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kstars/ekos questions

Astrophotography CMOS DSLR EQ Equipment Imaging Mount Software
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#1 Rayje1997

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Posted 21 June 2022 - 08:33 PM

Good evening!

 

I have a few questions regarding a particular piece/suite of software. All of the astrophotography that I have done thus far has been accomplished by simply using the hand controller to direct my old Celestron CG5 mount. That has worked out great for the thus far, but recently I walked away from it and the mount ran into itself because of course it isn't smart enough to do a meridian flip on its own. That's not a huge deal, but I would like to automate a little bit more. I have a few things working against me however. I am using an older Canon DSLR (an XS or 1000D depending on where you are from) and the mount I am using is of course quite old and on top of that I am using Linux on my laptop. I don't have a spare Windows key to use, so that will have to stay the same. Given these things, does anybody have any experience connecting and old DSLR and a Celestron CG5 mount to astronomy software meant for Linux? I can't seem to find much information online to answer my question, but if anybody has experience or a useful link I would appreciate it.

 

Thanks in advance!



#2 Lead_Weight

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Posted 21 June 2022 - 08:59 PM

Kstars does support DSLR cameras. And it likely supports the CG5. The software is free, so it will only cost you your time to see if everything is supported.


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#3 AtlantaAstro

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Posted 21 June 2022 - 09:13 PM

If it helps, I used Kstars/EKOS with my canon T3i and a CG5 ASGT controlled through my Mac. While it’s not Linux, im pretty sure it would work just as well. I got decent guiding out of PHD2 with the CG5 as well. All controlled through the modules inside EKOS. I still use kstars/EKOS remotely with raspberry pi that is controlled remotely through my Mac. Different mount, different camera but almost same controls for both so it can grow with you as you progress as well. You can have it be as complex or as simple as you would want from just the capture and guide modules, as well as more advanced modules like auto focusing, dew control, filter wheels, etc etc.

 

the mount was connected via cable from hand controller to usb on my computer


Edited by AtlantaAstro, 21 June 2022 - 09:15 PM.

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#4 Lead_Weight

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Posted 21 June 2022 - 09:44 PM

The Mac and Linux versions use the same INDI drivers so support for the hardware would be there either way it sounds like.


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#5 Rayje1997

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Posted 22 June 2022 - 07:52 AM

If it helps, I used Kstars/EKOS with my canon T3i and a CG5 ASGT controlled through my Mac. While it’s not Linux, im pretty sure it would work just as well. I got decent guiding out of PHD2 with the CG5 as well. All controlled through the modules inside EKOS. I still use kstars/EKOS remotely with raspberry pi that is controlled remotely through my Mac. Different mount, different camera but almost same controls for both so it can grow with you as you progress as well. You can have it be as complex or as simple as you would want from just the capture and guide modules, as well as more advanced modules like auto focusing, dew control, filter wheels, etc etc.

 

the mount was connected via cable from hand controller to usb on my computer

 

This does help a lot! Your original setup that you mentioned is very similar to what I want to use, and I even have an older raspberry pi sitting around collecting dust. I installed astroberry on it at one point, but I never actually used it outside of connecting to it and poking around in the software. From my understanding, it takes very little processing power to control the mount and camera. I will not be using a guider as I don't currently own a guide scope or camera, but just the ability to plate solve will be a boon. 

I do have another question, do you remember what driver you selected? I did download it last night and look at it, and I noticed that it does not have a specific driver for the CG5 by default. Did you have to download one? Or did you use the AVX or CGX driver? This is going to take some testing I know, but I thought I would cut out some of the time spent testing by asking someone else who has already done it lol



#6 nou

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Posted 22 June 2022 - 08:37 AM

Try use AVX one that should work with CG5 too.


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#7 herseycart

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Posted 22 June 2022 - 09:04 AM

This does help a lot! Your original setup that you mentioned is very similar to what I want to use, and I even have an older raspberry pi sitting around collecting dust. I installed astroberry on it at one point, but I never actually used it outside of connecting to it and poking around in the software. From my understanding, it takes very little processing power to control the mount and camera. I will not be using a guider as I don't currently own a guide scope or camera, but just the ability to plate solve will be a boon. 

