For quite some time I have been wanting to experiment with video, either as a way to monitor meteor showers or to attach to one of my telescopes so groups of people can see what the telescope is seeing. I experimented with my Hitachi 8mm video camera back in 1997 and found it was possible to detect stars to magnitude 3 by just pointing it toward the sky. Not generally good enough for meteor watching.
During March and April of 1997, comet Hale-Bopp was in the sky. The video camera imaged the comet without the use of a telescope, and it also imaged one of the comet's hoods near the comet's nucleus when the camera was held up to the lens of my 13.1-inch reflector. Although this was exciting, this was an especially bright comet and the camera was not sensitive enough for anything less than a bright comet. Another thing I learned here was that the camera was way to heavy for the 13.1-inch reflector, as well as any smaller telescope, and extra weights would have to be attached to the telescope for this to work.
In March of 2001 I found out about the cameras at X10.com. These were security cameras, but, more importantly, they were very small. I bought the NightWatch Surveillance Camera and began trying it out. The camera has a 0.5 lux sensitivity rating, but because of the wide angle lens it actually performed worse that the Hitachi video camera when pointed at the sky without telescopic aid, but when attached to a telescope I was very pleased.
Some friends and I held an astronomy day at a local park on April 28. We tested the camera on the 27th and then on the 28th we attached the camera to both my 13.1-inch reflector and a 4.1-inch AstroPhysics refractor. People gathered around a television as the Astrophysics refractor tracked on the Sun and Moon. We were able to point at the monitor and talked about features on either object. I also put a video tape in and recorded most of what we looked at. Later, I attached the VCR to my computer and captured the following images:
The Moon's limb on 2001 April 27.
Looking along the terminator on the Moon on 2001 April 28.
Closeup of a large sunspot group on 2001 April 28.