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The Trash a Webcam Project


TractionMan
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A while back when the weather was particularly lousy, I decided to start a project to modify a webcam for astronomy use just for fun. I know dobsonians aren't meant for imaging but I want to find out what and how much that can be done with this setup anyway. If nothing else, I'll get a laugh trying (might learn a thing or two as well). So off I went to purchase a cheap webcam in order to rip it apart and start experimenting. Thought I'd share some pictures to start with and then update the thread as the progress of this silly little project/experiment continues.

Not knowing which webcams are suitable for astronomy use, I just picked a cheap model, the Microsoft LifeCam HD 3000:

TAW001.jpg

Unboxed and a closer look at the cam:

TAW002.jpg

Tools of destruction:

TAW003.jpg

The webcam proved to be more difficult to pry open than I thought:

TAW004.jpg

Edit: Doh! I accidently pressed Post New Topic instead of Preview Post. *sigh*

Edit 2: typo.

Edited by TractionMan
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I'll try to press the correct button from now on... :lipsrsealed:

Finally managed to remove the back of the webcam:

TAW005.jpg

Two tiny little screws held the circuit board in place:

TAW006.jpg

A closer look (ohh admire the fine work with the screwdriver in order to pry open the webcam): :grin:

TAW007.jpg

Hmmm how to deal with this?

TAW008.jpg

I know! Another supreme tool of destruction:

TAW009.jpg

Hah! That was easy enough:

TAW010.jpg

Cover completely removed from the circuit board:

TAW011.jpg

Time to remove the lens, two more tiny screws:

TAW012.jpg

Also easily removed:

TAW013.jpg

A closer look at the sensor without the lens:

TAW014.jpg

No need for a microphone on a webcam for astronomy use. Off it goes, snip, snip:

TAW015.jpg

Now I need a way to connect the webcam to the telescope. Hmmm I think I might be able to use this dust collecting EP:

TAW016.jpg

Have to take it apart first though:

TAW017.jpg

There, the redundant parts removed (lenses):

TAW018.jpg

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The sensor needs to be as close to the center as possible:

TAW019.jpg

A crude and simple solution to attach the circuit board to the modified eyepiece, with electrical tape:

TAW020.jpg

Couldn't reach focus without this cheap Meade erecting eyepiece that was bundled with the telescope

TAW021.jpg

Trying to focus at a wind turbine about 4.5 km away:

TAW022.jpg

That's how far I've come at the moment. The electrical tape solution is not a permanent one, it's just to see if it works ok. I'll post the initial test footage soon as well.

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Nice one :) Hot melt glue is a good substitute for insulation tape as long as you're careful :D My body seems to have a strong attraction to hot things :eek: Be careful where you drop the melted glue too.

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Nice one :) Hot melt glue is a good substitute for insulation tape as long as you're careful :D My body seems to have a strong attraction to hot things :eek: Be careful where you drop the melted glue too.

So hot melt glue won't wreck the circuit board? When or if I get this camera to work properly I'll most likely use something better than electrical tape. Thanks for the tip! :smiley:

Looking good now well done

Plenty of room for improvements but I'm currently just trying to make it work.

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From the images the sensor doesn't look very central in the eyepiece. It will probably make life easier if you can get it as central as possible.

I'd also see if you can get a 1.25" IR filter or optical flat to screw into the end of the eyepiece to keep dust out.

James

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Ok, so here's the initial test footage (mostly to see if I could reach focus). Not sure how good the focus is expected to be with this kind of setup, but when this footage was taken it was a rather hot day with high air humidity. And it was shot through a window as well so that might have made things worse.

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From the images the sensor doesn't look very central in the eyepiece. It will probably make life easier if you can get it as central as possible.

I'd also see if you can get a 1.25" IR filter or optical flat to screw into the end of the eyepiece to keep dust out.

James

I did get the sensor centered better after that photo was taken. Hmmm IR filter? I'll look into that. Thanks.

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I like this project very much. It will be interesting to see how it performs on planets.

