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Is this it?


Matt Steele
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Dear All

A confession...as much as I enjoy stargazing with my CPC925 - especially planetary observing - DSOs can be a distinctly underwhelming experience from my suburban skies in South England.  I suppose that's the beauty of GOTO 'scopes - you quickly move on to something else.  The trouble is, I still want to be blown away with what DSOs I can see on a good night.  But I'm not.  There - I've said it!

So...I've stumbled upon your Video Astro forum and have reached the conclusion that using a video camera might just might help to manage my expectations, i.e. more comfortable viewing (equals longer viewing), improved DSO viewing, enhanced outreach ('hey wife, this hobby is amazing') and - potentially - all of the above in colour!

So, my question is what is a good beginners video camera that can deliver the above, using my CPC925, but has enough capability that I wont outgrow it quickly?  My job gives me precious little time at home to observe, and what time I have is normally ruined by our capricious weather, so something that is intuitive to use would be ideal.  Right now, I believe that I'm just interested in the enhanced viewing offered by video astro, over image capture.  Lastly, I purchased a Lunt 35 solar 'scope last summer to improve my chances of observing - will your recommendation be suitable for this 'scope also?

Out of all the accessories I've purchased so far, I am most excited by the prospect of using a video camera when observing.  Please stop me now if I've missed the point, otherwise I would be grateful for any advice you may have.

Matt

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Hell Matt,

Welcome to the world of video astronomy  :grin:   Your story is a carbon copy of mine so no point in repeating it but let me help if I can.  In my opinion, a good camera to get you started and to suit the requirement you mention would be the Samsung SCB-2000.  This camera will amaze you trust me and can be picked up if you search well for a bargain.  I saw one sell recently on Ebay for £21!  Anyway, I will go into more detail later but for now here is an image from a recent broadcast I did with the Sammy on M42:

post-28683-0-76747700-1423217126_thumb.j

Also, just to say I may be broadcasting again tonight weather permitting so if your free pop in for a quick look www.videoastronomylive.co.uk 

Best wishes

Karl

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Hi Matt

Welcome to the group - I think that Video and Electronically Assisted Astronomy can offer all that you seem to be looking for:

1. better "views" of DSO's and in colour

2. Remote viewing - nice and warm

3. Ability to share the experience with other people.

Your CPC925 will need a focal reducer, several of use use the F3.3 reducer which is fine for the small sensors we typically use, you just need to get the spacing right.

As for cameras there's a number to choose from:

Real Video cameras such as the SBC2000, PD1, Minitron and the whole Mallincam range offer the ability to view without a computer, needed only a video monitor or TV.

You can picked up the SCB2000 for less than £50 and it makes a very good starting point.

The Mallincams come at prices to suit all pockets including the very deep - however these are manufactured specifically for video astronomy and perform very well!

The other route is to use sensitive guide cameras such as the Lodestar to take short exposures - however these will need some adjustments before the detail in the DSO's can be seen.

Nytecam uses his Lodestars like this with the stock Lodestar software - a few click to "develop" the image. I'm sure that you could use other guide cameras in a similar way or even dedicated imaging CCDS.

However we're an impatient bunch and like instant gratification - thankfully Paul81 has developed a fantastic piece of software known as Lodestar Live or LSL which effectively allows you to use the Lodestar range of cameras to capture, stack and process images in very near real time (bear in mind that exposures can be upto 60 seconds long for dimmer objects) - this reduces the need to accurately align your mount and enable the use of AZ mounts as it corrects for field rotation between exposures.

I started with an SDC435 (now known as the SCB2000 video camera) but have moved on to the Lodestar, the latest Lodestar X2 is even more sensitive and is showing some fantastic results even when used with narrowband filters.

The down side is that you will need a computer - but I bet you have one of these already :)

With Lodestar live you can also capture all the data from your nights viewing and process it off line using many of the astro imaging tools which can bring even more detail out - something to do on those cloudy nights.

So if you want to test the water, go for an SCB2000 or PD1 and a F3.3 focal reducer, however if you want something that's going to go even deeper then either the Lodestar X2-C or one of the Mallicams might be the answer.

I put my money on the Lodestar and have not been disappointed - have a look at my gallery and see what I achieved with both the SDC435 and the Lodestar - however others on here have posted even more astounding images so have a look around.

Hope this helps

Paul

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Chaps

Thanks so much for the warm welcome and speedy reply - I will look at the live stuff tonight.

I've had a quick look at the Samsung SBC and the PD Colour camera.  They both appear to be the type which requires least effort for maximum gain.  IS this indeed the case - is it just a question of attaching these cameras to a telescope, select appropriate settings and go?  Would you recommend one over the other?  As alluded to before, I want to to see DSOs in colour and in comfort, but not in my lounge with a colour hardback..! ;-)

Thanks, Matt

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Some excellent answers.

Video Astronomy certainly transformed the whole "astronomy experience" for me. 

And in a modest state of "decrepitude", remote control over 30m is an incentive!

But before, I was basically viewing (glimpsing) the same things over and over?  :p

Not Hubble (or even SGL classic imager!) standard, but I like to keep an "Image

Diary". This involves me somewhat in the "black arts" of image post-processing.

But I have no need for auto-guiding and my exposures are minutes not hours. :)

As an incentive, a limiting magnitude of +16+ for real time (integrating cam) views

with a (slow f/10) C9.25 scope? A focal reducer then takes you to f/3.3... (You do

the "f-stop maths" lol!) Even without stacking, *sky background* is your limit?  ;)

Colour is nice, but not essential? Firmly monochrome with a Watec 120N+ here!

