Imaging Planets Using Webcams

Two of the most popular webcams used in astrophotography: Logitech Pro 4000 (left) and Philips SPC900NC (right).

The modest web camera (or webcam) quickly gained interest among amateur astronomers and is now considered as the equipment of choice for planetary imaging because it has two characteristics that are very much useful in astrophotography: (1) its lens can be removed much like the lens of a DSLR, making it possible to easily connect the webcam with any telescope and (2) it can record a huge number of still frames even in a short span of time (1-2 minutes), a feature particularly useful in a post-processing technique called registering and stacking.

Photo of Saturn taken on May 8, 2016. Image captured through eyepiece projection method with a 4-in f/9 refractor, UV-IR filter, a 5 mm eyepiece, and a Logitech Pro 4000 web camera. Processed using AutoStakkert and Registax.

In this article, I intend to describe how to image planets using a web camera as the main imaging device and then provide a brief overview of the post-processing technique. Read more.

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Philips SPC900NC/00 Webcam for Astrophotography

The Philips SPC900NC/00 is regarded as one of the best web cameras used in astrophotography, particularly in planetary imaging. 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, roughly 10 times more sensitive than the CMOS sensor used in other web cameras. Since not many cameras are equipped with CCDs (there’s only quite a few actually), it has earned a reputation of being one of the most sought-after web cameras in the astronomical community today.

The SPC900NC uses a true CCD imaging sensor (not the typical CMOS), which allows it to ‘see’ clearly even in low-light situations.

Read more.