I do have another question, do you remember what driver you selected? I did download it last night and look at it, and I noticed that it does not have a specific driver for the CG5 by default. Did you have to download one? Or did you use the AVX or CGX driver? This is going to take some testing I know, but I thought I would cut out some of the time spent testing by asking someone else who has already done it lol

It is the Nexstar GPS driver - https://www.indilib....on-nexstar.html

 

I have written up several blogs on setting this up with Astroberry on a Raspberry Pi starting here: http://www.suffolksk...rry-pi-for-eaa/

Works pretty well on both the Pi 3 and Pi 4.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Hersey


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#8 JonCarleton

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Posted 22 June 2022 - 11:48 AM

You'll find pretty good support on the indilib.org Forum for INDIserver for the supported hardware as well.


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#9 AtlantaAstro

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Posted 22 June 2022 - 03:30 PM

Yea the Nexstar driver is what I used in the past
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#10 Rayje1997

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 07:26 AM

It is the Nexstar GPS driver - https://www.indilib....on-nexstar.html

 

I have written up several blogs on setting this up with Astroberry on a Raspberry Pi starting here: http://www.suffolksk...rry-pi-for-eaa/

Works pretty well on both the Pi 3 and Pi 4.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Hersey

 

Thank you (and everybody else as well)! I will definitely give your blog a read. I have a raspberry pi 2, which may be a little under powered, but I may try it for science lol. If that doesn't work I'll just use my laptop until I get around to buying a newer pi. It is looking like there will be a few clear nights in a row where I am at, so this is going to get put off for a bit. I think its definitely a cloudy night project while testing lol.


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#11 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 11:19 AM

Thank you (and everybody else as well)! I will definitely give your blog a read. I have a raspberry pi 2, which may be a little under powered, but I may try it for science lol. If that doesn't work I'll just use my laptop until I get around to buying a newer pi. It is looking like there will be a few clear nights in a row where I am at, so this is going to get put off for a bit. I think its definitely a cloudy night project while testing lol.

I started my automation journey with a Pi-2B, and yeah it's a bit under powered.  Kstars / EKOS just wasn't happy running there, so I looked around for another solution and found CCDciel.  It's a bit lighter-weight, but still full featured enough that it did everything I needed.  It still does, and Patrick has been excellent in his support.  You might give it a try if Kstars doesn't work out.

 

I soon moved up to a Pi-3B, and used that for a while before moving to the current system on a 4gb Pi-4B.  But if you're careful, the Pi-2B should still work.  I believe I was able to have PHD2 running at the same time, and INDI of course, but nothing else.  The camera at the time was a DSLR, triggered by an Intervalometer (so no image downloading needed).


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#12 Lead_Weight

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 03:01 PM

I started my automation journey with a Pi-2B, and yeah it's a bit under powered.  Kstars / EKOS just wasn't happy running there, so I looked around for another solution and found CCDciel.  It's a bit lighter-weight, but still full featured enough that it did everything I needed.  It still does, and Patrick has been excellent in his support.  You might give it a try if Kstars doesn't work out.

 

I soon moved up to a Pi-3B, and used that for a while before moving to the current system on a 4gb Pi-4B.  But if you're careful, the Pi-2B should still work.  I believe I was able to have PHD2 running at the same time, and INDI of course, but nothing else.  The camera at the time was a DSLR, triggered by an Intervalometer (so no image downloading needed).

One thing you could consider is running INDI Server on the Pi, then running CCDCiel or Kstars on your desktop.


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#13 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 03:11 PM

One thing you could consider is running INDI Server on the Pi, then running CCDCiel or Kstars on your desktop.

+1.  Much better way to use the limited capability of the Pi-2B, but also a little more difficult to set up.


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#14 Rayje1997

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 03:35 PM

+1.  Much better way to use the limited capability of the Pi-2B, but also a little more difficult to set up.

