A few weeks ago, I found this beautiful video on Youtube – a timelapse video of stars and the Milky Way. Seeing the stars appear to rotate overhead (due to the rotation of the Earth) and the intricate structure of our own galaxy gave me a profound feeling of the scale of the universe that we move through on spaceship Earth. Of course, I wanted to record my own Milky Way timelapse.
Capturing the Milky Way requires dark skies and long exposures, so this seemed like a great project to build using my fairly old Canon EOS 350D and Raspberry Pi. I also spent some time exploring what existing timelapse controllers can do – the holy grail of timelapse is to be able to capture sunset (and sunrise) seamlessly, where a wide range of shutter speeds need to be used to capture an appealing scene as the ambient light levels change profoundly. You can see at the end of the milky way video I linked above that sunrise is not handled so well! There are a number of scripts which can be run in-camera with homebrew firmware (e.g. chdk) but these cannot choose the best shutter speed based on the images taken – they have to guess the best values once there is too little light for the camera lightmeter to judge. Since we can run fully featured image processing software like ImageMagick on the Linux based Pi, I decided to build a controller which could capture sunset.
I also recently got hold of an Adafruit LCD Plate for my Pi so I’ve added a User Interface too.
I haven’t yet been able to make the Milky Way timelapse which is my end goal, but hope to do so in the coming weeks next time it’s dark, clear and I’m at Lake Tahoe, but the controller is working nicely.
Read on to find full instructions, some demo videos and the software so you can try it yourself.
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