemagik

To make things easy, I have attached an archive. Extract it at /home/pi/allsky.

From the lib folder, you will need to run this in order to use the camera without being root:
sudo install asi.rules /lib/udev/rules.d

You will also need to add libASICamera2.so to your library:
sudo cp ~/allsky/lib/armv7/libASICamera2* /usr/local/lib

Another thing you will need to do in order to automate everything is to run the main program on startup of the pi. You can open ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart and add this line:
@xterm -hold -e ~/allsky/allsky.sh

Remember to set your wifi connection in order for the pi to upload videos.

allsky.sh contains all the parameters you might want to play with: GPS coordinate, white balance, exposure and gain.

Step 5: Collect Images

Now that the raspberry pi is ready, you can plug your all sky camera. The startup script should call allsky.sh which in turn calls the binary file named "capture". It will determine if it's day time or night time. In case it's night time, the capture will start and take a picture every 5 seconds (or whatever value you set in allsky.sh). At the end of the night, the capture will stop and avconv will stitch them together and upload a video to your website using FTP.

Step 6: Watch Your Time Lapse Videos

The video produced by avconv should weigh between 30 and 50 mb depending on the length of the night (here in the Yukon, we can get from 18 hours to 0 hours of night time) and should be viewable on any web browser.

In the event that you find something interesting in the video, you can access the individual images on the raspberry pi. They will be in a folder named after yesterday's date.

Here's a page showing my own videos with almost all night archived starting January 18th 2016. Some have beautiful northern light, others have clouds, snow or rain.

Space Contest 2016

First Prize in the
Space Contest 2016

25 People Made This Project!

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655 Discussions

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MichaelH986

24 days ago

To whom it may concern,



Can anyone out there Please provide me the Zip File of the Operating System for my Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ so I can transfer file over to the SanDisk Extreme 32GB Micro SD Memory Card, I'm willing to pay $60 for the copy of the Operating System which is the fare price to pay, because I can't afford pay $367.66 Australian Dollar or more for the ASI AIR Smart Device ZWO from small UK Company under the following URL: https://www.telescopi-artesky.it/it/asi-zwo/computer-/3850-asi-air-smart-device-zwo.html Which is absolutely a rip off for the price to pay, I am currently in possession of ZWO ASI120MC-S Color USB 3.0 Planetary Camera and also Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Board.



I am trying to set up my Sky-Cam project so I can do the live stream so the people across the world can watch my time lapse videos every night so people can Subscribed to my YouTube Channel so I can get my channel to grow and earn some money, But however I am so freaking pissed off with YouTube because they are constantly deleting my YouTube comments and gets completely ignored, all I'm doing is asking every person to help me, so I can get my project up and running. My Email Address Is: deejaymadmike126@gmail.com
Kind Regards

Michael Hobby.

1 reply
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bill110366MichaelH986

Reply 10 hours ago

Hi everybody
I'l also finishing my version of Thomas's Allsky, and really love it.

I printed a 3d housing and added some dew control.

I have the same fear here about hot summer days coming up in our region (East of France). We can easily go up to 40°C in Summer, what about the Temp inside the housing Cam, Raspberry..)?
Today is a cool day, and my Rasp runs 60°C already with no load!!
Keep a Eye on this guys !
Eric

Capture.JPG
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ThomasJ1FiveyMackenzie

Reply 12 days ago

You're absolutely right. Thanks for catching that. I'll prepare a fix for it.

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Newfie Stargazer

22 days ago

Great project. I am using an ASI 224MC however the Pi will not boot with it plugged in. Any suggestions?

6 replies
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ThomasJ1Newfie Stargazer

Reply 22 days ago

Hi, Can you provide more details? What power supply do you use? The recommended power supply is 5V at 2.5Amp.

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Newfie StargazerThomasJ1

Reply 20 days ago

So I tried another PS and still unable to boot with camera plugged in. I have also noticed the past two nights, that at the end of the night, the Pi locks up or something and requires a power cycle. I have to go in and manually run the endOfNight script to get my video, which then uploads just fine via my FTP server. Any suggestions? Seems software related. Are there any logs I can look at to get an idea of when is happening?

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ThomasJ1Newfie Stargazer

Reply 19 days ago

What power supply are you using now? If you can'y boot with the camera attached, I don't think the problem is related to the software. Is it rated for 2.5 amps?

Ok, I just did a complete re-install from the ground up (including Raspberry Pi OS) and now all is working well.

