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Webcam amateur astronomy

Computer and operating system
Driver software
Acquisition software
Data reduction
Theory and tests

Webcam amateur astronomy

Health warning: Just when I was about to remove these pages about webcam astrophotography from the web, were they listed in the Sky at Night Magazine as one of only three URLs (Anton Vamplew. "Beginners' guide - webcam imaging". Sky at Night Magazine, 53, p.44. October 2009.) You might also check out the more recent pages about astrophotography in general.
2009-10-18 and 2012-08-18.

Horst Meyerdierks
23 September 2003

Saturn Saturn on 2002/12/19. Philips ToUcam Pro VGA, f = 3500 mm. Colour layered with unsharp masked intensity.

I have been active in amateur astronomy since about 1973, interrupted from the mid eighties for about 12 years by study and work as a real astronomer. In the early days I had a phase of wanting no telescope any more and using only binoculars, and recently I similarly intended not to do photography any more, only visual observing. Thanks to Nicki MacLeod, James Douglas and Neil Grubb of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh and due to my involvement with computers and their use for astronomy at the Astronomische Institute der Universität Bonn, the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and the Starlink Project, this was not to be.

In this document I describe what I'm doing with webcams, and how. I try to present this in a logical order, starting with the object observed, moving on to camera, telescope and computer, and then the various levels and stages of software.

You will find that there is a lot of information here. Don't be put off your webcam by that. I refer to this document myself, so a lot of it is too detailed and applies only to my setup. I am also wasting far too much time on analysing what I'm doing. Just get a film container (the diameter of an eyepiece), cut off the ends, duct-tape it to your webcam (lens removed), and insert this into your telescope in place of the eyepiece. For a first look at the Moon this is quite adequate and very motivating.

Compared to specialist CCD cameras for amateur astronomy, webcams are cheap and easy to use, though not quite as useful for the purpose in question. With my preference for minimalist equipment, paired with being familiar with computers and having a laptop at work anyway, I could not resist for very long. I have a Logitech QuickCam VC for parallel port and a Philips ToUcam Pro for USB. Thanks to Gert-Jan Rodenburg I have the ToUcam working under the Linux operating system that I prefer over Windows and where I do my data reduction anyway. This opens the prospect of removing Windows from my computer, especially if there is a driver for the QuickCam VC for Linux, too. There is.

Important web resources about webcam astronomy are


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