Introduction: 40$ USB Super Telescope, Easy to Make, Sees Craters on the Moon

Picture of 40$ USB Super Telescope, Easy to Make, Sees Craters on the Moon

Turn an old telelens and a webcam into a powerfull telescope that is capable of seeing craters on the moon. Next to the webcam and tele lens all you need are some standard pvc plumbing materials (pipes, diameter adapters and endcaps)

Step 1: Needed Materials

Picture of Needed Materials

Here's what you need:

1. A webcam (I used a quickcam 4000 from logitech I still had)
2. A telelens, the more focal length the more magnification you'll get, the lens I'm using here is 80-210mm, you can get them at ebay starting from 12dollars. Many people have old tele lenses left from the analog camera era so there are plenty of them on the web.
3. Some standard pvc plumbing materials: pvc pipes, a diameter adapter to fit different diameters and some end caps. What you need precisely depends on your lens. More details on this can be seen on the next steps.
4. It's not part of the telescope itself, but it is important to have a tripod since the magnification is very large so any movement will ge greatly magnified. So without a tripod as a stable base, you won't be able to use your telescope.

Step 2: Connect the Webcam to the Lens

Picture of Connect the Webcam to the Lens

First you need to take the webcam apart until you're left with the pcb and the microphone and button. Unscrew the original lens of the webcam and remove it completely.

Next you have to go to the local hardware store and find the pvc part that fits your lens or gets very very close to fitting so you can easily fill up the gap with some tightly wound tape. I made 2 of these telescopes and didn't have problems finding a perfect match, but that could just be luck. You'll also need an endcap for this phase.

Make a hole just as large as the optical tube of the webcam exactly in the middle of the endcap. It must be exactly, or performance will reduce. Now you can put everything together. Fit the adapter to the lens, put on the endcap (I needed an extra piece of pipe to reach the endcap diameter) and put the webcam in. The hole in my encap was to tight I could just lock the webcam in. If yours is a little looser, use some tape. The webcam must be about 3cm behind the rear end of the tele lens.

Now you can try it. Hook it up to a pc and put it on a tripod. Aim at something more than 50 meters away and see if you can focus by turning the focus ring of the tele lens. If you can't, then you must play with the distance between the tele lens and the webcam. You may need to change the length of the adapter a bit. Once this is done, you can glue (or tape) everything together. Make sure that all the parts are perfectly aligned in a straight line, this is also vital for the best results.

Step 3: Make a Housing for the Webcam

Picture of Make a Housing for the Webcam

It's very easy to make a housing, just use 2 encaps and a piece of pipe with a slot for the USB wire. It can all be glued or taped together.

On the pictures, you can see the various stages of assembly. One endcap needs quite a big hole, otherwise the parts on the pcb will touch the endcap tilting the webcam pcb which is bad for optical quality.

Step 4: Demonstration 1: Weather Station

Picture of Demonstration 1: Weather Station

These pictures show the weatherstation on my neighbors house. The first picture is made with my normal photo camera without zooming. The circle shows what the telescope is aimed at. The second and third picture are made with the telescope at 100mm and 210mm zoom setting.

Step 5: Demonstration 2: Antenna Mast at 450m

Picture of Demonstration 2: Antenna Mast at 450m

The first picture is made with my normal camera again. The antenna mast is in the circle. It's 450m away, I checked this with my gps. The second picture is with the telescope at maximum zoom.

Step 6: Demonstration 3: the Moon!

Picture of Demonstration 3: the Moon!

Here are 2 pictures of the moon.

You can easily see craters and mountains.

I hope you enjoyed this project!



alexc245 (author)2016-08-04

eu gostaria de detalhes das lentes dimensoes e combinaçoes para alcance maior

ScottB245 (author)2016-06-14

This is a pretty cool project. I'm thinking about getting this webcam and this lens when I get the money to do so.

GeorgeP70 (author)2016-01-20

How well will a 500mm focal length with a 60mm objective lens work

godofpain (author)2015-07-28

Hi.I'm going to try this in the future but i wonder something.What kind of improvements should i do to see Jupiter.If I need to use lenses,how much should i use.Sorry for bad english,not a native speaker.

joshuam511 (author)godofpain2015-08-05

I think you'll struggle to use it for Jupiter. Whist Jupiter is very bright, it is also very small. *if* you could point it at Jupiter, and keep it steady, you'd see a round white object, and possibly the four galilean moons.

