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A Raspberry Pi operated Wireless Allsky Camera
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README.md

Allsky Camera Release 0.6 Donate

This is the source code for the Wireless Allsky Camera project described on Instructables.

Requirements

In order to get the camera working properly you will need the following hardware:

  • An ASI camera from ZWO. Tested cameras include ASI120MC*, ASI120MM*, ASI120MC-S, ASI120MM-S, ASI224MC, ASI178MC, ASI185MC, ASI290MC, ASI1600MC
  • A Raspberry Pi 2 or 3
  • A USB wireless dongle if using a Pi 2. This one has been tested.

Note:* Owners of USB2.0 cameras such as ASI120MC and ASI120MM may need to do a firmware upgrade (This changes the camera to use 512 byte packets instead of 1024 which makes it more compatible with most hardware.)

Installation

You will need to install Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi. Follow this link for information on how to do it.

Make sure you have a working internet connection by setting it either through the GUI or the terminal.

Start by installing git. You may already have it installed:

sudo apt-get install git

Now fetch the code from this GitHub page. Open the terminal and type the following:

git clone https://github.com/thomasjacquin/allsky.git

Then navigate to the allsky directory:

cd allsky

Now, before running the install script, if you're running a Pi 2, it may not be compatible with armv7 architecture. Run cat /proc/cpuinfo to know your processor model. If it doesn't say ARMv7, you'll need to change the first line of Makefile to say platform = armv6

Now, run the install script:

sudo ./install.sh

Update

There is no 1-click update yet so until then, the easiest is to backup your config files, delete the allsky directory and follow the installation instructions again.

Configuration

Here's a quick overview of the configuration files.

the first one is called settings.json. It contains the camera parameters such as exposure, gain but also latitude, longitude, etc.

nano settings.json
Setting Default Additional Info
width 0 0 means max width. Look up your camera specifications to know what values are supported
height 0 0 means max height. Look up your camera specifications to know what values are supported
exposure 10000 Night time exposure in milliseconds. During the day, auto-exposure is used.
maxexposure 20000 This is the maximum exposure for night images when using auto-exposure. During the day, auto-exposure is always used.
autoexposure 1 Set to 0 to disable auto-exposure at night. Auto-exposure delivers properly exposed images throughout the night even if the overall brightness of the sky changes (cloud cover, moon, aurora, etc). When set to 1, maxexposure value will be used as the delay between timelapse frames.
gain 50 Gain for Night images. Varies from 0 to 600. During the day, gain is always set to 0
maxgain 200 Maximum gain for night images when using auto-gain.
autogain 0 Set to 1 to allow auto-gain at night. This mode will adjust the gain of night images when the overall brightness of the sky changes (cloud cover, moon, aurora, etc). Avoid using autoexposure and autogain together as it produces unpredicatble results (dark frames, but not always).
gamma 50 Varies between 0 and 100. This setting increases or decreases contrast between dark and bright areas.
brightness 50 Varies between 0 and 100. This setting changes the amount of light in the image.
wbr 53 Varies between 0 and 100. This is the intensity of the red component of the image.
wbb 90 Varies between 0 and 100. This is the intensity of the blue component of the image.
bin 1 bin 2 collects the light from 2x2 photosites to form 1 pixel on the image. bin 3 uses 3x3 photosites, etc. Increasing the bin results in smaller images and reduces the need for long exposure. Look up your camera specifications to know what values are supported
delay 10 Time in milliseconds to wait between 2 frames at night.
daytimeDelay 5000 Time in milliseconds to wait between 2 frames during the day.
type 1 Image format. 0=RAW 8 bits, 1=RGB 24 bits, 2=RAW 16 bits
quality 95 Compression of the image. 0(low quality) to 100(high quality) for JPG images, 0 to 9 for PNG
usb 40 This is the USB bandwidth. Varies from 40 to 100.
filename image.jpg this is the name used across the app. Supported extensions are JPG and PNG.
flip 0 0=Original, 1=Horizontal, 2=Vertical, 3=Both
text text Text overlay. Note: It is replaced by timestamp if time=1
textx 15 Horizontal text placement from the left
texty 35 Vertical text placement from the top
fontname 0 Font type for the overlay. 0=Simplex, 1=Plain, 2=Duplex, 3=Complex, 4=Triplex, 5=Complex small, 6=Script simplex, 7=Script complex
fontcolor 255 255 255 Font color in BGR
smallfontcolor 0 0 255 Small Font color in BGR
fontsize 0.7 Font size
fonttype 0 Controls the smoothness of the fonts. 0=Antialiased, 1=8 Connected, 2=4 Connected.
fontline 1 font line thickness
latitude 60.7N Latitude of the camera. N for North and S for South
longitude 135.05W longitude of the camera. E for East and W for West
angle -6 Altitude of the sun above or below the horizon at which capture should start/stop. Can be negative (sun below horizon) or positive (sun above horizon). 0=Sunset, -6=Civil twilight, -12=Nautical twilight, -18=Astronomical twilight.
time 1 Replaces the text overlay
darkframe 0 Set to 1 to enable dark frame capture. In this mode, overlays are hidden and the image is saved as dark.png by default
showDetails 1 Displays the exposure, gain and temperature in the overlay

