Monday, June 15, 2009

New telescope project

Don't worry--it's a small one this time, nowhere near the involvement of my renovation of the Maroon Barsoom last year.

One of the most basic forms of long-exposure astrophotography is the "piggyback mount." That is, the camera--presumably a single-lens reflex (SLR for film or DSLR for digital) is mounted onto the telescope in parallel to take advantage of said telescope's tracking motor for long exposures. Ie the camera can point at one spot in the sky and the Earth's rotation won't cause these stars or whatnot to streak and move out of the frame. The tracking motor compensates for the Earth's rotation, see?

Unfortunately, store-bought piggyback mounts 1) aren't cheap and 2) aren't designed for my telescope, which admittedly is 30+ years old. So I Googled a bit in the DIY corners of the interwebs and came up with a workable solution for my needs. I found a 2x4 in the garage that suited my purposes, measured and then (after clamping it firmly to the table saw, used my router to scoop out a U shape in it. This saves on weight, which is important with telescopes and balance if you're going to successfully track the heavens. Then I cut it to length. It is now a 3.25"x3.25" square. Next up, I need to drill a hole through the broad side through which to insert the screw which my camera will be threaded onto. I also need to cut ends of the "legs" so they will conform to the curvature of my telescope's optical tube. Once this is finished (I'm thinking a day or two--hey, there's no urgency) I'll sand and paint the mount to match the telescope. That's "Duplicolor Claret Red" for those at home who weren't paying attention last year. Once that's finished and dried, I'm going to apply adhesive felt to the bottoms of the legs, so as to not scratch the telescope tube, and them attach a hose cinch to the mount (with felt applied to inside of this as well) to hold it firmly on the telescope.

Afterwards, I should be able to take a range of wide-field images, including the Milky Way and Banard's Loop without breaking a sweat. I also intend to get some of the nifty Astronomik Clip-In filters to enhance my camera's performance. Much fun, eh?

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