SBIG ST-i – Installed on telescope – Orion 80mm ShortTube as a telescope guide – LX200 161 Starlight Xpress Lodestar – Installed on telescope – Orion 80mm ShortTube as a telescope guide – LX200 162 Imaging Source – Installed as the main camera on a solar telescope SolarMax II 90 Double Stack SBIG STX-16803 – Installed as the main camera on a solar telescope LX200 161 and LX200 162 STT-8300M – Installed as the main camera on a solar telescope LX200 121 and LX200 122
SBIG ST-i Monochrome Planet Cam and Autoguider
SBIG ST-i Planet Cam and Autoguider – MonochromeThe innovative, eyepiece-size SBIG ST-i camera is aimed at both entry-level and advanced amateur astronomers. Unlike other autoguiding cameras, the ST-i includes a mechanical shutter, providing greater sensitivity and more accurate guiding as users can now automatically capture and use dark frames while autoguiding. The camera can take exposures as short as 0.001 seconds and focus at up to 21 frames per second. It will download 16-bit images at up to 12 frames per second, allowing users to extract finer detail with higher dynamic range than 8 bit cameras, especially when doing planetary imaging. Recognizing that many astronomers begin imaging with DSLRs and video cameras, SBIG is also bundling the ST-i with software that can be used by any imager regardless of whether they use a CCD camera or DSLR for imaging. The ST-i comes with fully functional versions of Software Bisque’s The Sky version 5 and CCDSoft, versions 5. Combined with SBIG’s own CCDOps and PlanetMaster software for high resolution planetary imaging, this bundled suite of imaging and planetarium software provides customers with a powerful and comprehensive set of tools. The imaging software suite not only supports the planetary and autoguiding functionality of the ST-i but also provides a comprehensive planetarium, telescope control and image processing solution.
SBIG ST-i Planet Cam and Autoguider Features…
Starlight Xpress Lodestar AutoguiderAre you ready for the Starlight Xpress Lodestar Autoguider? Although the Lodestar is primarily intended as a high performance guider, it makes a superb electronic finder and planetary imaging camera! You won’t believe what this little baby can do. With its ICX429AL Sony Exview interline CCD with low dark current and vertical anti-blooming, it can produce an image format of 752 x 580 pixels with a image area of 6.4mm (Horizontal) x 4.75mm (Vertical). We’re talking Grade 1 quality here and the ability to do far more than just autoguide your CCD camera. The image you see accompanying this paragraph is a 600 exposure taken by Maurice Gavin of Centaur Eris at magnitude 18.75 – a remarkable achievement! Put the power of a Starlight Xpress Lodestar Autoguider behind your imaging system and you’ll get a spectral response of QE maximum at 620nM (~65%), 35% at 400nM and 770nM . This means readout noise of less than 15 electrons RMS – and typically only 10 electrons. The Starlight Xpress Lodestar Autoguider will give you a full well capacity of greater than 50,000 e- (unbinned) and an anti-blooming overload margin greater than 1000x. Dark currents? The dark frame saturation time is greater than 1 hour – less than 0.1 electrons/second @ + 10C ambient. Need more to convince you? Then know the Starlight Xpress Lodestar Autoguider is USB powered and has a built-in USB 2.0 compatible interface. It’s typical image download time is 0.2 seconds at full resolution using USB 2.0. It’s ambient air cooled, so all you need to do is slide this 32 x 72mm black anodised aluminium barrel into the focuser and start imaging… Even “live” during a full Moon!
Starlight Xpress Lodestar Autoguider Specifications…
About The Sony ICX274 Interline CCD Chip…Sony ICX274 CCDThe ICX274AL is a diagonal 8.923mm (Type 1/1.8) interline CCD solid-state image sensor with a square pixel array and 2.01M effective pixels. Progressive scan allows all pixels’ signals to be output independently within approximately 1/15 second, and output is also possible using various addition and pulse elimination methods. This chip features an electronic shutter with variable charge-storage time which makes it possible to realize full-frame still images without a mechanical shutter. Further, high sensitivity and low dark current are achieved through the adoption of Super HAD CCD technology. Applications: Still cameras which require high resolution, etc.
