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Micro observatory (heavily 3d printed)

3d printing DIY EAA DSO Mount Observatory
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#1 Rayje1997

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 10:57 AM

Okay so this is going to sound silly to some and cool to others. I have a DSLR that I have modified for DSO imaging, but I no longer use it since I got a new camera. I was considering how I could use it and had the idea this morning to build a micro observatory. And when I say micro, I mean micro. I'm talking maybe 1.5 or 2ft in diameter and using a 75-300mm kit lens. Why? Because I occasionally like to do live streams of EAA sessions and that would be a lot easier with a semi-permanent observatory but I do not have the funds to build one for my main rig so I thought it would be cool to have a tiny observatory that I can just plug up power to and get going. To accomplish such a small size I will need to design and 3d print a lot of the components myself and the mount will have to be an alt-az mount. In other words, this will be a very long term project that is going to take a lot of design and testing. 

 

So, I will be using this thread to both take advise and to provide updates on this project. I will now list below what I have come up with and the equipment I already have that will be used.

 

Equipment already owned:

 

Modified Canon 1000D

Canon 75-300mm kit lens

Dummy battery for camera

Lens hood (used as dew shield)

 

Parts to buy:

Dew heater for lens

Dew heater controller/power supply

PC Fan

Small solar panel

Mini PC

Power Strip

Electronics for mount (motors, arduino, etc)

Electronics for the dome (motors, arduino, etc)

 

Parts to design and build:

The alt-az mount

The observatory

Solar powered fan for daytime cooling

 

Current ideas:

 

I may have missed something in the list above, and if I think of it I will either edit the list or make an additional post. For now though the idea is to have a 3d printed dome that can be easily moved and brought inside if there is going to be extreme weather or moved out of direct sunlight if it is going to be extremely hot. Not included in this list is an enclosure for my 3d printer since I currently cannot print some of the more temperature resistant plastics. Step 1 will be designing the mount and getting that working correctly, then I will design the observatory around that.

 

Let me also answer some questions about why I plan to use some of these really budget items.

 

The camera is obvious, it is because I already have it and it isn't really being used. 

The lens is for a couple of reasons. I also already have it, but also if I use NINA I can use the Canon autofocus driver to do autofocus routines. 

It not being fully permanent is partially so I can move it around. I don't trust it in extreme weather or extremely hot days and also I would like to be able to move it around my yard because I would love to do an all-sky survey project just for the fun of it.

The alt-az mount is again due to size restrictions. I want this to be as small as possible.

The lack of a guide scope is because it is only going to be at 75mm and be doing EAA most of the time so guiding is a moot point as long as the mount is even kind of accurate. 

 

As of right now, I plan to do the whole of the design, starting with the mount, in openSCAD since I am most familiar with it and the mount will be using OnStep for control.

 

The first actions for me will be reading and learning as much as I can about OnStep and ASCOM drivers as well as learning more about electronics and more advanced techniques in OnStep and then designing a working alt-az mount which I can either set on the ground or mount on a camera tripod and use in a live stacking session. 

 

Let me know what you think of my ideas here and I would be appreciative of any advice or resources. Just know that I will not be swayed from some of the basics here which are 1) I will be designing my own mount and dome 2) I will be using the DSLR and kit lens and 3) the observatory will be a dome. Anything else is subject to change.

 



#2 t-ara-fan

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 01:06 PM

When you have a hammer everything is a nail. When you (and I) have a 3D printer every problem can be solved with 3D printing.

 

The easiest build would by a plywood box that either rolls away from your camera, or you just open the hinged lid.

 

But if you want a 3D printed observatory with rotating dome that looks like Mt. Palomar - it would be pretty cool. 


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#3 EFT

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 01:31 PM

You will have to be very careful with what printing method and material you want to use.  Heat, cold, moisture, etc. can have negative effects on 3D printed items.  Some of the more durable 3D printing materials may have colors (e.g., black) that will be undesireable when it comes to sun and heat.  Otherwise, there are plently of large-format printers out there today that can probably do what you want, maybe in a single piece.  


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#4 CharLakeAstro

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 01:58 PM

A 3D printer and many, many spools of filament

 

 

Equipment already owned:

 

Modified Canon 1000D

Canon 75-300mm kit lens

Dummy battery for camera

Lens hood (used as dew shield)

 

Parts to buy:

Dew heater for lens

Dew heater controller/power supply

PC Fan

Small solar panel

Mini PC

Power Strip

Electronics for mount (motors, arduino, etc)

Electronics for the dome (motors, arduino, etc)

 

Parts to design and build:

The alt-az mount

The observatory

Solar powered fan for daytime cooling

 

Current ideas:

 

I may have missed something in the list above, ...