 

This may be what I do for now. I work with computers for a living and I'm a bit of a tinkerer, so that doesn't really scare me. In the future I will probably get a more powerful pi because in the end I would like to be able to connect to it with a tablet via VNC and control it that way. I know that makes the PI do more work, but I think that is reasonable with something like a 4 or 8gb pi4.



#15 Rayje1997

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 03:44 PM

I started my automation journey with a Pi-2B, and yeah it's a bit under powered.  Kstars / EKOS just wasn't happy running there, so I looked around for another solution and found CCDciel.  It's a bit lighter-weight, but still full featured enough that it did everything I needed.  It still does, and Patrick has been excellent in his support.  You might give it a try if Kstars doesn't work out.

 

I soon moved up to a Pi-3B, and used that for a while before moving to the current system on a 4gb Pi-4B.  But if you're careful, the Pi-2B should still work.  I believe I was able to have PHD2 running at the same time, and INDI of course, but nothing else.  The camera at the time was a DSLR, triggered by an Intervalometer (so no image downloading needed).

 

That last part of your reply brings up another question. The USB port on my camera is USB 2.0 I believe. I know that if I got a pi4 it would have a couple of USB 3.0 ports, but that wouldn't really help me at all other than future proofing. Given that the questions I have are:

 

1. Can I control the camera's shutter through software and still store the files on the camera's SD card?

 

2. Would it even matter (other than producing a little bit of read noise probably) since I usually wait a couple of seconds in between shots to let the sensor cool a little?

 

I ask only because the main idea was to be able to automatically do a meridian flip, plate solve to re-center the target, and then continue with the imaging sequence. I currently use an intervalometer and I could use that, but I feel like that partially makes the automation a moot point since I would still have to go stop and restart the imaging sequence. I won't be storing the files on the pi itself btw, I would use either a USB stick or my external SSD. I feel that my 64gb USB would do just fine since I almost never capture more than a gig or two of data at a time due to my camera only being 10.1 megapixels. 



#16 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 05:09 PM

This may be what I do for now. I work with computers for a living and I'm a bit of a tinkerer, so that doesn't really scare me. In the future I will probably get a more powerful pi because in the end I would like to be able to connect to it with a tablet via VNC and control it that way. I know that makes the PI do more work, but I think that is reasonable with something like a 4 or 8gb pi4.

The 4gb Pi-4B is what I'm using, with the Astroberry distro on it.  Everything is done local, and I VNC into it for the user interface.  Usually it's from a laptop, but in a pinch have resorted to my cell phone when the laptop battery died.

 

 

That last part of your reply brings up another question. The USB port on my camera is USB 2.0 I believe. I know that if I got a pi4 it would have a couple of USB 3.0 ports, but that wouldn't really help me at all other than future proofing. Given that the questions I have are:

 

1. Can I control the camera's shutter through software and still store the files on the camera's SD card?

 

2. Would it even matter (other than producing a little bit of read noise probably) since I usually wait a couple of seconds in between shots to let the sensor cool a little?

 

I ask only because the main idea was to be able to automatically do a meridian flip, plate solve to re-center the target, and then continue with the imaging sequence. I currently use an intervalometer and I could use that, but I feel like that partially makes the automation a moot point since I would still have to go stop and restart the imaging sequence. I won't be storing the files on the pi itself btw, I would use either a USB stick or my external SSD. I feel that my 64gb USB would do just fine since I almost never capture more than a gig or two of data at a time due to my camera only being 10.1 megapixels. 

In theory yes, but it probably depends on the camera and what software you're running.  Before getting a session manager (CCDciel in my case), I wrote a short bash script that used gphoto2 to trigger the camera.  I believe there was an option to do just what you want.  *Long shot*, there is a gphoto2-based DSLR INDI driver.  Perhaps look there?

 

The meridian flip also involves stopping the autoguider, re-centering on the target, and restarting everything.  The session manager should automate all that stuff too.  Storing the files on the Pi isn't a big deal, as they're easily moved to the processing machine.  I use the network (ftp), but it's easy enough to store the files on a flash drive and use "Sneakernet" to move them.

