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ASI 130MM Mono Planetary\Guider Camera

 

 

 

  • Overview
  • Specifications
  • Software
  • Example Images
  • Help, Links & FAQS
  • Purchasing

 

Introducing the new ASI 130MM Mono Planetary\Guiding Camera


ASI130MM Low Light High Resolution Astro Camera manufactured by ZWO Optical Design
Utilising the MICRON MT9M001 low light CMOS sensor (as used in the highly regarded QHY5)

1/2" sensor gives a large field to locate objects at 1280 x 1024, then zoom in using Region Of Interest (ROI) for high speed capture!
Optimized for planetary, solar and lunar imaging

One of the fastest USB2 Cameras on the planet maximising throughput to achieve up to 320fps! (@ 320x240)

 

 


ASI130MM

 

The Design Concept:

  • High sensitivity (Peak QE 55%)
  • Full control of gain and exposure
  • High resolution, bin mode supported (x2, x4)
  • Ultra high frame rates, fully reaching the transfer speed limit of USB2.0
  • Suitable for both imaging and auto-guiding
  • Great performance, high quality and low cost
  • High quality air cooled aluminium housing

 

 

Construction details:

  • High quality fully anodised aluminium
  • 1.25" Nosepiece adapter supplied
  • USB cable supplied
  • Threaded to accept M42 x 0.75 accessories such as filter wheels
  • 2" Focusser adapters available: M42 adapter
  • Use of a "Cold Finger" to support peltier cooling devices
  • Housing has 4 M4 holes pre-drilled to allow addition of cooling fans etc on the back

 

 

Software Support:

  • Simple driver installation
  • ROI support
  • Support for a wide range of imaging software due to the use of MS DirectShow drivers
  • PHD - Supported
  • Maxim DL - Supported
  • Craterlets - Supported
  • SharpCap - Supported (v1.5.310 and higher)
  • FireCapture Jave based software- Supported (v2.1beta)
  • GuideMaster - Supported (but issues with Win7 currently)
  • Support for SharpCaps "Pattern Edit" function to reduce image noise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note: Due to the high throughput of this camera USB1.1 is NOT supported or recommended, strictly USB2.0 only!

 

*********************************************************************************

If you are a previous SPC900 webcam customer of mine who wishes to upgrade to the newer

ASI series please contact me as I am willing to offer trade in on your old camera!

***************************************************************************************

 

 

ASI 130MM Mono Planetary\Guiding Camera

 

 

Specification:


Sensor: 1/2" Mono CMOS MT9M001
Max. Resolution: 1.3Mega Pixels 1280X1024
Pixel Size: 5.2µm
Exposure Range: 32µs-1000s

ROI: Supported
Interface: USB2.0
Bit rate: 8bit output(10bit ADC)
Adaptor: 2" / 1.25" / M42X0.75
Dimension: φ62mm X 28mm
Weight: 100g

Working Temperature: -5°C—45°C
Storage Temperature: -20°C—60°C
Working Relative Humidity: 20%—80%
Storage Relative Humidity: 20%—95%

Supported Resolution:


1280x1024@30fps
1280x600@50fps
1280x400@70fps
800x600@70fps
800x400@100fps
640x480@100fps
600x400@130fps
400x400@170fps
480x320@190fps
320x240@320fps

bin:
2x2bin 640x512@30fps
4x4bin 320x256@30fps

 

A manufacturers PDF giving full details of the sensors performance can be downloaded here

 

 

Dimensions (Note that the camera is supplied with a 1.25" nosepiece adapter not shown in diagram below)

 

Dimensions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Images

 

Hand scale

Face on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooling fins USB port

 

 

 

From above clockwise:

 

 

Face on with 1.25" Nosepiece adapter removed

 

 

Camera with Nosepiece attached in hand for scale

 

 

Sideways on view showing cooling fins, USB port and pre-drilled holes for attaching cooling devices.

 

 

 

Camera interior showing cold finger extension in casing back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold finger

 

 

Supplied Software

 

 

The ASI 130 series cameras will be supplied with a cd containing the windows drivers in a ".msi" package for easy install.

