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Use of Video Astro Cameras by CN Members??

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#126 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 08:09 AM

Brad,

Very nice for a stack of only 4 frames - and what a nice, wide field of view.

Jack

#127 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 08:13 AM

Brad,

This week coming I plan on experimenting with my 6" refractor and HYPER PLUS to see what it is capable of from my ever-increasing light polluted neighborhood.

In looking at the view of M82 with your 5", I am impressed with the color revealed. We were looking at this galaxy in Bob Schilling's 20" at Chiefland, and althouhg his scope showed a lot more detail in the core area of the galaxy, the colors were somewhat subdued. The core was pinkish, but not as intense as in your image. I will see what my 6" shows.

Jack

#128 BradH

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 10:46 AM

Jack

I try to take out the laptop and capture M82 this weekend. The shot I took was with a digital camera and I lost alot of detail. What I saw on the screen was lots of color and detail.

I will be looking forward to you thoughts of the PLUS in a 6" refractor.

Brad

#129 JAT Observatory

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 10:54 AM

Marcus

Will you trying out the Mallicam in you scopes now that you have most of controlled remotely.

I read your having problems with your dome I hope its not to serious.

Brad


Brad,
Yeah since I now have remote control of the camera it seems a waste to only use it as a finder. I’ll try it first on the my 10” SCT then maybe solar scope.

The big concern is the dome. I have not looked at it so I am not sure what is really wrong, but it was making some nasty sounds.

#130 BradH

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 11:00 AM

Marus

I hope you are up and running soon. Let hope its not a big problem with the dome.

Brad

#131 JAT Observatory

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 09:42 AM

Brad,
I am up and running. The problem with the dome appeared to be ice on the track. I inspected the dome this weekend and found no problems. Shutting it down was still the right thing to do as it might have hurt the motor if I kept running it.

I played a bit with the MallinCam on the 10” but to be honest I liked having my SBIG CCD camera there instead. I have so much more flexibility with the CCD camera. One of the problems I have with having the video camera on the SCT is focus. The SCT needs to be refocused a number of times during the evening. With the CCD camera I can auto-focus remotel in about 30 seconds, I haven’t found a way to do that yet with the video cams. While its not color a 7 or 14 second exposure with my CCD camera goes deeper and shows me more than the video does. So for me based on the equipment I already own the Mallincam is more useful attached to the 50mm finder. The real-time wide field view are useful to me.

Now having said that I have to admit the remote control does make the video camera a much more useful unit. The ability to adjust the camera settings remotely was the missing link. The GUI make it so much easier. I spent the evening slewing around looking at stuff. Over the weekend I pick up a USB video capture device from Best Buy called Dazzle for about $50. I now one of the camera’s outputs going to the Slingbox and the other going to the Dazzle thingy. The Dazzle box allows the video cams to work with Guidedog, PhD, Astroart etc. I can even preview video inside CCDSoft (but I can’t take a picture from there ). I am thinking about connection a remote cable to the GStar camera and using a RS-232 switch port to control between the 2 camera as I don’t have any 232 ports left on the observatory PC and I have pretty much used up the USB ports. I also need to find the another connector for the camera side.

#132 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 01:20 PM

Marcus,

What brand of CCD camera are you using?

Jack Huerkamp

#133 BradH

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 01:37 PM

Marcus

Can you get some kid of heaters for you track?

What I like about the camera is DSO's in color using a 5" scope. It gives me the best of both worlds.

Iam glad you got it working remotely and, hopefully down the road it will be standard for the camera's.

I look at these camera's as one big visual aid (kind of like a big color EP). Its a big hit when I have a few people over.

Hopefully in a few weeks I will have the HYPER PLUS which will give me 7/14/28/56 sec. It will allow me to go pretty deep.

Brad

#134 JAT Observatory

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 05:10 PM

Marcus,

What brand of CCD camera are you using?


Jack

I have the Mallincam Hyper and a GStar-EX.

#135 JAT Observatory

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 05:21 PM

Marcus

Can you get some kid of heaters for your track?


The problem is the type of snow. Which is how I believe the problem started. The snow was the dry powder type. Since it was dry some of it must have gotten blown in through the shutter openings. When that happens some will collect on the on lip over the track that covers the roation wheels. When the snow gets in it is only a little bit and has never caused a problem before. In this case I figure the snow melted and ran down behind the cover over the track. The water must have puddled and then frozen when the temp dropped.

#136 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 06:01 PM

Marcus,

I meant your SBIG camera. Which one is it?

Jack

#137 JAT Observatory

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 09:34 PM

Oh..sorry, I have a ST-2000XM and ST-402ME. I also have a one shot color MX7-C that I use from time to time.

#138 JAT Observatory

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 07:54 PM

Ok since I got my MallinCam working under remote control I decided it was time to start working on remote controlling the thermal cooler and Hyper controls. I popped off the cover and the wiring to the switches is simple. I have to see what wireless parts I have left, but it looks like it should be very easy to make a circuit that I can connect to the wireless receiver.

The other part is since I also have a GStar-EX I want to be able to remote control that also. I have purchased some 8 pin din connectors so I can build a control cable (I already have the RS-232 to RS-485 converter). But since the observatory computer is out of COM ports I have a Serial port switch on order. This will allow me to switch many serial devices (that I don't need to constantly control and monitor) between a single serial port.

I already started coding the new GUI for the video camera control. The 2 new rows of buttons are at the bottom.

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#139 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 17 March 2007 - 06:24 AM

Marcus,

I look forward to hearing how your remote control project for the MallinCam works out. While you are working on it, you may want to consider adding features for the 28 and 56 second exposure limits that are now available on the MallinCam HYPER PLUS. The PLUS has an additional switch that takes the 7 second exposure limit and extends it by 4 to yield 28 seconds and likewise for the 14 second exposure. Using the same switch it becomes 56 seconds.

You need to contact Rock about upgrading your camera to a PLUS.

Jack

#140 JAT Observatory

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Posted 17 March 2007 - 07:18 AM

I would have to find out what the cost and turn around time would be for the upgrade before I would consider it.

#141 JAT Observatory

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 08:57 PM

Well after scratching my head for a day I finally got another part of my remote video camera setup working. Here is the background info:

I have 2 video cameras one is a Mallincam Color and the other is a GSTAR-EX. The hardware interface that controls the basic functions (gain, electronic shutter, etc) are same. Both cameras use a RS485 interface.

Playing with RS232 to RS485 converters I was able to remotely control each camera via its own cable and interface. Since both cameras are mounted at the same time I wanted to be able to remotely setup the functions for each camera. In addition to each camera requiring its own separate cable and RS232 to RS485 converter, each camera would require it own com port.
The cables were easy enough to fabricate and the converters are cheap ($14 plus shipping). The COM port was the problem. Besides not having any more COM ports available on my observatory computer (even with USB to Serial adapters) the “gstar.com” program that allows remote control of the camera requires the camera be connected to COM1 or the software will not work, period It took me weeks before I stumbled upon that info. What that meant was I could only remotely control the setting on one camera at a time. If I wanted control the setting on the other camera I had to either connect the first one and plug in the other or; Go into the windows control panel and play games with the com port addresses. That just wasn’t going to cut it.

Enter the 20 port serial switch. Just as the name implies this is a switch that has 20 serial port outputs on it. I have to admit even with my shortage of com ports 20 ports was a bit more than I needed but it solved my problem. Using this device I would be able to attach both cameras to COM1 and switch the control between them. The switch works by connecting its console port to the serial port on your PC. By using a program like Hyper Term you send the “attention character” which in this case is 2 ~’s separated by about ½ second. This brings up the menu for the switch. This allows you to configure the com ports to be either on or off, label the switch or label each individual port. While you can turn on more than one com port and then broadcast to all of them only one can talk back. The way I use the port is to enable only one port at a time. The switch is a great device if you need to control a number of serial devices but not at the same time. You could for example switch to your filter wheel, change the filter, switch to your focuser, focus the camera and than switch back to your scope, all connected to COM1.

This device was the answer to my problems…until I connected the RS232 to RS485 converters. As soon as I did that I was not able to control the camera’s settings and I could not enable the menu system on the switch. A call to tech support yielded a receptionist connecting me to a tech who was out of the office, so I got his answering machine (translation..no help). Well after messing around for a day I finally figured out the problem The RS485 unit requires a null modem (swap of pins 2 and 3) and it requires the RS485 converter to be powered from an external source when connected to the switch. After applying the above fixes the switch works as advertised. The switch will be mounted in the observatory sometime this week. The Mallincam, GSTAR, Adirondack flat field light panel, a DIY wireless controller, camera control box, power strip, network controller and a couple of other devices with be connected at first. Hopefully I can finish the coding for the observatory control GUI that will switch between the cameras and install the switch sometime this week.

The switch is manufactured by Digital Logger Inc and cost $119. It will even work with a USB to serial adapter if your PC is a laptop with no real serial ports.

#142 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 02:02 PM

Brad,

I did not use my MallinCam HYPER PLUS in my 6" achromat this past weekend. Instead I opted to try it out in my Orion ED80 to see what a small scope would be capable of. Here is a single 28 second frame grab of M42 and the Running Man Nebula. To get the wide field shown, I placed an MFR-4 focal reducer into the camera which changed the scope from f/7.5 to about f/3.

Jack Huerkamp

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  • 1498892-M42-RM ED80 SF.jpg


#143 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 02:06 PM

Marcus,

I look forward to further reports on your experiment with remote controlling of the MallinCam via the GUI you are developing.

Jack Huerkamp

#144 BradH

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 02:09 PM

Jack

Thats a great shot. I love the WFOV and all with a 80mm.

Rock has just finished my upgrade so by next week I should have it back.

Brad

#145 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 07:42 AM

Brad,

Wih the MFR-4 on the ED80, the FOV was about 1.2 degrees measured across the wide dimension of the CCD sensor. A HyperStar 11" will yield about a 0.8 degree field of view and that is the scope I am looking at right now.

Jack

#146 JAT Observatory

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 10:29 PM

Here is a unprocessed single frame daylight moon shot taken with a Mallincam connected to a Stellarvue F50 finder scope @ 50% zoom. The really nice thing about having remote control of the camera besides being able to adjust the exposure settings is being able to flip the image in either the horizontol & vertical axis. The allow the target to be viewed right side up on the PC screen no matter what type of scope you have. For GEM users a flip needs to be done when the scope does a meridian flip.

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#147 JAT Observatory

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Posted 29 March 2007 - 06:52 PM

This image of the Moon was taken with the GTSTAR-EX Black & White CCD Video camera. This image was taken at the same time the above (daylight Moon image was taken). The white streak is a passing aircraft. The black dots are because the lens is dirty.

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#148 JAT Observatory

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 08:58 PM

Image of the Asteroid 2006 VV2 flyby. It was taken with a Mallincam and is a single frame with no cooling or Hyper settings. The asteroid is the small dim dot near the center of the inmage.

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#149 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 06:57 PM

Marcus,

The image is not visible.

Jack

#150 jason_milani

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 08:06 PM

Got my Mallincam color hyper back today from Rock Mallin and it is now a HYPER COLOR PLUS!

Can't wait to try it out if the clouds ever clear around here ;)

What this means (for those of you not aware) is that i can now use, not only, 2,7,14 second integration times, but, 28 and 56 second integrations as well. That's like quadrupling the performace of the camera!

The best part is that Rock Mallin upgraded it for no charge. All i paid for was shipping to him :)

Talk about service - these cameras are the best kept "secret" in amateur astronomy.

If i had to scale back my equipment i would sell everything but a small, portable scope (5 or 6" sct or a fast 3 to 4" refractor), a small EQ mount that tracks fairly well, a monitor and this camera. I'd rather have an 80mm refractor and this camera setup than a 14" scope on a quality EQ mount. And that's saying a LOT :)


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