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Pinprick holes in a colorless sky
Let inspired figures of light pass by,
The mighty light of ten thousand suns
Challenges infinity and is soon gone.
Night time, to some a brief interlude,
To others the fear of solitude.
Brave Helios wake up your steeds,
Bring the warmth the countryside needs.
~ The Moody Blues
WO is back on line!
The C8 has been repaired and is back in service!
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The digital age has brought great technological advancements in the field of astronomy. Advances in technology have also made some of these technologies quite affordabe to novices. One of these areas is CCD imaging. Unlike just a decade ago, CCD chips are everywhere: digital cameras, security cameras, web cameras and video cameras. The chips in these household devices are vastly more powerful than their predecessors. Its only common sense to find a way to utilize these in the field of astronomy. With the help of this site and my personal experiences, I hope to help other amateur astronomers on a budget advance their hobby with hardware that they might normally not use. Astronomical CCD cameras run anywhere from $500 to $15,000, which is quite out of range for most backyard hobbyists, even though the CCD's in some common cameras are exactly the same as some astroimaging CCD's!
My own experiences started with my Meade ETX 90mm telescope. After less than a week of ownership I found I wanted to share with others the wonderful things that the telescope let me see. It wasn't a stretch for me to realize that I could use my old black and white Quickcam. From then on I was hooked.
It wasn't long before I found others who were doing the same thing I was. Using common web cameras for Astronomy. One of these sources was the QCUIAG, the QuickCam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group. This was a group of people all around the world who's goal was to push uncommon CCD cameras to their limit for affordable astronomy. The first of these cameras was the extremely flexible Connectix Quickcam. Through reverse engineering it was found that these little, cheap cameras were capable of indefinate timed exposures! Though they are uncooled and do not have all of the features of their brethren astroimaging cameras, they could be used quiet well for astronomy. Of course not everyone was satisfied with just this camera. The QCUIAG found ways to exploit numerous other CCD-equiped cameras. The latest hotbed of discussion is the Philips Vesta line of web cameras.
Not only is the hardware being explored for refinements for astroimaging, software is being developed at a great pace for use with various types of cameras. Some of these advances in software can compensate for limitations in the driver for these cameras. One significant area of development is what's known as video integration. Not all cameras are capable of timed exposures, so one way to emulate this behavior is to take a camera at its native frame-rate and composite them. Instead of a single exposure for 30 seconds, you could composite and stack a cameras images at 30fps into a single image. This allows some hobbiests great success with low-lux video and security cameras that have no other tunability. Other tools allow you to extensively process your images from still and video cameras to extract the most data possible from limited resources.