However the latest drivers will also be made available here:

 

 

Release v1.2.2.2 (deprecated) - Auto detects USB2.0 capability, Adds more resolutions: 1280X800, 1024X768, 960X720

 

Latest release v1.2.3.1 -Strongly Recommended Update *Auto pattern Edit, *Dark Cut function for long exposure

 

An installation guide is provided in the "Help, Links & FAQS" section

 

CD

 

 

CD Contents

 

 

Drivers


Currently only a windows DirectShow driver exists and is included in the driver folder. This driver installer is suitable for XP, Vista and Win7(32&64)

 

 

Applications Folder

 

Please note some software will be a link in order to abide by the requirements of the various vendors.

 

Jupiters Moons - Nice little applet that displays current positions for Jupiters major moons. Simply double click "Jupiter.htm" You'll need to allow blocked content if the warning appears! Enter your desired date & time, choose viewing instrument and details of Jovian moon positions are provided!


SharpCap (thanks to Robin) - The capture software used for testing and review of the ASI 130MM camera. Straightforward interface but feature rich.

The version is v1.5.310, please note earlier versions may not support the ASI 130MM.

I would urge all users to visit the SharpCap website to obtain the latest version as improvements\fixes are constantly being made.


FireCapture 2.1beta - Java based capture software

(Thanks to Torsten:http://firecapture.wonderplanets.de/)

 

Craterlets (Win)- My capture application of choice for beginning in webcam astrophotography, easy interface but still with all the controls you need.

 

It's provided as freeware from the generous spirited Craig Stark, creator of "Nebulosity" and other fine astro imaging apps.

Mac users can download their version from the link on the Craterlet page here

Please check out his site at "Stark Labs" it's full of useful info and both commercial and free stuff including of course the free guiding applet PHD.

 

Registax 6 - Simply amazing image processing. refer to Help Docs folder for tutorials

 

iMerge - The software used to create the stunning full lunar image in the "Example Images" section

 

AstroPlanner - This is the free download version for you to trial. Please go here for more information and to download the latest version.

Please note strictly speaking you should only download and use a version from the official site, if you like the software please uninstall this copy and use a version obtained from the website.

 

Carte du Ciel - The well known Sky Chart software available free under the GNU GPL. Windows(32 & 64) and MacOS versions . Includes Star\DSO databases together with images in respective folders!

The CdC home page is here

 

Autostitch - Applet for stitching images together to create panoramas or larger images of a single object like the moon

 

iMerge - Same as AutoStitch, the software used to create the High res moon image on the Example Images page

 

 

Help Docs

 

Installing the ASI 130 Series Drivers.pdf

 

Using the ASI 130 Series Camera as a guider.pdf

 

Using the ASI 130MM with SharpCap.pdf

 

Reducing Noise with the Pattern Editor.pdf (Not required with driver v1.2.3.1 or above!)

 

Digital Astrophotagraphy Guide particularly to web cam imaging


Webcam Astrophotography - applies more to the SPC900 but contains useful info for users of the ASI series as well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can be achieved using the ASI 130MM Camera

 

Note: All images courtesy of ZWO Optical unless otherwise stated

 

 

 

Lunar

Without a doubt this camera has completely transformed my feelings on imaging the moon. Capturing large areas in crisp detail is a doddle when combining the ASI 130MM with SharpCap capture software.

 

 

Archimedes crater and Montes Appeninus mountain range:

 

archimededs

First image is of the eastern edge region of Mares Imbrium with the prominent crater Archimedes in the centre.

 

From Wikipedia

Archimedes is a large lunar impact crater on the eastern edges of the Mare Imbrium. To the south of the crater extends the Montes Archimedes mountainous region. On the southeastern rim is the Palus Putredinis flooded plain, containing a system of rilles named the Rimae Archimedes that extend over 150 kilometers. North-northwest of Archimedes stand the Montes Spitzbergen, a string of peaks in the Mare Imbrium.

Note this and most of the other lunar images significantly reduced for web page loading.

 

 

The actual original images are FAR better than this image implies......

You can download here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyrillus Crater

My first attempt with this camera taken through a 12" SCT:

 

 

Cyrillus crater is approximately center with Theophilus on it's right edge.

