Stellar Captures: Enhancing Astrophotography with LattePanda 3 Delta

userHead LattePanda 2023-08-01 17:25:04 1108 Views2 Replies

Stellar Captures: Enhancing Astrophotography with LattePanda 3 Delta

 

**This article was originally written by Paolo Banci. All rights belong to the original author.

 

1. Background:

   I have been a passionate photographer for several years, with my recent fascination being the stars. The beauty and mystery of the cosmos have driven me to capture its essence through my camera lens. However, the process of star photography is not as simple as it appears, and to enhance the quality of my work, I decided to embark on this project.

 

2. Introduction of your project:

   The project involves setting up a sophisticated astrophotography system using a Skywatcher 150 PDS telescope, a ZWO 533 MCPRO cooled camera, and a LattePanda 3 Delta mini PC. The goal is to capture high-quality, precise images of celestial objects by managing the telescope mount, tracking the subjects, and controlling the image capture process.

 

3. Hardware and Software list:

   - Hardware: Skywatcher 150 PDS telescope, ZWO 533 MCPRO cooled camera, ZWO ASI 120MM Mini, 32mm UltraGuide Artesky, Baader coma corrector MPCC MARK III 2", Pocket Powerbox Advance Pegasus Astro, LattePanda 3 Delta mini PC

  - Software: Windows 10, Green Swamp Server (for mount management), Phd2 (for telescope guidance), ASTAP (for subject centering), N.I.N.A. (for managing photo shooting), and Ascom platform (for data exchange between applications).

From home I use Lattepanda with Remote Desktop service. The telescope in the garage waiting to be taken out for the evening.

 

 

4. Tutorials (steps) of making this project:

   I am happy to provide a brief overview of the steps involved in this project, but bear in mind, a comprehensive tutorial would be quite lengthy.

   - Set up your Skywatcher 150 PDS telescope and connect it with the ZWO 533 MCPRO cooled camera.

   - Connect your LattePanda 3 Delta mini PC to the system and install Windows 10.

 

   - Install the necessary software applications, including Green Swamp Server, Phd2, ASTAP, N.I.N.A., and the Ascom platform.

   - Use Green Swamp Server to manage the telescope mount and locate the object of interest.

   - Use Phd2 to guide the telescope, selecting a group of stars to accurately track the subject throughout the night.

   - Use ASTAP to center the subject. The program will resolve the photos and inform you how far away the subject is.

   - Use N.I.N.A. to manage the photography process. This program can be programmed to manage a variety of additional functions, including maintaining a database of celestial objects.

- Use Ascom to facilitate data exchange between the various applications.

With all these steps done, it's time to get started.

Waiting for it to get dark, the mount is aligned so that it points north, we have to adjust the axes of the mount to free the hole of the polar telescope and to horizontal the polar scope as in the photo.

Looking inside there are a series of circles, and our goal is to bring the North Star where the application will tell us. The polar star must be brought into the corresponding circle, and for this you can help yourself with an application such as Polar Finder.

 

The position indicated by Polar Finder is relative to the moment in which I posted the photo. Clearly the evening will be different. It's like a clock. Also because the Polar star is not as still as one might think, but rotates around the galactic celestial axis very little, which is why the presence  of the 3 circles.

At this point we will load the various programs, first of all Unity from Pegagus Astro.

 

It is used to manage the data exchange having an integrated USB hub, and the power supply of all the devices including the anti-dew bands.

Following Greenswamp server

 

that by pressing connect, will connect to the mount.

Phd2 for the guide

 

and finally N.I.N.A.

 

 

With this we will do the electronic polar alignment procedure, which will make what we did with the polar scope more precise. In fact, unless you have a very expensive mount, alignment with the polar telescope is not very precise, for photographic purposes. It may be enough to observe with an eyepiece using the telescope. In the photo you can see N.I.N.A who has already taken some photos.

 

5. Why do you choose LattePanda in your project?

   I chose the LattePanda 3 Delta for this project after viewing several YouTube videos that showcased its capabilities. The LattePanda is a mini PC that provides the necessary performance to manage all these applications simultaneously. Its speed, especially when using ASTAP to return the coordinates of celestial objects, is impressive. It is very light and compact. So also perfect for photo trips.

 

I have not encountered particular difficulties using Lattepanda, indeed in a new project, I would like to use Arduino Leonardo to drive a DIY electronic focuser for another small telescope. I appreciated the possibility to feed the Lattepanda with the autopower function. Having built a small observatory in the garden, I don't have to turn it on every time using the button.

It is very compact, therefore also practical to carry during photographic excursions. It consumes little during use, so perfect for my purposes.

 

• Stellar Captures

Here are several stellar snapshots. May they bring you immense inspiration and a profound sense of awe for the cosmos.

 

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