Let me be clear about something. GIMP is probably my favourite piece of open-source software. Truth told, I could have a license for Photoshop or PaintShopPro, and I would still use GIMP. That’s because it is so focused on functionality over style – which means that, despite its limited development (it’s open-source after all), it is a program that has the horsepower to compete with the big players. All you have to do is learn its quirky UI!
If you build an astronomy device and want to control it with some awesome PC software, then you need to write an ASCOM (AStronomy Common Object Model) driver. There are great resources available for writing a single ASCOM driver for your DIY astronomy equipment. Check out the video on the ASCOM website for a guide on writing a single-device driver! But say, for instance, you have two devices (a Telescope and a Focuser) and would like to control them with one microcontroller. Or say you want to control your telescope with Astrophotography Toolkit AND PHD2 at the same time. Then you need to write a Driver Server!
Astrophotography is a bit of a money pit. I recently delved into it with my 80-200 f/2.8L and a home-built tracking mount. It was so much fun that I decided to buy a telescope! So my entire budget went into an 80mm APO.
The problem was that a telescope alone is useless for star pics – some quality infrastructure is needed. This post is about my attempt to affordably build the following components:
High-precision Tracking Mount with an ASCOM-compliant driver
Guide camera and scope to help the tracking
Portable Power supply
Telescope Focusing motor with an ASCOM-compliant driver
My kids are enthused by 3D printing, casually remarking about things they could ‘just print’. Recently they asked to build a pancake printer – what a cool idea!
I thought about how to build a simple batter extruder and gantry. It didn’t take long to realize that IREnE, my new DIY camera dolly, is the perfect platform to use as a ‘theta-style‘ gantry! So I set about adding pancake printing functionality to the camera dolly.
Note: As of August 26, 2019, the most incredible home-built camera rig award goestomingul’s 8-Degree-Of-Freedom robot! It takes up an entire room and can be given gcode to perform some amazing camera effects. My rig isn’t as cool, but much more mobile and simpler to build.
Camera sliders are fun tools to use for making dynamic timelapse videos, and they come with some cool features. This is a clever little gadget that moves like a camera slider but folds much smaller. Eggtimers are also commonly used to make a similar effect. Some high-end gear can slide and rotate the camera at the same time for a particularly cool effect. But how do you guild one that one that could go up to 11?
IREnE (Inverted Radial, Extension, Eggtimer) is not only named for the clever woman (nee Adler) who outsmarted Sherlock Holmes , but also the clever functions it can perform. The ‘Inverted Radial’ is the slider’s defining feature which doesn’t seem to be possible on any consumer camera sliders. It moves the camera in a circle around the foreground subject in a way that keeps the subject in view while the background view is constantly changing. Here are some examples:
A friend and I set out to build a camera intervalometer for DSLR cameras. Instead of following one of the many build guides available online, we decided to design our own – The Mikro-Chronograph. Check out the feature list:
2x AA batteries with a ridiculously long battery life
LED display functions in any temperature (eg. Canadian winter) and has fancy features such as scrolling text and swirling icon
Encoder/button combo input is very simple and intuitive
Very fast to setup: Initial Delay, Shutter On Time, Shot-Shot Delay, and Number of Shots
Automatically load the last settings each time the intervalometer is turned on (with EEPROM wear levelling algorithm, it will easily outlast a professional camera)
Can be extensively customized without reprogramming, including screen orientation & brightness, input styles, clock speed calibration, and memory behaviour
Safe to use with any DSLR, thanks to the optoisolator
Price Tag: less than $20 CAD
Two different case designs, same internals
If you want to build one, just get the components listed, wire them up on a PCB board (look at the photos below for a layout guide), program the ATTiny85 with the available code, and build a case. All of the details can be found on Google Drive. The 3D printed case designs are on Thingiverse.
The V2.1 update produced a working mount, but it unfortunately was not very user friendly. I made a few modifications to improve the setup and aiming time, as well as its ability to disassemble and stow in a modest-sized wood box for storage and transport.
V2.2 (codename: HoLi) is the mount’s final design, as I’m very happy with it and have moved on to building the V3.0. See the photo of Orion’s Nebula below taken using this mount, I’ve been happy with its performance using lenses as long as 300mm.
At the last minute, I purchased a sheet of Baader Planetarium solar film for the eclipse on Monday. With little time to spare, the film was taped to a cardboard box and slid over my telescope. Prayers were made that the wind wouldn’t blow the film off of the scope, and the next day I decided to build a proper holder for the expensive film – $100 CAD for an 8″ x 11″ sheet!