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si6pack

26 days ago

Hi,
what a great project - it was really fun to get this thing done! Thank you very much for sharing this project!
Having installed the AllSkyCam on the roof of my garage, I was wondering about temperature issues: Yesterday was an average sunny day here in my hometown (21°C), but when I saw the temperature of the ccd (61°C) and the CPU (63°C) doubts came up (these high temperature were not the result of the workload, but the result heating up due to sunshine)...what, if it is a full blown summer day with outside temperatures > 30°C? Do other users have experiences? It would be great if other would share their thoughts!
Thanks for considering,
Christian

2 replies
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ThomasJ1si6pack

Reply 23 days ago

Hi Christian, I would love to have an answer for you but I live in the North and we don't get very hot days up here. Do you have a heat sink installed on the RPi cpu? I know the Pi3 will throttle down or shut down if temperature gets too high (around 90C I think).

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si6packThomasJ1

Reply 21 days ago

Hi Thomas,
thank you very much for coming back to me. No, I didn't install a heat sink, but this might be a first step. In the meanwhile, I "re-colored" my gray housing to white - this brought already some improvement. Up to now, the CPU reached approx. 60°C during a normal sunny say with an average outside temperature of 22°C; the chip of the 224 reached 62°C!...
I will carefully watch, how the temperature will increase in parallel to rising outside temperatures...I am also thinking about another place to put the AllSkyCam which at least hides the housing from direct sun impact, but difficult to achieve. I keep you posted about my "temperature adventures"!
Regards,
Christian

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MichaelH986

26 days ago

Hi There, my name is Michael Hobby,


I'm using Windows 10 Home 64-bit, Can you please help me setup my SkyCam.

I have downloaded 8 PDF files and they're all exactly the same except the F0G0Y91IRGZYDCE.zip file from instructables website.

I have used the 7-Zip and also the WinRar Converter and I'm not enable to see any the F0G0Y91IRGZYDCE.zip files that I have downloaded they are all blank.

I have paid $49 for a files that I cannot access from instructables website,
I do not understand instructions on the instructables website it is not very clear to me.

All I want to do is set up my Raspberry Pi Model B+ with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so I can connect the ZWO ASI120MC-S Planetary Camera so I can setup my SkyCam in my backyard using a 4 inch PVC Stormwater Pipe using the Clear Dome on top, and I'm going one step further by using my 60 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel to charge my USB Power Bank using Solar USB Quick Charging DC-DC Buck Converter Voltage Regulator under the following URL: http://www.icstation.com/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=13292&search_in_description=1

I would prefer to use the Libre Computer Board ROC-RK3328-CC with One USB 3.0 Port under the following URL: https://www.loverpi.com/collections/libre-computer-project/products/libre-computer-board-roc-rk3328-cc


Or the NanoPi M4 RK3399 with Four USB 3.0 Ports under the following URL: https://www.friendlyarm.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=234
And each one of the two have 4 Gigabyte of memory.

What I do not understand is why you using the Raspberry Pi instead of the those two other boards do have the USB 3.0 Ports.

I really need your help because I'm not a computer savvy, so I will give you my NanoPi NEO4 or the Orange Pi Lite 2 with Heatsink and Fan if you can do a video tutorial and also provide me the complete instructions by email which is: deejaymadmike126@gmail.com If you refuse to help me I have wasted all my time and money for nothing.

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RonaldS119

Question 9 months ago

I a running latest version with daytime imaging. I am running at night, right now, getting an error in log file allsky.sh[586]: cd: Access failed: 550 CWD failed . "/allsky": directory not found. But I am getting image files in the image directory, I am seeing uploaded smaller images, everything seems to be working ok, except for this error? thanks,Ron

4 answers
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RonaldS119RonaldS119

Answer 9 months ago

It is a ftp filezilla issue, I have to figure out?

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si6packRonaldS119

Reply 6 weeks ago

Hi, I am Christian from Germany...I run into the same problem, and I am desperate...would you mind to post the content of your "ftp-settings.sh"? That will - hopefully - solve my issue...
Thank a lot in advance!

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RonaldS119si6pack

Reply 6 weeks ago

It has been awhile and I don't remember exactly what I did to get ftp working again, but it is; I am using Filezilla on a PC as the ftp server. In Filezilla I set up the user and directories that I want to transfer files to. MY ftp setting files looks like this:
# FTP/SFTP settings
PROTOCOL='ftp'
USER='pi'
PASSWORD='whatever you use'
HOST='either the IP address or the PC name on your network'
IMGDIR='21/' ## this is the port number that is open for ftp - 21 is a default I actually use something different###
## these are the directories for uploading the videos, Keograms and startrails files to ###
MP4DIR='21/videos/'
KEOGRAM_DIR='21/keograms/'
STARTRAILS_DIR='21/startrails/'

Hope this helps.
Ron