The St Thomas University All-sky Camera
construction notes

The Fredericton camera is an upward-pointing camera with a fisheye lens. It is sited on the roof of the new McCain building at St Thomas University.

The camera is housed in 3" diameter ABS drain pipe (wrapped in insulation and plastic for warmth and weatherproofing). The camera and fisheye lens is protected from the elements by a -1 diopter glass lens (the kind used by opticians as glasses lens blanks - available from any opticians - our was kindly donated by Regent Optical, Regent Street, Fredericton).

We are using a Windows XP-based system with commercially available Japanese SonatoCo UFO Capture software (see below). The software requires a fairly fast computer - we are using a Pentium 4, kindly provided by the NB Computers for Schools Programme. Other software options that could be used elsewhere include a freeware Linux Fedora Core 4-based program called Motion, as is used for a networked camera by Martin Connors at Athabasca University. A DOS-based program called Metrec is also a commonly used program in North America. We have opted for the Windows based system, simply because we are most familiar with the networking capabilities of Windows.

Ultimately we will be networking the camera so that NB schools can have access to the camera real time images and captured fireball/meteor images and data files. These files will allow students to do various exercises, such as plot meteor frequencies with time, determine 2D meteor tracks in the sky and even engage in 3D trigonometry so they can extrapolate fireballs paths to a search area on the ground. The worksheets will be developed, in part, by Education students at St Thomas University under the direction of James Whitehead and Pierette Pheeney (profs of Science and Technology Studies and Eduction, respectively). The first of these were actually developed in the Fall of 2007 and are available here (they are formatted for later distribution by Science East). Others will be added by subsequent classes.

There are currently three cameras in the network: The STU camera in Fredericton, one at UNB Saint John oeprated by Peter Jensen and Phil Backman, and another placed at the Miramichi French Fort Cove Eco centre, managed by James Whitehead and monitored by Peter MacDonald of the James M. Hill High School, Miramichi. Although these cameras are a start, we encourage others who are interested in setting up a similar system to contact us (jamesw@stu.ca) as the more cameras there are, the better coverage of the province we will have. With a single fireball caught on two or more cameras, we can determine the 3D trajectories of fireball in the sky. The ground track of potentially meteorite yielding fireballs could thus be determined. A camera in the Edmunston area would be ideal to cover most of the province.

Sponsorship of the Fredericton camera has been gratefully received from:

  • Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of NB (APEGNB) Outreach Program (principal funding), who also funded a hard drive for the saint John camera and the Miramichi camera. Thanks folks!
  • NB Computers for Schools Programme (Pentium 4 computer and network card)
  • Regent Optical (lens cover).
  • St Thomas University (support for camera installation)

 

Costs of a typical camera set-up

Item Sources Min Cost Notes
.......STU camera funding
Low light camera PC164C
Supercircuits
~C$200 ~C$50 shipping
APEGNB
Computer, Pentium4, 2.4GHz   $600  
CFS
External hard drive (500 GB)
  $150 is an optional extra if checking is not done regularly/hard drive is small APEGNB
12V transformer
DC12-500R Supercircuits $20 best to buy one directly from Supercircuits with the camera. Radio shack transformers create too much interference
APEGNB
Network card   $20  
CFS
Frame grabber:
Hauppauge ImpactVCB model0188
(works with Windows and Linux)

Hauppauge (USA)

Mostly Digital
(Canada)

$200  
APEGNB
Ethernet cable   $10  
APEGNB
Power ext cord   $15  
APEGNB
Coaxial cable
(FT4 fire rated may be preferred)
  $20  
APEGNB
3" ABS housing for camera base   $20 houses the transformer/wires
APEGNB
3" to 2" ABS reducer   $3.50 houses the camera itself
APEGNB
7, 2" stainless steel machine screws
  $2 for supporting the camera
APEGNB
1/3" 180o fisheye lens CS mount (Rainbow L163VDC4P)*

Digital Surveillance Solutions (USA)

eSentia.ca (CCTV Products)

$179  
APEGNB
-1diopter opticians blank glass lens for top of ABS housing   $30 (70mm wide) donated Regent Optical
Computer Software - We use UFO Capture by Sonataco Sonataco $184  
APEGNB
TOTAL   ~$1500
(~$800 min)
   

CFS: Computers for Schools Programme

 

Images of the Fredericton Camera


The home of the camera - on the roof of the newly constructed Margaret Norrie McCain Hall at St Thomas University
 
The camera is mounted inside a 3" to 2" piece of ABS plumbing reducer. It is held in place with 6 stainless steel (non-rusting) machine screws (flat bases so they dont scratch the caera where they grip on to it). A dab of hot glue is put on the end of each screw and allowed to cool before gripping the camera so that metal does not touch the metal of the camera housing directly. This image shows the camera before a cover lens is mounted that seals it from the elements.

The ABS reducer from underneath.
 
The 2" to 3" ABS reducer (camera mount) simply sits on top of the 3" ABS pipe transformer housing. This provides an adequate weather seal without further sealing. Easy access can be gained to the camera by simply pulling he camera mount off the top.

Inside the 3" ABS pipe on which the camera housing sits. A long machine screw in the side of the pipe provides a 'shelf' on which the 12V transformer for the camera sits. Having the transformer close to the camera will keep it warm in winter, prevent freezing of water on the cover lens and prevent condensation.



Prior to assembly of the camera mount on the ABS transformer housing.

A 70mm -1 diopter glasses lens blank (available from opticians) fits on the top of the camera housing). This can be neatly sealed in place with silicone sealant. Care should be taken to mask the lens so that no sealant gets on it as it is very difficult to clean off.


Bottom view with porous media to allow air movement around camera

 

Software/Computer Platform Options
(options in yellow are those we are using)

         
Software Software Cost Pro Con
Japanese: Sonataco UFOCaptureV2  
$184
Windows based needs Pentium4:2.4GHz (Pentium3 might work)
(their website)
cheaper frame grabber can be used $99 have to pay for software (C$184.50 ish)
 
allows networking
 
excellent visually/powerful
 
   
Free trial download (30 day) - here
(buy key after to continue using)
 
   
   
   
UFO analyser - free software by
Sonataco for analysing meteor
shower radiants - here
 
$0
   
   
   
North America Map - free map
by SonataCo for use with UFO
CaptureV2 - here
 
$0
   
 
   
DS Clock
DS clock Homepage
 
$0
Time Synchronization Program that will allow all
cameras on the NB network to synchronize to the
same atomic clock time signal. Synchronization
can be done hourly. We are using the
Massachussets Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, MA time clock for synchronization.
 
       
 
Linux Fedora Core 4 op system  
$0
allows networking unfamilar platform for many
using the program Motion  
free Linux meteor software 'Motion'
  cheap frame grabber Hauppauge $99
       
 
Metrec2  
$0
free software DOS based (yuk)
   
  difficult to network DOS
   
  needs MatroxMeteor2 grabber card (expensive)
         
   
   

This page was last updated: November 12, 2008
by James Whitehead jamesw@stu.ca