The second file called config.sh lets you configure the overall behavior of the camera. Options include functionalities such as upload, timelapse, dark frame location, keogram.

nano config.sh
Configuration Default Additional Info
UPLOAD_IMG false Set to true to upload (ftp) the current image to a server (website, blog, host, etc)
UPLOAD_VIDEO false Set to true to upload the timelapse to a server
POST_END_OF_NIGHT_DATA false Set to true to send some data to your server at the end of each night
TIMELAPSE true Build a timelapse at the end of the night
KEOGRAM true Builds a keogram at the end of the night
UPLOAD_KEOGRAM false Set to true to upload the keogram to your server
STARTRAILS true Stacks images to create a startrail at the end of the night
BRIGHTNESS_THRESHOLD 0.1 Brightness level above which images are discarded (moon, head lights, aurora, etc)
UPLOAD_STARTRAILS false Set to true to uplad the startrails to your server
AUTO_DELETE true Enables automatic deletion of old images and videos
NIGHTS_TO_KEEP 14 Number of nights to keep before starting deleting. Needs AUTO_DELETE=true to work.
DARK_FRAME dark.png Path to the dark frame use for hot pixels subtraction.
DAYTIME 1 Set to 0 to disable daytime liveview.
CAMERA_SETTINGS /home/pi/allsky/settings.json Path to the camera settings file. Note: If using the GUI, this path will change to /var/www/html/settings.json

In order to upload images and videos to your website, you'll need to fill your FTP connection details in ftp-settings.sh

nano scripts/ftp-settings.sh

saveImageNight.sh is called every time the camera takes a new image at night. You can play with this file in case your sensor is not dead center.

saveImageDay.sh is called every time the camera takes a new image during the day. Images are not archived on the SD card. They are only resized and uploaded periodically in order to monitor the sky by day.

At the end of the night endOfNight.sh is run. It calls a few other scripts based on your config.sh content.

nano is a text editor. Hit ctrl + x, followed by y and Enter in order to save your changes.

Usage

Autostart

Systemd is used to launch the software automatically when the Raspberry Pi boots up. To enable or disable this behavior, you can use these commands.

sudo systemctl enable allsky.service
sudo systemctl disable allsky.service

Note:* The service is enabled by default.

When you want to start, stop or restart the program, you can use one of the following commands:

sudo service allsky start
sudo service allsky stop
sudo service allsky restart

To know the status of the allsky software, type:

sudo service allsky status

Manual Start

Starting the program from the terminal can be a great way to track down issues as it provides debug information. To start the program manually, make sure you first stop the service and run:

./allsky.sh

If you are using a desktop environment (Pixel, Mate, LXDE, etc) or using remote desktop or VNC, you can add the preview argument in order to show the images the program is currently saving.

./allsky.sh preview

Graphical Interface

If you don't want to configure the camera using the terminal, you can install the web based graphical interface. Please note that this will change your hostname to allsky, install lighttpd and replace your /var/www/html directory. It will also move settings.json to /var/www/html.

sudo gui/install.sh

Note:* If you use an older version of Raspbian, the install script may fail on php7.0-cgi dependency. Edit gui/install.sh and replace php7.0-cgi by php5-cgi.

After you complete the GUI setup, you'll be able to administer the camera using the web UI by navigating to

http://your_raspberry_IP

or

http://allsky.local

The default username is 'admin' and the default password is 'secret'.

A public page is also available in order to view the current image without having to log into the portal. This can be useful for people who don't have a personal website but still want to share a view of their sky :

http://your_raspberry_IP/public.php

Note:* The GUI setup uses /var/www/html/settings.json for the camera settings. If, for some reason, you prefer to go back to the non-gui version, make sure to edit your config.sh file to have CAMERA_SETTINGS="settings.json" instead.

Dark frame subtraction

The dark frame subtraction feature was implemented to remove hot pixels from night sky images. The concept is the following: Take an image with a cover on your camera lens and subtract that image later to all images taken throughout the night.

