Introduction to Webcam Astrophotography: Imaging the Universe With the Amazing, Affordable Webcam Book
Authors: Robert Reeves
In the last few years webcam astrophotography has exploded onto the astronomy scene. It has rapidly evolved from short exposure six-bit black-and-white imagery into long-exposure full-colour 16-bit per channel imagery of such quality that it rivals “conventional” means of astrophotography. Indeed, webcams have become the method of choice for planetary imaging.
The message of this book is that you too can participate in the digital astrophotography revolution without spending very much money. You do not need to invest $10,000 in a CCD camera, telescope and software. A basic webcam costs about the same as a "so-so" eyepiece. Software to control the camera and process the images that will get you going is free. If you have the telescope (practically any telescope that will track) and a computer you are ready. Since you see your results instantly the learning curve is much shorter.
Regardless of how you apply a webcam to astrophotography, you will derive a number of benefits. Working with them has been accurately described as interesting, challenging, and fulfilling. Webcams are capable of producing beautiful astrophotos that create a lasting record of your astronomical experience. The book will guide you into this fascinating topic and allow you to become a participant in this latest wave of astrophotography progress.
SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF WEBCAM ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY ARE:
- Webcams are far cheaper than conventional cameras or astronomical CCDs.
- Webcams use USB plug-and-play technology, meaning they are easy to install on a computer and have fast image download times.
- Webcams provide real-time feedback. Focus and exposure are adjusted on the fly to insure best results.
- Each webcam video imaging session produces a single unique image.
- There are no film costs.
- There is no need to wait for a full roll of images to be taken before developing them.
- Webcams can create animated images and movies of changing events such as transits of Jovian moons or lunar occultations of bright stars and the planets.
- Webcam images are digital-friendly, meaning they can be printed, posted on the Internet, or emailed without the need for developing or scanning.
- Except with special black-and-white cameras, webcam images are in color. There is no need for combining tri-color images when doing lunar and planetary work.
- With the use of proper software, some of which is free, webcams can be used as autoguiders for other forms of astrophotography.
- A webcam shutter, the device that controls the length of an exposure, is entirely electronic. This gives webcams a great advantage over standard cameras in that there is no mechanical shutter to wear out or malfunction.
- A webcam can easily take more individual exposures in a single evening of lunar photography than someone will take in a lifetime of snapshot photography. For instance, the full Moon mosaic on page 2 of this book is the summation of 28,800 individual video frames. This is the equivalent of snapping 800 rolls of 36-exposure 35mm film.
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“Robert Reeves takes you on a meticulous journey through the ins and outs of webcam imaging by covering everything necessary to modify popular camera models for all types of astrophotography His discussion includes sources for adapters and hard-to-find parts, as well as useful tricks for getting the most out of your equipment under any budget constraint. Detailed tutorials on the use of popular software for image processing are well written and thorough. They leave you with a feeling that no stone was left unturned and instil the confidence to go out any try webcam astrophotography yourself.” (Sky & Telescope magazine)
About the Author
Nearly 50 years ago Robert Reeves began his astrophotography adventure with his parent's Voightlander 120-format camera. His first exposure from his south-Texas garage roof was the brightest object in the sky, which turned out to be Jupiter. Unlike today's readily available books and accessories that make astrophotography more user friendly, back then the budding enthusiast was left to his or her own devices. Robert was not deterred and found a lifelong avocation of imaging the universe with his camera. His images have been published in the leading astronomy magazines and books and in 2000 he wrote the highly acclaimed bookWide-Field Astrophotography followed in 2005 by Introduction to Digital Astrophotography detailing the opportunities presented by consumer digital cameras.