 


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#5 Rayje1997

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 02:00 PM

When you have a hammer everything is a nail. When you (and I) have a 3D printer every problem can be solved with 3D printing.

 

The easiest build would by a plywood box that either rolls away from your camera, or you just open the hinged lid.

 

But if you want a 3D printed observatory with rotating dome that looks like Mt. Palomar - it would be pretty cool. 

Yeah, that is basically the idea here. I know that I could easily just build a box for it and put it on a Star Adventurer GTi, but this is more fun and a cooler project I think lol



#6 Rayje1997

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 02:02 PM

You will have to be very careful with what printing method and material you want to use.  Heat, cold, moisture, etc. can have negative effects on 3D printed items.  Some of the more durable 3D printing materials may have colors (e.g., black) that will be undesireable when it comes to sun and heat.  Otherwise, there are plently of large-format printers out there today that can probably do what you want, maybe in a single piece.  

I think given my current idea for the size of it it should be small enough to print in pieces and carefully glue together and seal against water. I will print it in white, probably ABS. I already have a printer and don't plan on buying one just for this project. If it turns out that it is just entirely unreasonable to print then I will use the designs as a format for making out of wood, which of course has it's own issues.



#7 Rayje1997

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 02:03 PM

A 3D printer and many, many spools of filament

Lol fair enough on the filament, I already have a printer though.


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#8 gordtulloch

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Posted 23 May 2024 - 03:58 PM

Yeah, that is basically the idea here. I know that I could easily just build a box for it and put it on a Star Adventurer GTi, but this is more fun and a cooler project I think lol

Put it on an OpenAstroTracker, more 3D printing smile.gif Don't bother with ASCOM, use a Raspberry Pi running INDI/Kstars/EKOS and you can talk to it wirelessly (via an app if you get Stellarmate)


Edited by gordtulloch, 23 May 2024 - 04:00 PM.

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#9 Rayje1997

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 07:37 AM

Put it on an OpenAstroTracker, more 3D printing smile.gif Don't bother with ASCOM, use a Raspberry Pi running INDI/Kstars/EKOS and you can talk to it wirelessly (via an app if you get Stellarmate)

Fair point on the tracker. I have seen this before but forgot about it.



#10 Taylor

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 11:10 AM

Seems doable. How are your CAD skills? 

Have you considered a tiny harmonic mount? That would give you equatorial tracking and no counterweight to deal with, thus saving space within the observatory and making the overall size smaller.

You could make it a RoR style with a curved top to shed rain, control a small DC servo with a microcontroller that rolls the roof off on some sort of slides that are rated for outdoor use. Something like what the CargoGlide uses, but not as heavy duty since your overall weight would be small. 

I use solar power for my RoR due to high cost of running 120v through rock in my yard. You could top your rolling roof with flexible PV cells and charge the whole system throughout the day. A raspberry pi could monitor the PV system as well. 


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#11 Rayje1997

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 12:35 PM

Seems doable. How are your CAD skills? 

Have you considered a tiny harmonic mount? That would give you equatorial tracking and no counterweight to deal with, thus saving space within the observatory and making the overall size smaller.

You could make it a RoR style with a curved top to shed rain, control a small DC servo with a microcontroller that rolls the roof off on some sort of slides that are rated for outdoor use. Something like what the CargoGlide uses, but not as heavy duty since your overall weight would be small. 

I use solar power for my RoR due to high cost of running 120v through rock in my yard. You could top your rolling roof with flexible PV cells and charge the whole system throughout the day. A raspberry pi could monitor the PV system as well. 

CAD skills are a work in progress. This is going to be a very long project for me and there are going to be several stages to it. I did consider a tiny harmonic drive mount, and since I have to do a bunch of research for this anyway I just might see what I can do with that. As far as a RoR, I might start with that, but in the end I would like a dome. No reason really other than "Hey, that's cool". Since a RoR would be easier to construct and cheaper that's where I will start, even if that part is made of wood to begin with while I focus on the mount. There are outlets on the outside of my house, so I can happily just run an extension cord when I want to use it just like I do my main rig which is save me quite a bit of money, but solar may be added later if I decide to take it on a trip or something. 



#12 gordtulloch

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 01:36 PM

I find that the more micro-projects I add to my projects, the longer they get, until the endpoint is so far off in the distance that it becomes less incentive and the project gets abandoned. Stay focused, leverage existing projects (OnStep, OpenStarTracker, etc.) and focus on whats different.


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#13 peculiar_polar_ring

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 07:46 PM

What material will you be printing with? I commonly print with ASA and it struggles in the Kentucky heat, and it's better than ABS.

