Using a planetary webcam is the most efficient and effective way of taking planetary and lunar images. A webcam is capable of taking many images or frames in fast succession. These frames can then be combined and enhanced using a process called stacking. Therefore using your webcam, you will need to capture your frames onto a laptop or PC and utilise some software for processing.
This image was taken by our (then) 13 year old daughter using a NexImage 5 Astro Webcam and a Celestron 8 inch SCT. She took about 45 seconds of video and then imported it into a software program called registax. That program aligned and stacked together all of the best frames from her video. She them used the wavelet functions to sharpen and de-noise the image finally resulting in what you see here.
She had a few fails to start off with, but with a little patience and a large amount of trial and error she proved that these results are very achievable with the most modest cameras in this section.
The Celestron Cameras come complete with all you need in the box. You will of course also need a suitable telescope, a windows based laptop and some clear skies. Since this was taken (3 years ago now) many new products and sensors have come onto the market from manufacturers such as ZWO and Altair with their GPCAM. The image capture software has also improved, for example a freely downloadable program called SharpCap takes advantage of the sensitivity of some of these newer cameras and allows longer exposures for entry level deep sky pictures, and has a feature called live stacking that can with the right combination of equipment build up live images of deep sky objects. SharpCap have also just released a new polar align feature that can use your guides cope and camera for those who quite literally find polar scopes a pain in the neck! The Altair capture software can deal with dark frame noise reduction too.
Planetary imaging however is only part of the story, some of these cameras can also be used for guiding or in a digital finder set up, and as such are fast becoming an essential part of the astronomers toolkit.
The Hypercam IMX178 sensor is particularily attractive for Electronically Assisted Astronomy / Video Astronomy because of it's high 6.3 Megapixel resolution and high sensitivity thanks to Sony STARVIS back-illumination technology.
Tring Astronomy Centre Ltd
Unit 15 The Old Silk Mill,
Normal opening times Mon to Sat 10 - 4pm.
(Closed Wednesdays, Sundays & Bank Holidays) Please note that we will be closed on Saturday 22nd April - Tuesday 25th April as we will be attending the Astrocamp in the Brecon Beacons. Apologies for any inconvenience this causes.
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