The goal was to build a low cost all-sky camera.
This camera is based on the camera model from Chris Paterson. It cost me around 600 euros.
This price is quite low compared to other stations in the world build with different material and costing 2 or 3 times this price. As simple citizen working as a technician I couldn't afford 1500 Euros into this project.
After reading the luxorion article on all-sky cameras, i contacted Pavel Spurný and Dieter Heinlein to get an idea of what was possible.
Following mail exchanges with Chris Peterson from the Cloudbait Observatory, I choose an all-sky camera system similar to his with a good sensitivity, efficiency, and price ratio.
I searched for information on the different types of camera available and thanks to Tim, Matthew's uncle from the USA, I was able to by the camera I wanted (ccd PC164C from super circuits, 115$) without the high transport cost.
In order to be able to capture the video on my computer, I had to add a used image acquisition card ADVE Deluxe, boughtover the internet for 40 euros (The hunt for drivers was epic ...) and some 256Mo RAM to boost it to 512Mo (minimum required for image aquisition).
Ordering of lens "rainbow L163VDC4P" on surveillance-video.com in the USA for 134$. I use again Tim & Pat to lower the transport fees.
I had some trouble finding a cheap plastic dome. In France you can find them around 100 Euros in shop specialized on security equipment. After shopping around for quite some time on the web I find some for a resonnable price in China.
The first camera trials are very good ! I tried the camera in my appartment, closing the shutters ... the sensitivity is great !
After discussion with my grand-parentson the possibilities for installing my canera system at their place, we find the best spot is on the old chimney on the roof of their house. The opening is Ř150mmm wide which is perfect for my system.
After the winter gone, the project starts again ! The drawings of my all sky camera are nearly finished.The camera will be fixed in a PVC pipe Ř 80mm x 150mm. To do this I need a screw with screw thread dimension the same as photographic equipment length 20mm minimum which isn't found in your usual hardware store in France ... I find a compagny in Villeurbanne which sells this kind of hardware. Matthew, a friend from Lyon, got me 10 straight from them ( they usually sell them by the hundred ..) Thanks 'thew !
At the end of the pipe which will support the camera, I placed a fan (Ř 60mm), which will cool down the system. On the other side of the pipe, I glued a thick sheet of white plastic on the pipe to make the dome support. The plastic sheet is pierced to let the camera through. The dome can be removed easily. White color was not a very good choice because of light reflection but that was the best I could do at the time ... All of this will be protected in another PVC pipe Ř140mm.
As I changed Jobs and homes there was a long period standby period for this project. The price of the detection software also prevented me from going on with it. There aren't that many softwares dedicated to meteorological phenomenon : Metrec and UFOcapture. The first one is free but works only on cetrain video cards, the second one is more flexible but costs around 120 Euros ....
I tried negociating during several months with UFOcapture conceptors, Sonotaco (Japan), explaining the fact that the price was a bit high for a lone individual. Mail echange went without sucess ... I understand the development of the software must have been some work, but either they do business and a commercal gesture would have contented the two parties, like that happens often between buyer and seller, either they are juste passionate and they could help me set up my system. It's a shame I don't have a good memory of this trade.
This month, I have a new job and there was the meteor of january 25, 2008. If my camera worked perhaps could I caught the event...
I'm motivate again!!
Hop! First I bought a new computer (today basic pc do all very well). A little clean up on the old one and it's ready for the video recording.
I adjust the setting of the camera in the pipe. The screw has the right length, but to strengthen all I need small bushes to support the walls of pipe. Pierre, a colleague advised me this system and he actually machined them for me !I don't know what I would have done without him ...
Ok after a few settings and testing, the camera is fixed.
This is the end of the building, I intend to mount the camera in the chimney before the end of the month. I set the transparent dome on its support and apply a silicon paste for sealing (bathroom type). I still have to drill a few holes to get the power cables and video RCA, a little welding for the connectors (it seems quick but I spent a lot of evenings measuring, testing, cleaning, paste, etc. ... ;-)
So it's ready!!
We installed the all-sky station in the chimney, it was not a small matter ... everything works! ;-)
Now my computer is connected to internet, I will have to wait to see my recordings :-), it was not a small matter ... The ADSL modem is on the other side of the house and the house is old, with walls up to 60 centimeter thick ! So WiFi is useless ...
I used adapters PLC (Power line communication), it works well only if you can find a power line in the house undisturbed by interference from the electrical network. It turned out my computer was generating the disturbances :-(. So I had to put an Ethernet cable 20 metres long to an undisturbed electrical power line before using the PLC adapters to avoid drilling holes in the walls and it's OK! :D