If you're looking at something like PEEK you'll spend a small fortune on filament
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#14 Rayje1997

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 08:39 AM

I find that the more micro-projects I add to my projects, the longer they get, until the endpoint is so far off in the distance that it becomes less incentive and the project gets abandoned. Stay focused, leverage existing projects (OnStep, OpenStarTracker, etc.) and focus on whats different.

Fair points. I don't plan on re-inventing the wheel on mounts. I did actually consider buying a cheap eq mount like the Explore Scientific exos nano and just using the mount head and using onstep to automate that. I will put more thought into that and if that is the way I go then I will order the mount first so that I can get that working and use that for some of the projects that the observatory is going to be handling while I design and build/print the structure. 



#15 Rayje1997

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 08:43 AM

What material will you be printing with? I commonly print with ASA and it struggles in the Kentucky heat, and it's better than ABS.

If you're looking at something like PEEK you'll spend a small fortune on filament

Well, the more I think about it the more I think that it would be better to make it small enough to be picked up and moved. It is one of the reasons why I am considering going with an alt-az mount so that it doesn't have to be polar aligned every time I move it.

 

Just to be clear the point of moving it would be so that I can keep it out of direct sunlight or even indoors and then just set outside and plugged up when I want to use it. To that end I was probably going to print it in white ABS. White so that if I do leave it out in the sun it will be more likely to handle heat.



#16 gordtulloch

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 09:14 AM

Consider I leave my allskycam out in the heat of summer 35C and the cold of the winter -35C with a clear dome, I'm pretty sure a camera covered with an ABS or PETG dome would be perfectly fine.


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#17 Rayje1997

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 12:21 PM

Consider I leave my allskycam out in the heat of summer 35C and the cold of the winter -35C with a clear dome, I'm pretty sure a camera covered with an ABS or PETG dome would be perfectly fine.

I'm less concerned with the camera, I normally leave my camera attached to my scope under a TG365 cover and it's fine, I was more concerned with the longevity of the dome and tolerances of the moving parts under the heat. 



#18 lambermo

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Posted 02 June 2024 - 05:56 AM

Do make sure the plastics (and other materials) can handle the UV in the sunlight. I've seen a lot of plastic crumble to bits or get so brittle that it breaks upon touching due to UV after several months in the open.


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#19 Taylor

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Posted 02 June 2024 - 02:21 PM

This guy went over board with the 3D printed micro observatory:

https://www.instruct...e-Observatory-/


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#20 t-ara-fan

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Posted 03 June 2024 - 11:13 AM

This guy went over board with the 3D printed micro observatory:

https://www.instruct...e-Observatory-/

PiLOMAR2.  Nice!!!


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#21 gordtulloch

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Posted 03 June 2024 - 11:36 AM

This guy went over board with the 3D printed micro observatory:

https://www.instruct...e-Observatory-/

Yeah really neat, although using a CC camera lens is probably not the way to get decent images... even a small achromatic refractor like the OpenAstroGuider would be better.


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#22 Rayje1997

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Posted 03 June 2024 - 04:22 PM

This guy went over board with the 3D printed micro observatory:

https://www.instruct...e-Observatory-/

I saw this, and this is basically what I want to do but a bit bigger with a DSLR rather than a tiny raspberry pi camera



#23 Rayje1997

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Posted 03 June 2024 - 04:25 PM

Yeah really neat, although using a CC camera lens is probably not the way to get decent images... even a small achromatic refractor like the OpenAstroGuider would be better.

I agree with this, and it does make me wonder if I should get a second 30mm guide scope and use my svbony sv305 camera instead. That is what I normally use for guiding so next time I have a chance I will pop a UV/IR cut filter on it since I removed the default one that came with the camera (it was way too aggressive) and see what I can get out of it. I mostly want it for live stacking when I stream anyway so the image doesn't have to be perfect, just better than what can be gotten from that tiny tiny setup. 



#24 Rayje1997

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Posted 03 June 2024 - 04:31 PM

This guy went over board with the 3D printed micro observatory:

https://www.instruct...e-Observatory-/

I will be doing some solid studying of this to get ideas for my own design though. This is so similar to what I want to do that it will be some very valuable reading. 



#25 Rayje1997

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Posted 03 June 2024 - 04:33 PM

Do make sure the plastics (and other materials) can handle the UV in the sunlight. I've seen a lot of plastic crumble to bits or get so brittle that it breaks upon touching due to UV after several months in the open.

Honestly I am thinking about having this be more of a "grab n' go" type thing. This might turn into more of a smart telescope than anything, which would mean that the dome would be more for show than anything, but that's okay since it is also an educational project since I might like to build a full-sized observatory one day. 


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