The PiFinder is a Raspberry Pi-based open source project for the amateur astronomy community, created by Richard Sutherland.
It’s an all-in-one device that mounts on any telescope and uses a Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera to take photos of the night sky. The PiFinder figures out where a telescope is pointing to help observers find and view astronomical objects. A Raspberry Pi 4 takes care of image processing and logging, with the help of onboard GPS.
The self-contained design means you don’t need to fiddle around with laptops or tablets to read information gathered by separate sky-gazing photography rigs.
Community members have already built over a dozen units as part of the initial design testing. Richard hopes to produce PiFinder build kits so enthusiasts can make their own, as well as fully assembled units for stargazers who want to skip the DIY. He also has ideas for creating an even more compact version using Raspberry Pi Compute Module in the future. I suggest he trademarks ‘Pocket PiFinder’ now.
Golden State Star Party
Richard took the PiFinder to the spectacularly named Golden State Star Party last week. It’s a multi-night gathering of hundreds of amateur astronomy enthusiasts on a cattle farm somewhere in the wilds of California. Several attendees saw the PiFinder in action and committed to purchasing either a DIY build kit or a fully assembled unit for themselves, and even more people lapped up PiFinder stickers. (Nice to see that sticker hauls are also a priority among the astronomy convention-going crowd.)
The Star Party PiFinders spent over 32 hours observing the sky over the course of three nights. They captured and processed over 115,000 images of the sky to determine telescope position. At least 65 objects were located in the sky, although Richard disappointingly reported zero cow sightings, despite the event’s cattle farm location: “I guess all the people and telescopes made them shy.”