And indeed, it was an *expensive* buy for me! But, for those currently "in funds",

I note the newer Watec 910 HX is available from "Bern @ Modern Astronomy". :D

http://www.modernastronomy.com/camerasAstroVideo.html#wat910

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Hi Matt

All methods need a certain amount of experimentation to get the right settings - the SBC2000 is probably the better of the two cameras you mentioned and can be picked up cheaply on e-bay.

You will also need a suitable monitor capable of accepting a composite video signal (most TV's can do this but remember you'll need to be able to see the TV to focus the scope (I use a small 12V LCD monitor at the scope).

You will also need a  CS-1.25" nose piece and focal reducer - the F3.3 SCT specific one works well, or you can get one of the smaller 1.25" reducers which typically give x0.6 to x0.5 reduction.

You will need to remove the stock IR filter in the SBC2000 - you probably will not need an Astro specific one with your CPC925.

Many DSO's are mostly monochrome - especially at the exposures these simple video cameras can achieve (10s). Notably M42, M27 and M57 show colour readily and even the monochrome ones such as globular clusters (M15) look different when viewed in colour.

Remember you are not going to get images like the very long exposures and sophisticated post processing you see in the imaging section - but then again that's not what Video and Electronically Assisted Astronomy is all about.

If you are ready to spend more then consider the Lodestar-C (original or X2) and Lodestar Live  - you will be able to achieve much longer exposures and the real time stacking improves things further.

With the Lodestar, you can run a single USB cable from your house to your mount with a USB hub at the end and control both the camera and the scope remotely (this is what I do with my C8 and HEQ5).

The SBC2000 and other low cost video cameras will require a video cable as well as a USB cable to control the mount and you will need a remote to control the camera which works over the video cable.

If you can afford the Lodestar then go with that - they hold their value pretty well on the second hand market as guide cameras (that's what they were design for) - you'll notice they get snapped up pretty quick if you are looking for one, even the older non X2 models!

If you want to try video on a relatively low budget then you cannot go wrong with the SCB2000 - if you decide to upgrade to a better camera or CCD later then the reducer and nose piece can still be used.

HTH
Paul
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Hi Matt,

Just got up here in Hawaii and saw your post. Doctor D saved me a lot of writing. Good advice as usual.

I feel the same way as you. I really enjoy planetary and lunar viewing through my scopes, but the DSO viewing with the exception of a few was getting old. And, along came Nytecam with his Lodestars and Paul's Lodestar Live. I have both mono and color Lodestar X2. These are the best investment in astronomy I have made to date. I also have a scb2000. I found pretty quickly that I wanted more exposure for deeper stuff. Recently, I have been using a 50mm mini guide scope with a narrow band Ha filter to view wide field emission nebulae such as the Rossette, Heart and Soul Nebula. They're great in color, too. Here's a link to my gallery that has a number of captures with the LS and LL.

http://stargazerslounge.com/gallery/member/36930-hilodon/

Hope this helps. Whatever you decide, you will not regret moving into EAA.

Don

P.S. The Lodestars cost a bit more than entry level video cams, but keep in mind that video cams will need extra accessories to get them running. Video cams with unlimited integration are very expensive. The new sensitive version of the Lodestar holds it's resale value very well right now.

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Matt,

I probably should have wrote that top of the line video cameras with unlimited integration are expensive. I think there are some now out there that are priced more reasonably. Others may want to advise on available video cams with unlimited exposure capability.

Don

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Hi, Matt. I think you will find videoastronomy very exciting and rewarding, not only for DSOs for lunar and solar system objects as well. If you have a big budget, by all means go for the best space cam you can afford. If not, you may want to get started with something less expensive to get your feet wet. I use the inexpensive Orion Starshoot Deep Space Video Camera II for DSOs and the Orion Electronic Imager for lunar and planetary imaging. Both are less than $500 USD and can give you surprisingly nice images (but don't expect Hubble quality, LOL). I may eventually move up to the more expensive cams, but I'm stoked with what I have right now. Just being able to image at all is an emotional experience for me, and a blessing  :smiley:

Best wishes in your new endeavor!

Clear skies,

Reggie

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Hi Matt,

I was where you are at 6 weeks ago. If you don't want a bunch of wires, frame grabbers etc go for the Lodestar X2 or X2c. Very sensitive chip, and easy to use software with Lodestar Live. Much easier to use than anything else I've tried by far, and you can get great results right away if you watch the youtube videos by Paul first. I can see much more in my 4.3" using it than I can in my 18" visually from a dark site. I think it is by far the best deal out there when you factor in cost/performance ratio with ease of use. For DSO's its hard to beat!

Paul's software is simply brilliant, you get nice round stars and natural looking image.

Richard

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Hi Matt

A belated welcome from me too. Your story is similar to mine except I have quite good skies. But I still am greedy to see deeper and the first night with the camera in already went beyond what I was used to seeing in a big dob. I haven't looked back. Its just a great feeling to know that every night you go out you're practically guaranteed to see something new. 

Martin

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Hi Matt - welcome to the Forum and maybe a HOT topic!  Here's my Lodestar-C poster from awhile back and recent shots of the Eris - the "8th planet" way out at the edge of the Solar System ~mag 19 - virtually nothing will escape your scope via Electronic Assist Astronomy [EAA] in brief exposures but aperture helps me here in the London LP 'smog'.  Keep us posted :police:

post-21003-0-35197800-1423740026_thumb.j

post-21003-0-96427800-1423740125.jpg

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