Friday, July 27, 2007

Mount St Helens Volcanocam goes High Def!

The US Forest Service Volcanocam has gone high definition! The new camera watching the Mount St Helens provides 1024x768 true colour images in near real-time of the activity at the volcano. This is a substantial upgrade to the trusty old camera which provides 640x480 pixel images and has provided some spectacular images of the current eruptive phase [e.g. see some of my animations, the USFS Hall of Fame].

The difference between the two images is stunning, below is a early morning shot taken at roughly the same time by the two cameras. The first is the "old" camera, the second the new higher def camera.

The night time performance is also much improved, although there is still some significant noise associated with the new camera (see image below) - which may be due to the high temperature it appears to be operating at. Notice in the upper legend on the new camera it provides details of the temperature of the camera and the outside air. The outside air temperature at 4:26am was a cool 13.5 deg C (56.3F), while the camera temp was a quite toasty 33.5 deg C (92.3F)! If there was any way to cool the camera down it would almost certainly improve the noise levels.

Even with these noise levels we can see some signs of good night time sensitivity from this camera. By removing the noise and combining the brightest pixels from the five images taken from 01:36 to 03:56 (the new camera only seems to be updating every half hour at present), we can see a bright object passing over Mount St Helens. I'm not sure exactly what it is, possibly a bright star or a planet (it's not the moon as it set at 2:47am), but it clearly demonstrates the greater resolution and sensitivity of the new camera.

With the addition of this new camera watching Mount St Helens, all we need now is the continuing extrusion of lava to move back into view of the cameras, and we can look forward to some spectacular views of the night-time activity at MSH!


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