Astro RaspberryPi Camera

A wireless RaspberryPi Prime Focus Astrophotogaphy Camera

Webcams and planetary cameras are compact and take great images, but they require a laptop computer to control the camera and capture image data. The Astro Raspberry Pi camera uses the Raspberry Pi deck of cards sized computer and its camera module to create a camera that can be wirelessly controlled by a cell phone and saves data on a local memory card.

The slides and a PDF download from my 2015 talk at the Texas Star Party are on Slide Share:

With a long focal length telescope like the Questar (about 1350mm to the camera), the narrow field of view can make finding your target difficult. With my setup there was also a couple of seconds delay in viewing an image via the wireless connection to the iPhone. The delay make focusing a difficult process. A software focusing aid that could provide a visual focus quality indication would be very helpful. Good results are possible with the setup I used. A full Moon mosaic took 72 images:

Raspberry Pi Moon

The image below shows Jupiter's great red spot and its moons Io and Europa:

Jupiter imaged with a Raspberry Pi Camera

Overall I found the small sensor size of the Raspberry Pi camera very limiting for astrophotography. I'd like to be able to find a sensor with a much larger size to use with the Pi.


Good news on the RaspberryPi astrophotography front. The Instrument Neutral Distributed Interface (INDI) is a cross platform software library to control astronomical instruments. It is available for the Raspberry Pi. I'm hoping that it will provide a way to capture data from and control high functionality astronomical cameras from the Raspberry Pi. The RaspberryPi could be headless running the INDI service and providing capture storage for a USB connected camera.

An app like the CloudMakers INDI Control Panel could provide the user interface. This would be a more capable version of the ultra-portable astrophotography platform that I'd wanted when I began the RPiCam work. I have a ZWO ASI120MC planetary camera and will be trying it out with the Raspberry Pi and report back on the results.

The image below was taken with the ZWO camera (captured using a MacBook rather than the Raspberry Pi). Compare the results to the image of Jupiter above. It would be great the have this quality of result using a RaspberryPi and phone without needing a laptop.

Jupiter at opposition 2017 - Revisited

New commercial products based on the Pi

While I've been busy with other projects two commercial astrophotography controller products have come on the market:

  • StellarMate’s Next Generation Internet of Things (IoT) astrophotography gadget. The software is available separately for installation on your own Raspberry Pi.
  • ZWO's ASIair allows you to control all ASI USB 3.0 cameras, ASI Mini series cameras, and an equatorial mount to do plate solving and imaging with your phone or tablet/iPad when connected to ASIAIR via WiFi.

These products allow you to use more capable cameras than the Raspberry Pi camera module.

New RaspberryPi HQ Camera

I have the new High Quality Raspberry Pi Camera and the adapters needed to mount it on the William Optics Redcat f/4.9 250mm! The HQ camera module has a 12.3 MP back illuminated Sony IMX477 sensor with 1.55x1.55 micrometer pixels. In addition to higher resolution and lower noise, it is capable of longer exposure times than the previous RPi cams. I've made some proof of concept images with a 250 mm telescope the William Optics RedCat 51 f/4.9. The small pixel size of the HQ cam gives good detail on the moon with only 250mm of focal length.

For more about this image see my blog post. Next I plan to figure out how to package the Raspberry Pi and HQ camera module for convenient use and control it from my iPad.

Content created: 2016-06-08 and last modified: 2020-05-31

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