Standalone Mount for Astro Photography





Introduction: Standalone Mount for Astro Photography

About: No more fun than demolition, designing, building, experimenting! I like making things on a really low budget , so most people in this world, who are poor, might benefit from my ideas

This little mount allows a light camera to follow the stars as they move through the sky. Exposure times of a minute are no problem. To get great astro photos you can stack several images.

Materials needed:

Electromechanical timer
small tripod, at least the top part or camera head
PVC couplings
aluminum strip
clamp and/ or insert with camera thread
single outlet
white power cord
kitchen cabinet knob
optional: 'angle meter'
scrap wood pieces

costs: 10 - 15 E or $

Step 1: Mounting for Camera on Timer

Electromechanical timers have a clock which rotates once in 24 hrs. The earth rotates in a similar time frame. The timer has to be positioned toward the North star and the camera will follow the sky! (the axis of rotation has to point to the North star)

The camera head has to be connected to a cap for PVC sink pipe. A small piece of PVC sink pipe has to be glued on the circular part with all the levers for switching on and off. This is the rotating part.

The cap with the camera head is NOT glued on the sink pipe. This allows the contraption to be set up without the camera attached (in the dark). When everything is ready the cap with camera can be gently pushed over the sink pipe. If you don't have a camera head in your drawer buying a mini tripod is the way to go: very cheap.

Step 2: Board to Hold Timer

This board ('timer board') is going to be tilted perpendicular toward the north star. There is a hole in the center to receive the timer. Underneath this hole is an outlet, stripped of its casing. When the timer is inserted in the outlet, it is held in place nicely.

VERY IMPORTANT: the outlet underneath this board has to be shielded so it is impossible to touch any live parts. After all you will be working with this device in the dark, when dew might be forming!
That is why the power cord should be white, to prevent tripping over it.

This board will be connected to the base board by a hinge. The base board has a strip of aluminum with a slot sticking up. The timer board has a kitchen knob on the side which sticks through the strip. This way the timer board can be set at the proper angle, even when traveling.

To help adjustment I attached an 'angle meter' to the side. I live 52 degrees North, so I have to set it at 38 degrees (90 - 52).

Step 3: Base Board

The picture shows the inner side of the mount. The base board has a clamp attached to it. The clamp can rotate, not too easily. To suit your needs, you could also put an insert for your tripod in it.
The hinge and the aluminum strip, with the kitchen knob for adjustment can be seen at the bottom of the pic. A simple wooden box construction keeps the live parts of the outlet out of reach.

Step 4: Steam Punk Version!

The device works great!!! Only there is one problem: you need electricity. Often there is a lot of light pollution near your outlet.

So, just when I finished and tested this mount, I found a mechanical 24 hrs clock!!!

Since it was all brass, I built the mount in style (neo renaissance/ steam punk????). This mount works similar. One problem: the clock went the wrong way. I used 2 identical old printer gears to reverse the rotation.

This mount works great as well!

If you live in the southern hemisphere, your clock has to turn the other way. You might have to do my trick with the gears. But perhaps the clock can be turned around (????).



    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest
    • Make it Move Contest

      Make it Move Contest
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    Good job, Bob

    Have you got any pictures of stars? Thanks. Michal

    hello~your idea is amazing. May I ask you that how to due with power supply if I do not have AC supply??


    Hi! Been searching forever for a mechanical, non electric clock (most mechanical clock stops at an hour) and then there's your instructable. Exactly what I'm looking for! Would you mind telling me where you got the clock ... specs? Will appreciate it very much. Thanks. Edgar

    1 reply

    The clock was part of a broken registering thermometer from the university dumpster. An old fashion alarm clock could also be used, although some cogwheels/ gears 1: 2 would have to be found somewhere (and built on).

    dude, ive been trying and trying to think of a way to track stars.... great idea, but one question, how much weight will this handle? i have a large dslr with a zoom lens.

    2 replies

    Since I posted this instructable, I bought a dslr, and indeed, it is too heavy. Ithink the only possibility is to build a stand with a geared motor. In the astro community there is a lot of know how how to build something like this, with servo or stepper motors. (google telescope drive)

    dude, i did some research and have found the answer, "Google" barn door mount. all it is is a clock motor and 2 pieces of wood. my instructable on it is coming soon.

    What about the camera itself? Is it a special camera? How do you set the exposure time?

    1 reply

    Any camera which can open the shutter for 10+ seconds at 400+ ASA. For the best results you make 10 or more pictures. You have to stack them with a program like 'Astrostack'. Not very quick or easy. Each picture contains a lot of static, stacking averages the pics, so the true signal is greatly increased. The resulting image can be 'stretched' or contrast and brightness can be adjusted, to reveal a very rich sky, in which even faint stars and nebulae show up. The timer clock is of course no precision instrument, but errors don't show in 30 sec exposures.

    This looks really cool! My only note would be to add a picture you've taken using this device so people can understand what the end result is.

    It's got the makings of a great instructable, though - cheap, easy, and what is possibly a dramatic result. Good job =)

    3 replies

    Unfortunately I just had a hard disk crash :( . The astro pics were on it.......... But then, there is a comet coming up (Oct 2007). So hopefully, if the weather gods look upon us favorably, some pics will follow....

    Have you seen it through a telescope yet? Pretty darned cool. Not Hale-Bopp or McNaught, but still bright enough to find easily.

    I was going to ask the same question, razordu30. That would be GREAT when you get picks up! Nice job too!

    Instead of wasting a whole mini-tripod, you could probably just use a fitting with a 1/4"-20 bolt through it. As far as I remember, most cameras use that size for tripod mounting.

    1 reply

    You do need a camera head (I mean: the top part of the tripod, from which you can point the camera to everywhere), to be able to point it to any part of the sky. Otherwise, you could only take pics of the sky around the celestial equator ( the circular part of the sky perpendicular to the North star.