It has been a very busy couple of months at Atik Cameras, with the launch of some new camera models, Astrofest, and continuing research and development of new products and software. Read on for further news of all this, together with the concluding installment of Rui’s historical perspective on the origins and evolution of Atik Cameras.
Once again Atik Cameras attended Astrofest, one of the biggest astronomy shows in Europe. As a new member of the Atik team, and also being a newcomer to the wonders of astronomy, I found myself really looking forward to attending my first trade show. Most of the Atik team were there, and I was finally able to meet Rui and Pedro, who had left the sunshine of Portugal behind to spend a few days in snowy London. I attended Astrofest on the Friday which, I am told, is usually the quieter of the two days. I arrived to find Kensington Town Hall buzzing with people keen to view the exhibits and discuss all things astronomical.
The Atik team were kept very busy, speaking with customers and sharing their expert knowledge of astro imaging. Jonathan was kept especially busy over the two days, giving regular tutorials throughout the event on how to use the Atik image processing software “Dawn.” It was fantastic to see all of the entries for the 2012 imaging competition displayed around the Atik booth. People were clearly enjoying picking their favourite images; some were even taking photographs of the images on display! I had a really enjoyable day in the company of some great people, keen to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for astronomy.
Atik Origins (Part III)
After the announcement of the Atik 16IC, and its subsequent success, there was still something going on in the background. For some time we had wanted to develop a faster version of the 16/16HR, something that made sense and was requested by our customers very frequently. In mid-2006 some experiments were done around a new camera design, testing some hardware and software that would provide us with the background needed to progress further. But by the time the 16IC came out, a lot of effort had to be put into production of this model, so the high speed camera idea had to wait for a while. It was only by late 2007, and after announcing a variant of the 16IC, the 16IC-S, that something else happened. A well-known company in the Life Sciences field approached us with a specific need for a higher speed ICX285-based camera that could not onlydownload much faster than the 16HR, but also have less noise. The perfect excuse to put the necessary resources on it! This new camera was developed and in early 2008 it started to be incorporated into laboratory equipment that was being distributed worldwide. After the successful integration of this new camera, it was time to release it to the astronomy world. So, by mid-2008, the all-new Series 3 was announced! The first member of this new series, the Atik 314L, set a new baseline of performance that is valid until today, with outstanding noise characteristics, low power requirements and clever design. It was also less expensive than the old 16HR, an added bonus.
But since the end of 2007, that same Life Sciences company had started to show a lot of interest in what Atik was doing. This interest evolved into talks about a possible merger, and on October 2008, Artemis CCD and Perseu merged under a single brand name “Atik Cameras”, and became part of SDI, a group of companies in the UK.
Still in 2008, Atik announced the 4000 and 11000, the large format camera models that were
being marketed by Artemis CCD. With some modifications, they became the fantastic large format cameras that are used to images by astronomers worldwide.
2009 was the year of the Titan! Since 2006 we had wanted to make a high speed camera capable of faster frame rates. The Atik 16IC was still a USB 1.1 camera and was in need of replacement, so we decided to pick up that project where we had left off. With some modifications, it became the Atik Titan, a USB-powered CCD camera that can also do planetary imaging (at 15fps), and act as a guider. The Titan is a multi-purpose entry unit that is a great investment, since it will fulfill other roles once the main imager has been upgraded to a bigger camera.
2009 was also the year in which Atik USA was launched. With the help of our great friend Warren Keller, Atik started a more serious venture in the US, attending many star parties and trade shows, and providing better customer relations.
In early 2009 we started looking at different options for a camera with a CCD bigger than the 314L+ but at a reasonable cost. Of course, the KAF8300 was our number one choice, since it had a very nice surface area, a quite good QE, and a completely irresistible price point. The highly successful Atik 383L+ came to life in early 2010, becoming one of the most highly prized cameras on the market. The 383L+ has been producing stunning images in the hands of some quite talented astroimagers.
We also opened the Norwich office in the UK in 2010. R&D and support were the initial functions of this facility, but more recently it has taken on product shipment duties as well.
The future? Since 2004 Atik has been providing the amateur astronomer with high quality and excellent value CCD cameras and accessories. It will continue to do so for years to come. Just wait and see what we have in the pipeline…
The Atik 2011/2012 Imaging Competition
The Atik 2012 imaging competition is now open for online voting. The galleries are at
https://www.atik-cameras.com/competition. This is the first year we are using the new
website to display the pictures, and we hope you like the new format. Making the
switch from the old site has not been completely smooth so if you do find any
problems please report them to email@example.com. Have a browse
through the entries and jot down the entry numbers of those you would like to vote for. You can vote for as many or as few as you like. In orderto be fair to all entrants we ask that votes are only submitted by people who have taken time to view entries online. In order to confirm this please send a short sentence about the competition or your favourite entry together with a list of all the entry numbers you would like to vote for to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you enjoy looking at the pictures: the quality has been fantastic this year!
Back to the Future
Wide-field astrophotograpghy has gained in popularity relatively recently with the introduction of affordable megapixel sensors and short focal length scopes. It’s a huge amount of fun and can give great results fairly easily. But I have started to hanker after some narrower-field targets. I remember my first night with a CCD camera on a telescope, when I captured one end of M81 and most of M51. The results are still online on the no-longer-updated pmdo site. With hindsight, getting hooked on CCD imaging that night was life-changing for me.
Anyway, fast-forward 15 years. Sony has started sampling their long-awaited ICX694 CCD. It’s a large CCD with 6 million 4.6μm pixels. And best of all its an ex view CCD (like the ICX285 and ICX674 found in the Atik 314L+ and Atik 428ex), giving exceptional QE and very low read noise. After getting the CCD running in our series 4 platform, the first thought was to get the camera on the back of a short refractor for some more wide-field fun and pinpoint stars for the upcoming brochure. But with the recently flurry of new products from Atik the pressure was off a bit and I had the opportunity to get back to the kind of imaging I enjoy most. Vince took the Hyperstar unit off the C11 that we had used while developing the Atik 450, and put the secondary mirror back in. A 0.6 reducer was used at the other end to bring the focal length down to a slightly more manageable 1750mm. Using the camera binned 2×2 brought the image scale to 1 arc sec per pixel (still very old school!). Guiding was achieved with an Atik OAG and an Atik 314E M1 M81 which we had to hand, helping to keep the weight just about within the limit for our EQ6 mount. The result is some of the most enjoyable imaging I have had in the last 15 years. Largely unintentionally I went back to M81 and M51 as well as M1 which are all well placed at the moment. The camera behaved flawlessly and is sooo sensitive. The images were easy enough to process; it made my recovery from a hernia operation the previous day nearly painless*.
We hope to formally announce the Atik ICX694 camera together with full specifications in a couple of months. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the images.
*part of this sentence is untrue
Here’s Steve’s image of M51 taken with the new camera: see above for details.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the newsletter. If you wish to receive future copies by email, or if you have any comments, please send me an email.
With best wishes from all of us at Atik Cameras.