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DaveL59

el-cheapo sky camera

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zooming in am quite surprised, even got the sword, that was unexpected...

Orion 04Dec19 zoomed.JPG

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wow that moon is bright tonight, figured why not see what the 5MP cctv makes of it all, 2m40s video in H264 and stacked, not too bad considering

Moon and Orion.JPG

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so another cheapo experiment hopefully set and ready to try when (IF!) there's actually clear skies, tho I'd like to have a play in daylight first just to confirm focus can be achieved etc. Again using a spare Hik-able CCTV IMX290/291 sensor and webcam nose-piece with IR filter. It'll need 12V power and LAN to work, tho I guess I could also hook to it over WiFi.

Limitations will be the 1/25 slowest shutter more than anything I expect but heck it'll be a free-ish experiment... Just need the moon or planets to play nice when the cloud cover opens up a bit. If it can capture any useful video on one of the tracking mounts to stack then it'll be an OK intro. I can always opt to mess with the Logi-C270 later but I think this sensor may be better than what's in the Logi.

Scope CCTV EEVA rig.JPG

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Posted (edited)

1/25th second is nowhere near long enough for night use.  I use 30 or 60s with a proper astro camera - ASI 178MM or MC.  I have both but the MC wasn't really sensitive enough.

Edited by Gina

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yeah I'm not expecting great results tbh, still no harm in having a play given it's sat around spare - it was the module I first used for the sky-cam experiments till I got the 5MP module that also has relatively fast slow shutter of 1/10s. None of the CCTV modules really lend themselves to running long exposure unfortunately, but they are at least starvis sensors so with long enough video capture they might give some interesting results for little outlay, time will tell...

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so some daytime testing, TV Aerial only aprox 100m away. Focus is a bit tricky with winds shifting everything around outside even with the 130 inside the conservatory. There's a few trees further out, say 200-250m again swaying about wildly but managed to focus. I note the in-focus range left is approx 0.5 inch and moving from aerial to trees I had to shift almost 0.5 inch inward, so perhaps the 130 might struggle to achieve focus on moon etc. I'd guess the TAL100RS would fair better as it has a lot of range on the focuser. I did have a brief try for the moon night before last, but just as I was getting somewhere the clouds took over and it disappeared altogether.

Still, this little old cctv module just might get me started at low cost and then I can decide if I want to save some pennies for something better later on. Nice thing is the ability to image flip in camera settings so things are the right way up :) 

Methinks a focal reducer might be useful to add tho, 0.5x perhaps?

 

EEVA TV Aerial.JPG

EEVA treetop.JPG

Edited by DaveL59
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so having resurrected the fogged up skycam-1 earlier today, I can now see venus is showing as the sun starts to fade :) 

 

skycam1-venus.JPG

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and as the sky has gotten darker... :) venus.JPG.90cbeaef96451c637781756ca723eb39.JPG

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and then in roll the clouds... oh well

Am really going to have to consider a better camera tho if I want to really see the night sky but this was just a fun distraction in the main and a purpose for a spare CCTV module, so not too bad tbh.

what a lovely night to try looking at the stars - not.JPG

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so its been a while since I did anything with this project, but today this arrived, bought from the long river place warehouse section. Essentially open box/return so a nice bargain price compared to what they cost new at the mo. Already pulled the back cover off and fitted a different lens, one of the Treye ones I had already so faster and wider than the original.

image.png.89ee3ecadfdcae988230389d8dae3f56.png

Sadly the sky is flat cloud so no real chance to see how it'd perform but a quick test it looks ok. Slowest shutter is 1/2s and at that the tree shows as if it is daylight outside. Am considering whether to swap the 5MP CCTV module out for this and hook it to a network-USB hub in the shed so I can connect over LAN to it. Sharpcap seems to work ok with it and it'll save to SER as well as avi etc. Of course will need dry days to pull the dome down and do the camera swap so not sure when I'll get around to it lol

Given this is the view from the current cctv modules

image.png.e0acd84b6d2c58beec02044423170535.pngimage.png.f0de530df0280042ce7dd607f9f2e1b3.png

this is the view with the webcam sat on a tripod

auto exposure mode

image.png.b0180cd77bcfa2b441a60510dbb43429.png

1/2-sec shutter

image.png.fa5e0ae07276e3bbe6105987b058b36d.png

must admit I was quite shocked by that last one at only 1/2 sec exposure. Methinks this may be a nifty cheap way forward rather than stretching to an astro camera at least for my purposes 🙂 

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so further mod, a 1.7mm fisheye but not having an IRcut fitted I swapped the holder with a switchable one set to filter IR. Of course it's larger so can't reassemble but a rubber band stepped in to hold things secure for testing 🙂 

image.png.b615e9c2d4c319d369c8a24a3ebec363.png

Next step up I have is a 2.1mm which is wider than the first lens I fitted but am hoping to get a wider view at this stage.

