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What's your Linux astrophotograhy software stack look like?

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#1 pointedstick

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 08:00 PM

Howdy folks! I'm in research mode for a beginner-level astrophotography setup and I think I have my hardware mostly decided upon (iOptron Cem26/Gem28, Astro-Tech AT72EDII, ZWO ASI294MC; flattener and OAG are TBD). However I'm having a hard time picturing how to piece together a software stack to wire everything together. I'm a Linux user and KDE developer and I'd like to avoid introducing additional dependencies on Windows and MacOS.

 

Are there any special drivers or pieces of software required for camera control, or can gPhoto2 control everything--including the dedicated astrophotography cameras? What about, like, rotating filter wheels? Are all-in-one apps like Siril any good? Would KStars be relevant? I'm already using Stellarium for planning visual sessions.

 

I'm kind of an automation nut, so ultimately I would like to produce a pipeline that executes a pre-planned imaging session at a specific time, takes all necessary images, sorts them into suitably-named folders, remotely copies them to another machine, and so on. Running everything off a tiny all-in-one PC would seem to make a bit of sense. Ultimately I'd like to be able to tell the system to image some target, go to sleep, and have all the images waiting for processing in the morning on my laptop when I wake up. That would be rad. To me, piecing something like this would be a part of the fun. smile.gif



#2 martym

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 08:22 PM

I have a friend using KStars in combination with a Raspberry Pi controlling the camera and pointing. Seems to be working to his satisfaction.  I use Mint 20 Cinnamon running the Guide 9.0 planetarium through WINE but I don't image. My latest question that I have been searching for the answers on forum is how to verify a Microcode download before installing. I don't find a SHA 256 to hash with.

 

m.



#3 bips3453

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 08:23 PM

You would love to look at INDI/EKOS/Kstars suite... 


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#4 bobzeq25

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 08:26 PM

ASCOM is a system for interfacing devices to computers.  Most anything you'd want to buy has an available ASCOM driver.

 

Windows will give you far more options for software.  You can do this on Linux (or MAC) but that dramatically limits your choices.

 

Much AP software comes from small companies (or individuals), who don't have the resources to make versions other than Windows.

 

Learning DSO AP is hard enough, without dealing with limited options.  You will not lack for challenges.  <smile>

 

There are a number of "imaging suites" that will let you automate DSO AP.  I have, and like this one.  I'm far from alone.  Extremely capable, reliable, great error recovery if it's needed (like when a cloud drifts past).  Done by an astrophotographer, for astrophotographers.  Windows only.

 

https://software.starkeeper.it/

 

No need to piece something together (although Voyager integrates some other programs, like PhD2 for guiding, or PlateSolve2 for platesolving, which you download separately).  This does it all.  Want to rotate your dome?  It's in there.  <smile>

 

Rolling your own would be like reinventing the airplane.  <smile>  Imaging is far more complicated than most beginners realize.  The good news is that you will never, ever run out of new things to learn.  This book is a superb place to start your journey of acquiring knowledge.  The best $40 you'll ever spend on DSO AP.  I've selected it for you from a _large_ bookshelf.

 

https://www.amazon.c...d/dp/0999470906


Edited by bobzeq25, 13 June 2021 - 08:36 PM.


#5 emr7

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 08:29 PM

I had similar dilemma myself when planning putting everything together as only use Linux on my desktop and haven't had WinPC in years:

 

As for controlling the Mount, AstroCam (Zwo/qhy, etc), filter wheel, guide cam the required ASCOM drivers are definitely geared towards Windows for controlling everything so in the end got a cheap Windows laptop to drive everything in the field, but there is https://www.astroberry.io/ which is  linux based option but the additional cost and time to learn it....not familiar with Rasberry pi myself and only semi competent with Linux but may be an option?

 

 

As for post processing on Linux, thankfully there are some options:

 

Siril for stacking (just learning it myself and it's very hard with no documentation) but does seem to work.

