Webcams have found a niche in recent years as an inexpensive way of doing videoconferencing. For a dedicated group of amateur astronomers, however, webcams are an inexpensive way to perform digital astrophotography. Through some patient hacking of both webcam hardware and software, groups like the QuickCam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group (QCUIAG) have managed to turn these cheap cameras into respectable camera for taking images of the night sky at the fraction of the cost of more professional equipment. QCUIAG held its second symposium in England last month and, as Sky and Telescope magazine reports, the field has now grown large enough that a niche industry of webcam conversions has developed, with companies like Perseu developing ready-to-use astrophotography cameras based on ordinary webcams.
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