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Pi Solar Camera - Astronomy with the Raspberry Pi

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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 7410
 

@dronebot-workshop What I found so far is for my camera gear. When I find my small 100mm refractor it may have a wider plate but even if it does, it will be an Arca-Swiss style not a dovetail. If I am going to get back into astro in any kind of serious way, I will get a much sturdier tripod and a plate to match.

Let's hope you get a chance to use your new toy on Monday.

Be safe, only look with glasses on ALL the time.

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 7410
 

@dronebot-workshop The plates I just found are for photographic equipment and they are Arca Swiss not dovetail but I still have a 100mm spotting scope somewhere and I may have put a plate on it but again it will likely be for my photo tripod.

What I really need to do is (once I am sure I want to do this) get a very stable (big and heavy) new tripod and then match a plate to that and the AZ head.

I need to create a written plan, too many things buzzing in my head right now.

Good luck on Mon.

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 7410
 

For anyone who plans on taking photos of the Solar Eclipse, I am attaching a link that covers a lot of information to improve your photography results. https://bityl.co/PCTn

I purchased the mentioned app ($12.99CDN) and think it might be a bit too steep a learning curve at this late date. No free trial!

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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JimG
 JimG
(@jimgilliland)
Member
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 39
 

@zander That's a really useful article, thank you for posting the link.  I'm still making decisions about how to handle this without biting off too much.  The weather here is still uncertain.

My kids and grandkids live in an area that is south of totality, but only about two hours south of me.  They plan to drive north and spend the day in a park that is in the path, and I'm considering joining them there.  The park will have only a little over 2 minutes of totality, while I will have 3.5 minutes here, so that's a good reason to stay home.  But joining them in the park gives me two benefits:  The biggest one of course is to get to enjoy the event with my daughters, sons-in-law, and 4 grandkids.  The secondary benefit is that I would have some helpers.  🙂

The current forecast is word-for-word identical between my home and their park.

I have some non-eclipse work that I have to finish in the next few hours, then after that I am free to talk with my kids and try to finalize my plans.  One remain question is whether to join them on Sunday and then travel with them to the park or to drive to the park from here on Monday morning.  If I go from here, I need to leave early because the interstates are going to be a mess.  The smaller highways between their little town and the park are mostly rural and may not be too bad - again assuming an early start.  

Either way, I will have to drive the interstate home, but I think traffic favors me in both directions.  There will be many thousands of people coming into Cleveland on Monday for the eclipse, then going home after it is over.  For the most part, I would be doing the reverse.

I may get a bit of time to practice with it later today (the sun is out right now!) or tomorrow.  Having some time to practice tomorrow is one argument in favor of staying home tomorrow and driving on Monday.  

The solar filter that I have for my camera is 100K:1 ND.  Getting the focus right and the exposures well-bracketed is one area that I need to work on.  But the article also raises the question of framing the eclipse.  It would be easier to use a wide angle setting and try to capture the event rather than detailed close views of the eclipse.  I'm not sure which way to go with it.  

The solar filter that I made for my scope uses the same Thousand Oaks Optical material that is mentioned in the article.  Even with that in place, how safe is it to look through a telescope (which gathers a lot more light than my eyes can) at the sun for extended periods?  

My solar glasses are the "Soluna Glasses made in the USA by NASA-approved manufacturer American Paper Optics, and are recognized as ISO-compliant by the American Astronomical Society", which are the same ones I used in 2017.  It seems to me that these lenses should be also suitable to cover the objective of my telescope's finder, and the objective lenses of a pair of small binoculars (Vanguard 8x42).  

OK, I need to get my work done, but then I will spend more time with the article you posted.  Any other thoughts (from Ron, Bill, or anyone else) about my choices will be welcomed.


   
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codecage
(@codecage)
Member Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
Posts: 1040
 

@dronebot-workshop and others...

I finally got my camera to focus on something and have successfully gotten the Pi streaming video.  My issue now is getting VLC to record what I am streaming.

SteveG


   
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JimG
 JimG
(@jimgilliland)
Member
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 39
 

Posted by: @codecage

@dronebot-workshop and others...

I finally got my camera to focus on something and have successfully gotten the Pi streaming video.  My issue now is getting VLC to record what I am streaming.

OBS is a very good free app for recording video.  

 


   
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JimG
 JimG
(@jimgilliland)
Member
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 39
 

My own experiments have not gone well today.  The camera seems to be a no win.  I can't get the focus right, the images are noisy, and the intervalometer doesn't work well with the camera's own bracketing system.  I may keep trying.  Too many clouds up there today to get a good handle on it.  

I've already determined that the HQ Pi camera won't work well with my long focal length telescope, so the scope would be useful only for direct observing.  I'm not sure whether or not that will be worthwhile.  

My only real success is with the Vanguard binoculars.  With the Soluna lenses taped over the objective lenses, the binoculars give a really good view of the sun.  The 8x power seems to be about perfect.  


