Mallincam Video Astronomy

Mallincam is a very sensitive integrating video camera designed especially for astronomical use available in the USA from Jack Huerkamp. I bought Hyper Color Plus version that I initially intended to use with my C14, but since I got involved in CCD imaging it was not used often. Things changed when I build an observatory and was able to observe and image at the same time. Now my main visual scope is Obsession 18" and it is the telescope to be used with Mallincam.

Surprisingly Mallincam was able to come to focus on my Obsession 18" without any problems as it is (no Barlow or reducer), but it worked at high magnification with a small field of view of about 11'x8' (0.8 arc sec/pixel). Tracking was not that good at this image scale (after all Obsession is not an imaging scope) reducing maximum integration time to a few seconds only. Reducing focal ratio was in order, but unfortunately neither my Meade f3.3 reducer nor my Celestron f6.3 reducer came into focus with the Mallincam and Obsession. I did some research, asked for help online (Yahoo groups for Mallincam and Obsession users) and it turned out I need to shorten the trusses. I have ordered a new set from Dave Kriege which was 1.5" shorter than the original one. With these trusses Mallincam came to focus with MFR-3 reducer and two 10mm extensions, effectively reducing focal length by a factor of 0.55, the field of view is now 20'x15' (1.8 arc sec/pixel) and image scale is similar to TeleVue Ethos 13mm. Mallincam works very well in this configuration - pictures of the Mallincam video feed on my Sanyo 14" monitor are below.

I chose CRT monitor as viewing platform for Mallincam since a good hi resolution CRT monitor still outperforms cheap LCD solution, and certainly it did outperform them at the time of my order in the fall 2007. I bought Sanyo VMC8614F 14 Hi-Res Color Monitor from SpyTown for about $300. The monitor has analog and S-Video inputs and outputs, so it can be used inline with a computer or any recording device.

I must say that when I finally seen 1 minute integrated images from Mallincam and Obsession 18" I was simply overwhelmed. The screenshots above do not reproduce it in a fair way, it is much better seen live on the screen. The first object for the night was M51, and it was fantastic. All the details were clearly visible and a faint halo of stars ejected from interacting small galaxy was obvious. Of course it cannot be compared to a 4-hrs exposure CCD image. it is just simply different category, supplementing visual observations in a real-time mode, and in my opinion it should be used just for that. And for live viewing of deeps sky objects in exquisite details and brightens is simple fantastic.

Mallincam can be tuned up with the use of the switches on the right side of the camera as well as with the menu options available from the back buttons. There is a detailed user guide on how to do it, and lots of help and info is available via Yahoo discussion group. There is also computer control software available (using special control cable), but I never tried it.