 

To the USB 2.0 camera, it will take longer to download an image, but not horribly so.  Certainly won't prevent its use, just slow things down a bit.  My Nikon had the same issue.  10 megapixels is relatively modest, though perfectly usable.  In my case, the old Nikon really didn't like being computer controlled, so I just stayed with the Intervalometer and manually-initiated flips.  Hopefully you'll have a better experience.

 

I recommend getting something working first, then work on optimizing it later.  Here's why.  The deal with the Nikon and computer control was that it affected my overall process, not just the downloading of images.  For example,I  was using a Bahtinov mask and the zoomed-in camera Live View for focusing, but the camera refused to let me do that once it was connected to the computer without power cycling it first.  So I had to use a software-based Live View, and that didn't work very well.  Very annoying.  But I realized that I had to figure this out for when I would upgrade to an Astro camera, and found some focusing routines in CCDciel that would assist with this.  The Nikon still had limitations that made it impractical to use them, so it was back to the Intervalometer and the mask and LCD screen.  Point is, by going through that showed me what lay ahead. 


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#17 Rayje1997

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 09:10 PM

The 4gb Pi-4B is what I'm using, with the Astroberry distro on it.  Everything is done local, and I VNC into it for the user interface.  Usually it's from a laptop, but in a pinch have resorted to my cell phone when the laptop battery died.

 

 

In theory yes, but it probably depends on the camera and what software you're running.  Before getting a session manager (CCDciel in my case), I wrote a short bash script that used gphoto2 to trigger the camera.  I believe there was an option to do just what you want.  *Long shot*, there is a gphoto2-based DSLR INDI driver.  Perhaps look there?

 

The meridian flip also involves stopping the autoguider, re-centering on the target, and restarting everything.  The session manager should automate all that stuff too.  Storing the files on the Pi isn't a big deal, as they're easily moved to the processing machine.  I use the network (ftp), but it's easy enough to store the files on a flash drive and use "Sneakernet" to move them.

 

To the USB 2.0 camera, it will take longer to download an image, but not horribly so.  Certainly won't prevent its use, just slow things down a bit.  My Nikon had the same issue.  10 megapixels is relatively modest, though perfectly usable.  In my case, the old Nikon really didn't like being computer controlled, so I just stayed with the Intervalometer and manually-initiated flips.  Hopefully you'll have a better experience.

 

I recommend getting something working first, then work on optimizing it later.  Here's why.  The deal with the Nikon and computer control was that it affected my overall process, not just the downloading of images.  For example,I  was using a Bahtinov mask and the zoomed-in camera Live View for focusing, but the camera refused to let me do that once it was connected to the computer without power cycling it first.  So I had to use a software-based Live View, and that didn't work very well.  Very annoying.  But I realized that I had to figure this out for when I would upgrade to an Astro camera, and found some focusing routines in CCDciel that would assist with this.  The Nikon still had limitations that made it impractical to use them, so it was back to the Intervalometer and the mask and LCD screen.  Point is, by going through that showed me what lay ahead. 

Thanks for the information! One last question of you if you don't mine. I do not currently have a guide scope or camera. I don't see many people not using one when automating their setups. I have had pretty good luck with just doing as good of a polar alignment as I can and keeping my exposures under a couple of minutes. I will probably add guiding at a later date, but it takes some time for me to afford new things. So, my question to you is, do I have to use an autoguider to use this software? I guess really my question is, does ekos require the use of a guide camera to function, or can I just use it as a more precise way to control my mount an camera from a single piece of hardware/software?



#18 gordoabc

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Posted 23 June 2022 - 09:58 PM

Ekos doesn’t require guiding.  It will allow you to use longer exposures but it is one less thing to figure out if you start without guiding and stick to short exposures.  You can always add a guide scope and camera later as a relatively low cost upgrade,  it is pretty simple to implement.

 

Agree with using the rPi2B as an indi server controlled by kstars on laptop client.  I think you would find kstars/ekos on a 2B unsatisfactory but it should be fine as server without trying to run gui and so forth.  I would expect the 2B would struggle to plate solve which is one of the nice conveniences of kstars/ekos.  You do need a serviceable network connection between the client and server of course, wired Ethernet is best but Wi-Fi will work as long as it is solid.


