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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

 Date  2003-03-02. Heavy dew, unsteady seeing, intermittent high cirrus. 
 Scope

 RCOS 12.5 inch Ritchey-Chretien scope at f/18  with Philips ToUcam Pro 

  PCVC 740K camera at prime focus  on A-P 1200 GTO  mount.   Unguided.

 Exposure

 1/50 sec exposures; 729 frame, 640x480 pixel, AVI sequence over approximately 

   30 seconds.

 Processing  

 The AVI sequence was opened in RegiStax and the automatic alignment, optimization,

   and stacking operations allowed to run to completion. This was repeated with slightly

   different parameters. The two resulting images were saved as TIF files and opened in

   Photoshop, where they were sharpened slightly and then overlayed using the "vividlight"

   layer method. The result was flattened and converted to JPG format for the web.

  Another result from slightly different processing parameters in RegiStax:

 

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