CCD Imaging


The development of the CCD camera has done incredible things for both professional and amateur astronomy. It is now possible for the amateur to obtain images using relatively small aperture which are comparable to observatory class images taken many years ago. The ability to go to even lower magnitudes, and the non reciprocity behavior of ccds has meant that even short exposures can produce images with a wealth of detail and information. As well as the pictorial and aesthetic nature of the results, serious applications such as Supernova hunting and Photometry can now be carried out with modest - though not inexpensive equipment.

Various manufactures produce a wide range of systems. Names such as SBIG, Apogee, and Starlight Xpress, are common to most amateurs out there. There is however other smaller companies working on less expensive equipment who also deserve a mention such as Rockingham Instruments in the UK, and of course there is the build it yourself Cookbook Camera for the braver of us - I mean you!

I do not intend to go into the details of the what's and wherefore's of CCDS, focal lengths, pixel sizes, because I will probably get it wrong. Suffice it to say, it is worth checking with the experts out there to ensure that you can marry your scope to your camera. Warning there are many experts out there! I have found members of the UK CCD imaging Group very helpful in the past.


My initial foray into CCD imaging was with a SBIG ST-7E this is only a small chip, but also has small pixels ideal for my Takahashi FS128. It had a built in guiding chip so helping a beginner like myself. This is not a cheap instrument, but comes with the option of upgrading to a larger chip, and the possibility of adding a colour filter wheel, and adaptive optics for when I manage a longer focal length instrument. Assuming I can learn how to use this one.



With the above setup - St-7E and my Takahashi FS128 and my Sony laptop. I started to try my hand at imaging. I had a few problems at first, but slowly I got the hang of it. Here are images of my first Galaxy M65, and my first Nebulae M42


Unfortunately during the following weeks I had problems with my mount, and also problems with finding a dry spell in which to fix/test it. This created a massive delay in my observing whilst I sent my mounts electronics back to the US. It turned out to be the hand set - though I am still sceptical to be honest. Having got the mount up and running I then had to dismantle to raise the height of the pier for the Astrophysics 6" f12 refractor - more delay. Having decided to sell the AP, and get the AP900 GTO mount, I sold the ST-7E to help finance this. Bored yet? Intending to upgrade the CCD camera to a larger chip, and also one which would be more suited to both my Takahashi refractors, and my C11.

My choice was to stick to SBIG and I have upgraded to the ST10E, this is of considerable increase in chip size, with fine 6.8 um pixels, which can be binned to get to 24 um for the longer focal length C11. Full details appear on the SBIG site so I won't repeat them here. Again it comes with a separate guiding chip, and options for the adaptive optics, and evidently an autofocus system to follow - now that would be a help. I have used similar in microscopy before so it's nice to see it moving to our domain.


For the SBIG ST-10E and Imaging Page Follow this link

Astronomical Image Enhancement & Processing


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