So how did it do?  Some test pics tonight at long exposures via sharpcap photo capture:

image.thumb.png.75a37800d40fa8ace305979bf2199a32.png

Mars decided to pop out for this one 🙂

image.thumb.png.4d3be12260e95f434c508bf941b307bf.png

 

and as the clouds moved over, some stars joined the party too

image.thumb.png.b6ff7d14e81fe7c0dac2250212b0b30f.png

I think I can work with this as a replacement for the 5MP cctv module, would give me a good indication of the sky and whether it's clear enough to pop out for a look with the scope and maybe even supply some sky captures from indoors if I'm feeling too lazy/cold 😉 

Now I just need some dry daytime weather so I can pull the unit off the shed and refit...

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so with it being nice this morning I pulled the old SkyCam2 dome down and stripped it to fit the USB webcam. Here's the result:
image.png.ac3ae794d87a19ae75cb986703f65130.png

Must admit it's a little glitchy connected via the USB hub across 3 network switches which is a little disappointing and distracting when it's on screen, but at least it works. Seems more stable running at 720p or 640x480 so will leave it at 720P for now (640 crops significantly) while I think about any improvements I might be able to make later on. Had some fun setting it all up as the USB network server needs to be on the same LAN as the server app trying to connect to it so a bit of vLAN reconfiguring etc was needed.

Fitting it to the dome was fun tho, the board is too long but I secured it to the frame using a couple cable ties, hopefully that'll hold it well enough 😉 Also covered with some flock to protect the SMD's on the board and to dull any internal reflections. The lens is actually a little low given the edge of the carrier so will get some loss of view but not significant as it turned out.

image.png.535165e58d27356e99705ea67d58c6bb.png

image.png.ab1d95c3595fd6c921720fd35d470b62.png

The camera sits lower than the old setup but not at the centre of the dome arc so might pick up some distortion which the fisheye lens likely adds to, but it'll do for now. I can see the sky quite nicely and hopefully the dark sky performance will be passable too. Here they are mounted on the shed, might have to shift the little one as it's a bit far in the FoV now.
image.png.88e7f58c888ee376e85850227e785281.pngimage.png.fc1c5e743807e605f47947488710db54.png
 

At 720P the image seems a little darker but that could be the effect of more cloud lol
image.png.f77e0308ced5ec59f302bd47e640c2fa.png

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hmmm so SharpCap doesn't seem to like the camera being on a virtual USB port, I just get a black screen where the W10 camera app seems quite happy to connect and show an image, just doesn't have much in the way of exposure or pro settings features. Will have to have a search around for another app I can use for handling the camera and captures then. Still it works, kinda 🙂 

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result! After some fiddling and rebooting the USB server SharpCap can show a picture. Had to switch to MJPEG rather than YUY2 but that's ok 

image.thumb.png.6f26782e987a764ee65b1219c52161f3.png

Of course it has rained hence the water on the dome, forgot to give it some RainX when I put it all back, oh well. At least now I can control the shutter speed and get a better view of the sky than MS Camera app was giving, maybe live stack etc too 🙂 

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got the extendy window cleaning stick out and gave the dome a quick swipe over to clear off the water gathered. Much better so gave SharpCap live stack a go

image.thumb.png.a65543f7f7b08b038e6362731d258627.png

Pretty pleased with that result, there be stars here 😄 

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and after running a short while

image.thumb.png.dcb3647a3d4a8a5b34da72ebf46d06de.png

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hmm not so good in the day tho, SharpCap set to shutter 1/8000s (fastest) and still whites out the cloud, had to fiddle with white balance to get some blue in the sky hence the weird colours as well as turn down brightness etc.

image.png.0d599510c3e9a7086b641e59cf535bab.png
 

Somewhat better in the W10 Camera app tho in daytime
image.png.6712307957099c9a8cf0c58fd19e1c1a.png

But still poor compared to the cctv module that shows much better in daylight

image.png.42084382946d876d469bf503048e2d9b.png

Still I guess the CCTV can be daytime duty and the webcam can do nights when I want a better sky/star view 🙂 

Might flip the bracket around on the little skycam so it's over the shed roof and less in view tho relative positions are dictated by mounting options and cable lengths. Will see what I can do later perhaps.

Edited by DaveL59

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hmm ok so I guess the webcam doesn't generate much heat compared to the CCTV module
image.png.6bf924dc5b40b88c5fecbf084ae67401.png

Guess I may need to fit a dew heater inside the dome. Wonder if I can do that off the USB tho I expect the Network-USB hub isn't going to like supplying high current, will have to check but IIRC it limits to 500mA/port.

