Tag Archives: astro

Barn Door Tracker

Spent a happy few hours today knocking together a barn door tracker for astro photography tracking.

very simple device made with two bits of wood, a hinge and a 1/4″ BSW bolt. Hardest part was screwing it all together.

I used two dovetail plates which were already tapped for 1/4″ BSW, one to attach to my tripod head and one to “host” the drive bolt.

barn door 1

barn door 2

 

I used a spare ball head with a 3/8″ bolt to mount the camera and a bit of plastic to make a handle and thats about it.

A quick and dirty test means I can go from this with no tracking

m45 no tracking 30 second 200mm

 

To this with tracking

m45 barn door tracking 30 second 200mm

I’m the first to admit i’m not an expert and i’ve not processed these at all, they are just how they came out of the camera. Both are 30 seconds at 200mm f/5.6

With a better polar alignment and a steadier hand I can see it working fine for 30 second shots. My sky wont take much more than 30 seconds unfortunately.

 

 

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Tripods

Purchased myself a nice new tripod this week (well new for me)

It’s a Manfrotto 055XB which is the version without the 90° center column. I did think about spending the extra on the bells and whistles but I’ll hardly ever use it plus it adds to the weight of the thing.

The only bit I’m going to miss is the foam on the legs, but I can retrofit some pipe lagging if it’s too much of a problem.

It was a bargain second hand from Ffordes Photographic up in Inverness, only £49 in good condition. Considering Manfrotto want £165 rrp for them and WEX sell them for £113 I didn’t think it was too bad at all.

I’m hoping I can use it for a small telescope as well as my D90 camera. Kill two birds with one stone as it were. Need to find a decent head for it. I’m looking at a nice second hand UA Microstar mount for astro work. Should handle a little 80mm refractor or C6 even without too much of a problem.

Once I’ve had a chance to play with it I might even do a little review, not that there is much to tell, these things are fairly ubiquitous given there excellent price

Skywatcher heritage 130p

I was recently asked to recommend a first telescope for a friend and I suggested they look at the Skywatcher heritage 130p table top dobsonian (yes it’s a mouthful). Got me to thinking I wouldn’t mind one of those myself:

It gets great reviews and a tiny compact package that contains a 5″ scope and mount. Just add a table and you are ready to go. It’s got a 650mm focal length (f/5) which means a 6mm plossl gives a magnification of 108x which is more than enough to see the Cassini division.

At £1 per mm of aperture it’s probably the cheapest way to get into astronomy and get decent results. They do do a smaller 76mm version but personally I feel thats  a bit too small as the magnification wont be enough to see solar system objects.

Refractors

Recently had the opportunity to setup my 80mm refractor to give it a good going over and a “spring clean”. Greased all the gearing on the alt az and made a note to purchase some focuser grips as the old ones have perished. Does anyone know where I can buy ED80 crayford focuser grips from? At the moment I’m keeping my eyes peeled for some wide rubber bands! Not the best of solutions but has worked well for me in the past.

I have to admit I am very pleased with my little 80mm refractor. Even after 5 years of use (and poor treatment to be honest) it is still giving me fantastic performance on clusters and the brighter DSO’s.

However that being said, I’m hankering after aperture. I miss my dobsonian but the price of the lightbridge’s has gone up massively and the 12″ I purchased a few years ago is now 50% more. Perhaps I should have kept that, it would have been an investment!

Winter, cold and clouds

Well it’s winter… again. I was rather looking forward to the dark nights so I could get a little bit of astronomy done but I don’t think I’ve seen a clear night yet. I did spot Orion one evening driving home from a restaurant but by the time I had got home the clouds had returned (and the wine probably wouldn’t have helped proceedings either!)

All in all it’s been a rather wet and dismal winter so far as we are only just beginning. It’s bound to get worse; in fact I’m being regaled by colleagues of tales of snow coming, who I’m sure only tell me these things to make me feel worse.

Whilst I’m feeling glum the thought occurs that I may be a victim of seasonal affective disorder. Perhaps something to look into. Either a bit of winter sun or failing that a sunlight lamp perhaps. I wonder if I could get either through company expenses?

Dark nights and early mornings

One of the many benefits (snigger) of being forced to wake up at 5am most mornings through a combination of 4 month olds, 4 year olds and 40 year olds, is the dark mornings and occasional clear skies. This morning I was able to sneak 30mins with my little refractor whilst the sun was still snoozing and was rewarded with glorious views of some old favourites that ordinarily wouldn’t be seen till much later in winter. That being said, I do think I would prefer the extra 2hours in bed!