 

Star Tools for processing the Stack, alittle easier and not too expensive

 

Those two are all I am using right now

 

But both AstroPixelProcessor and Pixinsight (Way too expensive) do have Linux versions

 

 

I may try (APP) next.



#6 bobzeq25

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 08:42 PM

I had similar dilemma myself when planning putting everything together as only use Linux on my desktop and haven't had WinPC in years:

 

As for controlling the Mount, AstroCam (Zwo/qhy, etc), filter wheel, guide cam the required ASCOM drivers are definitely geared towards Windows for controlling everything so in the end got a cheap Windows laptop to drive everything in the field, but there is https://www.astroberry.io/ which is  linux based option but the additional cost and time to learn it....not familiar with Rasberry pi myself and only semi competent with Linux but may be an option?

 

 

As for post processing on Linux, thankfully there are some options:

 

Siril for stacking (just learning it myself and it's very hard with no documentation) but does seem to work.

 

Star Tools for processing the Stack, alittle easier and not too expensive

 

Those two are all I am using right now

 

But both AstroPixelProcessor and Pixinsight (Way too expensive) do have Linux versions

 

 

I may try (APP) next.

Note that the $250 price of PixInsight is trivial.  Honest.

 

You'll be spend thousands of dollars on equipment.  But that's only 50% of the process.  Processing is the other 50%, $250 to do it better is...  trivial.

 

The true cost of PI, though is the time spent learning and using it.  I have several hundreds of hours in it.  Beginners have so much to learn that PI is just taking on too much.

 

So I recommend APP, an excellent calibrating/stacking/processing program that's much easier to learn and use.  Doing it all with one piece of software is a major advantage.


Edited by bobzeq25, 13 June 2021 - 08:43 PM.


#7 RonaldNC

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 08:57 PM

I've been using a Raspberry Pi with StellarMate OS loaded on it for several months and like it.  StellarMate is simply a supported version of KStars/EKOS using INDI for component integration.  It controls my object scheduling, mount control, polar aligns, slews, plate solves, auto-focus, filters, guiding and capture.

 

Once the images are captured, I have settled on using APP for stacking... then StarTools for stretching and post processing.  Pretty happy with where I landed.

 

Good luck!

 

Ron


Edited by RonaldNC, 13 June 2021 - 09:00 PM.

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#8 pointedstick

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 09:05 PM

Rolling your own would be like reinventing the airplane.  <smile>  Imaging is far more complicated than most beginners realize.  The good news is that you will never, ever run out of new things to learn. 

That's fine. :) In fact, it's one of the reasons I'm here. Learning new things is my favorite part of any hobby.

 

Thanks for the book recommendation. I've seen it made before and will pick it up.



#9 pointedstick

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 09:31 PM

It looks like KStars will do pretty much everything I want. Time to get familiar with its codebase. :)



#10 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 13 June 2021 - 10:53 PM

Since you're familiar with Linux, that's a FAR better path than fussing with Windows.  The quickest way to get something running is to grab a 4GB Raspberry Pi 4B and throw either Astroberry (free) or Stellarmate (low cost) on it.  KStars / EKOS is a great top level session manager, and there is also CCDciel that I feel has a user interface that's a bit easier to understand.

 

The apps are also available for the regular Linux distros, so running them on an x86 PC or Laptop is nearly as trivial.  I actually have them installed both ways, so I can use the same tools on my desktop as at the mount. 

 

Once the images are taken, you'll need to stack and process them.  Deep Sky Stacker is a favorite for many, but it's not (yet) available on Linux, and behaves poorly under Wine.  I've found that ASTAP is a jack of all trades, and besides being an excellent plate solver, also does a pretty good job at stacking.  There is also StarTools for processing, which is ideal if you're not into the nitty details of working with images at the pixel manipulation level.  GIMP is available in a pinch, but best reserved for final touch-ups.