The Sony ICX274 Interline Features…High horizontal and vertical resolution with square pixels Supports the following modes: Progressive scan mode (with/without mechanical shutter) – 2/8-line readout mode – 2/4-line readout mode – 2-line addition mode – Center scan modes (1), (2) and (3) – AF modes (1) and (2) Horizontal drive frequency: 28.6364MHz (typ.), 36.0MHz (max.) Reset gate bias need no adjustment High sensitivity, low dark current Continuous variable-speed shutter function Excellent anti-blooming characteristics 20-pin high-precision plastic package Image size : Diagonal 8.923mm (Type 1/1.8) Total number of pixels : 1688 (H) × 1248 (V) approx. 2.11M pixels Number of effective pixels : 1628 (H) × 1236 (V) approx. 2.01M pixels Number of active pixels : 1620 (H) × 1220 (V) approx. 1.98M pixels Recommended number of recording pixels : 1600 (H) × 1200 (V) approx. 1.92M pixels Chip size : 8.50mm (H) × 6.80mm (V) Unit cell size : 4.40μm (H) × 4.40μm (V) Optical black : Horizontal (H) direction: Front 12 pixelμs, rear 48 pixels Number of dummy bits : Horizontal 28 – Vertical 1 Substrate material : Silicon
SBIG STX CCD Highlights…
Some Design Features of the SBIG STX…
About the Kodak KAF-16803 Monochrome SensorThe KAF-16803 image sensor is a redesigned version of the popular KAF-16801E image sensor (4096 x 4096 pixel resolution) with enhancements that specifically target the needs of high performance digital radiography applications. Improvements include enhanced quantum efficiency for improved DQE at higher spatial frequencies, lower noise for improved contrast in areas of high density, and anti-blooming protection to prevent image bleed from over exposure in regions outside the patient. Utilizing Truesense’s proprietary single gate ITO process and micro-lens technology, the KAF- 16803 image sensor with its large imaging area and small pixel size provides the sensitivity, resolution and contrast necessary for high quality digital radiographs. To simplify device integration, the KAF-16803 image sensor uses the same pin-out and package as the KAF-16801E image sensor. From the intricacies of microscopy to the far reaches of astronomy, Truesense Full Frame CCD image sensors deliver high performance results. With outstanding quantum efficiency across the visible spectrum, these sensors are ideal for demanding imaging applications that can accommodate a mechanical shutter or strobe illumination, such as electronic still photography, medical X-ray, and inspection.
Truesense KAF-16803 Monochrome Sensor Specifications…
No compromises. The new mid-sized STT Series cameras offer features and specifications found in no other astro camera – of any size. Drawing on all of our previous experience and the best of each of our previous designs over the years, the STT represents the culmination of everything that the amateur has asked for in an imaging system, packed into a 4.9 x 4.9 x 2.9 inch body. Standard features include: Two-stage cooling with a temperature delta greater than -50C with air only; water cooling ready; USB 2.0 and Ethernet on every camera; full frame buffer; fast low-noise readout of an 8.3Mp CCD in less than one second; MAR coated sapphire chamber window; internal user selectable automatic image processing; self-guiding in front of filters; remote guide head support; optional adaptive optics; and more.
Compare these STT features with any other camera:
• Ethernet and USB 2.0 • Built-in Web Server • Full Frame Image Buffer • 2-Stage TE Cooling > -50C delta T with air • Liquid Cooling Capability Standard for greater cooling • Twin Variable Speed Fans • High Accuracy Temperature Control • Built-in Frost Detection • Built-in RBI Pre-flash • External Triggers In / Out • Power Management System • 12VDC Operation • Lowest Noise 10Mhz Readout (<1 sec download) • High Precision 8-position Filter Wheel Option • Accepts 1.25″, 31mm and 3mm filters • Even-illumination (photometric) shutter • Multi-coated Sapphire Chamber Window • Optional Self-Guiding in Front of filters • Optional Remote Guide Head • Optional Adaptive Optics (AO-8T) • User Rechargeable Desiccant Plug • User Selectable Internal Image Processing • Status, Power and Relay Indicators • Windows and Mac Control Software, 32 and 64 bit
Micron-Precision Filter Wheel / Guider
A new filter wheel design for the STT series sets it apart from other designs. The carousel holds eight 36mm filters and inserts are available for 1.25″ filters. Two new unique features make this an imager’s delight: First, the design incorporates a self-guiding CCD in the filter wheel cover so that light from the guide star is captured before passing through the filters. An optional filter wheel cover is available for wide angle imaging with Nikon or Canon 35mm camera lenses, or for anyone who does not need or want the built-in self-guiding. Full sets of 36mm LRGB and Narrowband filters by Astrodon, Baader Planetarium and Astronomik are available for unvignetted imaging at any f/ratio. The second unique feature of the STT filter wheel is a positive centering mechanism that precisely re-positions and firmly holds filters in exactly the same position over the CCD every time, regardless of a loss of power or intervening movement of the filter wheel.
In our tests of the new design, using an STT-8300, the re-positioning of the filters was accurate to better than 5.4 microns after several complete rotations of the filter carousel. This degree of precision means that flat fields taken after the filter has moved and returned are accurate to a single pixel. An example of the improvement in flat fields with this kind of precision is demonstrated in the comparison images below.
