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Many people have used simple CCD cameras, without cooling and with very little specialized software,
for astronomical purposes. Real CCD cameras for use with telescopes are expensive, and it is tempting
to try simple and cheap solutions.
Here are some links to other web pages describing such adaptations:
QuickCam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group
Astrophotography with a QuickCam
Mounting the QuickCam to the ETX
I was using a Creative Labs WebCam II with a Meade ETX Astro telescope, until I broke it by trying to remove the thin glass plate in front of the chip. I have now bought another Creative WebCam, using it with the Creative software of with the VEGA software:
with afocal technique (leaving the WebCam intact, and taking photos through the eyepiece of the telescope)
at prime focus, and
with positive projection (eyepiece projection)
For the last two techniques I have taken apart the camera, removed the front part
of the case and the lens, so that light may fall directly onto the CCD chip in the camera.
The "mutilated" camera is fixed to a Meade ETX camera adapter, and it is
possible to put a 9.7 mm eyepiece inside the adapter for eyepiece projection,
or to leave it empty for prime focus photography.
I also bought an Orion tele-extender to put in the eyepiece holder, and put the chip from the
web camera in place of the camera. Eyepieces can be put inside this as well, seeming
a little more "professional" than the Meade camera adapter.
Unnecessary shortcomings ...
This setup works in fact quite well. The main problems are
1) Creative Labs has LOUSY technical documentation with the camera, it is difficult or
impossible to find essential info such as the dimension of the chip and pixel size.
2) There is no software making it possible to take shots with predetermined exposure times.
The software that comes with the camera can adjust "brightness", "contrast" and such, and may be
set to three different levels of lighting. Nowhere is given information on which parameters are
changed with the various settings, and to which values - such as exposure times. Everything is
nice and automatic, and absolutely impossible to control. There are, however, various software available which gives one SOME control.
If anybody has access to more technical information, or software that may help control exposure,
please MAIL ME!
If you have a nice web site on simple solutions in CCD photography,
MAIL ME! - and I'll include you in the list above.
Last updated: Oct 19, 2002