You only need to follow these instructions once.

Manual method:

  • make sure config.sh has a DARK_FRAME configuration. Default is "dark.png"
  • Place a cover on your camera lens/dome
  • Set darkframe to 1 in settings.json
  • Restart the allsky service: sudo service allsky restart
  • A new file has been created at the root of the project: dark.png by default
  • Set darkframe to 0 in settings.json
  • Restart the allsky service: sudo service allsky restart
  • Remove the cover from the lens/dome

GUI method:

  • make sure config.sh has a DARK_FRAME configuration. Default is "dark.png"
  • Place a cover on your camera lens/dome
  • Open the Camera Settings tab and set Dark Frame to Yes.
  • Hit the Save button
  • A new file has been created at the root of the project: dark.png by default
  • On the Camera Settings tab and set Dark Frame to No.
  • Hit the Save button
  • Remove the cover from the lens/dome

The dark frame is now created and will always be subtracted from captured images. In case the outside temperature varies significantly and you start seeing more / less hot pixels, you can run theses instructions again to create a new dark frame.

Timelapse

By default, a timelapse is generated at dawn from all of the images captured during last night.

To disable timelapse, open config.sh and set

TIMELAPSE=false

Example to generate a timelapse manually:

./scripts/timelapse.sh 20190322

Keograms

A Keogram is an image giving a quick view of the night activity. It was originally invented to study the aurora borealis. For each image taken during the night, a central vertical column 1 pixel wide is extracted. All these columns are then stitched together from left to right. This results in a timeline that reads from dusk to dawn.

To get the best results, you will need to rotate your camera to have north at the top. That way, using a fisheye lens, you end up with the bottom of the keogram being the southern horizon and the top being the northern horizon.

Note that it will only show what happens at the meridian during the night and will not display events on the east or west.

The program takes 3 arguments:

  • Source directory
  • File extension
  • Output file

Example when running the program manually:

./keogram ./images/20180223/ jpg ./images/20180223/keogram.jpg

To disable keograms, open config.sh and set

KEOGRAM=false

Startrails

Startrails can be generated by stacking all the images from a night on top of each other. The program takes 4 arguments:

  • Source directory
  • File extension
  • Brightness treshold to avoid over-exposure: 0 (black) to 1 (white).
  • Output file

Example when running the program manually:

./startrails ./images/20180223/ jpg 0.15 ./images/20180223/startrails.jpg

To disable automatic startrails, open config.sh and set

STARTRAILS=false

Automatic deletion of archived nights

In order to keep the Raspberry Pi SD card from filling up, 2 settings have been added to config.sh. Automatic deletion is enabled by default and will keep 2 weeks of data on the card.

AUTO_DELETE=true
NIGHTS_TO_KEEP=14

Modify these values if you wish to increase/decrease the number of nights to retain on the card. Set to false to keep all nights (requires manual management of SD card free space).

Logging issues

When using the allsky service, issues are written to a log file. In case the program stopped, crashed of behaved in an abnormal way, you can take a look at this log file:

tail /var/log/allsky.log

Compile your own version

If you want to modify a compiled file, you'll need to edit the corresponding .cpp file and run the following command from the root of the allsky directory:

make all

This will compile the new code and create a new binary.

Show your sky on your own website

If you have set the upload options to true in config.sh, that means you probably already have a website. If you want to display a live view of your sky on your website like in this example, you can donwload the source files from this repository: https://github.com/thomasjacquin/allsky-website.git.

Share your sky

If you've built an allsky camera, please send me a message and I'll add you to the map.

Release notes

  • version 0.1: Initial release
  • version 0.2: Separated camera settings from code logic
  • version 0.3: Added dark frame subtraction
  • version 0.4: Added Keograms (summary of the night in one image)
  • version 0.5: Added Startrails (image stacking) with brightness control
    • Keograms and Startrails generation is now much faster thanks to a rewrite by Jarno Paananen.
  • version 0.6: Added daytime exposure and auto-exposure capability
    • Added -maxexposure, -autoexposure, -maxgain, -autogain options. Note that using autoexposure and autogain at the same time may produce unexpected results (black frames).
    • Autostart is now based on systemd and should work on all raspbian based systems, including headless distributions. Remote controlling will not start multiple instances of the software.
    • Replaced nodisplay option with preview argument. No preview in autostart mode.
    • When using the GUI, camera options can be saved without rebooting the RPi.
    • Added a publicly accessible preview to the GUI: public.php
    • Changed exposure unit to milliseconds instead of microseconds

Donation

If you found this project useful, you can give me a cup of coffee :)

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