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A History of Deep Sky Video Astronomy


curtisca17
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I got into EAA when I bought my first video camera from Mallincam in 2010 and have enjoyed it ever since.  I also have watched this pursuit change over the nearly 10 years now that I have been a part of it.  And I have tried to share what we do with others through a number of talks given to local astronomy clubs, outreach events, an article in the March issue of Sky & Telescope, postings  and through my website.  Around 2014 I began to be curious about the development of video astronomy for deep sky viewing in real time and started researching the topic.  Well, after more than 5 years I have finally assembled the information I have been able to collect into an article on my website which I would like to share.  I tried my best to be complete and verify information from multiple sources.  I will tell you that there is a fair amount of misinformation out there and I tried to make sure that I do not repeat it. 

I used every resource I could get my hands on to fill in as much of the details of the decades long journey that is analog video astronomy of the deep sky.  My summary is based on material I have found in a number of books including Steve Massey's two books on video astronomy, Antony Cooke's book "Visual Astronomy Under Dark Skies", Robert Reeves "Introduction to Webcam Astronomy", along with dozens of articles in Sky and Telescope, Astronomy Magazine, Sky News and more over the past 30 years.  It also includes a review of thousands of early posts on the Yahoo Groups: "Video Astronomy", "Quickcam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group",and "Mallincam,"  along with hundreds of posts on the CN EAA forum and the Stargazers Lounge forum to help me pin down details about each camera along with dates and features.  To dig still deeper I also exchanged emails with a number of individuals on the CN forum and others including Rock Mallin, Jack Heurkamp and Jim Ferreira who had first hand knowledge of the early days that I did not.  Multiple attempts to reach out to Steve Massey were unsuccessful, hence I could not pin down more details on the GSTAR camera series.  To cross check information I also reviewed hundreds of on line web sites and postings by individuals which included camera specifics and pictures. I also bought several vintage cameras to see for myself and to begin to build a collection which spans the history of this hobby and save that history from oblivion.  I am still looking for any and all such vintage cameras (Mintron, Watec, Supercircuits, Stellacam, Mallincam, GSTAR, Polaris, ITE, Orion etc.) to add to this collection, but it has reached the point that I cannot justify the expense and am hoping to find individuals who have some of these cameras just collecting dust and are willing to donate these to help preserve history.  Maybe one day I can get S&T do publish an article on this history.

I hope I have done justice to our little branch of the astronomy hobby.  It is necessarily long as it spans nearly 3 decades.  I would appreciate feedback where I am missing detailed information and anywhere that I may have not gotten things exactly right.  Here is the link:  https://www.californiaskys.com/blog

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all

Curtis

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Great article Curtis, interesting and informative, especially understanding the order in which the technology evolved. I wish this had been available when I was putting together my talk on EAA for my local club in October! I also prefer the term Camera Assisted Viewing/Observing to EAA, but then again anything is better than Video Astronomy, which has become downright misleading! As always there is Night Vision, which is kind of sits in its own category but is still about ‘live electronic viewing’ - it’s slowly growing in popularity (restricted by high costs) and produces amazing results so I included it in my talk, but presumably outside the scope of your article? 
I’m afraid my level of knowledge is not enough to comment on the accuracy of the article, but it is a very useful resource thanks! 

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Mike and Rob,

Thanks for your kind comments.

Night Vision is an interesting approach in its own right.  One that I have no experience in either.  Which is one of the reasons for not including it in the history.  I would say that it does fall under the category of Camera Assisted Viewing since Night Vision instruments are truly cameras as well.  They are just designed to be very sensitive in the IR which is the basis for the ability to see in low light situations.  Very early in my career I had the opportunity to work at GE in Syracuse NY on NV technology for the military.  Was an interesting and challenging opportunity but I chose a career in data storage systems in sunny San Diego, CA instead.

Best Regards,

Curtis

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