This Raspberry Pi-Based Meteorite Camera Cost Just $150 to Build

Jippo12 made a night sky camera to inexpensively capture long exposure photos of meteors using Raspberry Pis and Meteotux Pi software.

Imagine for a moment that you wanted to snap a photo of a meteorite or just a meteor that burns up before it reaches ground. How would you go about achieving that? Unless you can get to a dark area during a meteor shower, it’s a very difficult picture to capture. Meteors are typically only visible as a bright fireball for a second or two. Even if you have superhuman reflexes and can point your camera before the meteor completely burns up, you likely won’t have enough time for the long exposure required to actually pick up the fireball. Jippo12’s solution was to use a Raspberry Pi and Meteotux Pi software to build a meteorite camera that cost just $150.

The purpose of this camera is to capture as much of the night sky as possible for as long as possible. Anything bright that just happens to move across the sky will be recorded. That could be a meteor or meteorite, a satellite, a bright star, or just a wandering moth lit up by a passing car’s headlights. With the possible exception of the moth, all of these are relatively dim and can only be picked up by a camera with long exposure shots. That’s why this camera doesn’t simply record video or a series of quick photos. Instead, it saves long exposure photos one after another. The Meteotux Pi software does that by recording a continuous long exposure stream, so that there are no missed moments between individual exposures.

That software was developed by Jippo12’s friend, and this project contains the hardware to take advantage of it. The Meteotux Pi software is running on a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B and that is paired with the new Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera. The camera is used with a 180 degree CS lens to cover a wide swath of the sky. Because of concerns about the temperature dropping too low, Jippo12 used an additional Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ to control a pair of 10W heat resistors through a relay HAT. That second Raspberry Pi monitors a temperature sensor and turns on the heaters if it gets too cold. The system is programmed with a simple Python script to start recording after the sun goes down and then stop recording at dawn. It will then automatically transfer all of the images to a network-attached storage device via WiFi. All of the hardware is held in an enclosure with a clear plastic dome to protect the system from the elements.

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