Custom camera mount & telescope tracking motor

Custom camera mount & telescope tracking motor

tracking.jpg smithplanets.jpg moon10.jpgCraig Smith of South Milwaukee, WI, wrote in to share the progress he’s made on his homebrew astronomy rig:

Since my moon photo was featured almost a year ago, I have a better telescope, a homemade tracking motor and some ok planetary photos. Saturn is currently on the other side of the sun, but earlier this year I took some shots. Also that brightest ‘star’ in the sky lately is Jupiter. In this shot there is a moon about one planet width to the left of Jupiter. The purpose of the tracking motor is that in the 4 second exposure, the subject moves almost an entire width due to the earth’s rotation. Also my shot of an almost full moon’s shadowline and crater detail.

The camera mount was a hacked table top mini tripod. I removed the 2 movable legs and kept the 1 fixed leg. The eyepiece clip was a 1″ PVC coupler cut short, then cut in half about 60-40. This made a ‘C’ that clipped onto the eyepiece tight. A small screw and epoxy holds the tripod leg to the clip. Then a custom PVC pipe and coupler was bored to accept the eyepiece on one side and my digital camera lens on the other side to keep eyepiece and camera perfectly aligned.

The custom tracking motor was added to the telescope’s equatorial mount tracking knob. The main axis is aligned with the north star. One rotation per day on this axis tracks any sky object perfectly and stays with it as the earth rotates.

8 thoughts on “Custom camera mount & telescope tracking motor

  1. craig says:

    How big is my telescope? Not outrageously big, a 114mm (4.5″) reflector. My camera is a $100 digital set at the medium quality 2MP setting. What makes a good telescope camera is a protruding lens that is roughly the same size and matches up to the eyepiece quite well. Another tip is use the self timer, as hitting the button shakes the telescope for a few seconds.

    1. Kimball Staples says:

      Looks and sounds like a great setup. Do you have any plans or more detailed pics you can share?
      I’d like to make something similar (both the camera mount and tracking drive), but am not sure where to start.

      1. craig says:

        I had a picture of the camera mount but it didn’t get included. Every camera and telescope mount is different, so you have to customize to what you have.
        The equatorial mount on mine is 6 rotations of the shaft per hour to get 1 revolution per day (earth’s rotation). I have seen some 8 or 10 rotations per hour, so investigate your mount to find your gearmotor and reduction needs.
        The camera mount was easy. Two parts. ONE; custom PVC fittings and bore to fit snug over the camera lens and also over the eyepiece. TWO; clip on focuser mount. My ‘C’ clip camera mount that clips onto the focuser is pictured in the ‘equipment photos’ section at observatorycentral dot com. Great site for the backyard astronomer.

  2. Andrew Robbins says:

    Clunk…That was the sound of a penny dropping in Melbourne, protruding lens, of course! Great tip!! Thanks – I was picturing using my D5100, but I have a Panasonic point & shoot digital that will work nicely.

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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