Shooting pictures at night is not the same thing as photographing celestial objects in the sky. Astrophotography requires a special kind of camera to capture images correctly. You can make your own camera for astrophotography by converting a conventional webcam and getting a part from an astronomy supply store. This will let you take night photographs using a laptop and software program, obviating the need for using film and then having to develop it. Astrophotography is a good way to become familiar with the universe, even if it is just from your own backyard.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Phillips jeweller's screwdriver
- Plastic pill bottle
- Utility knife
- Black masking tape
- 35mm astronomy telescope T-adaptor
- Bonding glue
- Webcam video software
Unscrew the lens ring from around the lens on the front of the webcam. Remove the screws from the webcam using the Phillips jeweller's screwdriver. Separate the front of the webcam from the back. Discard the front.
Remove the lid from the plastic pill box. Cut around the plastic pill box an inch from the bottom, using the utility knife. Cut a small hole in the centre of the bottom of the cut-off piece of the plastic pill box.
Place the cut-off piece of the plastic pill box against the front of the lens. Screw the straight end of the 35mm astronomy telescope T-adaptor onto the front of the lens. Use bonding glue to help hold the 35mm astronomy telescope T-adaptor onto the front of the lens. Let the bonding glue set.
Cut a small circle out of the cardboard with the utility knife that is about the same size as the back of the webcam.
Use the black masking tape to affix the cardboard over the webcam's back to cover the circuit board inside. Place the back of the lens against the cardboard. Wrap black masking tape around the lens to hold it to the back part of the webcam.
Set up the telescope. Screw the free end of the 35mm astronomy telescope T-adaptor to the eyepiece of the telescope. Plug the USB cable from the webcam you have converted for astrophotography into the USB port of the laptop. Run the webcam video software and enjoy the view.
Tips and warnings
- You can use the converted webcam to shoot still photos as well as videos.
- Extraneous light will spoil the videos you are shooting with the webcam.
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