Note how the four mountain peaks in the center of Theophilus have been resolved with no problem at all.

 

 

I wasn't even seriously trying with this, it was simply a quick capture to get a feel for the camera....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copernicus

Another of my attempts, this time with a bit more effort!

 

 

The huge crater Copernicus is bathed in the lunar dawn

 

 

Prime focus at 12" LX200GPS F10

Best 500 frames from 750 using Registax 6 followed by level adjustments in PS3

 

 

Again the compromises made to place the image on a webpage does not do the original justice....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halfmoon

The final Lunar example is a fabulous mosaic that you can just keep zooming in on!

 

The web page simply doesn't do this image justice....

 

Download the full image here and just keep clicking Ctrl+ to enlarge, amazing detail!

 

Remember when you return to another page you may need to alter zoom again by selecting the menu tab followed by

View > Zoom >100%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jupiter

Jupiter is now rapidly moving away from us (12th Feb)

and so is becoming a difficult object to obtain really good images of.

 

 

 

These examples have been taken last month by the manufacturer and his colleagues in China:

 

Jupiter widefield

 

Jupiter Mono taken through a 200mm Newtonian

 

 

 

 

Jupiter RGB

 

Jupiter RGB taken through a Celestron

 

 

 

Mars

 

Mars is still a way off opposition as yet (12th Feb 2012) but earth is catching up fast with the red planet.

So these examples taken well before optimum show what this camera is capable of...

 

 

Mars Colour

Mars in Mono

 

Mars Mono

Note the slight green cast to the polar region

 

is a processing issue!

 

 

Mars RGB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mars2

 

 

 

Mars RGB taken through a Celestron C14 with an enlarged view to the left.

 

When I first viewed this I thought something was off in processing with the polar cap being so orange.

 

But I viewed Mars two nights ago (2nd March 2012) and the cap is indeed quite pale. This year it seems to lack the bright white cap I have seen in the past.

Possibly it's the hemispheres summer or maybe it's Global Warming ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mars_Large

Another Mars image enlarged about as much as is sensibly possible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orion Nebula

 

Orion Nebula Mono

 

 

Finally a 60 x 30second stacked exposure of the Orion Nebula to demonstrate the long exposure capability:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Help for the ASI 130MM

For more detailed help please consult the "Help Docs" folder on the CD

 

 

Sections:

 

Installing the ASI 130 drivers

Using the ASI 130MM as a guider with PHD

Using the ASI 130MM as a guider with AstroArt 5

Using the ASI 130MM as a guider with MaximDL

Capturing images with the ASI 130MM using SharpCap

Using Pattern Editor to reduce noise

General Imaging Advice

FAQS

Links

 

 

 

Installing the ASI 130 series Drivers (WinXP & Win7)

 

Below is a walkthrough of installing the camera drivers, the whole process takes longer to read than to do!

Note You may get a slight variation on these screenshots when installing in Win7 but they are self-explanatory.

Do not connect the ASI camera until instructed below

 

 

Either by download or from the CD take the following steps:

001.JPG

 

1)      Locate the installation package " ASI130MM_Setup Vxxxx.exe"   where xxxx is the latest version number available.

 

 

Note the latest version available at the time of CD creation is used but do check the website for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

002.JPG

 

2) Double Click to run the executable and you should see the following screen:-

Click the "Run" button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

003.JPG

 

3) The ASI 130 Welcome screen displays

 

Click "Next"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

004.JPG

 

4) At this point you are presented with the installation location dialog. The default for XP is "C:\Program Files\ZWO Design\ASI130MM Camera.

 

If the installation folder does not exist it will be created for you but of course you have the option to change this location.

 

When you are happy with the location click "Install"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

005.JPG

 

 

5) You are then presented with the Windows Logo testing screen warning you the software has not passed the Windows Logo certification scheme.

 

 

Although the drivers are built using the WDM and as such should be highly reliable if you do continue you must accept this is at your own risk!