 

I do agree with Bob on one thing.  Get the Charles Bracken book.  It's an excellent reference for the bazillion little details that the hobby is involved with.


Edited by TelescopeGreg, 13 June 2021 - 10:55 PM.


#11 emr7

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Posted 14 June 2021 - 01:09 AM

Note that the $250 price of PixInsight is trivial.  Honest.

 

You'll be spend thousands of dollars on equipment.  But that's only 50% of the process.  Processing is the other 50%, $250 to do it better is...  trivial.

 

The true cost of PI, though is the time spent learning and using it.  I have several hundreds of hours in it.  Beginners have so much to learn that PI is just taking on too much.

 

So I recommend APP, an excellent calibrating/stacking/processing program that's much easier to learn and use.  Doing it all with one piece of software is a major advantage.

Yeah also should have stated read APP is easier so with already so much to learn/do if the processing can be simplified a bit that is valuable as well.


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#12 Chris Ryan

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Posted 14 June 2021 - 04:05 AM

I run kstars/ekos on kubuntu on an intel nuc.  Works very well.

 

For processing, I've got another beefier kubuntu box setup with PixInsight.  If you get to using PixInsight you'll find it works fastest under Linux - certainly much faster than under Windows.

 

I also have another setup under Windows to use Voyager (as mentioned elsewhere in this thread) and to use some gear that doesn't have INDI drivers.  Voyager is definitely an excellent system for automation.



#13 wxcloud

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Posted 14 June 2021 - 12:20 PM

I can kind of get by using a Linux work flow. However I've been dealing with a few issues and the biggest one is, I'm not fluent in Linux. Two factors I'm having issues with and could be related to the previous sentence is trying to get my laptop to talk to the pi (with astroberry) via ethernet and two even if I forgo that and just use a laptop (mint 20) automation is a moot point since for some reason there is a gremlin somewhere and auto focus does not work, something somewhere breaks or disconnects something else, shuffles ports around I don't know.

However the rare image I do get, I usually copy the folder to thumb drive, load images on the Linux desktop box (Manjaro in this case). Usually use astap for stacking, a little siril, starnet++ kind of works but I often fiddle try to get the script to function, gimp for "processing"

I can acquire images, control the rig (somewhat if I ignore autofocus) edit images with Linux. There are instances where I need wine to run some programs.

I opt for this route while it may be limited but sessions are limited and few and far between and don't want to load up a windows box after 4 months with no use and get hit with a bunch of updates or mixed up usb connections or other surprises. Not to say Linux don't have those issues. Guess it's more of what you're comfortable using.

#14 mikefulb

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Posted 15 June 2021 - 08:45 PM

An alternative you might want to evaluate for data capture would be CCDCiel (by author of Cartes du Ciel).    It is a capable solution and the author gives excellent support.  It supports ASCOM/Alpaca/INDI so it is very OS agnostic.

 

Go on the INDI website and join the forums and you will find a large group of people sharing the same objectives.  Maybe with your KDE background you find you want to contribute to kstars/ekos.  I'm an old GNOME developer and I even pitched in some.  :)



#15 astrokeith

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Posted 16 June 2021 - 02:57 AM

Another plus one for the Astroberry/Kstars/Ekos/Indi suite. I'm often surprised by how it 'just works' even with new kit.

 

I have this loaded on RPi4B 4GBs at the mounts and then remote into them.

 

Some will try you to dissuade you away from linux into the Windows world. This may be necessary for some very specific software, but it can usually be then done on another machine. I had to get my self a NUC pc just to run my AllSkEye software, but even that is being served by an RPI at the camera on the roof (running IndigoSky - an Indi based OS). I have 13 RPi's doing various tasks around the place and most are running home-brew code to at least some extent.



#16 Der_Pit

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Posted 16 June 2021 - 06:24 AM


Are there any special drivers or pieces of software required for camera control, or can gPhoto2 control everything--including the dedicated astrophotography cameras?

