Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Camera !!

I've had my Mallincam Extreme II for nearly 5 years and it has provided me many fantastic views of the universe.  Without it I probably would not still be interested in astronomy as viewing faint, colorless, fuzzy patches through an eyepiece is not very interesting to me.   As chronicled in this blog, the Mallincam coupled with a Lumicon Deep Sky filter, has enabled me to see many iconic celestial objects from my light polluted suburban backyard with ~ 4.8 Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude.

My astronomy interests are still aligned with video astronomy / electronically assisted astronomy.   I enjoy sitting out with my scope and viewing objects in near real time.   I have no ambitions to be an astro imager as spending hours post processing images is not my idea of fun.  I have desired to improve the quality of my images so I could discern more details in the objects I view.  So I started studying new cameras.  My criteria were;

1.   One Shot Color
2.   Cooled to reduce noise
3.   Decent sensitivity to see DSO with exposures < 4 minutes
4.   Sufficient resolution to provide detailed views (I arbitrarily set minimum of 6 megapixels)
5.   Large chip to provide a good field of view (at least 20 x 15 arc minutes at prime focus)
6.   USB camera for both control and image download with 1 cable
7.   2" aperture minimum
8.   Price of <= $ 1,500 US

I looked at several brands and quickly focused in on the new offerings by Mallincam, Atik,  and ZWO.  After reading posts on Cloudy Nights and the Video Astronomy Forum I zeroed in on the new ZWO ASI071MC-Cool.   It hit all of my criteria and my wife purchased it for me as a retirement present.

On March 2, 2017 I received a ZWO ASI071MC-Cool today from Agena Astro.  It looks to be a beautifully made camera.  Pictures of the unboxing were uploaded to my Flickr account.  I downloaded version 2.9 of SharpCap and installed the camera's native driver from the website. I fired up SharpCap and plugged in the camera into a USB port and the camera was sensed by the software where I could select it. I was able to take a couple of dark images (lens cap on) of varying lengths.  I cracked the lens cap and saw light in the image, so I know that the camera is talking to the software. I look forward to first light for the new camera in the observatory.