Click "Continue Anyway" to proceed with the installation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

006.JPG

 

6) On completion of the installation you are presented with the following screen:-

 

 

 

You are probably best served by removing the two ticked options

"Run ASI130xx" & "Visit our website"

If you do not remove the "Run ASI... " option you will get an error message as shown on the next step...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

007.JPG

 

7) If you fail to remove the tick as detailed above the application launches and because the camera is not yet connected the following error is displayed:-

 

 

 

 

This is no great cause for concern, simply click "OK" on the error dialog box and then click the red cross in the top right of the ... app to close it down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

008.JPG

 

 

8) At this point you can connect the ASI 130 camera via it's USB cable and the "Found New Hardware Wizard" will launch:-

 

 

 

Select "No, not this time" option and click "Next"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

009.JPG

 

 

9) Windows should automatically detect the presence of a device called "ZWO ASI130xx Camera"and ask how you wish to install the software.

 

Select “Install ... Automatically” if it isn’t  already then click “Next”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

010.JPG

 

10)   The hardware driver is checked by Windows and you are once again warned the driver has not passed Windows Logo testing.

 

 

Click “Continue Anyway”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

011.JPG

 

11)   The driver install iscompleted  with the ASI130M.sys driver file registered in

C:\\WINDOWS\System32\Drivers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

012.JPG

 

 

 

12)   The install completes with you clicking “Finish”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

013.JPG

 

13)   Going to Start-Programs-ZWO Design  will allow you to access the ASI130MM "AmCap" application in order to confirm the correct function of the camera

 

 

 

 

014.JPG

 

 

14)   If the camera has installed correctly it will be identified in the bottom right information pane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using the ASI 130MM as a guider with PHD

 

Note there is more detailed information including coverage of other guiding applications in the help guides on the CD

 

 

 

PHD1

1)   Open PHD and select the Camera icon:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HD2

 

 

2)      The camera connection dialog opens

 

 

Scroll down and select " Windows WDM-Style Webcam Camera"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHD3

 

3)      The Camera mode dialog opens. Sellect the largest imagesize available to maximise guidestar opportunities

 

 

 

Click "OK" once more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHD4

 

 

4)      The ASI 130MM is identified ad connectivity is confirmed by the description in the status bar to bottom right

 

 

 

Begin looping exposures by clicking on the loop icon 3rd from left at the bottom of the display screen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHD5

 

 

5) Select 0.5s exposure and adjust the gamma slider to your requirement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHD7

 

 

6)    Guiding star:- is visible at 0.5 second exposures with good Signal to Noise ratio

 

 

 

The star visible is 3rd Magnitude Lambda Orionis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using the ASI 130MM as a guider with AstroArt5

 

The image below shows the AS setup to guide using AstroArt5.

***Please Note there is more detailed information including coverage of other guiding applications in the help guides on the CD

 

 

Awaiting Images

 

Using the ASI 130MM as a guider with MaximDL

The image below shows the AS setup to guide using MaximDL. The setup was a 12" LX200GPS at prime focus (F10 - Focal Length 3034mm)

The selected star is the brighter of a pair lying just beside the galaxy M95 and captured with a 2sec exposure.

The star is catalogued in Skymap as:-

GSC 849:177

Magnitiude 10.26

 

MaximDL Guiding

 

***Please Note there is more detailed information including coverage of other guiding applications in the help guides on the CD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using the ASI 130MM with the SharpCap capture application

Note there is more detailed information in the SharpCap help guide on the CD

 

 

Configuring the SharpCap application for the ASI 130 camera

 

SharpCap01

 

If the ASI 130 drivers are correctly installed  and the camera is connected there is little to do by way of configuring SharpCap. Simply open the application and if the "Auto connect on startup" option is enabled the camera preview screen and settings dialog should quickly display. If Auto Connect is not selected you should click on "Camera" and from the dropdown select the first ASI 130 camera entry as shown right:-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SharpCap_in_use

 

 

 

 

SharpCap with the ASI 130MM imager provide feed to the preview screen:-

 

 

 

Note the availability of ROI (Region of Interest) controls to allow you to locate small features like planets on the full chip then reduce the resolution to increase camera speed whilst keeping the object centered

 

 

 

All the features of the ASI 130 cameras are supported in SharpCap

 

You can also control the focuser on ASCOM compliant devices from the SharpCap application

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaging

 

 

ASI 130MM imaging the moon in SharpCap:-

 

Here we see the full chip canvas available being used to capture the Copernicus crater.

