Mallincam Color Hyper Video
Consider this dumbstruck gushing.
Tonight, I seized the opportunity to roll back the roof and set up my Nexstar 11 for Camera Duty. It is mounted on a Meade Superwedge which is in turn mounted on an older Celestron Heavy Duty Tripod with the double legs (looks sort of like crutches). Mounted atop the 11 is a Losmandy rail & rings holding an Orion Express 80.
This was my first time ever to use the Nexstar in EQ/Polar mode; despite finding it a bit more confusing than Meade's LX200 GPS system, I realized that time and reading instructions would smooth things out next time.
It is important to remember that when you put a tiny ccd sensor on a 2700mm focal length scope, you will be seeing a very narrow field, high magnification image. Once aimed and focused at M42 in Orion, the camera was set to hypercool on and both 14 second 28 second exposures.
On my 37" monitor, Trapezium glowed with a treacherous blue haze that can only spell nuclear blowtorch. The background looked like storm clouds with a sort of webwork of greenish sheer fabric all blown full of holes. Redish orange linear features seemed to have little red dots of stars with dark streaks seemingly radiating from Trapezium. The detail was hypnotic.
Using the Celestron hand control allowed me to move around in the molecular cloud, but the result is a huge blur until the scope settles from microslewing and oscillation so that a 28 second exposure has no resultant blurring.
THIS IS SPACE TRAVEL.
The I turned this "not a planetary camera" on Saturn. Awestruck is much too mild a description. While DSO imaging or live feed with a Mallincam calls for maxing out sensitivity and gain, one does the opposite for bright objects like Saturn. I turned sensitivity and shutter speed down as far as necessary to turn the glowing white "flying saucer" into a lovely coral, cream and brown image with pronounced rings, ring shadow, multicolored belts and some surface features I can only desribe as belt texture and structures. Forgive me, but my DFK 41A F02 Image Source camera is good, but you can't plug it into a SVHS connector and get live feed.
So here I am sitting in a comfy chair looking at a live colorful high contrast feed of an 8" wide image of Saturn and it's rings. I am gushing. I am wishing everyone I know could be sitting here with me mesmerized by what modern amateur astronomy can be.
Yes - it was a slightly hazy still night - the kind that is best for planets; but seeing was maybe 7 or 8/10. Transparency was similar. All and all, I would call it a good, but not great night. It was getting late, so I did not try out my Klee 2.8 Barlow. That will kick the image of the planet up to an 8" ball with a 20" ring system.
OK - so I had to pay big dollars for the Mallincam. Is $1200 really BIG? In fall 2006 at the Okie Tex Star Party (October), I saw M-16 with a non-hyper B&W model on a Nexstar 11. The "pillars of creation" were clearly visible. I was impressed.
The Mallincam is a video system that is made for regular RCA and S-Video hookups. The only software I found that works well for feeding a computer is Turtle Beach Video Advantage which is a sub $100.00 setup with video to USB 2.0 converter.
2 years ago, the Mallincam was described as capable of making a telescope deliver an image one could expect from an aperture 4 times larger. That - however was before Malincam increased the maximum integration time from 12 seconds to 56 seconds. So now it would be fair to say that the image I was seeing of Trapezium (in my Nexstar 11 at 28 second integration)would be more like what I might expect optically from a 50" or larger scope.
To me, the Mallincam is the impossible dream come true. In terms of what it can do for any amateur telescope with short term tracking capability - even in alt az - it is everything - just everything.
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