FAQs

Altair cameras do not scale up to 16bit output automatically for consistency reasons, but some cameras do. This can appear as if the camera is not sensitive compared to other cameras. The same amount of data is there, however. To see the detail, the image needs to be “stretched”. If not stretched, this can cause problems with star detection and stacking in software which relies on intensity to identify star shapes. There’s usually a setting in your processing software to auto scale the camera output to 16bits, which will make it appear brighter, or you can just apply a manual stretch in post processing. There is also usually an option in the capture software to make your image appear brighter on the screen for focusing and framing, often this is called “screen stretch”. Another cause of a dim image can be if 8bit mode is selected when capturing the image, instead of 12bit or higher bit depth, depending on what you camera ADC supports. You can check your .FITS file to determine whether you may have used 8bit mode inadvertently. Here is a YouTube video about stretching deepsky images. (Opens new window).

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Both Hypercam Fan Cooled and TEC cameras have a front female T2 thread. The specification of T2 is M42x0.75mm and the thread depth is 4mm.

The distance from the front of the flange, excluding threads to the sensor (backfocus) is 12.5mm for Fan Cooled cameras, and 17.5mm for TEC Cooled cameras. To learn more about getting the right spacing for your reducer or flattener read this article about reducer flattener spacing.

Hypercam Fan Cooled Camera 12.5mm Flange Sensor Spacing Backfocus

Hypercam Fan Cooled Camera has 12.5mm Flange Sensor Spacing Backfocus

 

Hypercam TEC Cooled Camera front thread & sensor spacing

The sensor to flange spacing (backfocus) for Hypercam Fan Cooled Cameras is 12.5mm, as measured from the front foremost part of the flange excluding threads.

Both Hypercam Fan Cooled and TEC cameras have a front female T2 thread. The specification of T2 is M42x0.75mm and the thread depth is 4mm.

The distance from the front of the flange, excluding threads to the sensor (backfocus) is 12.5mm for Fan Cooled cameras, and 17.5mm for TEC Cooled cameras. To learn more about getting the right spacing for your reducer or flattener read this article about reducer flattener spacing.

Hypercam Fan Cooled Camera 12.5mm Flange Sensor Spacing Backfocus

Hypercam Fan Cooled Camera has 12.5mm Flange Sensor Spacing Backfocus

 

Hypercam TEC Cooled Camera front thread & sensor spacing

You can clean the inside of a refractor lens as well as the outside, and this is usually required every couple of years, mainly due to the “piston effect” of the focuser and dewshield drawing air into the optical tube carrying dust with it. Air circulation is a good thing to have with refractors for better stability. Please note that even a large amount of dust on a refractor lens will probably not have any visible effect on the image. That’s because the dust is at the pupil of the optical system and isn’t in focus. Therefore it is best to leave the dust on until it affects performance.

Cleaning the rear inwards facing element of a refractor is easy, and a routine maintenance job. First read this FAQ about what cleaning materials to use (generally in wards facing elements only require a dust bulb).

Here’s the disassembly procedure, to get to the rear element:

  1. To remove the dewshield, rotate it anticlockwise, while holding the silver bezel, and pull it off forwards.
    (It helps to have the scope secured or mounted on something when you do this).
  2. Removing the dewshield will reveal the black metal lens cell, which is screwed into the optical tube on most refractors up to 4″ aperture. (For larger scopes, please contact Altair support). Unscrew the lens cell anticlockwise and remove it.
  3. Now you can invert the lens cell and clean the inner lens and outer lenses. Read the refractor lens cleaning FAQ for more info.
    When the optics are clean just reverse the procedure to reassemble. There is no need to over-tighten the lens cell to the optical tube, it just needs to fit snugly up so it doesn’t rattle or move in normal use. Over tightening the lens cell can make  it difficult to unscrew in future or even distort the lens cell which is made to very fine tolerances. Tip: Assuming the lens cell is correctly tightened in the first place, it helps to make reference marks with a pencil on the lens cell and the optical tube so you know how much to tighten them together again. The marks will be hidden when the dew-shield is replaced.

Gently tighten the grub screws embedded in the ring / bezel around the base of the dew-shield with an Allen key until it stops slipping. Don’t over tighten them or you risk damaging the optical tube!

Slow frame rate

How to fix slow frame rate

Check out the knowledgebase article Altair Camera Quick-start Guide

 

This is caused by your PC restricting power to USB devices, or your CPU halting, as a result of power savings settings.

Battery saving settings on laptops: Open the Settings panel and point your mouse to the USB section in Devices. Then un-tick the last box where it says “Stop devices when my screen is off to help save battery“.

CPU Idle settings (laptops and PC’s): CPUs can halt when in idle mode (such as between frames) interrupting an image frame download. You will need to consult the specific manufacturer instructions (such as Intel) to disable the CPU power saving policy. Some typical settings for Intel CPUs as follows. NOTE: Instructions vary with processor models and manufacturers, and your power consumption will increase. We cannot take responsibility for issues this may cause. Example instructions from Intel:

  1. Reboot PC.
  2. Press F2 to enter the BIOS Configuration menu.
  3. Select Processor Settings.
  4. Scroll to “C States” and “C1E”
  5. Disable both using arrow keys.