This is the actual capture used to create the image in the example images tab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SharpCap Pattern Editor

*******Please Note ---- With the release of driver v1.2.3.1 this process is now automated -- See "Software" tab********

Note there is more detailed information in the help guide on the CD

 

The ASI 130MM camera although great in many respects does suffer from noise that becomes more intrusive the more we increase gain and reduce exposure time. Sadly these settings are precisely what is required for capturing planetary images.....

 

One way we can reduce noise is to use a function called "Pattern Edit"

 

 

Before Pattern Edit:-

 

pattern editor1

 

 

 

After manual Pattern Edit has been applied, note the smoother image in the preview screen :-

 

after Pattern Edit

 

 

 

 

 

General Advice on capturing images

 

 

Considerations before use

 

The first and most significant thing to consider when using a webcam to image on astronomical objects through a telescope is the image size you are working with. An ASI 130MM will be the equivalent of using a 9mm or lower eyepiece focal length in most scopes. So consider the difficulties of trying to setup your scope and align an object in the centre of the field of view if that was the ONLY eyepiece you had....
Demoralized already?
Good,  your ready to begin astroimaging......   

Let's look at the other issues:-

 

Camera

 

Connectivity  –  Ensure you install the camera drivers BEFORE connecting the webcam!

 

Cable length – Watch out for the length of your USB cable and it's quality. The frame rates are so high you need to keep the length as short as possible as well. According to the USB2.0 specification if you need to go more than 16 feet (5m) You WILL need a repeater\powered hub placed every 16 feet (5 m) up to a total maximum of 5 nodes (including the camera itself).

However I have found problems using the camera through a powered hub at high frame rates even with a USB2.0 class hub.

Update to above:-

- Since the previous sentence was written I have discovered the problem lay with a 3 metre USB Extension cable. The message is clear - keep cable lengths as short as possible and buy the best quality only.

 

Practise  –  If possible try the camera out on land based targets in broad daylight first in order to get used to focussing  correctly. This will also get your focus closer to what is required for a night time object so make a note of the focus position using your intended optical setup- see Optical Considerations – Focal length comment below.

 

Scope

 

The Mount - Is the scope motorized?  If not you will be limited in the maximum focal length and exposure times (for long exposure imaging) you can use – see Focal Length below.


Cool Down period - The scope needs to be cooled down to around ambient temperature before you start imaging, there are 2 reasons for this:

 

1. Maintaining accurate focus - Because focus is so critical the change in tube length that occurs when a scope cools down can impact on the focus

2. Tube currents - These can ruin the image even on the rare occasions when the atmosphere is super stable

 

Alignment - Make sure the scope is accurately aligned and tracking before inserting the webcam, even a large object like the moon can be surprisingly difficult to locate using just the webcam application at high focal lengths.  This is even more so if you haven't achieved accurate focus as the object will be smeared and pale. In my 12" SCT at F10 if the moon is sufficiently out of focus it isn't even observable on the computer screen....

Do you have any focussing aids? – see "Focus" further down  

 

Optical considerations

 

Collimation - Make sure the scope is well collimated especially if it's a reflector\SCT. Most refractors are fixed as far as collimation is concerned so there is little you can (or probably should!) do with that telescope type.

 

Focal length - To image the moon pretty much any focal length is usable from little 3"/70mm refractors at F4.5 up to 12"/300mm SCT's at F10+. Planets however are a different story, here you will often need to start work at F10 and will need to look at the F20 – F40 range to get a decent image size (seeing conditions permitting)


To achieve those focal lengths you will likely need to use barlows  and you want to get the best quality you can afford – I use the Meade #140 APO 2x and an AstroEngineering x4 Imagemate.  I bought mine 2nd hand off Ebay and AstroBuySell UK. The Meade is decent and I'm still trying to get a good enough night to test the ImageMate properly.
If you can afford TeleVue Powermate's....      Well lucky you! 


That said, on the "Example Images" tab Saturn was taken through a cheapie  Meade "Shorty Barlow" (#126) so check out what you have already before splurging out...


