Photographing Saturn on Linux! 

We used my friend Dr. Suresh’s Philips ToUcam webcam with minor modifications to photograph Saturn through our institute’s 8″ Celestron GT Advanced telescope!
A bit of googling told me how to use a Webcam with Linux – there’s the Linux Webcam HOWTO that has more than you’ll ever need.
The kernel happened to be very nice and detected the webcam and provided a /dev/video0 device – so I didn’t have to break my head over that. A bit of software that was available on the Debian repositories called ‘camstream’ helped me view the webcam image and take snapshots at 1 fps (which is rather slow 😦 ). The Webcam HOWTO also talked of this CLI program called ‘streamer’ (this was on the Debian repos as well) which could capture from the webcam in AVI format!
My friend and me processed the photos using Registax v4 (No! this is not Open Source X-( ) on WINE and then with The GIMP. Registax is not open source and is rather limited in functionality – it can’t handle more than 500 still image files at a time, couldn’t read the AVI format we captured in, and most importantly doesn’t run natively on Linux. This has inspired us to think of writing a FOSS stacking software. I have no idea how we’ll do that because nobody knows anything about stacking here! If somebody is interested in helping out, please drop a comment or contact me on IRC etc etc.
Our photos are available here:
http://www.bas.org.in/Home/index.php?q=gallery&g2_itemId=1136
And as is expected of true open source fanatics, we release them to Public Domain. No rights reserved 🙂

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