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Astrophotography on a Budget Resources

Following on from our talk on astrophotography, here is a list of useful resources and hyperlinks to help get you started.

Clear Skies

 

Mark & Nigel Stronge
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Telescope requirements

  • Steady mount
  • GOTO or motorised scope preferred for ease of tracking
  • Appropriate magnification for viewing conditions
  • Good collimation, espically SCTs and Newtonians

Recomendations for successful imagery

  • Collimation. Try it using the webcam and laptop.
  • Anti-vibration feet.
  • Allow SCTs and Newts to cool down outside for at least an hour before imaging.
  • For long exposures, accurate polar alignment using drift or refined alignment (GOTO feature)
  • Clay's Kochab clock method of polar alignment.
  • Focus mask - try focusing on a bright star and then slewing to your subject.
  • If your scope wobbles on it's mount, try unbalancing it very slightly so that constant pressure is exerted in one axis. If you are using a digital camera, you probably wouldn't need to do this.
  • Remote shutter release for digital camera.
  • If you wanting to buy a webcam, look for the use of a CCD chip and 1Lux sensitivity.
  • For digital camera reviews, check out the Imaging Resource website where direct comparisons can be made. Look for a camera that does long exposures of around 30 seconds or more.

Calculating your Field of View

  • Ron Wodaski's Magic CCD calculator for Webcams and CCD astro cameras
  • Digital Cameras - you will need the resolution of your camera, CCD chip diagonal size and zoom range in digital format (not 35mm equivalent).

Camera adapters

Scopetronix Maxview 40mm or Maxview2 2inch eyepiece and T-adapters.
Small barrel lens adapters available from North Down telescopes.
TouCam Pro UWAT-F webcam adapters available from Steven Mogg, US$24 delivered or North Down Telescopes.

More information about using digital cameras available at the Digital Camera Astro website and their associated Yahoo discussion group.

More information about using web cameras is available at http://www.qcuiag.co.uk/ with the associated Yahoo discussion group. For modifying webcams visit Steve Chambers's website or you can purchase already modified webcams at Perseu.

 

Websites that have the Philips TouCam Pro are currently in short supply. The TouCam Pro 740K is being replaced by the 840K new model. Both have a CCD chip with 1Lux sensitivity.

When the TouCam Pro is plugged in and running, there is a bright surface mount red L.E.D. that glows brightly - this can be removed using a terminal screwdriver (just prise the tiny LED off the circuit board).

After the question on if there are suitable Firewire and USB2.0 web cameras, I had a look for some. There are 2 that may be suitable but it is unknown yet if it is possible to remove their lens. The 2 are :-

  1. Orange Micro i-Bot Firewire (not the USB2.0 version)
  2. Fire-i digital camera €94

Software

  • K3CCDTools video capturing software
  • Registax for aligning and stacking - Please note that there are 2 versions depending on your desktop resolution.
  • Paint Shop Pro 8 for Final Processing. You can use Photoshop or any other graphics software but we find PSP8 excellent value for money with some nice unique features (like the automatic colour balance).
  • For creating mosiacs (see our Moon Mosiac), we have only used PSP8, but iMerge is recommended by many astrophotographers and we will be trying it out soon.

 

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