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Webcam Astronomy

Some of the first photographs ever taken in 1838 were of the Moon, so we could say that astrophotography pre-dates portrait photography. Further, the invention of the digital camera's CCD chip was first used in astrro-photographic applications.

For years astronomers took pictures of deep sky objects by taking a series of very long exposures from about 30 min up to several hours. These photgrphic sessions were tedious and the long exposure times opened up vulnerabilities to the process. Imagine if 75 minutes into your capture a plane or sattelitepassing through the field, or a gust of wind shaking the scope.

With the advent of CCD immaging, the time reguired to image a deep sky object was reduced to less than two minutes. The problem is that the equipment is very expensive. A greyscale CCD camera for astrophotography can cost from $3,000 to $10,000.

Enter the WebCam and some immaging software and the pricetag is reduced to less than $100!


What Makes it Possible
  • Video Integration - Webcams are mode to capture video at 15-30 frames per second (fps). This process allows stacking frames on top of each other. The more frames you stack, the brighter the objects being captured become. datails

  • Drift Integration - Because the Earth is turning objects drift acroos the night sky. Traditionaly expensive tracking telescope mounts are used to keep objects centeres in the telescope. Drift Integration allows you to shoot with a stationary mount and then re-align the images when integrating the frames. details

  • Dark Frames - Every camera has some amount of noise that shows up as dots on the image taken in the dark. To remedy this we take an imige with the shutter closed. This "dark frame" is subtracted during the integration process to resuce the noise. details

  • WebCams - These cameras are inexpensive compared to astronomical CCD cameras. There are a large variety of cameras to choose from. There are also modifications that can be made to improve their performance. details
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