The NexImage is a dedicated Solar System Imager (CCD camera) that can be used with virtually any telescope in any size or price range. For example, the image of the Moon in the feature images section above was taken with a $169 70mm refractor.
The NexImage takes lunar and planetary photos in full color with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of convenience. Its true CCD imaging chip produces high quality planetary images, with greater light sensitivity and color fidelity, than is possible with the CMOS imaging chip used in competitive cameras. And the NexImage is the lowest priced dedicated astronomical imager or CCD camera ever.
The NexImage captures high power streaming video of any solar system object at five frames per second, ideal for viewing transient events such as lunar occultations of the planets, or the rare occasions when a planet occults a star. Its magnification on your telescope is approximately equal to that of a 5mm eyepiece having a 50° apparent field of view. This real-time video can be viewed live on your laptop or Windows-only PC screen via the supplied USB cable so that several people can view the image at once. The images can also be stored on your computer as hundreds of individual frames.
These can be viewed later to relive the occultation or can be digitally stacked to significantly reduce the electric “noise” inherent in video chips. Stacking will bring out the unseen fine detail (signal) hidden within your real-time image. The NexImage camera takes advantage of the fact that the signal to noise ratio of a stacked composite image is proportional to the square root of the number of frames combined. This means that stacking as few as 16 frames will reduce the grainy noise of the composite image by 4 times. Stacking as many 1600 frames will improve the image by 40 times!
However, stacking the individual frames is only half the power of the NexImage software. Before the images are stacked, the software analyzes each individual frame for quality. It then filters out those frames that are most affected (blurred) by poor atmospheric “seeing.” This is a form of after-the-fact adaptive optics that leaves only the sharpest, clearest frames to be stacked and aligned into a single high quality image.
Finally, powerful processing features in the NexImage software automatically break the image up into individual unsharp mask layers that can be used to bring out tremendous detail and reveal final images that will rival those taken with astronomical CCD cameras costing a thousand dollars or more. When you are satisfied with the quality of your images, they can be saved as BMP, JPEG, TIFF, or FITS files.
Features of the Camera . . .
- Imaging sensor: High sensitivity/high dynamic range Sony HAD (Hole Accumulation Diode) 1/4” format color CCD sensor. Sensitivity is under one lux, comparable to imagers costing over $1000.
- One-pass imaging: Color images do not require multiple exposures through color filters as more expensive CCD cameras do.
- Resolution : True VGA format, 640 pixels wide x 480 pixels high (307,200 total pixels). Each pixel measures 5.6 microns square.
- Exposure times: Up to five frames per second, 1/5th second per exposure. 10-bit A/D conversion.
- USB 2.0 download times: The NexImage uses a fast USB 2.0 high speed connection to your computer via a supplied 7’ cable. This allows fast data transfer of the camera’s five uncompressed frames per second. You see your images almost as soon as you take them, making focusing quick and easy. There is virtually no delay between the moment the image is taken and when it appears on your computer screen. The NexImage is also backward compatible with USB 1.1.
- Connection to the telescope: The NexImage has a 1.25" nose piece that allows you to use it with any telescope having a 1.25” focuser. The nose piece is threaded for standard 1.25” eyepiece filters. Also available is an optional NexImage reducer lens that increases your field of view by over two times for wide field lunar and filtered solar imaging. The reducer lens replaces the 1.25" barrel and threads directly into the NexImage housing.
- Power requirements: No batteries or power supplies required. Just plug the NexImage’s USB cable into your Windows-only laptop or PC and you are ready to image. No other power supplies are needed.
Features of the Software . . .
- Camera control: Allows you to manually change the gain, contrast, exposure time, frame rate, and color saturation.
- Preview mode: Shows a live feed of your image, making focusing as easy as focusing an eyepiece.
- Video recording: Captures streaming video of solar system object used to generate the final high quality image.
- Frame lists: Automatically allows you to view individual frames of your video stream.
- Quality cutoff filter: Filters out low quality images based on individual frame quality and alignment differences.
- Wavelet filter: Separates images into a series of unsharp mask layer that can be individually controlled to bring out all the hidden detail of the image.
- Image processing control: Maximizes your image with powerful image processing controls such as contrast, brightness, gamma curve, RGB histogram and many more.
- Included components: NexImage camera with 1.25” eyepiece adapter and attached 7’ USB cable; a CD-ROM including image capture software to capture streaming video of what your telescope sees, image processing software to align and stack individual frame into one high quality image, and a quick setup and tutorial that’s complete with sample images.
- Computer requirements: The minimum computer configuration for installing the NexImage Software is a PC running Windows 98SE or better, with a 333mHz Pentium II processor or better, 128 MB of RAM, 40 MB of free hard disk space, and a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 or higher.