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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pictures of Saturn with a (sorta) Homebrew Rig

The e-mail and picture I received from Randy N3UMW could easily launch me (and perhaps others) into some adventures in the fascinating world of electro-astronomy. I have a telescope. I have an old webcam. I have some PVC...

Randy's message:

Attached is a photo of Saturn that I took with a modified webcam through an 8 inch scope in my very light polluted back yard near Washington DC. I can normally only make out a dozen stars due to all of the nearby street and porch lights. Luckily this does not affect the viewing of planets.

Taking the photo was very easy. You simply remove the webcam lens and add a telescope adapter (can be made from PVC tube), then you take a 2 minute movie through the webcam and use free software to align and stack each frame of the video. The end result is a hundred times better than what you actually saw. It's funny that a cheap scope and cheap webcam can equal what the observatories were doing 20 years ago! The attached photo was my second attempt.

Damien Peach uses this same method with better hardware in better locations and takes fantastic photos. See them at http://www.damianpeach.com/

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