Two Telescope Improvements

Despite being a college class everyone regarded as an easy ‘A,’ astronomy is very hard work. Not only do many hours go into capturing a single image, the equipment itself must be constantly monitored well into the freezing cold of night. [Jerry] sent in a few neat projects that have made his nights much more comfortable.

First up is a mod for a focus controller. The focus of a telescope changes constantly with temperature, atmospheric conditions, and especially what filter is being used. The stock USB-nSTEP focuser [Jerry] used required hard-to-find unipolar steppers, so he modded his USB-nSTEM to accept bipolars with a Pololu A4988 driver.

Next up is [Jerry]’s very impressive DIY Off-axis guider that he machined himself. An off-axis guider allows an astronomer to guide the ‘scope without having to deal with a dinky, surprisingly flexible guide scope. We’re really impressed with [Jerry]’s machine skills, but that’s what you get when you’ve got an awesome mill like his.

5 thoughts on “Two Telescope Improvements

  1. Nice work Jerry, this is the 2nd DIY oag I’ve seen in a couple of weeks, very impressive :)

    I’m part of a group that make our own ‘focuser’ boards, using some off the shelf parts (arduino, your favourite stepper driver board) and windows ‘ascom’ drivers, that’s a neat trick adding in a new driver board.

    The focuser units are quite expensive (when you consider it’s a stepper motor, an MCU and a 1amp per coil stepper driver.) I think they work out around $100 upwards, building stuff yourself you can produce a unit for around $30 or so :)

    I bet the difference between normal stepping and microstepping greatly improves his accuracy. Will need to pick a decent stepper though to cope with reduced torque when trying to hold the focuser when the telescope is pointing at Zenith.

    And of course, being a bipolr driver you can still use a unipolar stepper wired up without the common wire(s) connected :)

  2. I havnt really done anything yet. Still getting the scope put together how I want it. I am going to be using a Photometrics Quantix monochrome CCD with a Kodak KAF-6303e 6MP sensor. Its a real cool camera, literally, its internal thermoelectric cooler drops the CCD down to -30c.

    @reggie, I have seen the arduino focusers, but did not see it till I had bought the USB-nSTEP. Oh well, its done now.

    Im getting rolled off the movie I am working on now so I should have lots of time for doing some AP.

    1. Yeah, kind of. I knew when I was getting this scope there is the issue of mirror flop which can be alleviated by using an off axis guider. Then I got a killer deal on the camera, which I needed a filter wheel for, and my Ha filter is different thickness than the rest, which means I need to be able to electronically focus to automate everything.

      It’s a slippery slope…

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