DIY Equatorial Wedge

I have fabricated a customized equatorial wedge for a colleague. An equatorial wedge is simply a platform that is tilted to precisely match the latitude of a place. When used with a wedge, an altitude-azimuth telescope mount may be used in equatorial configuration.

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Related link: Kenko NES Mount

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Counterweight

I have fabricated an additional counterweight for my equatorial mount. It did not cost much since it was made from scrap iron and was very easy to make.

Be mindful, however, to not go beyond the mount’s maximum payload capacity when adding new equipment along with the corresponding counterweight.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Related link: Kenko NES Mount

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Baader ND 5.0 Solar Filter

I have been using a Baader Neutral Density 5.0 Solar Safety Film filter for several years now in solar photography and visual observation. According to the specifications, it reduces solar intensity by a factor of 100,000.

The filter looks like a thin reflective plastic sheet, about A4 size (20 cm by 29 cm). When used with binoculars or telescope, it must be cut to the right size to cover the whole aperture of the optical instrument and installed securely on a rigid frame. Alternatively, the filter may be used without a telescope. Based on my experience, while the solar film may look very delicate and fragile, it is very durable and does not easily get damaged. Special attention, however, must be given to ensure that the film does not get stretched or folded to retain its properties.

Sunspot AR12192 | Sky-Watcher 4 in f/9 refractor

The Baader ND 5.0 solar filter produces sharp images with good contrast without changing the white balance. The filter I purchased in 2011 which has been used extensively in almost every solar event visible in my locality is still in excellent condition.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Flat Field Panel

I’ve built a DIY dedicated flat field panel using a repurposed LED light fixture. The flat field panel is a light source with relatively uniform brightness. The panel attaches directly onto my telescope and can be used for taking flat frames.

If a telescope with camera captures a target that is known to have a uniform brightness or illumination (such as this DIY flat field panel), the unevenness in the illumination of the field such as vignetting or presence of dusts are revealed. When a flat frame is applied to an image, any variation in brightness or illumination across the frame is leveled out, thus, vignetting and dusts are removed in the image.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

FujiFilm X-A1 Filter Modification

I have performed a filter modification on a Fujifilm X-A1 for a colleague. It involves the removal of the stock UV-IR filter, making the camera more sensitive to H-alpha wavelengths. This modification is helpful only when shooting targets with H-alpha emissions, as Fujifilm’s X-A1’s standard (stock) filter blocks this part of the spectrum.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Related link: Canon DSLR Filter Modification

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Celestron OIII Narrowband Filter

I have been testing this 2-inch Celestron OIII (oxygen III) narrowband filter, which according to the specifications, isolates 496 nm and 501 nm lines emitted by planetary and emission nebula.

Celestron 93624 OIII filter

The filter looks like a polished mirror that allows some green light that corresponds to the light emitted by emission and planetary nebula to pass through but blocks everything else including most light pollution. It results in enhanced contrast between the sky and the nebula.

An OIII filter reveals an emission nebula in Milky Way’s central region

I have used this filter extensively in visual observation by “blinking” it in and out between the eye and the eyepiece, a technique used in observing emission and planetary nebula. I wanted to know if I could also use this filter to photograph OIII targets with an unmodified DSLR and a telescope and the results look good.

Veil Nebula in OIII, captured with a 4 in f/9 refractor and an unmodified DSLR, 30 minutes single exposure. Image converted to grayscale.

I am only beginning to discover narrowband imaging and I hope to use this OIII filter to photograph targets even in severely light-polluted sky.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Electronic Automatic Focuser (EAF)

I’ve built an electronic automatic focuser (EAF) for my Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED refractor for automated and precise focusing.

The focuser was built with a stepper motor from an old printer, a gearbox from an electronic screwdriver, A4988 stepper motor driver, and an Arduino Uno. It runs on the firmware developed by R. Brown (2021).

The focuser is ASCOM compliant and works with astronomy software such as the Nighttime Imaging N Astronomy (NINA) for automated focusing during unattended imaging. When the autofocus command is called, NINA takes a series of photos (with a Canon 50D DSLR) at various focus distances and measures the diameter of stars for star fields or the highest contrast for moon and planets. It then calculates the proper distance travel for best focus, and then moves the focuser to focus. An automatic focuser ensures that stars remain focused during unattended imaging runs while you are away from the telescope.

Autofocusing with a DIY Electronic Focuser

This DIY electronic focuser attached to a standard Crayford focuser features 50,000 focus positions, with buttons for manual focus adjustment and calibration. The controller keeps track of the draw tube’s current position and saves this information even when the focuser is powered off.

Precise focusing of Jupiter using an Electronic Auto-Focuser

I have tested the focuser on several imaging runs now and it appears to be working fine, especially with planets in which I image at 3600 mm focal length.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here. To get a copy of the sketch, please email eteny@nightskyinfocus.com.

Related links:
Remote Shutter Canon 50D
1990 Kenko NES Equatorial Mount
Ultra-Portable DIY Tracker

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Intervalometer

I’ve built a simple DIY intervalometer for deep-sky imaging, to enable my DSLR camera to take a series of photos of galaxies and nebula. It features a rotary dial with preset exposure times. When used with an autoguider setup, the intervalometer allows taking unattended exposures, while the telescope tracks a galaxy or nebula.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here. To get a copy of the sketch, please email eteny@nightskyinfocus.com.

