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Being a daytime software engineer and a sparetime photographer, I was looking for a nice DIY project for the next weeks. I finally decided to build a star tracker with a camera mount, so that I can take deep sky pictures with my DSLR.

While planning and layouting the components for this, I had to decide whether I want to manually adjust the rotation axis of the device so that it aligns with the rotation axis of the earth - or go the nerd way and let the system auto-arrange itself by attaching a suitable fixed USB camera, evaluate the video/images and write some software to move the device with stepper motors and screw drives until the correct orientation is reached.

As I do not want to reinvent the wheel, is there any star recognition framework that you've heard of? Preferrably open source, the language is of marginal importance as long as I can get the relevant data in and out. I'm thinking of something that I can feed with an image file and get back an array with the recognized objects with their x/y locations within the image. I did some research on that but could not find anything promising. What I need is an automatic identification of the brightest stars, so that I can check the current orientation against a reference image and get some vectors for the stepper motors. I hope I got the idea across.

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As I do not want to reinvent the wheel, is there any star recognition framework that you've heard of? Preferably open source, the language is of marginal importance as long as I can get the relevant data in and out. I'm thinking of something that I can feed with an image file and get back an array with the recognized objects with their x/y locations within the image.

I'd take a look at the astrometry service. You can upload a picture to their site and receive an astrometric labeled overlay. They do have an API. I'm not sure if an array output option is builtin, but I have a feeling it's doable within what they're offering.

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  • $\begingroup$ Was just about to comment and recommend this. You can output a file of the matched stars which should be transformable into what you want. Pinpoint is used a lot in the amateur community to feedback guiding corrections but I don't know how well it works with widefield images from DSLR $\endgroup$ – astrosnapper Dec 18 '18 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @astrosnapper & Alphecca: Thanks for your comments, I will definitely take a look at that! And just for clarification: I want to use two separate cameras, one small and fixed, and the big DSLR that points at a completely other direction (my actual subject). So not the images from the DSLR will be used for the recognition/pinpointing task, but the ones from the smaller and fixed "navigation" camera. $\endgroup$ – Robert Dec 18 '18 at 18:58

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