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Cold out but dry at least so I thought I'd shift the small dome to give a little more of the NW view for the webcam version, lowered the wood trim piece a bit too.

image.png.12f594e8eb582850291fbb9f5db7b14d.png

has shifted the view of the smaller cctv version slightly but not so bad, just cuts off the roofline a bit on the LH of the image.
image.png.e8e66be9f0d3c76de257adcc5c7e365b.png

I guess the WDR abilities of the cctv module cope better with daytime viewing than the webcam in MS camera app. Still not found a better alternative for that. SharpCap does fine at night but not so much in the day. Remembered to RainX the domes while up there this time too 🙂 

Am considering what to do about dew heater for the webcam one and if it's even worth it. After all I'm not really trying to image with it so I may just leave it as-is unless things get worse as it gets colder. Of course it'd be more faff to do it then but... Might order some resistors meantime as I can always run a 12v feed into the unit, are there any that can auto-on using an LDR like the IR LEDs on CCTV modules as that'd probably be an ideal solution so it only heats in dark hours?

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So thinking more on the dew issue I've just ordered 8x 6.8 ohm 3W resistors that I can wire in series across a 12v feed, hopefully that'll do enough in the webcam dome. Also ordered one of these to turn it on/off  as day becomes night etc.
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/XH-M131-Photoresistor-Module-DC-12V-Relay-Light-Control-Switch-Detection-Sensor/153096543279?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&var=452938694748&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

Could build one but at that price, heck it'd be cheaper than collecting up the components etc.

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interesting sky above here, those darker areas indicated seem to swoop upward into the higher darker cloud areas toward the centre of the image

image.thumb.png.a9fba067e88cc33a1648edfd40be0375.png

Occasionally at night you get a spiderweb type effect centring from that lower RH region too which I've put down to contrails or perhaps cloud driven up and over the hill from that direction. 

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I see there's a nighttime visitor on the dome tonight
image.thumb.png.68363b4c8de6a18b6ddbcee52da596e5.png

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Since the resistors were short-shipped and so am parked on progressing this, I've been giving a bit more thought to the dew control for the bigger skycam dome. Going for an LDR control means that it would only be running in the night time window, well darkness as winter draws in. But I realised that as temps drop it could well mist over during the day too, being a cold and static bit of acrylic. So I've ordered up a temp controlled unit similar to the LDR one and plan to use them in parallel.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/12V-Thermostat-Temperature-Control-Switch/224097171021?hash=item342d3b764d:g:MRkAAOSw7HFfICIG

Am thinking to trigger at temp below 7c tho will experiment once its all put together. Being a relay switched output there would be no problem with either/both switching the power on to the resistor chain if I went that route. I'll fit these into a single project box that can sit in the shed so I can have easy access to the controls to tweak as necessary.

I've also thought a bit more about the resistance values, do I really need it to be running at around 2+W or can I get away with something more like 1W instead? So I've ordered a batch of 15ohm ceramic resistors from someone else as an alternate, may well end up going with these since the first seller so far hasn't responded about the short-shipping. If I don't hear back I'll likely just arrange via the bay to return and cancel.

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oh I found a simple-ish solution to the MS camera app's lack of ability to set the exposure settings for this one too. Fire up skype (for desktop not the W10 app) and under settings, webcam settings you can then tweak gain/brightness etc to get a usable image that isn't just a totally white sky in daytime 🙂 

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so some new resistors arrived today, 15 ohm ceramic. Got busy assembling a strip of 6 which at 12v should draw 122mA and give around 1.4W. Hooked to a 12v brick and they get warm but not hot, hoping that'll do tho I shrink wrapped, attached a wire and placed in the bottom of the dome.

image.png.3feb022e02d7c2f32cd13d9c00981eec.png

image.png.083473440df61890da206b6dbcb4d5db.png

Yep around the edge may be better but the size of these and space meant this was easier. Note I adapted the carrier for the OEM IR lighting array to carry the camera, which will give holes around the rim for the heat from the resistors to rise so am hoping this idea will work reasonably well 🙂

Couple screws to fix the rim to the main carrier and flock to mask the cable ties and screw heads and we're ready to refit the seal and dome
image.png.9f486b4f3b174fb8f86ae6cdee029224.png

Managed to pop it back on the side of the shed now it'd stopped raining so just need to assemble the control for it. This will live inside the shed hence the rush to refit the dome, this bit I could take time over. The temperature controller hasn't turned up yet but this is the LDR just sat in a small translucent box.

image.png.d2c8c2d31ce2d0f9a600cec719f1baff.png

image.png.5e26de1c5bd67a2c8bb577729bab393d.png

Added an in-line fuse just in case and then pop into the shed, fit the connector on the end of the wire to the resistor string and hook up. Test and set the LDR trigger level and hopefully it'll fire up as it gets dark and do its work keeping things warm. Worst case I can swap out the resistors to up the heat and when the temp controller arrives it can get wired in parallel to the LDR unit so cold daytime it'll be on too.

Moved the smaller dome when I took this one down so the NW view is less obstructed. You can see the top of the dome along the bottom edge
image.png.2913bde6e96d305e0c346df634b1478e.png

I guess I may need to trim the LDR once things get dark, will see how that goes.

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