Webcam Astrophotography

Webcams for Astrophotography

I purchased two inexpensive webcams from eBay: An old  logitech Quickcam VC for $5.00 and a Philips SPC900NC for $35 (below left and right photos, respectively). These webcams require special modifications for deep sky imaging, but for brighter objects like planets they work very well. An adaptor is required to fit the webcam to the telescope; these can also be purchased on eBay or you can easily and inexpensively make your own  like I did (see Philips Webcam Adaptor and Quickcam webpages); all you need to do is tape a 35mm film canister or tube to the webcam.


Planetary Astrophotography with Webcams

Below are photos of Jupiter (top left on 10 Feb. 2013 and top middle on 21 Dec. 2011),
Saturn (top right on 15 April, 2012 and bottom right on 7 April, 2012), and Mars (bottom left on 22 March, 2012 and bottom center on 7 April, 2012) taken with my C8 and the Philips SPC900NC webcam. These photos show what is possible with an inexpensive webcam and free image stacking software.

Any telescope mount will work for simple planetary imaging with a webcam (equatorial tracking is an advantage, but you can get by without it here). The basic idea is to use the webcam to record a short video file, extract still images, and then align and stack the images with a free program such as  Registax. This is a pretty simple method that lets you turn a webcam into a planetary imager. Below are several photos of Jupiter using my C8 and the Philips
SPC900NC webcam: a single 1/30 sec. frame extracted from the video (left photo), and several stacked composites of approx. 150 different 1/30 sec. frame photos (2nd from left to far right photos). All videos were recorded unguided, meaning that Jupiter was recorded as it drifted across the C8 field of view (this took 5-6 sec. and yielded approx. 180 frames).


The below photo is a Philips SPC900NC webcam image of the Trapezuim star cluster in the heart of the Orion Nebula (M42). Note that the webcam picked up the bright stars, but none of the nebula structure; this illustrates that an unmodified webcam can image brighter objects (moon, planets, stars) but can't show dimmer details of deep sky objects.

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