ALL SKY CAMERA
The all sky camera that we are currently using is a ZWO ASI120 mono camera. The camera came with a 150-degree wide-angle lens as standard and we haven’t upgraded this. Many other observers have decided to opt for wider fields of view or utilised adapters in order to connect the cameras to wide-angle DSLR lenses. However, for our needs we wanted it to be cheap, easy to set up and easy to mount.
The ZWO120 was mounted into a weatherproof enclosure and a friend of ours put it together for us along with a circuit of resistors that are acting as a dew control band.
Several acquisition software programs are available. We use AllSkeye https://www.allskeye.com/ which is a purpose-built piece of freeware. The software allows you define many capture parameters with the ability to automatically start image acquisition at defined times in the day. The system is currently set to start 30 minutes after sunset and end 30 minutes after sunrise. At the end of the evening it will collate all the images into a time-lapse and you have the option to keep or discard the images it has acquired automatically so you are not very rapidly taking up disk space. If you are expecting to load the data to a website it even allows FTP access where you can load the videos generated or capture and display images at set intervals.
Another great feature is the meteor detection feature which will look for potential meteors captured and store the screen grabs into the detection folder for review later. This is quite processor intensive it is performed throughout the capture period and I have found that having it switched on sometimes prevents the system from ending capture at the defined timepoint I requested. However, you can run your captures through UFO analyser which is another free piece of software which will also identify other potential meteor captures.
I did note that I do have a lot of dead pixels on my sensor and when running the camera in colour mode the hot pixels become very apparent. The option to take dark and flat frames and apply them are a feature of the allskeye software but running the system in mono has improved the situation.