Equipment

I purchased a Moonglow Technologies Allsky Camera in 2012. I currently have the camera mounted on the roof of my house, near the peak. The mounting was accomplished using a satellite TV mount. I contacted one of the local Direct TV installers to come out and mount it to the roof for me. My roof is pretty steep, and I knew that they would probably do a better job getting it securely mounted and run the wires and cables down my ridge line and into the basement. I purchased a 60 foot power video extension cable to get the signals into my basement.


Roof Mounted All Sky Camera

Roof Mounted All Sky Camera

For processing I purchased a refurbished HP Pavilion P2-1033W Desktop PC. I upgraded the RAM to 8 GB. It is not the fastest or greatest computer, but for $200 it does the job fine. In December of 2015 I used the free Windows 10 upgrade to change from Windows 7 to Windows 10 on the PC, and the software and hardware have been working fine.

I am using the All Sky Camera Uploader for Windows as the software to process the video signal. I am on Version 1.3b4. The software kit included the USB 2.0 video digitizer. I have the software configured to store a RAW and a PAN image each minute. I also save an 30 minute image stack, and a 24 hour summary of day photo each day.

I currently have automatic uploads turned on to send images to my web site. I store a RAW and a PAN image every 5 minutes, keeping a total of 12 for a 1 hour “loop”. These are the 12 pictures that you can step through with the previous and next buttons, or animate by clicking play, on the static home page. I also upload the summary of day each night, and have a Shockwave Flash movie uploading throughout the day.

I have not been able to utilize the ASC Uploader motion detection software. Unfortunately the software has an issue with my time and location, so it thinks daytime is night and runs the meteor detection during the day, giving me photos of the sun and clouds. I have not been able to get this issue resolved, and it is kind of disappointing to have to check the 30 minute stacks on my own for meteors and fireballs.

I would be interested in hearing about alternatives to uploading and monitoring software, and would like to know what you are using, and if you like it.

For a while I just had the PC sitting in the basement with no monitor. I have since hooked up an old monitor to it, but I use Real VNC Viewer software for a remote desktop connection to the PC. I have the bios configured on the PC to automatically start up after a power outage, so the camera will come back on if the power goes out. I also have a batch file that executes on startup to automatically launch the ASC Uploader application.

For the first few years I operated the sky camera, I was plagued by dew and frost. Despite the web site saying a dome heater isn’t required, where I live, in Western New York, you get an awful lot of dew and frost on the camera, ruining many a clear night of sky watching. In 2015 I needed to get the camera refurbished as the seal had deteriorated and water entered the dome. The camera was refurbished and shipped back to me for free. I also purchased the dome heater at this time. This piece of equipment currently keeps all dew and frost from restricting my view, and is a real life saver. Now, if only I could get rid of the clouds. Rochester is one of the most cloudy cities in the USA.

People online indicated that connecting the heater directly into the power for the Allsky camera could cause interference and loss of signal, so I ran a second power line up to the heater itself. I purchased this extension cable from Amazon.

So that is pretty much it. I am always interested to hear more about affordable Allsky cameras. The Moonglow Technologies camera has been a great way to get my feet wet with sky watching, but I would love to find a nicer, higher resolution camera at some point. Also a bummer that we haven’t had any great displays of Northern Lights in the last 15 years.