All Sky cameras ( Updated 6/19/18)

The ZWO ASI120MM-S camera is a good, reasonably priced guiding/planetary imaging camera.  The camera comes with a 150 degree fish eye lens that allows the camera to be used as an All Sky camera for capturing the night sky in conjunction with free programs like Fire Capture and Sharp Cap which can be downloaded right from the ZWO web site. This article will deal with that application.






















The camera was attached to a sturdy Celestron tripod I had lying around and was placed on my deck between two of my telescopes.  I connected it to a Dell 2 in 1 computer that is only an 11.6 inch screen and decided to use Fire Capture since I was familiar with the program. My friend and fellow astronomer, Pete Detterline, helped with figuring out the settings in Fire Capture and with the setup.  See picture below for setup.


The computer was inside a plastic strorage container bought from the local dollar store and I cut a hole in the back to pass the wires from the camera and the AC adapter through.  A 1 TB Dell external drive was use to store the images.  The fan was a smaller version of the DDS 3000 dew elimination system which is demonstrated by Uncle Ronnie Shawley in another tab on this blog.  Don't laugh....it works!  After the settings were done we started the capture program at 10:12 PM and let it run for 4 hours.  The next morning I closed down everything and downloaded the 880 images to my regular computer and made a time lapse using Cyberlink's Power Director(good program).  I then uploaded the time lapse to my YouTube channel.  I only captured one small meteor which is pictured below.


The settings can now be refined as we have a baseline to refer to the next nice, clear, calm night we set the camera up.  The link to the time lapse is below.



This is a poor man's Oculus All Sky camera.  It doesn't rival it, but it doesn't cost anywhere near as much either.  This is just another idea to use the camera for if you haven't tried it.  As I said early the guiding/imaging results will be added at a later date.  Clear skies to all readers.


Update 4/10/17


Latest version of my ZWO All Sky camera.  Added a heavy duty U.S. Pro tripod and then added a 3/8 to 1/4 inch screw adapter to attach the camera.  The adapter has  a 5/8 inch base so a fellow amateur astronomer drilled two holes in some scrap plexiglass and 1/4 inch plywood and I put that over the adapter to act as a base to allow a shield to be put on top.


Since I already have a BloomSky for daytime sky images the shield ends up being protection from bird bombers when I set up the camera during the daylight hours and I take it off at night.  Dew and frost is taken care of by the Dave's Dew System 2000(see another tab...it's a tongue in cheek presentation by Uncle Ron Shawley, but don't laugh, it really does work.  I have used variations on it for several years and have never had a problem).


The sky last night was horrible.  High cirrus clouds covered the sky and the nearly full moon really knocked down the seeing.  Below is a link to a short time lapse from last night.  The weather was too good to pass up testing the new setup, but the sky did not help.  Next good night I will try again.  Stay tuned for updates.

Link to ZWO All Sky 2nd try.


Update 4/18/17

The reason for the long version is because I thought I had all my settings ready in Sharp Cap and just pushed Start and away it went.  Next morning I discovered I had over 11,000 images for 6 hours of imaging.  I was planning on 720 images😀.  Needless to say I wondered what I did.  Well, I forgot to set the exposure length to 30 secs and instead got the default of 50ms.  Bit of a difference.  I had to do 6 short timelapses and combine them into one since my program "Cyberlink Power Director" can only handle so many at one time.  After making the long one(which came out really smooth) and shortened it up for those with little time to watch.  Hopefully will have all settings correct on  4/21/17 for the Lyrid meteor shower.

ZWO All Sky 4/18/17 Long Version


ZWO All Sky 4/18/17 Short Version and no music


Update 6/21/17

Getting better with the settings on SharpCap with the ZWO, but not quite there yet.  Still working on exposure limits.

ZWO ASI120MM-S 6/20/17



Update 6/28/17

Best one yet.  Sky was the best it's been in awhile.  Settings are close to perfect for my area.  If tonight is clear I will set up in a little different area for a somewhat different view.

Picked up a ZWO ASI224MC camera for guiding, imaging and EAA, but first decided to try it as an all sky.  The 224 has a CMOS chip with high sensitivity and so decided to use it as a comparison piece to the 120.  The price difference for the two cameras is about $50.  The link below will take you to the ASI224MC time lapse on my YouTube channel.

