Motorized Binocular Chair Has You Stargazing In Comfort


It seems like something out of The Red Green Show but this motorized stargazing chair is a serious piece of astronomical hardware. It has a shelf that places a set of high-power binoculars directly in the user’s line of sight. The elevation is easy to adjust. And a power drill lets you take the whole thing for a spin.

The base has been outfitted with cogs and a chain from an old bicycle. The gear reduction lets a power drill rotate the platform. This worked well enough but [Gary] found that making fine adjustments was rather difficult and more often than not he ended up moving the binoculars to avoid overshooting when adjusting the platform with the drill. Luckily he didn’t give up on the idea. On the eighth and final page of his build log he refines the rotating setup with the help of an ice cream maker. It’s gear box is used as a speed reducer so that a very slow drill speed results in an extremely small heading correction. Now he can view the stars in peace, freed from frustration by a well-refined hack.

30 thoughts on “Motorized Binocular Chair Has You Stargazing In Comfort

      1. I know it’s hard to read an entire article sometimes, but at least read the summary here on this page. Or, ya know, look at the picture and see the orange cordless drill sitting there to rotate the base for him…

        In other words, it has a swivel base already.

    1. I was thinking that it should have a keg beside the chair instead of just the small cup holder and a tube that runs directly to your mouth so you don’t have to lift the can…

      We can hold the keg on the base with duct tape. :)

  1. Next step should be a joystick controller on the chair arm. And then, computerized tracking — slew to desired object with joystick and then it auto-tracks.

    This is a seriously nice hack, though!

  2. Years ago I remember seeing someone had a trailer (I think) that had a park bench for two with 2 pairs of astronomy binoculars mounted. The bench rotated, tilted and I believe tracked the sky. Control was possibly via a C64 (it was of that vintage). I am probably embeleshing, but I think it was

    Point the hitch North
    Level the trailer
    Sit on bench with friend
    Enter your long/lat
    Enter the star / planet to watch

    1. I’ve seen the kind of people that go to nudist camps.. and you’d sooner use the binocular caps on your eyes to prevent seeing them. I never got that, if you know you are a nudist would you not do a little effort to not look like a fat person who doesn’t move – ever?

  3. Rotation is by the drill, great. How is elevation done with control with bunjii cords?
    I rigged up a boom mic stand and 8 X 40 binoculars with a holder to watch TV hands free in 1975. Extra wide field optics gave me a big screen experience way back then. In a recliner you could lay back and swing the optics into place and comfortably watch a whole movie.

  4. There’s a guy in Texas that used to sell plans for a kit or finished chairs that were something like this. His chairs were manual however which was fine. A guy in our astronomy club bought one. That one didn’t require power. For binoculars the powered chair is probably not necessary, your going to move a bit and breath, etc. So there will likely be some movement transmitted to high powered binoculars, so these work better with low powered binoculars. I think these chairs are great, but the more you have to carry and setup, the less likely you’ll take it out to star gaze. I think I’d prefer the manual one myself, it’s more simple, with both feet on the ground and doesn’t require power. We had it at a star party and even young kids loved it.

  5. Wonder if an antenna rotor might work better than the the drill? The small ones used for tv might not be up to the task of supporting the weight but the larger ones used by amateur radio enthusiast might work nicely. Also for elevation the small motors used to rotate ku band FTA satellite dishes might work nicely. The beauty of those is they support a standard called USALS which is a set of commands sent down the coax cable from the satellite receiver. These commands are sent as tones modulated on the LNB voltage. Anyway, they allow the motor to be commanded by the receiver to move a specific amount of degrees. This would create an easy way to get precise positioning using a laptop, pc, or a small embedded system.

  6. In my mind’s eye I see a bug or rodent show up and the person frantically trying to get out of that thing breaking it apart. Nature eh

    Or a cat jumping on his lap unexpectedly.

      1. No, you’re right. I have the same (or almost the same) cordless drill and the speed is indeed controlled by how far you pull the trigger.
        It’s a combo drill/driver type tool with an adjustable clutch for driver screws when not drilling (when you want to disable the clutch).

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