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Old 15-02-2012, 10:28 PM
Bolts_Tweed (Mark)
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A cheap all sky camera (ok a big part of sky)

gday

A couple of guys I met in California last year prompted me to have a go at building an all sky camera myself (they were Wes - www.astrobytes.net and Jim http://jimstar11.com/Index.html. They have thier versions of the camera running on their websites - thanks guys. Here are the results so far. It is built around a QHY5 i had surplus to needs but they use old DSIs that they can get pretty cheap over there.

All up it cost me between $25 and $30 apart from the QHY5. I bought a cheap cctv lens with a 12 mm 0.5 mm pitch thread from ebay - about $9(see picture) and an acrylic optical dome from www.surplusshed.com about$4. There is a little bit of maching in fitting the 12mm thread to the 42mm thread of the QHY but I just turned up some acetyl (hard plastic) to do the job. The 12 mm internal thread allows focusing. I also turned up the retaining ring for the dome from an old PVC sheet - it has a small recess to take the lip on the base of the dome and put a gasket on the base.

The only other bits were a project box I had lying around (ok I am a geek) - you could use an old lunch box if you really wanted to - and a small 12 volt computer fan in the box that curculates the small amount of heat from the camera through the holes under the dome to preent dew from building up on the dome - works fine.

The image quality is average but I am yet to see really good image quality from an all sky camera so I am not too worried. I only want to see the sky at my remote observatory. I also have an aag cloud detector but it is nice to see the sky too.

One of the Californian guys has written some software that uses the camera dialogue of Maxim DL to control the camera. It can overwrite the image each exposure or save images sequentially to stiitch together later into a movie. It also has an ADU cutoff to stop taking images in daylight. I am sure it is up for sharing if anyone is interested.

Anyway just in case anyone wants to have a go I thought I would present it. Also attached is an image from tonight on the Gold Coast before it started raining.

Mark Bolton
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  #2  
Old 15-02-2012, 10:44 PM
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DavidTrap (David)
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Way cool Mark!

DT
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Old 15-02-2012, 11:37 PM
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RobF (Rob)
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Yes, fascinating stuff Mark - shame commerical cams are always too expensive. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 17-02-2012, 01:15 PM
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Moon (James)
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Looks good. How do you protect it from the Sun?
James
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Old 18-02-2012, 12:08 PM
Bolts_Tweed (Mark)
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G'day guys

Sry for the delay - I've been at a 2 day work retreat at the Crowne Plaza Surfers. I only mention the hotel as AAIC attendees might get a laugh out of it.

Yeah it works pretty well but image quality is only good for having a peek but that is all it is designed to do.i like the moonglow lenses and I am trying to source one for Mk 2.

James the software includes protection from the sun. As the ADU average climbs at predawn the camera is shutdown until it gets dark again. You can adjust this value to only image when it is dark or to have a peek at dusk. I am not using it to continuously update an image on a web page but. For me it is like sticking my head out of the dome to have a peek - image on demand. Wireless Internet monthly allowance stops me from continuous updates - it is capable of doing it but as you can see on Wes and Jim's pages. Don't get me started on the difference between the cost of everything (including services like Internet)in Aus compared to the rest of world. Compare the cost of downloading an iTunes song here and everywhere else from the same database to see what I mean.

Anyway thx for the comments and I am continuing to develop and improve it.

Mark Bolton
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Old 20-02-2012, 02:28 PM
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All-sky cameras are great.

http://www.observatory.org.nz/temp/asc_pic.html

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Old 20-02-2012, 04:23 PM
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Moon (James)
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Mark
Just be careful you don't fry the CCD - the len might act like a magnifying glass on an ant. I already fried a cheap web camera that way.
Now I use the Watec camera with an auto iris len for sun protection.
http://deepspaceplace.com/meteor.php
James
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