However it would be very difficult to use, and very difficult to keep steady, especially if you have wires everywhere to connect it to your compuer.

godofpain (author)joshuam5112015-11-22

By saying Jupiter,I was actually meaning any object that is farther to Earth than Moon.Jupiter was just an example.

mary hunt (author)godofpain2015-08-08

7 fitting high power

mrmetallica (author)2015-11-12

i am so going to do this .brilliant

Tiraki (author)2015-09-25

jblackrider (author)2014-11-13

i have a 18-55mm tele lens and cheap web cam i guess so about how much distance should i keep the web cam away from the lens???

MichaelN2 (author)2014-09-26

Did you have to take the aperture out of the lens in order for it to work? I'm assuming that's the thing that prevents you from actually looking through the lens.

cesar20 (author)2014-03-20

Is there a way to make this adaptation to a normal digital camera ?

mthomson89 (author)2013-08-13

Using a telephoto lens and I get a circle of image in the middle of the shot, which becomes smaller when I zoom in. Any suggestions?

barefootbohemian (author)2012-03-18

Wish I had seen this and made one before the night Jupiter was so close. Wonder if it would have gotten a good shot

You will be able to see Jupiter even closer the next few days. Also there will be another Jupiter/Venus convergence this month and continuing through December until we will be able to see Jupiter 24 hours a day.

whenu (author)2011-09-10

Good project, I've put a Logitech 510 web camera behind a 75-300 mm lens and while the resolution is good, there is a bright section in the middle of the image.
Any ideas of how to disappear it?

flio191 (author)whenu2012-06-07

So in astrophotography, we use a noise layer for detecting lens errors, dust and whatever else that's in between the ccd and what's in front of the lens. These are called flats or flat lights. You could try this technique and see if you can get any results.

With the setup, take a picture of an evenly lit flat surface (you can do this by taking a picture of the zenith in the sky right after the sun has passed the horizon when setting). If you can get several, the better. You'll get a photo layer that represents all the dark vignetting and uneven lighting you're getting (unfortunately, you wont be able to fix the lens distortion without some more complex work that I'm unable to explain cause I don't know).

You can 1. do it the hard way by shoving your image and this FLAT FIELD image into Dark Sky Stacker (which is a free astrophotography stacking program... you'll have to look up how to calibrate an image using a flat field image).

2. the easy way by using photoshop or Gimp, and using this FLAT layer on top of your photo and subtracting the FLAT from the image, probably through layer blend effects (see: multiply, add, subtract, hard light, soft light, overlay, difference, exclusion)

either way, using non fitting ccd to a lens that fits a different focal length than how you set it up is gonna force you to have to be creative with your solutions. Just a friendly tip from a learning astrophotographer :)

tmihai (author)whenu2011-11-01

The bright section that you see is possible to be flare. Your web cam see a reflection of it self in the last element of the lens. A solution might be to cover your web cam with something black that does not reflect light.

whenu (author)tmihai2011-11-01

Thanks for the suggestion, doesn't seem to have made a difference but have eliminated most of the bright spot by zooming in with the software that came with the camera, cheers

neojep (author)whenu2012-03-16

you could use ManyCam, it has a lot of nice options for adjusting different things with your input.

linjoe (author)2012-03-19

that must be holland! easy to recognize ;)

MicioGatta (author)2012-03-18

This is interesting. I've already got a beautiful telescope (114/90, more or less like this one:, maybe I can put a webcam and use it with the PC. What do you think about it? I think a good webcam is needed, but I don't know them. Can you give me an advise? Thank you very much!

JohnnyVegas (author)2012-02-09

I'm looking to build something similar to zoom in on small objects from about 8-10" away with live video through USB.

Would this lens and setup work for this purpose? If not what lens would do the trick?

cleage001 (author)2011-11-07

Throw a portal at the moon!
Woops. Spoiler.

Frank Strudel (author)2008-03-21

Do you know of any software that shows a decent quality full screen live view from USB?

lgcalex (author)Frank Strudel2008-11-28

its not software, its hardware. Buy a better webcam, read reviews. cheap webcams means crappy video.

Frank Strudel (author)lgcalex2008-12-02

Yes, but i have no means of accessing any live video from a usb video device on my computer, do you know of any programs to do this. Sorry for not making this clear.

topper2 (author)Frank Strudel2010-06-06

the hardware that you buy should have a driver with it ( usually a mini disck) this is so the computer will know what to do with the new hardware. it usually comes with a software to take videos also.

storeyc (author)topper22011-10-06

Best free webcam software I've found is Yawcam -

camera software called bison cam, or software usually given with webcams AMCAP or something like that...

lukeyj15 (author)lgcalex2011-07-01

But after that, i think he was looking for something that will show the video in real time.

ac1D (author)2011-07-01

I decided to modify it abit, I replaced the webcam by a socket to install my cel phone. So I can have a "live view" directly on it, from my cel phone camera. It work nice, but my phone some time have a hard time focusing.

sbdesigns (author)2008-09-13

I recently built this, thanks for the great 'ible. I found when pulling of the webcam's focus ring that mine had tiny orange filter on it, this needs to be included or, as I found out on my original tests the colors are washed out as the reds have been removed (I think other 'ibles have said to remove it and make an IR cam). Check out my pic taken from Melbourne Australia at 6:30PM Sept 13, 2008!!!

Lance Mt. (author)sbdesigns2010-06-09

Auskid huh? That makes two of us. Nice shot.

Kryptonite (author)Lance Mt.2010-06-10


lukeyj15 (author)Kryptonite2011-07-01

4, I'm a melbournian also

Lance Mt. (author)Kryptonite2010-06-11

I need me on of those PRO patches. So elegantly put next to the name... I'm so ashamed.

Kryptonite (author)Lance Mt.2010-06-11

I don't really notice it to be honest, so there's nothing to be ashamed about.

Lance Mt. (author)Kryptonite2010-06-18

Well you have a cardgame named after you. Thats impressive. Sorta. Well done for your contributions.

Kryptonite (author)Lance Mt.2010-06-18


92033 (author)sbdesigns2010-06-06

GREAT shot. Curious...what MM lens did you use?

sbdesigns (author)920332011-03-19

Hanimex HiTec 70-210mm 1:4.5-5.6 52mm

netcandyman (author)2010-11-20

Very nice Instructable. However, that particular lens is way out of my price range. Can I attach it to a department store telescope somehow?

d1ndian (author)netcandyman2011-06-04

u can go to and thrift store to find these dlsr camera lenses, i found many for $5

martzsam (author)2010-08-19

I just finished building mine. I am stunned by the abilities of this mod. This is waaaaaay cool.

martzsam (author)2010-08-18

I came across this while browsing, and I when I saw the parts list, I looked at my web-cam, my old film SLR, my old tripod, and a stack of PVC, and I almost exploded. Awesome project!

jamesfd2 (author)2010-07-18

...still working on mine. Started with a Nikon back lenscap to simplify mounting. BTW the focus plane is 46.5mm behind the lens mount on nikon-mount lenses. The CCD in my webcam is so tiny that at 30' a 50mm lens on the sensor creates an image of a doorknob that fills the frame.

NCBob (author)2010-07-15

Simply awesome. I built this with a very cheap web cam and a Kiron 300 mm telephoto lense I had on my K-1000. At first I had the sensor WAY too far from the back of the lense, after re-reading the instructions I removed the majority of the distance and just holding it together and holding it by hand I was able to see some craters on the moon. I can't wait to get the right length PVC and make it permanent and also install it on the tripod I have. I only had the zoom at about 100mm and was seeing the moon in the entire screen. I also have a Clique HD webcam that I think I'll sacrifice for the final version, the cam I have now only has about 320x240 resolution, and only has 640x480 by interpolation. The Clique has native 1280x1024. As soon as I get it put together and have some pictures I'll definitely be posting them. Great instructable!!!!

NCBob (author)NCBob2010-07-15

Here's my first pictures, I still have it just a hair too long so I need to cut it down just a bit so I can get good focus.

wenpherd (author)2010-06-07

This is so cool! Heres a picture from mine.

About This Instructable



More by hanzablast:Universal (theft) protection for electronic equipment or cars with invisible switch40$ USB super telescope, easy to make, sees craters on the moon10 $ WIFI 16dBi Super Antenna Pictorial
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