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CCD Cameras and Accessories

Updated: 6/24/2007


Apogee Alta U16M Review (5/31/2007): Apogee graciously loaned me a U16M for evaluation.  This is the results of my evaluation.

New Instrument Package (3/16/2005): I have just completed my instrument package upgrade.  This link describes the particulars.

The RAG CCD Camera Cooler (3/24/2004): This note describes the construction and performance of an active fluid cooling system for cooling CCD cameras.  With this system in place, a camera operating differential of 50C is achievable.

ST-10XME/CFW-8A Background Fogging (6/10/2003): A discussion and and approach to solving mysterious gradients in color frames taken with this equipment combination is presented.

SBIG Camera Power Troubleshooting (4/19/2003:  I have assembled some notes and suggestions to deal with issues related to extension cables used with the SBIG ST camera line in the hopes of making your troubleshooting efforts easier.

AO-7 Observations 4/9/2003: I conducted a number of experiments with and without an AO-7 in the optical chain and uncovered some issues with flat fields and unguided behavior.  A fix for the flat field was tested and seems to be effective.  Here is the link.

Muscle Plate (1/13/2003): Steve Mandel and I have designed a replacement for the CFW-8 cover plate, increasing the strength and rigidity and allowing a more solid mounting of the AO-7.  Here are the details and installation instructions.

Secure CCD Mounting: If you have an Astro-Physics focuser, there is a very secure alternative to the 2 drawtube method. I use the T-Thread Visual Back, which threads into the SBIG ST-7/10 or CFW-8 to give me an SCT mounting. I then use the ADA-204 adapter, which threads into the 2.7 focuser drawtube. If you need a light pollution suppression filter, the Hutech is considered one of the best. It comes with adapters, available separately, to mount the 48 mm filter in a set of compatible adapters for SCT mounting. I place these adapters in-line so that I can keep a similar focus distance, offset only by the presence or absence of the filter itself. Here is what this set-up looks like with my ST-8E/CFW-8A mounted on the back of my scope. There is also an Astro-Physics 0.75x Reducer closest to the drawtube. I have found this arrangement very secure, yet flexible enough to allow camera rotation by loosening the T-Thread Visual Back coupling. I typically do this in a park position that has the scope pointed north and horizontal. Then I use a short bubble level to square up the camera. I usually hit within 1 or less to parallel with either the RA or DEC axis.

CCD Cleaning: I have successfully cleaned my ST-8E imager pretty well using the procedures outlined by Kodak . First I attach a static-discharge wrist strap to the camera and open the camera by removing the six screws. There is an O-ring under the cover plate. Also, note the orientation when the cover plate is removed. There is a piece of reflective aluminum tape that is part of the shutter sensor that must be in the same location after the cover is replaced. Since you will have the camera open for a while, you should regenerate the desiccant, following the SBIG instructions of a 4-hour bake at 350F. Once the cover is opened, gently rotate the shutter to expose the CCD chip. Follow the Kodak procedure, inspecting the surface with a magnifier and bright light at a shallow angle to the cover glass. I used an 8x photographic magnifier, available at most camera stores. My bright light was a halogen desk lamp, close to the sensor. I obtained denatured alcohol from my local pharmacy. Be sure to reinstall the desiccant after the cover is replaced. This process removed nearly all of the dust from the imager with the remainder being an easy flat field removal.

ST-8E USB Evaluation (5/11/2002): I wrote up some comments after receiving the USB upgrade to my ST-8E.

ST-8E Shutter Fix: After an occasional Shutter Error 17 (or 1017 for Windows 2000), I contacted SBIG to inquire about getting it fixed. When the correction was explained to me, I elected to do it myself to avoid the camera down time. Here is the report with full resolution images. You can view or download the report as a PDF file. Ultimately I sent the ST-8E back to SBIG for another problem and it, along with the shutter problem was completely resolved. I was told that the fix described above was field installable but the more complete fix required a visit to SBIG. Excellent turnaround time from SBIG.

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