Author Topic: StellarMate  (Read 42 times)

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NoelC

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StellarMate
« on: Jun 09, 2019, 14:43:22 »
Now that Atik have released the Atikbase at £251 a shot, and having spent ages trying to get my software purchase of StellarMate working, I thought I'd give a quick write up of the progress.

StellarMate is a proprietary piece of software written for the Raspberry Pi mini computer (www.stellarmate.com.  It is written by Jasem Mutlaq in Dubai (where they see a lot more stars than here!), at present he seems to be the sole proprietor and supporter of the system.  He is extremely approachable via his chat system (see website).  The system operates under the Indi Library (www.indilib.org) a linux based operating system for astronomy kit (Instrument Neutral Distributed Interface) - the ASCOM of the Linux world.
You can buy a StellarMate unit (a Raspberry Pi already configured with the software) for £185 from Altair Astro and others.  The software on its own costs $40 direct from StellarMate.com. The Atikbase uses StellarMate as it's operating system, and comes with power outputs (unlike the StellarMate unit which comes just with the Pi).

This is my test setup:
WO 90mm attached to an HEQ5Pro mount with a Starwave dual losmandy/vixen dovetail clamp fitted.
The dovetail clamp has had a plate bolted to it, which has velcro applied to that to hold the USB2.0 hub, Raspberry Pi and a Pegasus PPB power box.  System is shown with an Atik One 6.0 attached and Atik GP camera on an OAG.
I decided upon using the PPB to protect stuff from electrical overload.  The Pi is housed in a proprietary Pi box, into which I have fitted a 12 - 5V 3A DC-DC converter (so the Pi runs of 12V). The USB Hub is powered by the same converter.  Additionally the PPB comes with an environment sensor (humidity and temperature) and will drive dew bands automatically.

Setting up the Pi was relatively simple; you buy then download the software, use a freeware disk imaging software (balena Etcher) to write a mini SD card image, plug the SD card into the Pi and power it up!.  StellarMate comes with a free planetarium programme (KStars) which integrates with the bits and pieces (you can use Stellarium, but I've not tried as I don't use Stellarium in Windows much).  You fire up KStars, click the observatory icon to initiate EKOS (the driver control panel) and load and connect your gear - hopefully it then all runs.  Connectivity can be achieve via the built in hotspot, online (if plugged in) or via a hub (if nearby).  You can of course run it direct, but would need to plug a screen into it.  There is a phone app to run it, but I couldn't find my way around the screen

My experience thus far is that the system works quite well.  It is fairly stable, but has a lot of foibles.  There are multiple ways of doing everything, which means if one way doesn't work, you can usually find another way to get stuff connected or working properly.  However:-
I had help from Jasem on two occasions (fairly extensive help), he wrote a driver for my focuser (thank you very much!) and sorted out the system updates (which I had switched off due to forum notes about problems with updates).  He logged onto my system via TeamViewer from Dubai and re-configured it, rebooting it twice.  It is now quite stable.
First Light
Enough messing around with the software; will it work?  I dragged the test setup out onto my patio last night (before the high level cloud got too much) and tried to set it all up.
First: don't forget to set the time!
Next: get focus - took ages as the Atik Driver went bananas and started spinning the filter wheel.  This could be a problem with Indi, but I feel inclined to lay the blame squarely on Atik because they have screwed up the drivers for my camera before in Windows.
Swapped cameras to an ZWO ASI 120MMCS uncooled:-

This is the focus screen post focus on 2 second exposures; you can see the V curve forming nicely although it wasn't able to settle within the limit of 0.5% variation I had set it.  Also you'd normally be un-binned and sum 10 frames not the 1 I had set here.
PHD came up quite nicely and after a bit of jiggling around with the parameters it started to work and look as I would expect it.  Since I had lost the Atik I didn't get to use it in anger.
I attempted to polar align using the on board plate solver, unsuccessfully. I suspect that the lack of sensitivity, cloud and dew was by now taking it's toll.  But the plate solver came up with a couple of solutions before failing to solve - time for bed.

Interim conclusions:
For a $40 solution, this is fantastic.  Some of the features of KStars seem well ahead of any of the low end solutions I have tried.  The filter wheel setup in the Atik control panel is well ahead of ArtemisCapture (you can set filters, and give focus offsets, set autofocus interval).  The target modeling is really good (gives altitude and expected illumination per target) the ability to programme multiple targets, with autofocus, filter and offsets all from the standard panel is really useful.  The pointing model (if I get it to work) is also really good.  The hotspot connectivity for the device (I was running it from my laptop indoors) was almost flawless (disconnected once - just reconnect and carry on).  And the Support is pretty sensational!  A point worth noting is that according to my PPB power meter, the whole system was never using more than a 200mA (without dew bands or cooling applied).

KStars Observation Planner
Against this; the connectivity issues with some devices is not good; Pegasus PPB being the worst, however once connected it seems quite stable.  The solver took forever to run (possibly due to the data it was given).  Coming from Windows, the system is non-intuitive.  The use of micro SD cards is less than optimal. The underlying concern has to be does the Pi have the power to run it all?  Although I have had unexplained crashes; I have to say that it seems to have held up really well; so I’m optimistic.  More to follow.
Synta mount, a bunch of telescopes and a shed (on wheels).

Hugh

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Re: StellarMate
« Reply #1 on: Jun 09, 2019, 22:16:32 »
Hi Noel

Good use of the Forum in circulating information which I read as best I could.

However, to be honest I struggled after  ~ "Now that Atik have released...etc"!

However, on behalf of the untechy in the society ~ don't stop the good work!

Best

Hugh :lol:

Carole

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Re: StellarMate
« Reply #2 on: Jun 09, 2019, 23:11:42 »
I am sure some-one will find this very useful Noel, and it is good of you to write this up. 

Far too techy for me I am afraid, I like to keep things as simple as possible, too much complicated stuff to set up, and too many things that could go wrong.

Carole