ZWO ASI224MC All Sky Camera

Planes, clouds, IRs, meteors and the Summer Milky Way in the beginning.


10/6/17 Update

I took a 12 hour movie of last night's sky and because of the SharpCap program frame rate it automatically condensed it down to 1:02 with title and ending.  Link is below.

ASI120MM-S All Sky 12/20/17

4/23/18  Update



I have tried several other of the ZWO cameras as an allsky and have had good results using the stock 150 degree lens, but I have gotten even better results when I added the Arecont 180 degree lens to the system.  Clearer, faster exposure times and an overall better result.  I have included links below to some time lapses using different ZWO cameras and the Arecont lens.

Link:

ZWO ASI290MM with Arecont lens


Link:

ZWO ASI290MC with Arecont lens

I am also playing with a lens that was recommended to me by fellow AllSky enthusiast from the U.K., Jason MacDonald who told me about the LensBaby 5.8 Fisheye lens for the Canon EOS.  I immediately ordered one from Amazon because I have been wanting to turn my Canon T5i into a type of AllSky.  The lens has had very good results and on the 2nd night out caught a fireball.  Screen shot from the time lapse is shown below.




Close up of the fireball 




Link:

Canon T5i/LensBaby 5.8 Fisheye catches fireball


Update 6/19/18

I am including some pictures of my current setup for all sky work.  My setup is not permanent since my wife won't let me drill holes in the house to pass wires.  From past experience can't say I blame her.

First

My Canon T5i with a Lensbaby 5.6 fisheye lens.


You can see the type of image it produces on the screen.  Very clear.  Examples of this type of image can be seen just above in the article.


Tripod is a Pro-Am obtained from Amazon.  The fan is affectionately called Dave's Dew System 2000😁.  Don't laugh, it works.  Same premise used with large fans in orchards to stop frost from forming.  Dew and frost cannot form in air that is moving at a decent rate.  I have never had a dew or frost issue.  See the tab on Dave's Dew System on the blog.

ZWO camera setup



Camera is mounted on a spare Celestron Evolution mount and connected to a Dell 11 inch 2 in 1 computer running SharpCap.  Images are stored on a Dell 1 TB HD.  The tranlucent storage box allows me to see the monitor at any time and when in place it protects the computer from moisture.  The fan is, of course, Dave's Dew System 2000.  Latest original AVI is below from this setup.

Link:ZWO ASI224MC AllSky


Looking into a self contained version of this in a storage tub.  Working on the logistics of how to do it right now and accumulating parts.  Will show finished project when I can.  Clear skies everyone.



7 comments:

  1. Very nice 12h video in just over 1 minute! What settings did you use? I have a ASI120MC-S and would like to try the same.

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  2. The settings were Raw 8, Exposure was set to Auto. Under start capture I set it for 12 hours, 1 sequence and 1 sec in between although that last one is unnecessary. I do it from force of habit when I do PNGs. I'm doing one tonight although the sky is iffy. If it turns out good I'll post it. I'm using an ASI224MC-S tonight. All my time lapses are on my YouTube channel if interested.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. Sky has been terrible here the last week.

      Delete
  3. Great stuff. I have a ZWO ASI224MC. Struggling to get it going as an All-sky. Curious, why did you switch from FireCapture to SharpCap? Specifically, are there features in SharpCap that are advantageous for All-Sky? Thanks!

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  4. Fire Capture has always been a struggle for me. Sharp Cap was easier. I'll give you hand if you want. Email me at dfisherows@gmail.com to set it up.

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  5. I too picked up a ZWO ASI120MC, have had interesting results with SharpCap, but have not given FireCapture much more than a cursory look over. Please Help! with settings. These are very sensitive pieces of equipment. I would love to have your results. If you would be so kind as to share your capture settings.. I believe SharpCap actually saves all the settings in a file in the capture folder root for each cap. I will have to take some pics during the daytime to show you what I came up with rigging wise.. I live in PRIME dark territory, backside of the Mountains from Albuquerque. It does get quite dark here, & at 7600ft Altitude. I knew I needed an AllSkyCam asap. I very much look forward to hearing from you.. Please feel free to email me at MrZarniwoop@gmail.com.
    Thank you Friends

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