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Building An All Sky Camera

The folks over at The Astro Imaging Channel invited me to present and I decided to talk about a recent project which was: building an all sky camera.

This is a project that anyone can handle with minimal tool abilities. You need to be able to drill some holes and apply silicone sealer and figure out how you will mount the camera but that’s the extent of the tool handy-entity skills you need. I’m not the tool belt lesbian in the relationship. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Really.

The total cost for my build was $655. The four biggest items were the camera ($349), the lens ($55), the Pi ($95), and the housing ($57). If you used a smaller housing your cost would be less than $20 for the housing. If you used the ASI224MC then your cost would be around $250 for the camera. Compare this to the cost of a commercial all sky camera of over $1,000 and that is without a computer to actually capture the images. If you have some of these parts already your out of pocket cost could be significantly less.

Here are links to the parts I used. Given that I was putting extra hardware inside the housing I used a larger box than would be needed for a camera and Pi alone. I’ll include links to some alternate hardware choices as well. Note that the links are affiliate links.

ASI385MC camera from Highpoint Scientifichttps://www.pjtra.com/t/TUJGR0lMS0JHSUpGR01CR0ZKTkxK?sid=allsky&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.highpointscientific.com%2Fzwo-asi385-color-cmos-astronomy-camera-asi385mc
ASI385MC from OPThttps://optcorp.com/products/zwo-asi385mc?rfsn=4519837.e45e7f&utm_source=refersion&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=4519837.e45e7f
housingQILIPSU Hinged Cover Stainless Steel Latch 370x270x150mm Junction Box with Mounting Plate, ABS Plastic DIY Electrical Project Case IP67 Waterproof Dustproof Enclosure Grey (14.6″x10.6″x5.9″)
cable glandsMAKERELE Cable Gland Kit 45PCS Nylon Waterproof Adjustable 3-15mm Cable Glands Joints,White
2.5in acrylic domeSupremeTech Acrylic Dome/Plastic Hemisphere – Clear – 2.5″ Diameter, 3/8 Flange with Pre-Drilled Holes
lensStarDot LEN-2M1.55MMCS 1.55-1.55mm f/1.5-1.5 Fisheye Body only Camera Lens, Black
raspberry piVilros Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Basic Starter Kit with Fan Cooled Heavy Duty Aluminum Alloy Case (Black Case)
reflective heat barrierDouble Bubble Reflective Thermal Aluminum Foil Radiant Heat Vapor Barrier Insulation: (16″ X 10 Ft) Heavy Duty (Water Proof No Tear): Walls Windows Garages Attics Air Ducts HVAC Vehicle Etc
mounting bracketsFox Baby Universal Vertical Pole Mounting Bracket for CCTV Security Camera PTZ Dome, Wall Mounting Loop Bracket with 8 Loops (2 Pcs)
camera mountAdjustable Indoor/Outdoor Security Metal Wall Mount Compatible with Arlo Pro/Pro 2/Pro 3/Pro 4/Ultra/Ultra 2, & Others – Ring Stick Up Cam Battery, eufyCam E/2C, Wyze Cam Outdoor/Pan (2 Pack, White)
velcro tapeVELCRO Brand Heavy Duty Tape with Adhesive | 15 Ft x 2 In | Holds 10 lbs, Black | Industrial Strength Roll, Cut Strips to Length | Strong Hold for Indoor or Outdoor Use
assorted drill bits for making cable gland holesNicunom 13-Piece Spade Drill Bit Set, Paddle Flat Bits for Woodworking, Hole Cutter, Assorted Bits 1/4″ to 1″ with Plastic Storage Case
power stripPower Strip with USB C, AUOPRO Flat Extension Cord 4 Outlets Strips and 3 USB Ports, 5ft Long Braided Power Cord, Compact Charging Station for Computer Travel Cruise Home Office-ETL Listed
links to components I used

The following table provides links to some alternate choices. For example, if space permits on your housing, a dome larger than 80mm might be a better choice. And if you don’t need room for extra equipment a smaller housing might make sense. There are also some camera alternatives that make good choices.

ASI178MC from Highpoint Scientifichttps://www.pjtra.com/t/TUJGR0lMS0JHSUpGR01CR0ZKTkxK?sid=allsky&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.highpointscientific.com%2Fzwo-asi178mc-color-camera-astronomy-microscopy
ASI178MC from OPThttps://optcorp.com/products/zwo-asi178mc?rfsn=4519837.e45e7f&utm_source=refersion&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=4519837.e45e7f
ASI224MC from Highpoint Scientifichttps://www.pntrac.com/t/TUJGR0lMS0JHSUpGR01CR0ZKTkxK?sid=allsky&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.highpointscientific.com%2Fzwo-asi224mc-astronomy-color-camerahttps://www.pntrac.com/t/TUJGR0lMS0JHSUpGR01CR0ZKTkxK?sid=allsky&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.highpointscientific.com%2Fzwo-asi224mc-astronomy-color-camera
ASI224MC from OPThttps://optcorp.com/products/zwo-asi224mc
3 inch domeSupremeTech Acrylic Dome/Plastic Hemisphere – Clear – 3″ Diameter, 1/2″ Flange with Pre-Drilled Holes
4 inch domeSupremeTech Acrylic Dome/Plastic Hemisphere – Clear – 4″ Diameter, 1/2″ Flange with Pre-Drilled Holes
5 inch domeSupremeTech Acrylic Dome/Plastic Hemisphere – Clear – 5″ Diameter, 1/2″ Flange with Pre-Drilled Holes
smaller housingZulkit Junction Box ABS Plastic Dustproof Waterproof IP67 Junction Boxes Universal Electrical Project Enclosure Durable DIY Electronic Project Box Grey 7.87 x 5.91 x 3.94 inch (200 x 150 x 100 mm)

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