Related links:
Remote Shutter Canon 50D
1990 Kenko NES Equatorial Mount
Ultra-Portable DIY Tracker

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Tripod and Crate

I’ve built a wooden tripod for my Vixen 80 mm f/11 telescope on an altitude-azimuth mount. The tripod legs were built using 2 inch by 1 inch wood, with length that approximates the length of the optical tube assembly (1 meter). I’ve also built a crate that will hold the telescope and tripod as one unit, for easy transport and storage.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.
Related link: Vixen 80 mm f/11 refractor

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Vixen 80 mm f/11

This is a 1990s Vixen 80 mm f/11 achromatic refractor on an altitude-azimuth mount. I cleaned the lens, repainted the optical tube assembly, and adjusted the mount. This telescope is primarily used for public stargazing events. It is easy to transport, easy to use, and well suited for viewing the moon and planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Shutter Switch | Canon 50D

I’ve built a remote shutter switch for my Canon 50D to enable it to take exposures longer than 30 seconds, which is essential in astrophotography. Since the camera already has a battery grip, I just bypassed the battery grip’s shutter button and put an external switch. To make it removable, I used a wire that plugs into a socket hidden neatly in the battery compartment.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.
Related link: Connecting a DSLR to a Telescope

Related link: DIY Intervalometer

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Battery Adapter for DSLR

I’ve built a DIY battery adapter for a Canon 1100D using a 12V power connector, a power supply regulator, and housing of an old battery. The DIY adapter provides power to the DSLR from a DIY field battery for extended use during imaging sessions.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.
Related link: Field Battery

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Dashcam as Planetary Camera

I repurposed my old dash camera (Polaroid N302) as a planetary camera. The lens was removed and replaced with a webcam-to-telescope adapter and then mounted on to a 4 in diameter, 900 mm focal length Sky-Watcher 100ED telescope on a tracking mount.

A pair of 2x Barlows were used to further magnify the image (3600 mm effective focal length). To watch a video about this dashcam planetary camera, click here.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Canon 450D, 1000D, and 1100D DSLR Filter Modification

I have performed filter modifications on a number of DSLR cameras for me and my colleagues. It involves the removal of the stock UV-IR filter, making the camera more sensitive to H-alpha wavelengths. This modification is helpful only when shooting targets with H-alpha emissions, as Canon’s standard (stock) filter blocks this part of the spectrum.

Here are sample images taken with the modified cameras. Take note of the shift in white balance (reddish hue), which is to be expected in this type of modification.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Related link: FujiFilm X-A1 Filter Modification

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Pentax Binoculars

This is a Pentax 10 by 50 S-series waterproof binoculars for terrestrial and astronomical use. Notable features are: excellent quality optics, waterproof (nitrogen-filled), multi-coated lens for improved light transmission with special hydrophobic coating to prevent water and dust from sticking on glass, stable and solid built, internal focusing mechanism with focus lock, with diopter adjustment to accommodate variations in focusing of the eyes, and equipped with socket for mounting with a tripod.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Telescope Travel Cases

Here are some of the hard travel cases I use in moving my telescope and its accessories, especially when travelling to remote observing sites.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Stacking Barlow Lenses

Barlow lenses are accessories used to increase the effective focal length of an optical system. Inserting a 2x Barlow results to doubling of the telescope’s focal length. For my telescope which has a focal length of 900 mm, inserting a 2x Barlow in series results to an effective focal length of 1800 mm. Inserting yet another 2x Barlow, results to an effective focal length of about 3600 mm (increasing the separation between the two Barlow lenses by not fully inserting the second Barlow yields a slight increase in the magnification of the image).

The Barlow lenses shown here are the Celestron Omni 2x Barlow lenses which I use extensively in imaging planets. These Barlows feature dual-element multi-coated lenses which produce acceptable results, even when stacked. Note that stacking Barlows is a useful workaround if you already have the Barlows and need more magnification. A better alternative would be to use a single but more poweful 5x Barlow, rather than stacking less powerful 2x or 3x Barlows.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Related links:
Image of Jupiter using Stacked Barlow Lenses
Image of Saturn using Stacked Barlow Lenses

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Celestron Travel Scope 70

The Celestron Travel Scope 70 is a small telescope designed for viewing distant land-based targets (such as birds and trees) and for casual astronomical observations. While many enthusiasts would purchase this telescope as a grab-and-go telescope, I intend to use it as a guide scope for my autoguider setup.

To view images taken with a Celestron Travel Scope 70, click here.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Guide Scope Rings

Guide scope rings or guide rings are mechanisms used for mounting guide scopes. A guide scope is a telescope used to monitor tracking accuracy while a main telescope takes a long-exposure photo. Errors in tracking are detected with a guide scope by monitoring a guide star. Corrections are made by the mount to keep the guide star centered, and thus, keeping the main imaging telescope pointed at a target for the whole duration of an exposure.

There may be instances when it is difficult to find a nearby guide star. With guide scope rings, a guide scope may be pointed, to some extent, at a part of the sky that is different from what is being photographed, allowing access to more guide stars. This DIY guide scope rings set is used with a 70 mm f/5.7 guide scope and a 100 mm f/9 imaging telescope.

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© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Smartphone-to-Telescope Adapter

Smartphones can be used to image the moon by holding it next to the eyepiece of a telescope. For smart phone cameras, a mid-power eyepiece such as a 25 mm eyepiece yields good results. To hold the phone camera steady while taking a photo, a smartphone-to-telescope adapter may be used.

This imaging method is called afocal imaging, in which a camera with its lens is mounted next to another image-forming optical system such as a telescope with an eyepiece or a pair of binoculars.

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Related link: Universal Camera Adapter

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines