Webcams for Astrophotography
I purchased two inexpensive webcams from eBay:
An old logitech Quickcam VC for $5.00 and a Philips SPC900NC
$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,
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
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
(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
images with a free program such as Registax.
This is a pretty simple method that lets you turn a webcam
planetary imager. Below are several photos of Jupiter using my
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
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