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While what I am writing can be applied to the ASIAIR Pro, Plus, and Mini I am not going to discuss the Plus or Mini as ZWO recently replace the internal boards with RockChip boards and I have not had enough time to work on these devices but there are users that have had luck on CloudyNights with these new boards and what I have created should work on both the Plus and Mini.
I know I am biased towards ZWO as I have been using ASIAIR devices since November 2020, almost 3 years now. With the ZWO ASIAIR Pro and Plus I have captured 45 deep space objects from our dark skies in New Mexico which account for over 146 hours of exposure. I stand behind ZWO and its ASIAIR software and the in particular the ASIAIR Pro that uses the Raspberry Pi 4. It’s the best product for Astrophotographers In My Hubble Opinion. Since the ASIAIR Pro is no longer produced you can find used ones for super cheap online! The device uses a USB Micro SD card that runs the stock Raspain OS that ZWO set up with its third-party applications and other open-source apps. You can purchase a secondary 32GB SD card from Amazon for $7.69 at the time of writing this article and reload it with other Astro operating systems to run INDI, Indigo, and Open Astro, and let’s not forget the amazing hardware that the Pro offers
- 4x DC12V output ports
- 2×2 USB2 ports & 2×2 USB3 ports
- Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz 802.11 b/g/n/ac
- Power Draw of 3.5 to 3.9 watts an hour compared to 30 to 500 watts an hour depending on your Intel NUC
- Easy to use IOS or Android application to control the ASIAIR
The only downside to these little devices is you can’t use them with third-party hardware like QHY, Altair, or another manufacturer unless you reload them with INDI, Indigo, and Open Astro. Also, you can never use software like N.I.N.A, SharpCap, or…..you better hold the phone as that’s not true anymore!
So Super Big Thanks to David Parks @CloudyNights for reaching out to me to see if I can make the best Astrophotography hardware on the planet work with N.I.N.A and other Windows applications. This article and YouTube video show you how you can use the ASIAIR Pro with both the ASIAIR software and also N.I.N.A to capture objects in deep space. While this is showing off N.I.N.A you can use any other windows application you want to control your telescope gear and mount equipment with ASCOM.
First, before we get into the discussion I am going to break it down into three categories
- ASIAIR (Linux Based)
- INDI, INDIGO, and Open Astro (Linux Based) *Stellarmate is another option but I have not written a 64bit Kernel yet to support their new 64bit OS they only offer now
- ASCOM (Windows Based)
Regaurdless of which route you choose you will need a control unit (ASIAIR Pro or PC) a way to control the control unit so a cell phone, a tablet, or another PC. Finally, you will need an equatorial mount or guiding mount like the Sky Guider Pro to rotate your Astro gear with the rotation of the earth.
Ok, so first off the ASIAIR devices (ASIAIR, Pro, Plus, and Mini) always get ripped for being non-useful devices as you are locked into only using ZWO hardware for cameras, camera guiders, filter wheels, and auto focusers. To ZWO’s defense, they offer support for Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras, and with ZWO’s newest update to the ASIAIR software they have also added support for Sony cameras as well. But let’s not forget they also lack support for rotators, domes, and weather stations.
Now if you reload the ASIAIR Pro with INDI, Indigo, and Open Astro you can fully support any Astro device on the planet. However, users do not always like using open-source software suites like KStars to control the ASIAIR Pro as it’s not as easy to use as say N.I.N.A., Sharpcap, APT, and other Windows applications.
Going the ASCOM route means going the Windows route. There is nothing wrong with this route except it is going to costs way more to set up your Astro rig as you will need to purchase the following items and you will also need to deal with more software installs and drivers to support all your gear
- Some types of PC like an Intel NUC, AstroPC, EAGLE, or some other computer system
- Power ports for dew heater and fan on your Astro camera think Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox
- Bigger battery to handle the draw which will cost more if you travel to a dark sky as I do
If you just look at a Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox that is $341.82 and doesn’t even include the price for an Intel NUC. If you look at the price for a use ASIAIR Pro they are ranging from $175-195 on CloudyNights and even if you buy the newer ASIAIR Plus that is $299.00 or $199.00 for the ASIAIR Mini and all four of those units come setup with 4x DC12 output ports so you don’t need anything else but the little device.
Freaking How Already?
So if you don’t need the background info you just want to know how. Well it’s super easy and here is all you need
- An ASIAIR Pro
- A Linux Computer to read the ASIAIR 32GB partitions so you can root it
- A Raspberry Pi with HDMI and keyboard out so you can reset the root password or and micro HDMI and cable and keyboard and take apart your ASIAIR Pro
- Install VirtualHere
- Pay for the VirtualHere license
NOTE: ALWAYS BACKUP YOUR SD CARD BEFORE MESSING WITH IT
First, let’s root the ASIAIR Pro. There are a few links on this so help yourself
https://gist.github.com/timucingelici/217ac492bc2b127c6645ce033463d265 (downloadable image I have not tested)
Second, now that you have a rooted ASIAIR Pro you can SSH using your favorite SSH client like MobaTerm and install the VirtualHere server using the following command. Note your ASIAIR Plus should be plugged in with the network cable so it had internet access
https://github.com/joeytroy/virtualhere – I had to fork the VirtualHere repo and make some edits so it would install on the ASIAIR Pro as the Raspain OS had been modified by ZWO
curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/joeytroy/virtualhere/main/install_server | sudo sh -s - vhusbdarmpi4
Third, you will need to install the VirtualHere client on your PC along with ASCOM, drivers for all your Astro Gear, PHD2 and N.I.N.A