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 7410
 

@jimgilliland Are you using an external intervalometer like the Canon TC-80N3? It used to be the gold standard, but today there a great many worthy competitors. I also have one built into my camera but it is not as good as the 80.

As long as you set the interval between pictures long enough to accommodate your bracketing there should be no problem. But if you are using an in-camera intervalometer then I can see that could be a problem.

Are you focused at infinity? Noisy is usually a super high ISO. I hope you are using the camera on manual, any auto mode will very likely not work well.

My favourite astro gear is my 8x56 binoculars. It's like having two 60mm scopes (the most common amateur size scope). What makes them super special is I mount them on a counter balanced rig that allows me to have people take a look without them ever touching the binoculars. All I have to do is move the support arm up and down to accommodate their height. Here is a link https://bityl.co/PCn7

For those afraid of links, I attached a picture.

Screenshot 2024 04 06 at 17.17.49

 

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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JimG
 JimG
(@jimgilliland)
Member
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 39
 

@zander That's a very cool mount!  Expensive, though.  I have a pair of Celestron 16x70 binoculars that are very good, but they also require a tripod.  The only way I've ever had good luck with them handheld was lying on my back on the ground.  That was pretty amazing in a dark sky location with no moon.  I hadn't really thought about trying to put filters on those.  I don't have any more filter sheets (except maybe one from 2017 that I can't find), so I'd have to cut up a pair of these glasses and mount them on something that would cover the full lens.  It would cut off a lot of the aperture, but that shouldn't matter for this purpose.  

I tried both manual and auto focus with the camera.  The article you posted gave very clear instructions for how to get the best focus.  I think I could tinker with the exposure to get a less noisy image and with enough practice might even get focus.  But time is running out.  

I figured out what I was doing wrong with bracketing.  It should work fine now.

I'm still working on it all.  But I'm also adopting the attitude that if I don't think I can get good results, I'm willing to set it aside and let the experts do it.  There won't be any shortage of good photographs of this eclipse.


   
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JimG
 JimG
(@jimgilliland)
Member
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 39
 

Since I got such good results with my small binoculars, I decided to make a pair of filters for the big 16x70 ones.  They don't have the metal structure of the one that I made for the scope, but they are a lot smaller so I think they'll be OK.  But the only filter material I had was a pair of the cardboard glasses.  I imagine that a filter that small on the objective lens may cause some vignetting, but I won't know how much until I get to try them tomorrow.  

I made the part that fits around the tube by taking a length of that felt ribbon with the adhesive side facing out and covering it with a slightly longer piece with the adhesive facing in.  The resulting cylinder is pretty sturdy and fits the binoculars perfectly.


   
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codecage
(@codecage)
Member Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
Posts: 1040
 

To all like minded astronomers,

Somewhat of a success!  Not focused or entirely in frame, but my first capture none the less.

 

FirstCaptureOfSun

 Maybe I might capture something tomorrow.

SteveG


   
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JimG
 JimG
(@jimgilliland)
Member
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 39
 

I didn't get too far with my big binoculars.  The vignetting is severe enough that it was almost impossible to even find the sun with them.  And when I did find it, the view was no better than with the smaller binoculars.  

So it seems that the small ones will be my best view.  The Vanguard binoculars have very good optics.  I could clearly see sunspots through them.  And they don't need a mount, a computer, a motor, or even electricity.  🙂

Unfortunately, the word "sun" no longer appears in our forecast for tomorrow.  The best we can hope for is "brightening skies".  

This post was modified 3 months ago by JimG

   
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JimG
 JimG
(@jimgilliland)
Member
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 39
 

Posted by: @zander

My favourite astro gear is my 8x56 binoculars. It's like having two 60mm scopes (the most common amateur size scope).  

If you can make some filters to fit these, I think you'll find them perfect for the eclipse.  

 


   
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(@dronebot-workshop)
Workshop Guru Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
Posts: 1104
Topic starter  

Well, I just finished a test run with the Sky-Watcher mount, and I have to admit that I'm very impressed!  Tried it with both the solar telescope and the camera.

There are several different ways to align it, but I didn't use any of them. Instead, I just pointed at the Sun, selected "Sun," and told it to track. And it worked! I made a long video, and the Sun stayed in the center. At one point, the Sun passed behind some treetops, and you can see the shadows move across it while the Sun stays in the center of the screen.

The setup was simple; I just took it outside and leveled it. I will try to align it later to take advantage of its many features. It would be cool to just select "Mars" from the menu and have it point at it!

We are having a beautiful, cloudless day today. It's touch-and-go for tomorrow; this cloudless weather is supposed to hold until sometime after 3 PM, when some light clouds may move in. The total eclipse is at 3:26!

😎

Bill

 

 

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 7410
 

@dronebot-workshop Mars is 1/2 the size of earth, try Saturn or Jupiter or M31. At this point my finger has the order key half pressed. I am waiting to hear what you think of the tripod (tracking Saturn would be a good test)

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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