SPC900NC webcam: Pleiades, M81 and M66

Posted by XTSee on 6th March , 2010

After my experimental “first light” imaging session with my newly modified Phillips SPC900NC webcam for Long Exposures (Steve Chambers mod), I have now processed the images and this is what they look like. They’re not visually fantastic, but for a first attempt I’m well pleased. Generally they were 15-20 second exposures. They couldn’t be any longer because I had not drift-aligned my scope. Also I setup K3CCDTools to take a sequence of only 5 frames for each object, because my objective is learning, not quality at this stage. I also created a Dark Frame image which K3CCDTools subtracts from frames to remove webcam noise and hot pixels.

Photo of Mars


First image is Mars again. I wanted to improve on my Mars imaging of a few nights ago, and tonights session was a much clearer night, but despite poor seeing the results are more detailed. This used the webcam in Normal mode (long exposure switched off), since Mars is far brighter than deep sky objects like nebulae and galaxies.






Section of Pleiades

Next up is a section of M45 the Pleiades. I had hoped that with my focal reducer (0.6x) I would get a full view of the group of stars, but the webcams field of view is simply too small, so I probably need a better focal reducer. So, that’s something else I’ve learned! The exposure is simply too short to show any of the lovely blue nebulosity normally associated with the Pleiades.

M81 Bodes Galaxy

M81 Bodes Galaxy





Wow! My first properly imaged DSO, this is M81 Bodes Galaxy. If the scope were properly drift aligned to stop trailing I could have taken a much longer exposure than the 5x 20 second frames I took for this shot, which should have brought out detail in the spiral arms. All you can see in this image is the bright central core, but compared with pro photos the spiral arms would actually extend out to almost half the width of this photo! Maybe I should have said, sod the trailing just up the exposure to say 1 minute to see what it looked like.

You can see a better example of M81 taken with a webcam at Ash’s Astro Pages, a site I came across which gave me a good idea of what sort of results I should be able to achieve. And with a 10inch SCT (mine is 6inch), plus a Canon 350D and stacking 27×3minute frames you can aspire to get a fantastic image of M81 like this, awesome. I’ve got a little way to go yet! :)



And here is M66, part of the Leo Triplet. Again the webcam field of view is too small to capture the neighbours in the triplet. Even though I took 5 frames set at 15 seconds each, sometimes K3CCDTools makes the timing of the first frame a lot longer (I think its to do with when you click the record button if you’ve already been previewing the image for a while). This resulted in the first frame being about 25 seconds long, and so this picture is actually just that single longer exposure frame, and shows just a bit more of the galaxies structure, albeit rather faint.

Overall the things I have learnt are:-

  • to get good results I will need to stack more images to improve the quality
  • I will need to learn drift alignment properly to get much better tracking of objects, and this will enable me to take longer exposures without trailing
  • while the webcam is great for learning, I should set my expectations appropriately. Its not a professional camera, so it won’t give the smoothness, detail or quality of DSLR’s like the Canon 300D or 350D which are faourites for amateur astrophotography.
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9 Responses to “SPC900NC webcam: Pleiades, M81 and M66”

  1. Hunter (1 comments)

    That’s incredibly that a webcam can take those kind of shots…

  2. Salvia Divinorum (1 comments)

    Wow, those pics are great! I’m just getting into astronomy myself. It’s surprisingly difficult to film the night sky. We’re so used to professional “NOVA” style camera work that we don’t appreciate how difficult this task really is for the amateur astronomer. Great job.

  3. K2 Summit (1 comments)

    Those pictures are indeed pretty incredible for a simple webcam. Imagine what a newer technology high res image looks like? We should start being able to see down to google street view on mars soon!

  4. Gaz Pieprzowy (1 comments)

    Those pictures are just unbelievable. That Philips webcam that you used… Hands down, just imagine those pictures on a better equipement. I think that you have a talent really. Thumbs up. I’ll hope for new pictures soon.



  5. Ms. Cheetah Print (1 comments)

    Interesting idea for using a webcam - and surprising results! Maybe I’ll give it a try, but it seems very difficult for a beginner.

  6. Dorian (1 comments)

    Awesome images. Are really was take with an simple webcam?

  7. Andy (2 comments)

    Very cool! This proves that any simple image can be a work of art.

  8. Graphic Overlays (1 comments)

    Wow! Those are awesome pictures! I can’t belive they were taken with a web cam!

  9. Pleiades

    Pleiades …

    [...]SPC900NC webcam: Pleiades, M81 and M66[...]…

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