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

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

Cleaning Telescope Lenses or Mirror

To clean the telescope’s lens or mirror, disassemble the lens or the mirror from the cell, making sure to mark the sides of the glass elements as it is necessary to reassemble them following the correct orientation as determined by the factory. In this video, I used my Sky-Watcher 100ED as an example. Follow these instructions at your own risk and exercise outmost care when cleaning telescope lenses.

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

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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

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

Home-brewed Straight Key

I have built a Morse code straight key using brass plates, small bearings, brass shaft, and some brass screws from power supply binding posts. The key is mounted on the same aluminum plate with my home-brewed electronic keyer with paddles and desk microphone. With this customized straight key, I hope to get a better sense of rythm in sending Morse code.

To watch the straight key in action, along with the electronic keyer with paddles, click here.

Related link:
DIY Iambic Morse Code Keyer

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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.

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

DIY Satellite Antenna DU1AU

A satellite antenna can be made from 3 mm copper or aluminum elements, PVC boom, and some parts you may already have at home. To download the Moxon-Yagi measurements, click here.

For inquiries, email me at du1au@nightskyinfocus.com. To learn more about satellite communications, click here.

Related links:
Portable Satellite Radio Setup
DIY Satellite Radio Wins Go-Kit Contest

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

DIY Satellite Tracker

I’ve recently finished building a satellite traker based on SATNOGS satellite tracker. The automated tracker uses an Arduino to control a pair of stepper motors that move two cross-yagi antennas (VHF and UHF). The Arduino receives satellite’s azimuth and elevation info using the tracking software Gpredict. Hamlib is then used to establish a link between the computer and Arduino through USB connection via EasyComm III protocol.

The tracker uses two A4988 stepper motor driver, and two geared stepper motors. A weatherproof metal box is used as a case, and rubber seals prevent water from entering. To watch a video about this homebrewed tracker, click here.

Related link: Satellite Communications

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

DIY Iambic Morse Code Keyer

I have built an ultra-compact DIY iambic Morse code keyer for a dual-paddle key based on the work of PA3HCM. The keyer uses an Arduino Uno and a few components such as a potentiometer for adjusting the words per minute (WPM), a small speaker, some resistors, and LED indicators. I housed the circuitry in a neat enclosure and added some terminals (for signal line-out and an auxiliary connection for a second key). I then attached a dual-paddle key onto the enclosure, making the keyer and key setup a very portable trainer for code practice.

DIY iambic Morse code keyer

To watch the keyer in action, click version 1 and version 2. 73, DU1AU (Philippines).

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

Portable Satellite Radio Setup

This battery-operated radio setup can be easily carried to any remote location. Connect a satellite antenna, turn the radio on,  select the pre-programmed uplink and downlink frequencies, and you are ready to make contact!

A portable satellite radio setup

Related links:
DIY Satellite Radio Wins Go-Kit Contest

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

DIY Arduino TNC

I have finished building and testing a DIY Terminal Node Controller (TNC). With a TNC, any radio may encode and decode signals in the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) format. This TNC is based on the home-brewed TNC project by VK3DAN.

Arduino-based TNC

The TNC requires a smart phone with APRSdroid connected via bluetooth. It taps directly to a radio through the dedicated audio line-in and line-out ports. I’ve tested this TNC to work with the International Space Station’s (ISS) digipeater at 145.825 MHz, using the digipath: ARISS.

Related links:
DIY Moxon-Yagi Satellite Antenna
Portable Satellite Radio Setup

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

DIY 40-Meter Antenna

I’ve built a simple HF (40-meter band) wire antenna with some scrap wires, a length of RG8 cable, PVC pipe as insulator, and some way of securing and making it waterproof. This antenna is intended for receiving (RX only) so I could listen to local voice and Morse code net calls using a Software-Defined Radio (SDR).

Homebrewed 40-meter band wire antenna

The antenna is a dipole with 10 meters of conductor on each side. One conductor is soldered directly to the coax’s outer conductor (braid), while the other conductor is soldered to the coax’s center conductor. I did not use a balun for this antenna, but you may try to use one. Each end of the conductors terminate with a PVC insulator. If you plan on transmitting with a wire antenna, you will need to adjust the length of each conductor for best SWR. I will be using this antenna with an HF radio to send and receive signals in the 40-meter band (7.000 to 7.200 MHz).

To watch a video about this DIY 40-meter antenna, click here.

Related links:
DIY Moxon-Yagi Satellite Antenna
Portable Satellite Radio Setup

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© 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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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