Increasing light pollution makes CCD
imaging one of the few methods that allows a suburban
amateur astronomers to 'observe', in detail, deep sky
objects. The equipment usually required in addition to a
good driven scope is a cooled CCD camera some form of
guider and a method of obtaining and processing the
images. The entry level costs into this fascinating
branch of astronomy is between £500 - £1000, with
cameras being marketed towards experienced amateurs for
Webcam astro imaging has offered a more accessible route.
Firstly the original black and white quickcam was
modified by David Allmon to give an uncooled astro ccd.
Considering the cameras limitations it has produced
amazing results recording the faint fuzzies. The
only fly in the ointment is the camera production was
ended a few years ago. Also the supply of second hand
camera is drying up with prices on ebay reflecting
The modern webcams and video cameras are locked into
producing many frames per second making the long
exposures required for deep sky imaging impossible.
Webcam astro imagers have had to limit the choice of
targets to the planets, but still produced images that
shame many more pricey dedicated astro-cameras. Recently
advances have been made with off chip integration (as
know as video integration). Instead of the photons being
recorded on the chip for, say, 10 seconds images of much
shorter exposures are summed to give the same total
exposure. This is a major advance but still can not match
true on chip integrations.
The next part
Hardware/software modifications which alter the timing
patterns of modern webcams to yield true long exposures.
The next couple of pages detail modifications to a trust
spacecam 200 and a Philips Vesta which allow long
exposures. These mods put deep sky objects firmly back
into the grasp of those on a limited budget.
I do not guarantee that your camera or PC
or yourself won't get damaged as a result on making these
modifications or that the software won't do the same. I
won't even guarantee that if you get it right it will
What I can guarantee is a big grin the first time you
pick up a deep sky object with a web cam.
Hopefully the info on this site will offer new avenues
for astro webcamers over the next few years. However this
is not the work of a genius! I just happened to be in the
right place at the right time. I would like to offer my
sincere thanks to everyone who has offered help and laid
the foundations of colour deep sky webcam astro imaging.
Far too many to mention but specially thanks go to:-
Stephen Wainwright (QCUIAG)
The novel information on these pages is copyright. It is
forbidden to use this information for profit. Should you
receive any money as a result of performing this mod or
selling a modified camera send the money (less parts) to www.msf.org.
Over the last year I have received some requests from
people who are looking for a way round these
restrictions. I would like to take this opportunity to
specifically state that it not OK to give modified
cameras away free with other products nor is it OK to
charge people for you time when going mods for others.
Any individuals or companies wishing to produce
commercial products based on these modifications please contact me directly
Please abide by these restrictions, as this will ensure
that future developments can disclosed in the same way.