At this point many astronomers will be thinking "Hang On! The equivalent of a 6mm eyepiece with a barlow at x2 or more?  That means my magnification is WAY more than the objective can support!?!"


So what's that about? 


Well first off the camera is recording images many times a second and when processing we pick out the best frames from the AVI file that is created. As a result those brief moments of stability and good seeing can be captured in a way not possible with the human eye or "Long Exposure" ccd cameras.
Also, we are looking to match the webcams ccd pixel size to the resolution your optics are capable off, neither "Oversampling" or "Undersampling" the image.  There is a great brief description of this issue by "Merlin66"here
on the Stargazers Lounge website

If you can handle some maths there is a full explanation here on Frank Brandl's website (in fact it's a great tutorial for capturing images in general, well worth a look but look at my comments on here as well)
Suffice to say as a start for the planets look to initially achieve F10 – F20 (at least while you get some experience of planetary imaging)
Of course working at such long focal lengths introduces another problem, focus...

 

Focus - Without doubt the biggest challenge for a beginner and the most important single element required to achieve a good image is accurate focus. There are a number of methods and devices out there to achieve focus but one of the best and the one I use is a "Bhatinov Mask". You can buy these or make them as I did and there's more info here.
At some point I will put some screenshots up showing the Bhatinov mask in use together with a very smart applet called "BhatinovGrabber" available here: http://www.njnoordhoek.com/?m=200903

It allows you to accurately focus using the webcam with a Bhatinov mask. BhatinovGrabber can even automate focus if you have an ASCOM compliant electric focusser!

 

First Target - It's a no brainer – use the moon for your first target. Even in an accurately setup scope with good guiding locating the planets in the centre of the ccd chip takes effort.... Once you have mastered capturing the moon you can then go on to try the planets.


The temptation is to go for the planets first because they're perceived as "More Interesting" But! to capture the planets you will need to work your way up the magnification ladder whilst keeping the object centred at all times and you need experience with the equipment first.
Don't give in to the temptation, it's more likely to just leave you demoralised and disappointed to the point of giving up webcam imaging...

 

Capturing Frames

 

If you have worked your way through all the earlier issues your now ready to image, see the SharpCap guide for hints and advice.

Do be aware of the potentially very large file sizes that can be created when capturing the AVI. Check your hard drive space


Also bear in mind that there is a limit to the length of time you can image the planets because of the high speed of rotation of some, particularly Jupiter. This has the effect of "Smearing" the data so reducing resolution in the image. Again view Frank Brandl's site for a discussion of this topic.

 

 

 

FAQS

 

A customer asks:-

 

Interested in the new cam for my son, I just bought him a nexstar 127 mak do you think the asi is justified for this or will a phillips cam be a better starter.

Thanks in advance

Rob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Reply-

 

Philips SPC900 or ASI's for young amateur?
 
If you'd asked me that question 4 months ago the Philips would win it hands down, now I'm not so sure
for the following :
 
1) The price the Philips webcams are fetching at the moment are insane... The last few I'm selling off at
auction fetching between £80 - £130. I was selling them last year for £50 + delivery....
 
2) The chip size on the philips is very small. Now that isn't important for imaging the planets so much but
it does make getting the planet in view in the first place and then keeping it there is harder work......
 
3) The newer cameras have something called ROI, this allows you to use the full chip to locate the planet.
Then you zoom in at the resolution that gives you the required image size and you can move this area
around within the main "canvas" to keep the planet in view if it's drifting away.
 
4)The larger chip means getting lovely high res pictures of the moon is much easier and more rewarding.
 
5) With a bigger chip and the long exposure support of the ASI 130's you can expand your target range to
far more objects than the Philips (Philips is strictly for Moon & Planets really). The Philips would need
to be long exposure modded with a new chip and a steady hand with the soldering iron.... 
 
 
Now the disadvantages of the ASI's:-
 
1) The only model currently available is Mono, no issue for the moon but you would need CCD colour filters
to create colour images of the planets and other objects. That adds complexity at the imaging stage,
taking the camera out, swapping screw in filters in the dark or paying for a filter wheel (more expense!)
It also adds complexity at the processing stage as you have to marry up those Red,Green and Blue images.
The reason imagers put themselves through this palaver is because the Mono cameras give much higher
resolution than a colour of the same chip dimensions.
 
