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#1 ohills

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 09:45 PM

I just purchased my first telescope, a nexstar 8se. I would like to get into video astronomy. Looking to get the mallincam Jr pro pc. I have everything needed for visual but nothing for video. I know that this scope will need a focal reducer or reducers. I want to control everything with my windows 7 laptop. What else is needed?

Roy

#2 Dwight J

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 10:02 PM

Light pollution filter if you are observing from urban area. A wedge if you want to exceed 30 - 45 seconds exposure time. You may need a serial to usb converter and a video to usb dongle if the camera does not come supplied with them. Otherwise, with a focal reducer you are good to go.

#3 iam1ru12

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 07:04 AM

Welcome to CloudyNights! As for what equipment is needed, how do envision displaying images, to a monitor or a laptop? The answer to this will slightly change the equipment needed.

In any case, you'll need:

> A camera
> Focal reducers, the field of view using your 8" at f/10 will be quite narrow
> Remote to access camera menus - more of a recommendation than a requirement
> A method to provide power, assuming you're away from 110v power, I'd recommend a deep cycle 12v battery that can power your mount, dew heaters and your camera

Assuming you want to send the camera feed to a laptop:
> a method to capture the analog signal into the laptop, for example a USB video capture device
> software to display the image from the USB device and some applications can even control the camera (additional connection back to the camera may be needed

You mentioned getting the Mallincam Jr Pro. You may also wish to consider the Advanced Video Systems MKIII (actually it now has upgraded firmware and will be dubbed MKIV). You can get a turn key system for $429. You'll need to add a focal reducer (check out the AVS VarioReducer - $99 - works great on my C11 - and will provide 0.6x to 0.23x reduction depending on how you configure/arrange the spacers). You'll also need to and a USB capture device, AVS sells a good, high quality one for $49.

I started getting into Video Astronomy when a fellow club member loaner me an older monochrome StellaCam III. I really liked what it could do, I was ready to get my own camera and thought where was only one real player In the market. This is definitely not the case. There are several. I went with AVS for several reasons but check out the AVS site for yourself at http://www.astro-video.com

Hopefully owners of other camera (like Lodestar, etc.) can post other links for you to check out.

Good luck with whichever equipment you end up going with and again welcome to Cloudy Nights! Keep us posted.

-Mike
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#4 Relativist

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 04:17 PM

What are you going to use to display the video? Your post implies using the laptop, is that what your going to do?

#5 ohills

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 06:42 PM

Curtis

I'm planning to use a windows 7 laptop.

#6 Dragon Man

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:32 AM

At first, you can keep it as simple as you like.

Here are the 2 most basic set-ups of all! They show just how simple Video Astronomy can be.
I made these graphics for my Video Astronomy website:

http://static.wixsta...aacfb50f.jpg...

http://static.wixsta...5d15848f.jpg...

Beyond these very basic methods you can add Focal reducers, Barlows, filters, etc.
But the graphics are to show that you don't necessarily need all that stuff to get started.

#7 Skylook123

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 07:17 PM

Ken gives wise advice, as always.  I, however, did not start simple.

 

For visual on my public outreach I use a Mallincam Jr. PRO (not the PRO PC) and use a 12V LCD monitor (either 16" or 19") with a straight composite feed.  If I want to record anything, I change to S-Video out and use a Mallincam Frame Grabber and the wired controller on my Win7 laptop.   Then you'll need some processing software on the laptop.  Mallincam comes with free Mallincam Control, or you can use the Honestech software that comes with the frame grabber, or Miloslick that does quite a bit more, or a freeware capture option like AMCap (free download on the Mallincam site) or Firecap.  If you do go with a Mallincam, most of the cameras are the equivalent of an 8mm eyepiece so a focal reducer is a big help since you not only have a tight field of view, you will usually be driving the f/10 to more magnification than it can comfortably handle.  For my 10" SCT, depending on the target, I will go with an f/6.8 Celestron reducer on the visual back, then a 0.5x Antares reducer on the camera to get to f/3.4.   Gorgeous views.  For planets, however, the recommendation is usually to go with a barlow up to f/20.  I stick with f/10 (315X), since f/20 (630X) way overdrives the visual grasp of the 10" OTA and really complicates focusing the blur.

 

I was fixing up an 8" f/6 Skyquest tube dob as a gift for a young newbie to astronomy and decided to try and see what the PRO would do with an untracked mount.  Here is a single frame capture with the laptop and Miloslick, no focal reduction, just the camera in the focuser:

 

Attached File  Jupiter_12312013.png   27.14KB   16 downloads


Edited by Skylook123, 08 August 2014 - 07:18 PM.