It sure will be interesting to find that out yes. With a bit of luck (weather permitting) I'll be able to try it out this weekend. It will be done with my new OTA however. :smiley:

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Looks great did you test cams sensitive to light when ir filter removed on normal lens i would tested the webcam itself on it's own see how well it picks light up in low light conditions check it picks any stars up on it.

see how much exposure it gives :)

No I didn't do that. I have pretty much no idea what I'm doing with this project actually. Clueless about what should and/or could have been done other than ripping the webcam open. :Envy: Just messing about to see what happens. I intended to try it out on Jupiter this past weekend, but although the skies were clear, the seeing was really bad. Couldn't make out any details on Jupiter what so ever.

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  • 2 months later...

Greetings,

It was interesting to read about the project adapting the HD-3000 to a telescope.

I just finished adapting the same camera, a Microsof Lifecam HD-3000, to a telescope, but without destroying the case.

You can check it step by step in http://http://astrophotovideo.wordpress.com/adapting-a-webcam-to-a-telescope/

Initially I almost destroyed the case but then found those two screws in the hole where the support base inserts into the case.

The camera will be mounted on the eyepiece holder using a 35mm flim case with cap and bottom cut out with an utility knife.

It is going to be tested in a Celestron Powerseeker 114EQ with Barlow.

I will see how it works and post here the results. Problem here is that it has been very cloudy these last weeks.

The primary objective of my project of fitting a webcam to a beginners telescope is to facilitate teaching of introductory astronomy to students of a community college and of first year non-science majors at a university and later in junior and high school.

So, thanks for the postings.

azaelb

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  • 2 months later...

Did you ever get anywhere with this? I found one of these and modified it without trouble but when using sharpcap I couldnt alter the exposure so the moon (or jupiter) were just bright white blobs!

I also found I needed to cover the blindingly bright led with blu-tac before I reassembled the case.

Daylight testing yielded reasonable results so if I could get the exposure sorted it could work quite well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've just finished modding one of these, which will hopefully see first light tomorrow. I ended up making a new case for it from a small plastic jewellery box, properly insulated, which was glued on to a Rubbish-tastic 4mm plastic lensed objective I had from my Celestron First Scope.

I ran into only one issue, which was focusing, although the entirely opposite to the one the OP mentioned - I couldn't rack the eyepiece/webcam combo in enough for it to focus. I originally started with a 16mm EP, and ended up going to the 4mm because it was shorter. I could now see what was going on, albeit still blurry.

In the movie below (for comparison, I also used a wind generator, roughly .75 miles away, I guess. The first, blurry part, is with the focuser racked all the way in. Then it gets better, because I figured out that the focal ratio might be too fast. Hence, I employed my €0.05 aperture reducer (a roll of toilet paper held at mouth of the beast) to decrease aperture, increase focal ratio, and improve the focus.

I'm picking up a decent Barlow tomorrow (for my next scope) and will try it on the moon. Hopefully it will work.

BTW, I chose to use the eyepiece in order to use the moon filter, if I can't compensate for the brightness.

http://youtu.be/_8ef-o5CEhU

- Tiago

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  • 3 weeks later...

Havn't had the time to continue to work on this project for a while. At least not when the weather has been good enough to give it try. So it's on hold at the moment, but I'll get back to it as soon as I can.

Did you ever get anywhere with this? I found one of these and modified it without trouble but when using sharpcap I couldnt alter the exposure so the moon (or jupiter) were just bright white blobs!

I also found I needed to cover the blindingly bright led with blu-tac before I reassembled the case.

Daylight testing yielded reasonable results so if I could get the exposure sorted it could work quite well.

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  • 1 year later...
Thanks to the above thread I decided to give it a shot, as I'm rubbish with my hands I decided for my 3rd attempt to model required adaptor in solidworks and 3d print it. My main requirement was for autoguiding with my skywatcher 9x50 finderscope. This is only a stop gap till I can afford a better refractor for the purpose. So... the internal diameter is designed to fit outside the finderscope eyepiece whilst the outside diameter is designed to fit inside a 1.25" eyepiece socket ready for the upgrade (all as linked photo's). 
The model needed some tinkering with e.g. construction material needed removing (see green model) and the screw hole bosses needed opening with a hot pin, but it came out ok. the material is surprisingly hard so it it should last a long time.
I've never posted here before so apologies if the photo link doesn't work.
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  • 3 weeks later...

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