All Sky Camera Experiment

At the IMT we were experiencing stability issues with the ZWO ASI120MC USB3 camera on the MAC/NUC so we decided to move it to it’s own Raspberry Pi4 (4GB) as a cheap experiment.

The Raspberry Pi4 has the advantage of improved networking and connectivity including USB3. One of the downsides of the RPi4 is the increased heat generated by the CPU which is mitigated by housing it in a FLiRC passive case to dissipate the heat and prevent thermal throttling.

Additionally in order to prevent SD card wear and improve the I/O throughput we configured the RPi4 just to boot off the SD card but serve the rest of the file systems from a SSD connected via USB3.

AllSky Camera Software

Using the open-source AllSky Camera project for ASI camera support we gain some advantages. The main advantage is that it’s open source (served via Git), provides an admin and public web portal which is addressed locally as http://allsky.local and the software can be set to start on system startup.

Admin Web Portal

The allskycam software can restart on system reboot but it can also be stopped/restarted via the web admin portal.

The configuration is simple and the mode/behaviour of the software can be controlled via the GUI or via a settings.json file from the command line.

Admin Portal – Camera Settings

I recommend you take the time to create a dark reference image, again this is done via the GUI panel as long exposure frame will show extensive hot pixels.

RGB24 image hot pixels with no dark applied

Non Admin Web Portal

This is accessed via the address http://allsky.local/allsky-website and provides the latest captured image, a constellation overlay and the ability to view time-lapses and star trails.

Local network web site for non admin users

One of the nice features of the software is it’s ability to create a time-lapse of acquired images for the previous night. The following video shows the debayer issues as well as the dewing of the dome cover.

Time Lapse of evening showing dew issues/grayscale bayer

Bob is due to connect up the resistor ring he’s placed around the camera which hopefully should fix the dome dewing we encountered on the first night.

So it remains for us to fix and implement the following :

  • Resolve the lack of colour images (RGB24)
  • Image quality breakup
  • Resolve dark daytime images
  • Secure copy latest image/time-lapse to an external public website
  • Scale VirtualSky constellation overlay (180 degrees) down to 150 degrees