All-Sky and Northern Lights Webcams

Here at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, we are currently working on getting a two cameras: 1) Northern Lights webcam, and 2) an all-sky webcam, as part of our stargazing activities and to be included in the International Dark Sky Park initiatives.

We are currently researching the different camera options, (if you have any suggestions feel free to share your ideas with us) discussing the placement of the camera on our tower (~100 feet high), the installation process etc.

The purpose of these webcams is to show the wonderful night sky for stargazing and be able to show the beauty of the Northern Lights for anyone who has never seen them before, also to use it as a reference tool for those who want to be adventuresome and see them in person.

The first camera, will be an all-sky camera, which will be located at the top of our tower, looking directly up so you can have a 360-degree view of the sky. The second camera, will be a night-sky camera which will highlight the Northern Lights activities at the top of the Keweenaw. This camera will be located underneath the first camera on our tower, looking north towards Lake Superior, with a 180-degree view.

Location

Here is a map showing where the tower is located, along with several pictures of the tower (a picture taken during the day, and a picture taken at night).

Camera Information and Specs

For a better understanding of what we are working on accomplishing, check out these links:

→ This is a link to the all-sky camera at Poker Flat, Fairbanks, Alaska https://allsky.gi.alaska.edu/

→ This is a link to the all-sky camera at Awbrey Butte, Bend, Oregon
http://cbstarrynights.com/allsky1/index.html

→ This is a link to the Churchill Webcam in Manitoba, Canada https://www.webcamtaxi.com/en/canada/manitoba/churchill-northern-lights.html

We are using Thomas Jacquin’s all-sky camera set-up as our all-sky camera. The equipments for this set-up are listed as the following:
1. ZWO ASI178MC CMOS Astrophotography Camera
2. Arecont Vision MPL 1.55 CS-Mount 1.55mm Fixed Fisheye Lens
3. CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB RAM Starter Pro Kit
4. USB C Right (90 Degree) Angle Adapter
5. Acrylic dome
6. ABS pipe, end cap, threaded adapter, and plug
7. Silicone sealant

Aurora Info

NOAA’s Current Forecast for the Northern Lights

Note: We are testing how to interface with NOAA’s system. The image below pulls directly from the https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ site. We will be contacting NOAA to see if this is the best way to provide information to our visitors regarding the Aurora Forecast that they provide.

The image above is from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, and is updated automatically from NOAA’s web site.

Stay tuned for more information, coming soon!

All-Sky Camera Progress

November 13th, 2021 Update

Martin Mueller is working on assembling the all-sky camera. The set-up is Thomas Jacquin’s design that he has shared (see his project page, where he talks about the camera assembly, along with other space related projects that the public can access). This page on the website contains resources, parts, assembly layout, and a Github page for the software aspect of the camera. Another individual made a step-by-step guide video on how to set-up the software on a Raspberry Pi 4. Raspberry Pi 4 is the operating system that we are using to control the camera. Credit to Thomas Jacquin for the design and Patriot Astro for the instruction video.

Currently the software set-up on the Raspberry Pi 4 is completed. An online Administration Panel has been created for us to work on the settings of the camera and to provide the functionality to connect the camera to our website.

The next steps are to assemble the camera, connect it to the Raspberry Pi 4, work on the camera settings, connect the panel / camera to our website, and install the camera on the tower.

Below are pictures from working on the software and setting up the admin panel.

Desktop with the Command Line open on the Raspberry Pi 4 computer.
Computer set-up used to work on the Raspberry Pi 4.
The AllSky Administration Panel where the camera spec are held.

December 4th, 2021 Update

Since yesterday, Martin has been running the Raspberry Pi and camera on to test how they perform and how the images and time-lapse video come out. Suffice to say, the camera was able to take over 100 images and record a ~4:30 minute time-lapse video on the first night. Below are two images taken along with the time-lapse video. They were taken inside of our conference center.

Additional testing and modifications will be conducted in order to find the appropriate performance and image quality before constructing the casing to put the set-up in.  More updates coming soon.

December 19th, 2021 Update

Chris and Martin played around with the camera focus and the images settings to find the desired viewing and image. They figured out how to focus the camera and got a clear video / image.

Still image with camera lens in focus.

With the ability to manually focus the camera lens and beginning to understand the camera settings, Martin will being making the case containing the Raspberry Pi and the camera to be able to run tests outside of the building.