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#8 Don Rudny

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 09:13 PM

Hi Roy,
 
I hope you find near real time EAA as rewarding as I have.  It allows you to see things that you can't with pure visual means.  You have a nice setup for near real time viewing. The analog video cam options are wide ranging and produce great results.  You have already received some qualified feedback on that option. The one that was mentioned that you might also consider is the new Lodestar X2 made by Starlight Express.  It is mono, but they recently released a color version that should be available soon.  The sensor used has the highest sensitivity of any NRTV cams.  It has a single USB connection and can also be used as a guider.  Paul from the UK has developed a program called Lodestar Live that produces near real time images that can be captured at any time.  The new version has a stacking feature that will probably allow you to use shorter exposures, so a wedge would not be necessary for your setup.  The program is available at no cost thanks to Paul's dedication to astronomy.  It has both Mac and Windows versions.

 

The cost is reasonable at about $600.  The only other thing you would need is a focal reducer.  There are many available.  I have found the F3.3 and F6.3 SCT reducers the best in reducing coma and field curvature aberrations. 

 

Here are some of my captures from the Lodestar X2.  I am relatively new to amateur astronomy and was inspired by a poster named Nytecam.  You can also look up his work which is very impressive.  

 

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

http://stargazerslou.../36930-hilodon/



#9 Don Rudny

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 09:13 PM

Eliminated repeat.


Edited by Don Rudny, 08 August 2014 - 11:59 PM.


#10 CA Curtis 17

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 11:37 PM

Roy,

 

I did a demonstration and presentation on getting started with video astronomy at my local astronomy club this past Feb.   Here is a link to that presentation which shows the basic setups for pc and non-pc observing.

 

http://www.trivalley.../2014-02-21.pdf

 

Best Regards,

Curtis (the other Curtis)


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#11 CA Curtis 17

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 11:37 PM

Roy,

 

I did a demonstration and presentation on getting started with video astronomy at my local astronomy club this past Feb.   Here is a link to that presentation which shows the basic setups for pc and non-pc observing.

 

http://www.trivalley.../2014-02-21.pdf

 

Best Regards,

Curtis (the other Curtis)



#12 Dom543

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 11:45 AM

Roy,

 

The Celestron 8SE is based on an altaz mount. For long exposure video or photography (exp>30 sec), you would need a wedge to eliminate field rotation. The SE was not designed with a wedge in mind. Due to tripod stability issues, it is difficult to outfit it with a wedge, if you live South of latitude 60 (Anchorage, AK).

 

The alternative is to go with a camera that has a modern Super HAD II sensor. These sensors are much more sensitive and hence give good results with shorter exposures (30 sec or less). This eliminates the need for a wedge. The following cameras have Super HAD II sensors. Entry level: Mallincam Micro, AVS DSO, Samsung SCB-2000. More advanced: AVS MK-IV. Non-video: Lodestar x2.

 

To enjoy DSO's with an altaz mount you will need a focal reducer that gets you close to f/3, as one of the following: Meade 3.3 reducer/corrector, AVS Vario-reducer, Mallincam MFR-5.

 

On the software side you may consider AstoLive for the video cameras or LodestarLive for the Lodestar. Both of these have stacking algorithms that compensate for field rotation. Using them you can stack several shorter exposures. You can also control most cameras from these software packages. (At this point AstroLive cannot control the Mallincam Pro Jr and the Samsung SCB-2000.)

 

--Dom


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#13 Starman81

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 03:31 PM

Roy,

 

I did a demonstration and presentation on getting started with video astronomy at my local astronomy club this past Feb.   Here is a link to that presentation which shows the basic setups for pc and non-pc observing.

 

http://www.trivalley.../2014-02-21.pdf

 

Best Regards,

Curtis (the other Curtis)

 

Curtis, that is an excellent Intro to Video astronomy PowerPoint presentation you put together!



#14 dragonslayer1

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 03:50 PM

I second that, its the best, most informative, simple to understand, non-biased, well laid out presentation, totally self explanatory introduction to video astro... Well done Curtis  (The other Curtis),

Kasey



#15 cbwerner

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 10:28 AM

That really is Curtis - I wish all presentations were that clear, balanced, and informative.  :applause:



#16 CA Curtis 17

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 04:19 PM

Thanks, guys.  I really appreciate the feedback, especially the 'non-biased" and "balanced" comments as I tried to be that way.   I am working on something to follow up and will let everyone know when I have it.