No, gphoto2 would be for DSLRs, at least some of them. Astro cameras have their own drivers and SDKs.  But in any case, you'd be using either via INDI.  Same for the mount and wheels.  The stuff you mention is supported, for stuff you intend to buy I'd first look at the database of supported hardware ([url=https://indilib.org/individuals/devices.html]here[/url).

 

 


I'm kind of an automation nut, so ultimately I would like to produce a pipeline that executes a pre-planned imaging session at a specific time, takes all necessary images, sorts them into suitably-named folders, remotely copies them to another machine, and so on. Running everything off a tiny all-in-one PC would seem to make a bit of sense. Ultimately I'd like to be able to tell the system to image some target, go to sleep, and have all the images waiting for processing in the morning on my laptop when I wake up. That would be rad. To me, piecing something like this would be a part of the fun. smile.gif

Oh, now that's bad, as EKOS (part of KStars) already does all that wink.gif

 

The nice thing is it's all open source, so if you find stuff missing you can easily(*) add it yourself and submit pull requests.

(*) OK, easily is relative, but as you're KDE developer you should be familiar with many things already; KStars is a KDE program suite

 

My own setup consists of a small ASUS PN40 at the mount that is connected to all the devices (mount, 2 telescopes with camera, focuser, and filter wheel each).  I control things from inside the building on a computer running KStars, connected via GBit Ethernet.  That is fast enough to transfer data directly to the inside computer.  That is a semi-permanent setup though, for a temporary one I'd also recommend running everything independently on the mount computer (that should be a bit more powerful then).  


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#17 Dunc

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Posted 16 June 2021 - 06:48 AM

Hi Pointedstick,

 

I was a linux newbie but got an RPi4 with 4gb running with Unbuntu Mate, ccdciel, cartes du ciel, phd2 for portable use without any bother. My portable hardware is either SW Heq5 orvStar Adventurer supporting ZWO ASI294MC Pro with an Altair Astro GPCam2 guidecam, arduino based 'Moonlight' focuser and Sharpstar 61EDPH or a lens. Gave up on Kstars and EKOS as its not logical to start the planetarium to get into the capture program (if you can do something else it wasn't obvious!), also CCDCiel works on Windows as well :) which is where I am from as it were. No problem with any of it, just works.

 

Duncan


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#18 airscottdenning

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Posted 16 June 2021 - 12:36 PM

I've been imaging for about 13 years and I run everything on linux and mac. I haven't used windows for astronomy in many years.

 

At the scope I use KStars for DSO capture on a small intel box (backyard) or a Pi4 (in the field). Control via NoMachine (there are dozens of other remote options) over wifi.

 

For planetary or lunar (high-speed video) I use FireCapture. The pi isn't fast enough for video capture, so I stuck with the intel box for that.

 

At home I capture everything onto a synology NAS. In the field I capture to a tiny SSD connected to the Pi.

 

For processing I use PixInsight on the mac.

 

100% of this software runs on linux. There is absolutely no need (nor advantage) to ASCOM unless you are locked into Windows. INDI drivers support more equipment than ASCOM and are constantly being added/imroved by a very active community of developers.


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#19 glancey

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 02:39 AM

Just installed ccdciel and it's dependencies on an i5 NUC at the scope as my server and on an i7 NUC in the house as my client. In both cases I installed the software on Ubuntu 20.04. I just followed the Ubuntu instructions, using a dual boot install so I can go back and forth between Ubuntu and Windows 10. I'm just waiting for the skies to clear to start using ccdciel, but testing all the connections using INDI, I can't believe how fast everything is compared to my Windows systems, where I run ASCOM, Sharpcap and N.I.N.A. And goodby Remote Desktop.

 

A few simple apt-get commands in the terminal was all it took to install ccdciel. It was quick and problem-free. And I do like the compact, clean interface of ccdciel. Linux for AP seems to be coming into its own.


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