The image at left, above, is a large opaque spot on a filter in STT filter wheel. The filter carousel was rotated several times before the filter was moved back into the optical path and a flat field was taken. The image at right shows the resulting flat field image.
A mechanical shutter is included to facilitate dark frames. This is a necessity for anyone operating remotely; even if remotely means a few feet away from the telescope. Since the early days of the original ST-7 camera, SBIG has been providing even-illumination shutters in our cameras, something not found in the majority of other cameras made for astrophotography. “Even-illumination” means that the shutter mechanism is designed to open and close in such a manner that it does not change the proportion of light falling on the sensor due to the shape or motion of the shutter itself. This is what one finds for instance with an iris type of shutter that opens-up starting at the center and closes over the center last. In the STT-8300 we use a simple and very robust shutter wheel with a fan-shaped aperture of the same design that we have employed in the ST series cameras for the past 15 years. The STT-8300 shutter sweeps over the CCD without leaving any area of the sensor exposed for a different period of time than any other area. Another benefit of the rotating disk type of shutter is that it has only one moving part – the motor. These motors are extremely reliable and can operate for millions of exposures without failure. In 15 years with thousands of cameras in the field taking millions of exposures, this shutter design has proven itself better than we can describe. Our design is accurate, proven and reliable. Even-illumination shutters are also referred to as photometric shutters because they produce flat frames of photometric quality. This is extremely important when taking twilight flats or any flat field image using short exposure times. The effect is demonstrated in the twilight flat field images shown below:
The left image shows a twilight flat field image taken with a camera using an iris type shutter. The right image is a flat field image taken under the same conditions using our even-illumination type shutter.
User Selectable Internal Image Processing
The STF-8300and STT-8300 is the first astro-cameras available with the ability to automatically clean up raw images with user-selectable automatic image processing! By selecting the level of hot pixel removal or even column repair, the user can obtain exceptionally clean images without any other image processing required. To illustrate, the 30 second dark frames, below, were taken at room temperature to accentuate the number of warm pixels. The first frame is unprocessed; the second frame has a medium filter, and the third frame the most aggressive filter.
Each shows fewer bright pixels and each has corresponding lower noise in the image. The user can select from eight levels of filter strength to suit his needs.
Efficient 2-Stage TE cooling
The STT uses two-stage TE cooling, twin variable-speed fans and a highly efficient pin fin array heat sink that has proven itself in the STX design. Pin fin heat sinks are more expensive than typical parallel fin type heat sinks, but offer more efficient heat dissipation in a given space. In our tests of prototype models, the cameras reached an average delta greater than -50C in five minutes and an average maximum delta of -57C in less than 10 minutes using air cooling only. And, while is should not be necessary to use water cooling in most circumstances, if it should be desired, the STT series cameras include water cooling capability as standard equipment. It is not necessary to buy an expensive add-on or separate back. Simply supply water to the adjustable fixtures on the side of the camera body to obtain further cooling or to run the TE cooler without the fans.
Exceptionally Low Dark Current
The KAF-8300 CCD has very low dark current, even at room temperature. Cooling the CCD reduces the dark current by 50% for every drop of 5.8 degrees C of cooling that is applied. Kodak specifies a dark current of less than 200 electrons per pixel per second at +60 degrees C. Extrapolating we calculate that at -15C the dark current is approximately 0.02e-. Our tests of the 8300 CCD in production cameras confirm this extraordinarily low dark current at typical operating temperatures.
High Quantum Efficiency
Another desirable characteristic of the KAF-8300 CCD is its relatively high Quantum Efficiency (QE). Microlens technology is used to focus more light on the sensitive area of each pixel, increasing the effective QE of the 8300. Many nebulas emit a great portion of their light in the red portion of the spectrum, particularly at 656nm, the wavelength of H-alpha light. Other objects such as stars and galaxies emit a great deal of energy in the near IR. According to the KAF-8300 spectral characteristics, this CCD’s sensitivity is spread well across the visible portion of the spectrum and into the near IR with a peak of nearly 60% at 550nm and still 50% at 656nm. It is as sensitive at 850nm as it is at 350nm. This is quite a broad range and explains the CCDs popularity (and success) in astro-imaging.
Standard (ST-4 pin compatible) Autoguider Output Port
The guider port on the STT-8300 is the same as on our other cameras, using a modular telephone type 6-pin jack to connect the STT-8300 to the user’s mount when using the camera as an autoguider. The internal relays used in the STT-8300 design are opto-isolated, so that no external relay box is required with any mount if the camera is being used as an autoguider or if it is being used to control the telescope in Track & Accumulate mode.