Getting Started

As more Single-Board-Computers such as the Raspberry PI, ODroid, Beaglebone..etc become more powerful with every release, they become closer to replacing the traditional desktop PC for trivial non-graphic intensive tasks. One of the nuisances of astrophotography is the necessity to be in close proximity to your equipment during the typical astrophotography workflow. Your telescope, CCD, focuser..etc are usually connected to a desktop or laptop running your favorite astrophotography software. In addition to freezing temperatures you might encountered in your neck of the wood in winter, it is often far more convenient to operate everything remotely from the comfort of your living room, and it's even better if it's done wirelessly.

Nowadays, the hardware and software technology stacks make this possible thanks to INDI/Ekos and cheap Single board Computers. INDI is the software that talks to your devices and controls them. INDI is a server and does not require a Graphical-User-Interface (GUI) nor a powerful PC, and hence INDI can run on devices such as the Raspberry PI. Ekos is the graphical client used to control the devices exposed by INDI. It offers powerful capabilities to capture, focus, guide, and plate-solve your images. Ekos requires a modern Linux distribution with KDE. Any desktop or laptop that can run Ubuntu/Kubuntu can run Ekos without any issues.

DBUS is a very powerful and versatile inter-process communication system used in Linux and other OSes. DBUS replaced DCOP in KDE4 and has since became the standard for IPC messages in KDE. With KStars (>v.2.3.0), it exposes a new INDI DBUS interface in addition to the existing KStars's DBUS interface giving you a fine control over most of KStars functionality.

In this tutorial, we will learn how to perform basic control of a telescope and CCD using DBUS and Python. We will utilize an external FITS viewer fv, you can install it in Ubuntu:

Introduction

There’s always point where you have to decide in any expensive undertaking, such as amateur astronomy, where it’s best to apply your hard earned currency. For any given piece of equipment, you have to determine what feature set is required, decide what commercial products, if any, suit your needs and finally, what your best purchase option may be. For me, there’s always been a desire to see if I can build a more cost effective solution first, before I proceed to purchase.

With that in mind, it’s been my goal for some time, to complete my automated and remote solution for my personal astronomical observatory. Not having found a cost effective remote focusing solution on the market, I decided to see about low cost DIY alternatives. During my search and evaluation I turned to the INDI platform for ideas.

The Raspberry PI (RPi) is an ARM-based credit-card-sized single board computer. It costs around $35 (PI 2) and therefore it is a very attractive choice for amateur astronomers to control their equipment either locally or remotely. It can be used over Ethernet or WiFi to control your equipment remotely. 

Due to power limitations of the RPi, it is recommended to connect all devices to a powered USB hub. INDI Library v1.0.0 packages in addition to 3rd party drivers are available for the RPi (Raspbian). You typically would run an INDI server on the RPi and connect to it remotely from Ekos. While it is technically possible to build Ekos in RPi, it would not run smoothly; therefore it is recommended to run INDI server on the RPi and Ekos on a more powerful machine.

With EQMod & Ekos, you can finally put the alignment woes to rest. No more two or three star alignment, no more trying to recenter that star in the eye piece, all you have to do is to point your mount north, and Ekos does that rest. After the first sync, you can expect your desired object to be dead center. You don't have to build any complicated models, every time you slew to a target, you can use Ekos Alignment Module to verify the location and slew to the real coordinates if necessary. This is all made possible thanks to the astrometry.net solver.

So What do you need in order to achieve sub-arcseconds GOTOs?

  • Recent version of KStars.
  • INDI Library v0.9.7 or higher.
  • Astrometry.net v0.45 or higher (for offline plate solving). Ekos supports both online and offline solvers.
  • Mount that supports EQMod.
  • CCD.


INDI library v0.9.7 or above supports joystick integration under Linux. To control your telescope under INDI, you need the following:

  • Wired or wireless controller supported by Linux.
  • Telescope driver that supports joystick integration.

To date, all LX200 based (LX200 GPS, Autostar..etc), Celestron, and EQMOd drivers support joystick integration.

So, how do you control your telescope? In this tutorial, I will be connecting my ThurstMaster Wireless Joystick to an LX200 GPS telescope.

Follow the steps below:

Start KStars

Go to Device Manager under the Tools Menu --> Devices.

Select your telescope driver from the Telescope devices tree.

Select the joystick driver from Auxiliary devices tree.

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3rd Party

Choose from the numerous 3rd party INDI drivers to suit your needs!

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