April 9th, 2022 Update

During the four month period since the last update, Martin had two main focuses: 1) get copies of the images, time lapse videos, keograms, and star trails uploaded to the website’s database automatically, and 2) get the public viewing link accessible to anyone anywhere.

Getting the copies uploaded to the website’s database required someone who is familiar with navigating in a computer terminal and the database of a website. John joined this portion as he is familiar with such and we also requested the creator of the All-Sky camera kit, Thomas Jacquin to provide guidance. Emails were sent back and forth involving questions for Thomas to answer in order to help John and Martin understand how he set-up the All-Sky application. Thomas provided sources and a glimpse into his application’s set-up for his All-Sky public link as references.

For a while, John and Martin encountered an error where the All-Sky application was not able to access the database to upload the images after each night and somehow no live view image on the public link was appearing at one point. Debugging the code took a few weeks, which half the time took place in Michigan and the other half in Texas when Martin was visiting family during his break. After cleaning up the code and being able to access the website database, they were starting to see results. Below are screenshots of the images successfully being uploaded after each night whenever the camera is running and a time lapse video of the camera slightly looking out from the conference center window. If you actually pay attention to the bottom section of the window in the time lapse video, you would actually see the snow melting throughout the night.

Website Database for all images, time lapse videos, keograms, and star trails
The “keograms” folder of the main database featuring recent keograms that were uploaded

 

This keogram is where the program takes the middle column of each image that is recorded and merge them together to create a single image.

The next step is to assemble the camera casing and place it somewhere on the lodge property to test how it handles the weather. All of the supplies for the casing have been purchased and ready to be assembled.

April 27th, 2022 Update

The casing has finally been assembled on April 17th. Martin and Jake from the maintenance team spent about 3 hours sawing, sanding, measuring, glueing, and nailing the entire thing. Many times they had to improvise with the tools that we have available and face obstacles along the way like the small nails not holding the platforms together.

On Monday, April 25th, Martin and Jake began installing the camera on top of the Lodge’s roof to begin testing the camera outside. The temperature outside was about 60 degrees and the clear sky allowed the sun’s rays to get us in short sleeve shirts. A perfect day to conduct the demo.

When turning the camera on, the administration panel to control the camera’s settings did not appear. Confused, Martin connected a monitor to the Raspberry Pi to see if it is connected to the Wifi, only to find out that the Raspberry was not able to connect to the SD card to boot up (image below). Trouble shooting the SD card later shows that the SD card was dead or was not accessible when having another computer reading the card. Most likely the problem occurred  between testing with the camera inside and making final adjustments to the platforms to contain plug. Martin now has to redo the software and all-sky application on the SD card. Lesson learned: always back-up the files incase there is a fail or corruption at any point of operation.

Error message on the Raspberry Pi start-up screen

May 19th, 2022 Update

Since the error message on April 24th, Martin has taken the time to redo the software installation on a new SD card, back it up onto the company’s Google Drive, transfer the back up (image file) onto another SD card, and test both of them if they work with the camera. Both of them worked and on May 15th, Martin and Jake installed the camera back on the roof. It managed to update the live feed photo every 5 to 15 minutes, record a time lapse video, keogram, and a star trail that same night. Seeing the camera working and seeing a live feed photo gave a satisfying feeling for the KML team.

Keogram generated by the All-sky Camera on the morning of May 16.
Star trail generated by the All-sky Camera on the morning of May 16.

The project is not done yet. The team is now testing the camera to see how it handles the Michigan Spring weather and how the image quality can be improved to see the night sky clearer. Once we know camera past the testing phase and the team gets the desired image quality, it will be time to move the camera to the tower.

July 11th, 2022 Update

Since the last update, the camera has been updating the live feed 24/7 and uploading recorded time lapse videos, keograms, and star trails almost every night (there have been two days where it didn’t upload onto the database for unknown reason). Lately when trying to modify the camera settings remotely, Martin has trouble connecting his computer to the camera. It is unknown why. So he took down the camera from the roof today to troubleshoot it over the next few days and to modify the camera’s settings before repositioning back onto the roof. He will post an update on his work and when the camera is back in operation.

[Post Updated on July 11th, 2022]

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Last modified on July 11th, 2022 at 12:29 pm

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