Edited by gordoabc, 23 June 2022 - 10:09 PM.

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#19 AtlantaAstro

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Posted 24 June 2022 - 09:05 AM

You can save the files directly to the DSLR SD card. It doesn’t have to be downloaded to a separate source although you CAN do both which I have done in the past. I like the little bit of redundancy but also having it download to the SD card saves download time.

I currently use my pi as the INDI server to remotely connect and control everything and then use kstars on my laptop in my home to do automation. The download times can be a bit high if the wifi sucks but I’ve just been using a 50ft CAT5 cable to connect from the pi to my laptop until I can find a better solution. Most likely what I’ll do it just attach either usb or external drive to the pi. Problem is that I use a Mac as my laptop so gotta find a way to make the usb/SSD compatible between both systems
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#20 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 24 June 2022 - 12:38 PM

Thanks for the information! One last question of you if you don't mine. I do not currently have a guide scope or camera. I don't see many people not using one when automating their setups. I have had pretty good luck with just doing as good of a polar alignment as I can and keeping my exposures under a couple of minutes. I will probably add guiding at a later date, but it takes some time for me to afford new things. So, my question to you is, do I have to use an autoguider to use this software? I guess really my question is, does ekos require the use of a guide camera to function, or can I just use it as a more precise way to control my mount an camera from a single piece of hardware/software?

As others have said, guiding is not required for the software, rather it's just an other service the software offers.  Besides KStars / EKOS, there's also PHD2 which is an independent package that does autoguiding.  I use that, along with CCDciel as the top-level session manager.  KStars / EKOS is more of an all-in-one solution.

 

To the "more precise way to control my mount and camera" comment, what KStars / EKOS provides is plate solving, where it takes an image through the telescope, runs it off to a plate solver to determine the actual (exact) pointing, and then lets the mount know where it truly is aimed.  That information is used by the mount to refine its pointing, allowing you to point and precisely center on pretty much anything in the sky (even stuff you can't see in a single exposure).  Clearly, you'll need a camera connected to the computer in order to do this.  Otherwise, what KStars provides is a nice sky atlas for understanding what's out there, and a way to blind-aim the scope there to whatever accuracy the mount itself can provide (same as the hand controller).

 

Something to consider (or perhaps encourage)...  Before I had an imaging camera that would work with the computer, I used my guide scope and camera to fulfill the plate-solving role.  The guider was an ASI174mm Mini camera (which has a fairly large sensor) and a 60mm f/4.6 guide scope, which I carefully aligned to the imaging scope.  Since only one application can "own" a camera at a time, I used CCDciel with the guide camera to do the initial plate solve and aiming of the scope, then released the camera from CCDciel and connected to it with PHD2 for the active autoguiding phase.  The DSLR continued to be used "offline" with its Intervalometer for acquiring the image subs.


Edited by TelescopeGreg, 24 June 2022 - 12:40 PM.

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#21 Rayje1997

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Posted 26 June 2022 - 10:19 PM

You can save the files directly to the DSLR SD card. It doesn’t have to be downloaded to a separate source although you CAN do both which I have done in the past. I like the little bit of redundancy but also having it download to the SD card saves download time.

I currently use my pi as the INDI server to remotely connect and control everything and then use kstars on my laptop in my home to do automation. The download times can be a bit high if the wifi sucks but I’ve just been using a 50ft CAT5 cable to connect from the pi to my laptop until I can find a better solution. Most likely what I’ll do it just attach either usb or external drive to the pi. Problem is that I use a Mac as my laptop so gotta find a way to make the usb/SSD compatible between both systems

That I believe I can help with. If I remember correctly both Linux and Mac support the exfat format. If not then that answer should be just a google away.


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#22 Jeff Morgan

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Posted Yesterday, 12:54 PM

That I believe I can help with. If I remember correctly both Linux and Mac support the exfat format. If not then that answer should be just a google away.

The thumb drives I use in my ASIAir are EXFAT and I erase/reformat them on my Mac.


Edited by Jeff Morgan, Yesterday, 12:55 PM.



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