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Actual amateur telescopes are quite powerful and sofisticated. Costco sometimes sells computerized telescopes from Meade or Celestron that are capable of searching stars and planets automaticaly for about $300.

The problem

They all have weak tripods and simple focusing plastic gears that, combined, make the telescope shake when focusing or even at contacting the viewer with the skin. That is frustrating when sharing the view with friends and curious people from all ages as it is easy to loose the object from the viewer.

The solution

A video camera

As I like to share my telescope with friends, I decided to look for a camera to put in the telescope and show from my laptop screen what the

telescope is pointing at. There are instructables on how to adapt webcams for telescopes but I found a $9 camera on eBay that is easy to use.

An electric focusing device

I did not look for one in the web (if they exist) as I had a motor from a canibalized photocopier that runs very slow and has some torque.

Making one:

I took out the decal from the right focusing knob and unscrewed it loose (I actualy broke the screw as it was glued and forced it too much). Then I took measures using a digital caliper of the distances between screw holes, etc. I used Inkscape to draw the parts Made parts in acrilic using a laser cutter, then glued the parts using crazy glue and screwed the motor to the telescope using same screws from discarted plastic cover. As the telescope focusing rod has a flat side and the motor rod a stick that protrudes at the tip in both sides it was easy to make a connector.

Note: Another aproach is to model the motor holder in Blender and 3D print it but I wanted to spend the less time so 2D drawing and laser cutting are fastest. The whole job took me five hours.

Powering it

Used a 110VAC to 12V DC transformer, applied current to the motor and voilá! To change direction just change polarity and be careful not to go all the way as the acrilic connector can unglue or brake (cut some spare ones, just in case).

Making the most of the telescope camera

You can download SharpCap, a sofisticated software that controls many features of the data sent by the cheap camera: gamma, contrast, brightnes, etc. For me it is like getting into the serious astronomer enchilada.

I expect to have some interesting moments using my telescope that layed in the closet for quite some time.

<p>Nice, good ideas. You might also attack the tripod and try to stiffen it up. Perhaps with printed or routed parts.</p>
<p>True Russ, I surround the tripod with wire making an X between each leg and it stiffens the whole thing in some degree. The electric focuser is not perfect, as image moves up or down a little when reversing motion. Will try a $10 sun filter for daytime astronomy, just ordered one from eBay :)</p>

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