Webcam Imaging Mars

As Mars is very prominent in the sky at the moment, I feel it is my mission to try and get the best possible image I can whilst I have the red planet in sight.

I purchased a new Baader UV/IR lens the other day so I was really itching to give it a go. I used my Philips SPC900 web-cam, and I took around 100 seconds of video each time at 10 frames per second and 15 frames per second, in order to get lots of frames to put into Registax.

I still do all my recording in the supplied Philips VLounge software, although I don’t think this is the best way to go about it, one reason is because the output format is .MPG and I have to then convert it to .AVI to get it into Registax, which is a real pain.

Mars via Webcam

See my second attempt for better Mars images. I have learnt a lot since this post.

You can make out some terrain marks of Mars in the image, but I want more! I still think I can get a better image, as this footage is a bit fuzzy and kind of out of focus. The video was taken when Mars was quite low in the sky. As at the moment I just can’t stay out too late as it’s so cold outside by the time Mars is high in the sky, but hopefully during December and January I should be able to get some more imaging done. I am also reading The Lunar and Planetary Webcam User’s Guide book, so hopefully I should pick up some more tips from this book.

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6 comments

  • Robert Fitzgerald

    Do yourself a favor – download RegiStax. It’s free and easy to use and it supports Phillips SPC900. Also, if you removed the lens cell and installed an adapter you will need a UV/IR cut filter (Baader #245 9207 or Orion #5564). Without IR filtering you may not reach sharp focus. UV/IR blocking also greatly improves contrast, reduces color abnormalities and reduces halos.

    For Mars try 5 fps. The faster frame rate, even though 10 or 15 fps captures more images, faster frame rates also introduce compression artifacts. Try 500 frames of 5 fps and then again at 10 fps. Quickly Align, Combine, and Stack to see which is working best that night. You might often find the 5 fps is best even though you will need to collect twice as many frames. I always collect 1000 or more frames if I am satisfied my focus is good. Seeing often dictates frame rate capture for use here in central North Carolina but our high humidity and clashing upper air currents usually limit us to 5 fps. Florida folks enjoy super steady columns of air so 10 or 15 fps works well for them. That may be the case for you too but try the experiment each night you image. You might be glad you did!

    Finally, make sure you have plenty of hard disk space. I use an externa USB 2.0 drive to collect my .avi video. When you process the file you can save to the hard disk in both raw .avi and final result thereby having an automatic backup of the precious video. Good luck!

  • Daniel

    Thanks for your great comment. All your tips are great, and helpful to both myself and others reading this blog.

    I do have Registax and use it all the time, I also now have a Baader UV/IR filter.

    I don’t think the VLounge Software goes down to 5fps, I think 10fps is the minimum, perhaps it’s not the minimum in other capture programs.

    I now think I have a better shot of Mars, have a look at my next post. Thanks again.

  • Andrew

    Your first results are very similar to my results last night. I did have the added trouble of a bright Moon and after seeing the results I was getting a bit frustrated. However after seeing what you have managed to achieve recently I hope to get better results. Guess its just practice at the end of the day!

  • Daniel

    Yes, it is practice, and having a moon-less sky, plus Mars is now getting smaller all the time towards the beginning of the year.

    Keep playing with the webcam settings and make sure you have a decent IR/UV filter. I think the Baader filter I now have is much better than my 1st unbranded model.

  • Malcolm Morris

    I’ve just got a Philips SPC900NC and Vlounge only captures MPG files. If you convert to AVI to stack in Registax you’ve already lost data. I downloaded QCfocus (freeware), which controls the camera, with Vlounge in the background, and can now record in AVI with full control over exposure and fps. Also had to download porttalk.sys to get around a slight problem with windows xp but both were very easy and there are posts and forums aplenty about it. This should improve your final result as you can also take advantage of the YUY2 capture format that you couldn’t access in Vlounge. Good luck.

  • Daniel

    Thanks for the comment Malcolm. I shall give QFocus a go. I always hate having to convert from MPG to AVI in order to process them. I have no idea what YUY2 is, but I shall look it up.

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