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.
23 September 2003
|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
- AstroCam, Le site des WebCams Astro by Michel Collart et al.
- QCUIAG, the QuickCam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group.
- Steve Chambers' long exposure modification for CCD based webcams.
- astrosurf.com, a French site that provides web space for amateur astronomers, including webcam'ers.
- Nemosoft Unv. pages with Linux drivers for Philips webcams and with pointers to other Linux software for Philips and other webcams.
- Linux QuickCam software list by Patrick Reynolds.
- Introduction to optical microscopy, digital imaging, and photomicrography by Michael W. Davidson, Mortimer Abramowitz and others, hosted at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University. In particular the chapter Digital imaging in optical microscopy by Kenneth R. Spring, John C. Russ, Renato Turchetta, Matthew Parry-Hill, John C. Long, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson.
Focal lengths from 6 mm to 3500 mm
Attaching the webcam to the telescope
Tracking, guiding, stationary mount
- Computer and operating system
- Driver software
- Acquisition software
- Data reduction
- Theory and tests
Copyright © 2003 Horst Meyerdierks
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