 

Best Regards,

Curtis



#17 RightWill

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:54 AM

Curtis,

 

 I noticed on your comparison chart that you referred to "TEC". What is that?



#18 Relativist

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 12:34 PM

TEC is an abbreviation for thermoelectric cooling. http://en.m.wikipedi...lectric_cooling



#19 CA Curtis 17

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 01:19 PM

Rightwill,

 

The other Curtis is correct.  Cameras equiped with TEC like some of the Mallincams and at least one of Matt's Video Astro cameras will help to reduce/eliminate hot/warm pixels by cooling the CCD.  Lots of folks are not offended by the hot and warms pixels so the extra cost of TEC is unnecessary for them.  I like to have as clean of an image as possible so I have a camera equipped with cooling.  It does not completely eliminate the hot/warm pixels in all cases, especially with very long exposures, but helps a lot.

 

Regards,

Curtis



#20 RightWill

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:35 PM

Thanks Curtis Curtis,,,, So I'll assume this is a peltier cooler. What do the warm pixels look like? I do notice on NSN a lot of the images have stars that are very colorful, way too colorful, looks like a Christmas tree. Is that what you mean?



#21 mclewis1

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 10:22 PM

Rick,

 

I find that the hot pixels on my Mallincam are white and the warm pixels tend to be colored.

 

The hot pixels are there all the time (well "all" being exposures beyond 2 seconds or so), the warm pixels are reduced or eliminated with cooling and reducing the gain. The warm pixels tend to be smaller and sharper than similarly bright stars.


Edited by mclewis1, 16 August 2014 - 10:23 PM.


#22 cbwerner

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 10:29 PM

That sounds right Rick. The colors you are seeing in that case should be the RGB of the Bayer matrix in the color cameras I presume they are using.

 

To amplify what Curtis said, there are several sources of "noise" in digital cameras including the CCDs predominantly used in astronomy. The one this topic involves is "dark current" - noise that exists in the pixels simply by the sensor being active (in contrast, for example, there is also read current noise from when the data from an image is output for storage). Since we are recording very faint targets, much of the challenge in any kind of astrophotography is to maximize the signal to noise ratio, so getting rid of as much noise as possible greatly enhances our results. 

 

Happily, dark current noise is temperature dependent - hence the TEC features built into astronomical CCDs. You may also have heard of people taking "darks" for "dark subtraction" - this also addresses dark current noise, but really does more to remove any unevenness in the noise across the sensor - dark current noise is not at the same level in every pixel.



#23 cbwerner

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 10:33 PM

Rick,

 

I find that the hot pixels on my Mallincam are white and the warm pixels tend to be colored.

 

The hot pixels are there all the time (well "all" being exposures beyond 2 seconds or so), the warm pixels are reduced or eliminated with cooling and reducing the gain. The warm pixels tend to be smaller and sharper than similarly bright stars.

 

Mark,

 

If I'm understanding you, I'm pretty sure the hot pixels are actually defects in the sensor, which all CCDs have. Dark subtraction will remove these as well, but since they are so hot anyway, there's probably not any data left after subtraction.



#24 mclewis1

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 11:27 AM

Chris,

 

I find most folks doing EAA don't do dark frame substractions. It's certainly an option in many of the latest display and control apps. Those that do regularly use dark frames tend to be interested in creating better looking saved images rather than quick viewing.

 

The presence of hot pixels is just one of the reasons to be careful about the quality of the sensor in a camera chosen for EAA. As you've pointed out we are generally conditioned to using tools to remove problems with the sensors in our images. For a lot of EAA work you don't want to have to do the extra work, you want cleaner images right from the camera. Thus the choice of sensor and camera manufacturer becomes even more of an issue.

 

The preferred sensors for EAA tend to have CYGM bayer masks vs. RGB ... I believe because the CYGM masks tend to pass more light. The warm pixels with these sensors also seem to not be quite as strongly colored but the color is still apparent.


Edited by mclewis1, 17 August 2014 - 05:38 PM.


#25 cbwerner

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 01:30 PM

Mark,

 

Thanks for that background. I had guessed that there isn't a lot of dark subtraction going on, as it still takes at least some time even if automated in camera. In referring to the RGB matrix I was mainly reacting to the "Christmas tree" analogy and thinking red and green.

 

But I definitely did not know that about the matrices and their relative light transmission. In fact, I didn't even know about CYGM, only CMYK. That's good to know - thanks!








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