2) The ASI is more expensive, although as stated in the first comment that's marginal at the moment. In fact
the last chap who bid £133 pounds has instead chosen to upgrade to the ASI instead after I contacted him
 with  an offer to do so. I just didn't feel comfortable taking that amount of money off someone for an
SPC900 when the ASI is far superior for only £20 more......
I should state the chap has been imaging for a decade with film so was well aware of the work involved
with RGB imaging (Red, Green & Blue).   
 
3) The ASI uses a CMOS chip as opposed to the CCD of the Philips. Without going into detail CCD chips are
better than CMOS for astro imaging (but CMOS have come a long way and are closing the gap)
 
4) The ASI 130 doesn't come with an IR filter it is an extra. I did consider including one with all cameras
but this up's the base price and most customers buying one already have filters like these.
 
 
 
To summarize:
 
A) Philips if you can get it cheap enough, less than £65. You can always upgrade later and the
Philips will hold their value for a while.
If you buy one of my auction ones I am offering a trade in on the philips if\when  you upgrade :)
 
B) Get the ASI 130MM if you son is VERY keen and be prepared to pay another £100 (2nd hand!) 
- £190 (new) for RGB filters. Note these need to be stated as CCD quality NOT VISUAL!
You will also probably want a filter wheel to make life easier (£60 - £500!! I kid you not LOL!)
I am testing some RGB filters at the moment (when the weather gods choose to smile upon me.....  )
If they fulfill the manufacturers promise they will easily be the cheapest CCD RGB filters around as I'll
be retailing around the £60 mark delivered!
As you can see serious imaging tends to have lots of ten pound notes wrapped around it
 
C) Wait for the ASI Colour versions to arrive, easier to use, more satisfying for a youngster who
would find messing with filters in the dark gets old real quick.......
It's currently being tested by the manufacturer and he assures me I will see some before the end of March.
 

 

 

LINKS

 

 

awaiting update

 

 

How to Buy

 

 

How Much?

 

The ASI 130MM camera will be available for £147.99 + Delivery

Please note this is a special introduction price and will not be held beyond the end of March 2012

 

Shipping charges are:-

 

UK £3.99 (1st Class Signed For Service Tracked Delivery next working day)

 

EU £7.99 (1st Class Signed For Service Tracked Delivery in 4-7 working days)

 

I'm afraid the cost of delivery has had to be increased above my initial estimates due to the extra insurance premium required by Royal Mail

On a more positive note this does mean faster delivery times now apply.

 

Worldwide - please contact me as the cameras will be delivered direct from manufacturer to avoid a "Double Whammy" of customs charges.

 

 

 

Total Price including delivery:

 

UK - including delivery = £151.98

 

EU - including delivery = £155.98

 

Rest Of World - including delivery = Please Confirm prior to ordering

 

 

How to Buy?

 

 

Use PayPal!

 

 

Delivery Options - Please select your location

Please note you are allowed to order even if the item is out of stock. If this is the case you will be informed and given the option to cancel. Out of stock delivery is usually 7-8 working days for this item.

 

 

 

I have had requests for the ability to pay be internet banking, at the moment this is only available for UK and EU purchasers.

Please contact me if you wish to use this method.

 

 

 

 

EBAY

 

I will occasionally place these cameras on EBay in auction format, to see if any are available click here to view my Ebay profile then look at my "Items for Sale" via the link on the right side of the feedback page.

 

 

 

 

 

Warranty & Returns

 

12 Months Warranty against manufacturing faults is provided, units will need to be returned to me for inspection before offers of refund or repair are provided.

 

Please note ALL cameras are checked and confirmed functioning prior to packing.

 

In the event of a problem please contact me in the first instance using either the contact details sent with the camera or the via the "Contact" tab on the main navigation bar.

You will be contacted by me to arrange returns with either "Swapout" or refund.

 

If you purchased via EBay you can use either their "Dispute Resolution" process or contact me here (without prejudice to your EBay resolution rights!)