The Philips SPC900NC/00 was regarded as one of the most popular cameras used in imaging planets when it was introduced in 2003. By attaching the web camera to a telescope using a special type of adapter, it is now possible for amateur astronomers to take high-quality photos of planets. With some circuit modification, this camera may also be used as a guide camera for autoguiding purposes. Its main imaging sensor is a CCD, which is far more sensitive than the CMOS sensor used in other web cameras.
For a prime-focus setup, we need to remove the camera’s lens and then replace it with a webcam-to-telescope adapter. In most cases, the lens may be easily removed by unscrewing it from the camera’s main body (turning it counter clockwise until it finally detaches). In this particular camera however, the lens is held securely in place by a plastic stopper which apparently serves also as the focus adjustment knob of the camera.
WARNING: I will not be responsible for any damage caused to your equipment. This procedure will void the camera’s warranty. Follow instructions at your own risk!
Using a minimum amount of force, pull the the focus adjustment knob until it detaches. Once removed, turn the lens clockwise until it finally detaches. Removing the lens exposes the camera’s CCD sensor (Alternatively, if you are worried that the web camera might get damaged by pulling the adjustment knob, you may opt to open the camera’s housing instead.).
The image below shows the lens and the focus adjustment knob removed from the camera.
The web camera’s lens will then be replaced by a special type of adapter called a webcam-to-telescope adapter.
Connecting the web camera to a telescope is simply a matter of inserting the adapter into the eyepiece barrel of the telescope’s focuser.
The camera is now ready for planetary imaging! In my next post, I will describe in detail how to image planets using webcams. Clear skies!
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© Anthony Urbano (Manila, Philippines)