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If you want to take a stab at amateur astrophotography, or have a telescope with “goto” or auto tracking capability, you either need to make a substantial investment in hardware and software, or you can built your own computer controlled mounts and use a variety of open source telescope guidance software packages. I caught the following discussion on the Twin Cities Robotics Group’s mailing list today. Robot hacker Bruce Shapiro posed this question to the list:

I’ve started another one of my “bits to bots” classes– this time out here at the local art center, and with adults. One of the students is very keen on the idea of stepperizing his telescope, and already has put in a lot of effort rolling his own stepper drives. I seem to recall that this is a common goal, and that there is both some decent free/shareware out there that will control your motorized scope, as well as plans for the retrofit. But a quick search just turned up a bunch of individuals’ pages that didn’t have the pizzazz I think I remember once seeing. Basically, I’d like to save him from reinventing this wheel. I suspect some of you may be able to point us in the right direction?

The quick response from list member Alan Kilian was to check out Mel Bartels’ BBAstroDesigns site. It contains a wealth of information for hobbyists looking to build a DIY computer operated telescope. A lot of the information is for Dobsonian mounts, and you’ll find howtos for adapting your telescope, building the stepper control electronics, and software for controlling the rig from a PC. Depending on what you choose to do, you can completely automate your scope for somewhere between $100 and $500.

BBAstroDesigns – Computer Operated Telescopes
Mel Bartels’ Telescopes and Telescope Making
Twin Cities Robotics Group



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