DIY 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

To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

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.

To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

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

DIWATA 2 Satellite Test

In March 2018, I worked with the STAMINA4SPACE to test the DIWATA2’s Amateur Radio Unit (ARU). The task involves testing the receiving and transmitting capabilities of the satellite’s on-board amateur radio equipment.

To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

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

Milky Way | Bolinao

We went on a road trip to Bolinao, Pangasinan. At daytime, we explored the beaches and tourist spots and at night, we stargazed and imaged the Milky Way! With a sky that is relatively dark, I was able to take a photo of the Milky Way with the resort as foreground.

Milky Way in Bolinao, Pangasinan

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.
Related link: How to Image the Milky Way

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

Total Lunar Eclipse | 2018

Total Lunar Eclipse January 31 2018
Total Lunar Eclipse taken with a 4-inch f/9 refractor and a DSLR camera on January 31, 2018 at the PAGASA Observatory in UP Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

DIY DSLR Filter Modification

I have performed filter modifications on a number of DSLR cameras (Canon 450D, 700D, 1200D, 500D, 1000D, 1100D, Nikon D3100, and Fuji X-A1) 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 most DSLR camera’s standard (stock) filter blocks this part of the spectrum.

Take note of the shift in white balance (reddish hue), which is to be expected in this type of modification. Focus will be affected, your camera may no longer focus with compatible lenses unless you add a filter between the lens and the sensor, to address the shift in focus and to filter out UV-IR. If used with telescopes, you need a DSLR-to-telescope adapter and achieve focus using the telescope’s focuser.

Daytime images before and after the filter modification

Here are sample images taken with the cameras I have modified (posted with permission).

Horse head and Flame Nebula by Kennerton Agresor, 1.5 hours exposure, imaged with a modified Canon 700D, SVBONY 70ED, 0.8X reducer-flattener, tracked and guided with Sky-Watcher AZGTi and ASI120mm mini with ZWO 30mm f/4 guide camera
Rosette Nebula by Kennerton Agresor, 1.5 hours exposure, imaged with a modified Canon 700D, SVBONY 70ED, 0.8X reducer-flattener, tracked and guided with Sky-Watcher AZGTi and ASI120mm mini with ZWO 30mm f/4 guide camera
Orion Wide-Field by Luis Angelo Rafael imaged with a modified Canon 1200D and Samyang 135mm at f/4, tracked with EQ mount with a Celestron RA Drive
Orion Nebula by Pierre Paulo Sebastian imaged with a Canon 500D and a 3M-6A 500 mm lens, total 6.9 hours exposure
Trifid and Lagoon Nebula by Pierre Paulo Sebastian imaged with a Fuji X-A1 and a Tair 3s 300mm lens, 1.8 hours exposure
Orion Nebula by Anthony Guiller Urbano imaged with a modified Canon 450D and Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED f/9, tracked with a Kenko NES mount, 1 hour exposure

If you are interested in this kind of camera modification (Philippines only), send an email to du1au@nightskyinfocus.com.

Related link: View all home-brewed DIY astronomy equipment

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

Pentax Binoculars

This is a Pentax 10 by 50 S-series waterproof binoculars for terrestrial and astronomical use. It features high quality multi-coated optics, waterproof build, multi-coated lens, internal focusing mechanism with focus lock, diopter adjustment to accommodate variations in focusing of the eyes, and equipped with socket for mounting with a tripod.

Pentax 10 by 50 binoculars

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

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.

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

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

Mars | May 2016

As Earth and Mars revolve around the Sun, there are instances when these two planets are close to each other, and this happens every 2 years. This is the time when Mars is best photographed and this is also the window when spacecrafts are sent to Mars! This image of Mars was taken during one of its closest approaches to Earth, revealing the dark and light patches on its surface, along with white clouds in its atmosphere. I used an SPC900NC web camera to capture this image. Image processed in IRIS.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

Celestron Omni 2X 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).

Stacked Barlows

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.

Jupiter imaged with a 4 inch telescope with two 2X stacked Barlows

Related link: View all home-brewed DIY astronomy equipment

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

Solar Eclipse | March 2016

Image of the partial solar eclipse on March 9, 2016, taken with a 4 in f/9 Sky-Watcher 100ED refractor, a DSLR camera, and a solar filter.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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.

DIY guide scope rings

This DIY guide scope rings set is used with a 60 mm f/5 guide scope and a 114 mm f/8 imaging telescope.

Related link: View all home-brewed DIY astronomy equipment

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

DIY 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 or a pair of binoculars.

DIY Smartphone-to-Telescope Adapter

Related link: View all home-brewed DIY astronomy equipment

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

Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 | January 2015

Comet Lovejoy C2014 Q2 taken with a 4 inch f/9 telescope and a tracking mount. The comet’s green coma and hint of its tail, are visible in this photo. Comets are difficult to image because they move relative to the stars, producing a trail. Processing software corrects for this drift and stacks the image of the comet without producing a trail.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

Sunspot AR 12192 | October 2014

This is an image of the Sun showing the sunspot AR 12192, the largest sunspot of the solar cycle 2010 to 2020. This image was taken at solar maximum when the sun is most active during a cycle. It was imaged in October 2014 in Quezon City using a 4 in f/9 refractor and a Baader ND 5 solar filter. Never observe or image the Sun without the proper solar filters.

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

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

Total Lunar Eclipse | October 2014

lunar_eclipse_8_october_2014_anthony_urbano
Total Lunar Eclipse as observed from Quezon City, Philippines on October 8, 2014, taken with a 4 in f/9 Sky-Watcher Equinox ED and a DSLR camera.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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

Milky Way | Camarines Norte

Milky Way galaxy imaged with a Canon 450D DSLR camera, 18-55 mm lens set at 18 mm, f/3.5, 30 sec exposure, ISO 1600, August 23, 2014, Camarines Norte, Philippines.

milky way aug 23 2014

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.
Related link: How to Image the Milky Way

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

Celestial Triangle | August 2014

Jupiter (top left), Venus (lower left), and the moon form a celestial triangle on August 24, 2014 at 5 am local time, imaged with a Canon 450D and a 50 mm f/1.8 lens on a tripod.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

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