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.

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Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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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Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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,or explore other methods such as eyepiece projection.

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Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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.

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Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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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Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.
Related link: Universal Camera Adapter

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

DIY Dew Heater

Dew heaters or heater pads are telescopes accessories used to prevent dew from forming on the telescope’s lens. During long imaging sessions, it is not uncommon for the main lens of refractors and SCTs to form dew. A heater is used to keep the objective lens at a temperature a few degrees C above the dew point to prevent the formation of dew.

I used nichrome wires from a local electronics store to build several DIY heater pads for my telescope, which I find useful in keeping the lenses free from dew especially when imaging in remote observing sites.

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

DIY Plate for Telescopes

I’ve built an aluminum plate for my equatorial mount to allow it to carry the main telescope and the guide scope for autoguiding purposes. In autoguiding, it is important to minimize flexing between the imaging telescope and the guide scope, thus, a plate with suitable thickness helps address this problem. This DIY plate measures 12 cm by 20 cm by 1 cm and made from a solid aluminum plate from a local metals supply shop. Holes have been drilled on the plate to allow attachment of various loads such as DSLR cameras and different telescopes.

Kenko NES mount with a DIY aluminum plate

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Related link: Sky-Watcher 100ED Refractor

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

Peltier-Cooled DSLR Project

During an exposure, the imaging sensor of a DSLR warms up, resulting to noisy images. By cooling down the sensor, it is possible to eliminate or somehow minimize this thermal noise.

I have made a number of attempts to accomplish this with a Canon 450D and a Peltier module, however, it appears it is very difficult to implement without running into problems such as condensation and frosting.

M42 imaged with a Peltier-cooled filter-modified Canon 450D. No dark frames were used in this image. Image processed in SIRIL. The DSLR’s stock filter was replaced with a Baader UV-IR blocking filter.

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

How to Image Planets

There are several ways to acquire magnified views of planets: afocal imaging with digital or optical zoom, prime focus with Barlow lenses, and eyepiece projection with hi-power eyepiece.

Imaging planets with a dash camera (with lens removed) and a telescope

Afocal Imaging with Digital or Optical Zoom
Place a smart phone camera or a digital camera on top of an eyepiece. This configuration 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. You may need a smart phone to telescope adapter or a universal camera adapter especially if you plan to use the camera’s digital or optical zoom.


Prime Focus with Barlow Lenses
Remove the webcam’s lens and then connect the webcam to a telescope. This configuration is called prime focus and works with web cameras, dash cameras, and other action cameras, using a webcam-to-telescope adapter. Barlow lenses may be needed to increase magnification and reveal more details. Use a UV-IR filter if the web camera’s sensor is not equipped with a built-in filter.


Eyepiece Projection
Project an image of a planet onto a camera’s sensor, though eyepiece projection. In this configuration, an image is formed on the web camera’s sensor with the use of a high-power eyepiece. It uses an adapter called eyepiece projection adapter to hold the web camera and eyepiece together. The adapter also allows the separation between the web camera and the eyepiece to be adjusted, as it affects image magnification.

SPC900NC with Eyepiece Projection Adapter


Other Considerations in Imaging Planets
Planets, as viewed with a small telescope, are very small. Image at high magnifications (long focal lengths) within the limits of your telescope. Always double check the camera’s focus. Use a tracking mount whenever possible. Take two to three minute video recordings of the planet, making sure that the planet remains in the camera’s view for the whole duration of the recording. Process the recording using a software that registers and stack images such as IRIS.

Related links:
Processing Images with IRIS
SPC900NC Webcam
Polaroid N302 Dashcam

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

Kenko NES Mount

I use a 1990 Kenko NES equatorial mount with my refracting telescope. This mount features an RA motor drive with relatively accurate tracking, a polar scope for easy alignment with Polaris, altitude-azimuth adjustment knobs useful in performing precise polar alignment such as the declination drift alignment method, coarse and fine adjustment knobs, setting circles, and adjustable aluminum tripod. My mount has been modified to use a DIY controller to connect it with a laptop via USB and perform automated guiding needed in long-exposure photography of deep-sky objects.

To view sample images taken with the 1990 Kenko NES mount, click here.
To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Related links:
Sky-Watcher 100ED Refractor
DIY Telescope Controller

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

DIY Logitech 4000 Guide Camera

The Logitech 4000 webcam is capable of imaging planets and can be modified to take long exposure images to serve as a guide camera. The modification requires a serial port to externally control the camera’s exposure time using a guiding software such as GuideMaster and PHD Guiding.

The long- exposure modification allows the camera to detect faint guide stars, which is a useful feature for a guide camera. The diagram shown here was a modified version of M. Burri’s (2002) parallel port interface for a Logitech 3000 which I have adapted to work with the newer Logitech 4000 and a serial port.

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

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

Sky-Watcher Equinox 100 ED

The 2011 Sky-Watcher Equinox 100 ED 4 in f/9 refractor serves as my main telescope both for visual observation and astrophotography. The telescope comes with aluminum-lined wooden carrying case. It is supplied with two eyepieces: 25 mm and 5 mm. Supplied also is a 90-degree 2-inch diagonal mirror and an 8 by 50 finder scope.

The Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) features a 4-in f/9 extra-low dispersion (ED) apochromatic (APO) lens design. It has a 2-inch dual-speed Crayford focuser with a thumbscrew underneath for locking the draw tube.

To view sample photos taken with the Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED, click here.
To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

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