Recent Updates: see below!
The purpose of this site is to share our experience on astrophotography for education.
We use an educational Newtonian reflector telescope with may not be as powerful as those $1-2k telescopes we are use to see, but this is the kind one may use in school to learn a little bit about Astronomy and science. Many great careers in science started at school with a simple reflector or refractor telescope.
We learned the hard but also rewarding way to adapt webcams and digital cameras to our reflector telescope. In the different sections you will learn how to adapt simple but good web cam as well as digital photo cameras to your telescope.
Browse to our first section on the Adapting a HD webcam to a telescope. We used a Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000. We managed to record as many pictures of the process so you can follow them and make it even better than ours. As we gather pictures and videos we will be posting them.
We also took time to build other useful gadgets for observational astronomy and for astrophotography and videography like a dew heater, a spectrometer, a laser collimator, a carrying case for one of our telescopes, etc.
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Azael Barrera, Ph.D.
Physicist and Amateur Astronomer
—————————————-Update, January 2013 —————————————-
Well, guess what, since January 2013 I am now teaching introductory Astronomy to first year undergraduate students with a university of Florida. So, a very good reason to share our experiences now not only as amateur astronomer but as astronomy professor.
——————————————Update, May 2013-———————————————-
As we mentioned we were going to test the camera we built based on a CMOS HD webcam. And we did. And it works great, but not as good as a CCD camera. So we also got two astro specialized CCD cameras, a Celestron NexImage, based on a small VGA CCD chip. Newer Celestron cameras are now CMOS-chip based, CCDs had jumped to $300 and more; some are even marketed as CCDs and are really CMOS-based.
So, to show the results see the page related to testing the camera.
And last but not least, we got a used computerized Celestron Nexstar 5i SCT with GPS and the newer hand control and space for autoguider and computer control using Stellarium, and more accessories. We got it in a ebay auction which in turns supported an adult rehabilitation center run by the Salvation Army. It costed $400 including shipping abroad but it was worth it.
Once we get results on this last telescope, we will show some of them.
Until then, happy stargazing!
——————————————-Update, August 2013 ——————————————-
We just made a transporting case for our recently bought telescope, the Nexstar 5i.
It is based on a rolling tool chest by Stanley with locks for padlocks, so it may be taken in flights! The tripod goes in a zipped bag. Check the section Making a Case for a SCT Telescope.
—————————————— Update, October 2013———————————————
We have been very happy with our Astrocamera using the HD-3000 and also with the old NextImage CCDs – tricky because you need the Philips drivers to run in Win7- so we jump to the next level: astrospectroscopy.
We are posting here how we build a spectrometer based in the same cheap HD-3000 webcam (Microsoft should give us a dozen for free to do more things with it!). Check the section AstroSpectroscopy with Webcams.
We are also posting some bench tests and tests done with spectroscopic lamps to verify the capabilities of this arrangement.
We will also post some updating images with the “new” telescope and the “new” and “old” cameras.
In addition, we did another project: a laser collimator using a key-chain laser pointer. Read on the section Building a Laser Collimator for a Newtonian Telescope. Remember, you need a collimated laser to collimate a telescope!
——————————————-Updates November 2013 —————————–
We have modified once again the HD-3000 webcam we already adapted to our telescopes. We need it to focus better with any telescope. If you build one following our steps, you may have had a similar problem, so here is a fix to that. Revisit the section Adapting an HD Webcam to a telescope.
Due to recurrent dew problems, we built a simple dew heater for our SCT telescope. See the section Simple DIY Dew Heater.
We think we are now really ready for comet ISON (C/2012 S1)!
If you have questions, send them, we will try to answer what we can. Our university teaching and research duties do not let much time to spare.
Keep coming back and send your comments.