 

A: In very humid conditions it is possible for moisture to condense on the OUTSIDE of a TEC camera optical window even though the window has a special warmer. Usually the moisture forms a round “spot” in the centre. This is because the TEC cooling can sometimes be too powerful for the front optical window heaters to catch up, and unequal temperature combined with high humidity can cause condensation.

Solutions:

1) A dew heater like the Altair RC or Split Newtonian heater to GENTLY heat the front face of the camera and this usually clears it. There is no need for excessive heat because it will impair the camera performance.

2) Slower or less aggressive TEC cooling can allow the small built-in heaters more time to keep up with the TEC cooling. Dewing is less likely if you cool the sensor less. In fact, with most CMOS sensors, cooling to below -10C does not really give any benefit in noise reduction after stacking – it just increases the risk of dew and more power being used, with more stress on the components.

When to clean a refractor lens? Even a large amount of dust on a refractor lens will probably not have any visible effect on the image. That’s because the dust is at the pupil of the optical system and isn’t in focus. Therefore it is best to leave the dust on until it affects performance. Exceptions are tree pollen, tree resin, or insect droppings, or white spider droppings (usually found in observatories!), which can become hardened over time, and difficult to remove. These substances are best removed using commercial optical fluids designed for multi-coated lenses.

What lens cleaning fluids? Usually lens cleaning fluids contain isopropyl alcohol and a little detergent with water, which dissolves or loosens foreign substances. You can also use pure IPA.

What lens cleaning wipes? Always use professional lens tissue. Do not use household tissue, or synthetic cloths, or any other materials which are not specifically designed to clean lenses. We do not recommend using the “fluffy” micro fibre cloths to clean a refractor lens – they tend to trap dust and scratch surfaces. Professional, disposable, lens tissue is the safest method.

How do I clean a refractor lens? If using optical fluid in a spray bottle, do not spray directly onto the lens. Instead, spray the lens wipe. The best way is to use a bulb style dust blower, which is hand operated. Never use compressed air can or aerosol blowers, because they can damage the lens. When the dust is largely removed, you can give the lens deeper clean by using professional lens wipes which are dampened slightly with optical cleaning fluid. Gently roll and pull the lens wipes so they pick up the dust without dragging the dust over the lens surface excessively, and always wipe from centre to edge and vice-versa. Never wipe the lens in a circular motion.

If there is dust on the inner lens, follow these instructions to clean it.

 

Firstly, please be aware that even a large about of dust will not affect image quality, because it’s at the pupil of the optical system and cannot be in focus. The “piston” effect of the focuser drawtube moving back and forth does inevitably draw outside air into the optical tube, and dust will always enter at some point. On most refractors you can remove the dew-shield from the optical tube, by unscrewing the black bezel relative to the dew-shield to separate the dew-shield and the dew-shield bezel. Once you have loosened the dews-shield, pull it off evenly from the front forwards off the scope, and you can then unscrew the front lens cell from the optical tube, clean the back of the lens, and screw it back on, then reverse the procedure. It’s important not to over-tighten the front lens cell when putting it back onto the tube else you can put strain on the whole assembly. Some dust is inevitable and cannot affect performance seeing it’s at the pupil of the system. Sometimes we get dust in-between the elements of doublet or triplet lenses, especially those with higher performance. This is due to the continual adjustments needed to centre the elements relative to each other. In some cases the lens cell needs to be reassembled to get the highest optical performance. In this case it can’t be removed and if not excessive re recommend just leaving it as-is.

While many focal reducers and flatteners are threaded to accept filters, or to connect to M48 accessories, generally, putting a filter in front of the reducer or flattener optics is not recommended for two reasons. Firstly, it tends to cause optical aberrations, resulting in a softer image overall, and distorted star shapes, especially at the edges. This difference can be seen if you have good guiding, good conditions, and good optics. Secondly, it’s advisable to put the filter closer to the camera, because this tends to reduce reflections and halo artefacts around bright stars caused by reflections off the rear reducer lens. Therefore you should put any spacers in front of the filter holder or wheel, if possible. Here’s a more in-depth knowledgebase article about getting the correct spacing with your reducer / flattener.

ERFs are used for 2 main reasons.

  1. Improved image quality, by reducing heat buildup and hot air currents inside your telescope and by keeping your Hydrogen Alpha or Calcium filter at a stable constant temperature, it keeps it “on-band” – Etalons of all types are very sensitive to heat, and some even use heat for tuning the bandwidth.
  2. To protect your equipment. It’s quite easy to burn the interior of your telescope if the sun is off-centre even for a short period of time. This is far more likely at 4″ aperture and above, and it works just like a magnifying glass in the sun. This is a common cause of telescopes being sent for servicing.

Therefore, for ANY scope, using an ERF is always sharper due to less heat currents, and your equipment stays “on-band” better for longer. However most solar imagers consider an ERF as optional for apertures of 4″ or less if the Hydrogen Alpha equipment you are using has built-in safety pre-filtering such as the Quark. (Even then we recommend a 2″ (not 1.25″) UVIR cut filter on the front of the diagonal where the spot size is still relatively large and less concentrated, being further forward of the focal plane. For 4″ aperture or more, ERFs are recommended to prevent damage and improve image quality.

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