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Standalone mount for astro photography

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Picture of Standalone mount for astro photography
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
hinge
kitchen cabinet knob
optional: 'angle meter'
scrap wood pieces

costs: 10 - 15 E or $
 
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Step 1: Mounting for camera on timer

Picture of 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.

marktch1 year ago
hello~your idea is amazing. May I ask you that how to due with power supply if I do not have AC supply??
epo5 years ago
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
BobS (author)  epo5 years ago
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).
deth2all6 years ago
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.
BobS (author)  deth2all6 years ago
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)
deth2all BobS6 years ago
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.
mcvarij6 years ago
What about the camera itself? Is it a special camera? How do you set the exposure time?
BobS (author)  mcvarij6 years ago
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.
razordu306 years ago
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 =)
BobS (author)  razordu306 years ago
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....
CameronSS BobS6 years ago
Have you seen it through a telescope yet? Pretty darned cool. Not Hale-Bopp or McNaught, but still bright enough to find easily.
trebory6 BobS6 years ago
I was going to ask the same question, razordu30. That would be GREAT when you get picks up! Nice job too!
Marojale6 years ago
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.
BobS (author)  Marojale6 years ago
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.
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