Saturn Captured With An 80 Dollar Webcam
This image of Saturn was captured on 8 February 2004, using the Philips ToUCam web camera and Registax image processing software. I used the Astro-Physics 130 mm f/6 EDF refractor with a TeleVue 4x Powermate barlow, for f/24.
March 02, 2003. The remarkable power of averaging many frames, plus the amazing abilities of a freeware program, RegiStax, are demonstrated by the above result from my first attempt at using a Philips ToUcam Pro under poor seeing conditions in Sonoma County, California. Compare with the single frame below to see the mediocre quality of an ordinary single shot of the planet with this uncooled $80 camera.
The final result (top image) is the result of allowing RegiStax to run its alignment, optimization, and stacking algorithms on the 729-frame video sequence captured at 1/50 second exposure duration. While the detail and sharpness of this image are certainly not up to the best amateur efforts, they are better than my best attempts with film or ordinary astro CCD camera. Note that although Philips no longer distributes this particular webcam in the USA, it is available on eBay (where I purchased mine) and other similar cameras from other manufacturers are available. For prime focus use you should obtain the 1.25 inch barrel adapter, which allows you to mount the camera in an ordinary 1.25 inch telescope focuser. Not every webcam is equally well-suited, so if you are interested in trying out other models, you should check the QCUIAG website at for ratings and advice on the most suitable models and read their posts on the Yahoo user group.
Another result from slightly different processing parameters in RegiStax: