Mercury Transit

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A beautiful sunny day on 9th May for the long awaited Mercury transit of the sun. I set up my equipment at 12.00 ready to start imaging from my garden, not a cloud in the sky! It is amazing how hard it is to find the Sun with the filter fitted to the scope. Took a while to eventually find it. Also the Sun was VERY bright and I needed to put a black cloth over my head to be able to see the computer screen. The neighbours must have thought I was crazy!

Took lots of images using the Skywatcher 80ED Pro and Altair-Astro  GP-Cam with a 0.6 focal reducer fitted. I tried with different colour filters, White light, Yellow, Blue, Green and Orange. After the first hour I put the equipment away and then set up later in the afternoon to image the final hours of the transit.

mercury first contact

First contact of Mercury with the Sun. (Top Left)

transit comp1

Yellow filter fitted.


White light.

Sunspot with Altair GP-Cam

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For the first time in months we had a beautiful, clear sunny day!

I took the Skywatcher 80ED with the Baader filter to capture some images of the sun using my Altair GP-Cam. I took some photos direct and then tried using a 0.6 reducer and yellow colour filter. On the face of the Sun was a single sunspot which imaged quite well with the camera.


Next are some images of the Sunspot without the reducer and colour filter.


sunspot1large sunspot1med

Moon with Focal Reducer

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As well as imaging Jupiter, I also tried out a 0.6 Focal Reducer with the Altair GP-Cam. I found that I had to use this without the star diagonal fitted on the scope to obtain focus.

This is the result…cool! (Actually it is 2 images stitched together as a mosaic because a little piece was missing)


Jupiter with Callisto Transit

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After imaging the Moon with my new Altair GP-Cam now it is time to try Jupiter.  A clear night, but a bit hazy…I waited until Jupiter appeared over the rooftops and then began imaging. At first I used the maximum size setting for the camera, which gave me about 14fps. I tried a few AVI captures with the camera straight in the telescope. I needed to play around a bit to get used to this camera. I realised that setting the size to 640 x 480 gave me a fast frame speed of about 40fps, so I did a few captures with this setting. Next I tried a 2x Barlow  lens and 640 x 480, this worked the best. I was able to move the capture area to centre Jupiter as I capured the frames.

Here is probably the best of my captures stacked and processed using Registax 5.

You can see Jupiter in all it’s glory along with the shadow of Callisto transiting the planet. You can also see a moon, which I think is also Callisto.

jupiter1and2mediumlightcrophue   jupiter1croplighthue

Taken with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro.


Moon with Altair GP-Cam

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First light for the Altair GP-Cam after spending some time getting used to the settings and using the software. This is a lovely Moon mosaic taken with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro and new camera.


Altair GP-Cam AR130m

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I have used my Philips Toucam Pro II for many years now for planetary and Moon photos. The Philips cam has been brilliant for the images that I have taken in the past. It has worked fine with the software that I have used. Problem is that I have reached the point where to improve on captured images I really need a better, more dedicated camera. I have been looking at the reviews on camera in Sky at Night Magazine over the last months, but some are REALLY expensive.  I didn’t want one of the Celestron cameras because I feel that they are not even as good as the Philips Toucam.

In this months edition of Sky at Night they reviewed the Altair GP-Cam AR130m…I am impressed, both with the review and the price!  I did a search on the internet and some of the astro forums to find out more about this camera. I also read some comparisons between the Philips Toucam and Altair. The Altair camera gets good reviews all round and great value for money, so I decided to buy one.



Now I need to get to grips with this new camera. It is different to use from the Philips Toucam as it can also be used for Deep Space Objects as well as Planetary. There are settings for Long Exposures as well as normal AVI video. I am still trying to understand how it should be used. My first light was the Moon and Jupiter from my window, not an ideal situation, but the results were very good!

I am having trouble understanding how the Frame Rate works on this camera. It should work happily up about 40fps, but it varies all the time, sometimes it runs 6 or 7 fps. I always thought that the frame rate setting could be fixed like the Philips, I usually use 10, 15 or 20fps. It seems that this is not the case with the Altair because it depends on a number of factors and settings.

First attempt at the Orion Nebula was quite impessive with long exposure, but I am having problems stacking the fixed images in Deep Sky Stacker…I am still working on it!



Crescent Moon

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A beautiful Moon last night. Took this image just before Stargazing Live started!

This is a mosaic with images taken with my Skywatcher Heritage 130 and Philips Toucam Pro II webcam.