Miniature astronomy camera as pretty as the stars

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I thought any camera was an astronomy camera, as the hard part is using a proper tripod, which can track bodies and stuff.

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Photo of face under candle light or GTFO.

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You may prefer a sensor with high sensitivity, large pixels (for the cost of having lower resolution), and no color mask on the chip (so black/white).

Then if you want specific colors, you can put filters to the optical path. Plenty of astrophoto filters out there.

Edit: Are there tunable optical filters? Something along the line of a bandpass interference filter, where the interference layer thickness can be controlled by electricity or perhaps temperature? Then this little beauty could be used for taking hyperspectral images. Possibly down to 1000 nm, or where exactly this sensor’s cutoff is.

The same tunable filter assembly, with a different sensor capable of going down to mid-IR, could be handy for chemical imaging/MASINT…

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I use this camera on a hand-turned barn door tracker. It’s pretty decent.

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That’s my dad’s camera! With the Asahi and everything. I think he bought it in Japan in the mid-70s.

He loves that thing, and he’s not pro but damn good. I think you’re fortunate to have such a nice SLR.

Current Pentaxes work with a tracker module to achieve the same effect. It’s almost cheating.

(Pentax O-GPS1 GPS Unit)

If we’re talking digital, then most compacts will not give you the control to open up the aperture, increase the exposure, max out the ISO, etc. You have programs baked in for various popular situations, but none optimised for astronomy. You might get a decent shot of the moon with one.

The bridging camera I use lets me fiddle with all those, but the maximum exposure is locked to 4 seconds and the max ISO to 800. With it I can catch planetary conjunctions and bright stars. But it’s fairly old, and has low resolution and a noisy sensor.

Another problem with these two types of digicam is aiming the thing, since only the brightest objects will show up on the back display, which just looking at will typically kill your night vision anyway. One day I hope to get a DSLR with a decent max exposure and an optical path from lens to viewfinder. One day…


Thought. What about giving the thing an ability to get scripted (like CHDK does for Canon cameras), and an output port (e.g. optocoupled UART)?

Then it could be paired with pan-tilt mounts and various Arduino-based gadgets (or gadget adapters). The camera is a computer already, it can be leveraged as a programmable control unit.

Can’t you solve the camera causing night blindness with a little red filter (cellophane or whatever) over the display, or red tinted sunglasses?


I work nights, and on the weekends, I go night hiking. Typically once in the forest, I don’t use any artificial light source, but I carry a 400 lumen headlamp that I’ve glued a maroon plastic filter to (got it free from the local florist), and it works spectacularly for situations where the tree cover is heavy and the path disappears for several meters.


Why not just buy night-vision amplifier goggles?

Those kill your eyes even worse, and they run out of battery super fast. The batteries are really expensive too.

All I see are downsides, except the ability to see a landscape at night. But that’s not always great either. I have an NV monocular with an integrated switchable IR illumination. Without the illuminator it’s useless unless it’s full moon or within a 3 or so days of full moon. As long as the full moon is overhead.

The field of view is pretty small too. 35 degrees or less, with 3x magnification and severe blurring at the edges. Also there’s thermal noise in the tube, which shows up like light static, except perfectly black grains.

Getting it in focus requires manipulation of two lenses as well. You have to adjust both the objective lens, and the eyepiece lens. Typically the procedure is to stare through the thing in darkness with the illuminator switched on. You manipulate they objective lens focus until it’s as clear as you can make it. It’ll still be fuzzy. Then twist the eyepiece until it’s as clear as you can make it, which will seem pretty sharp. Then you can get stuck for hours playing with the focus on both elements, trying to figure out the perfect focus, and you end up not observing anything.

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Cost, availability, resolution, and the Gen-IV ones that are becoming pretty good quality-wise are still nauseatingly expensive and the bureaucrats insist it is a military crap and therefore restricted-availability.

We need tech for making our own microchannel amplifiers. The DIY sector needs to work on cheap good vacuum, materials, surface coatings, and micropatterning.

Prices of DSLRs and optics are getting silly. I don’t know how much further they have to go in real terms, but my top of the head estimate since 2000 is that they have more than halved in real terms every 5 years, per unit of performance. Mobile phones can only go so far due to (a) the wavelength range of light and (b) the silly demand for ever thinner phones (though some of that is due to the need to dissipate heat.) and once you get to 24Mpx in the APS format the same optical problem arises, so the only way to go really is to reduce production cost still further and use increased cpu power to extract as much data from the signal as possible.
Which means that we’re reaching the stage that was reached with film SLRs - second hand becomes a good buy because improvement from generation to generation becomes minimal. At one point I used to use a Nikon F2, an FM2 and an autofocus Pentax for the faster moving stuff. In terms of picture quality there was nothing between them, the F2 was just a bit heavy and the FM2 nicer to use. [edit - but of course not as good as the Mamiya 645 and 330s I used for commercial stuff. A big one tends to beat a small one, but in digital camera terms it is APS versus 24x36 and the difference is not so large.]

tl;dr: you can probably afford a DSLR now which will meet your needs if you don’t demand new.


Anybody have thoughts or opinions on this?

It has 16 separate cameras built in, using up to 10 at a time, and software to assemble images up to 52 MegaPixels.

They claim excellent low light images, post processing focus & depth of field, 4:1 optical zoom, 4k video capabilities and more for $1700 ($1200 pre-order before November 6). DSLR image quality from a point&shoot form factor.

But with the 16 separate lenses you’re not going to mate it to a telescope.

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I saw a picture of the night sky with it, and I was impressed.
My thought is that the camera might be static, and follows the stars trailing across the sensor. Using software, it could correct for that movement. So, you wouldn’t have to care about parallax etc. The downside is you lose a bit of the edges of the camera field, but that is not a big price.


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If I had a job, I would be looking, but for now…

The usual way it’s done in astro-photography is not to go for long exposures (it’s very difficult to track the object perfectly, and the stars and moon ‘travel’ at different speeds), but rather lots and lots of short exposures and then use ‘stacking’ software to combine all the low-res images into one higher res images.

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