Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)
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Old 06-29-2011   #1
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Default Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

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I thought this may be of interest to some folks who have an interest in astrophotography. One of the major problems people encounter with astrophotography is that the earth keeps spinning, with wide angle short exposures ( under 30 seconds) are OK but you have to crank the ISO way up. As you start getting a longer focal length the amount of time you have to expose before the stars star trailing drops drastically.

There are several methods to counteract this, Scotch mounts (aka Haig mount aka Barndoor mount) are the simplist form of correction, ive built a couple of these now and have learned enough about the designt to see where the flaws are.

Ive been working with a machinist to build a new one, i have a pretty ambitious goal for my tracking with the new design.

This project may work out wonderfully, it also may go down in a ball of flames. This is not a thread to sell this stuff, but more of a blog to show my experience in this project.

Design goals on this

1) Track accuratly at longer focal lengths (800mm for 1min with proper alignment)
2) To provide between 1.5 to 2 hours of tracking
3) Incorperate a fast easy method for polar alignment
4) An all inclusive box. No accessories needed, just put between your current tripod head and legs.
5) A simple visual reference to gauge how much time is left before the system must reset.
6) Hopefully be able to be incorperated into timelapse systems.
7) its gotta look cool too.


I am going to be honest, if this works and works well i plan to sell these, but first they must work properly, and then i will find a proper outlet for the sale of these, it will not be done through this site or any other forum board. This thread is meant to be educational and to document the progress so people can sort of follow along the proto typing process, testing, re-designing, etc. Maybe get some ideas if you would like to build your own.

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Old 06-29-2011   #2
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Default Re: Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

Here is my most recent incarnation of a tracker. This one works pretty well, in less than a minute i can achieve polar alignment accurate enough to track a star at 200mm for over 3 minutes. That means i SHOULD be able to get a star at 800mm for 45 seconds.



The only problem is the stability of this design prevents that from happening, there is an issue with the centering of the thread and lack of stabilization on the two halves that show the weakness of the design. As seen in the image below, any level of wobble or inaccuracy really show up.



However, with this same tracker i can get some pretty good wide angle, i can track for hours with this design at 10-18mm and really get some nice shots.

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Old 06-29-2011   #3
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Default Re: Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

Over the last few days i have been recieving all the parts in the mail, so far i have the microcontrollers with upgraded processors, a myriad of various sensors, and some of the hardware. Still have not recieved the stepper motor, or the blank PCB's.

Once my current tracker opens too far i have to disengage the wheels and back it up by hand, this new design prevents that because the gears will be held and secured on bearings. So i have to uncorperate a way for the system to know when to stop. So i need to be able to detect when it is at the end of its cycle, thus the need for the sensors, I dont know which are best, so i have a few whisker switches, magnetic sensors, and a photon-break sensor.

Im going to have a lot of code i have to write out for this. I better brush up on my C++. lol.
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Old 06-29-2011   #4
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Default Re: Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

If you do sell these, I might be interested.
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Old 06-29-2011   #5
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Default Re: Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

Count me in on that one I been saying I want to build a double barn door but can't figure out the diagram at all nor how to wire it up so I am interested.

And your thread is in the right area.
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Old 07-01-2011   #6
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So i met with my machinist yesterday, gave him the gears and such so he can start working on building the mounting plate for the gears and stepper motor. He showed me a few parts he has been working on, including an ingenious method of getting the curved rod to a very exact arc without damaging the threads.

Now we both have our work cut out for us, once he gets the measurements i need to get the sensors back from him so i can start wiring up/programming the microcontroller.

The entire system is going to be closed in a box, i dont want the electronics or gears and such exposed to the elements.

This causes a a new challange, in my previous design everything is there in the open, and to rewind it i disengage the gears and just spin the larger gear back up the rod then re-engage the gears. No problem.

In this design i wont be able to do that, so it will have to have a reset-rewind feature. The system will also have to know when it is fully opened, and fully closed. To do this i am trying a variety of methods, light sensors, magnetic sensors, whisker switches. So that is gonna take a bit of experimentation and playing with code, upon recieving the whisker switches and seeing thier size, i think they will probably be the best route.

Also i want to have a simple LED visual indicator, so you can just look at it and be able to have a rough idea of how much time you have left. Of course with LED's ill also have to have an LED Kill switch if you are taking this to an astronomy club.

I am hoping to provide 1.5 hours of non stop tracking.

For the prototype i will probably be using an Arduino for getting the coding setup, then once that is working ill be converting it over to a Launchpad microcontroller with an upgraded processor. I have high hopes for these boards, but they are not nearly as user friendly, but i found a way i can program them the same was as an arduino. (an arduino is sort of overkill for this)

So the machinist is working on the Jaw, the top of the box, and the mounting plate, beneath, once those are made i start working out the electronics, then afterwards we design the rest of the enclosure.

The complexity is growing, 1 microcontroller, 1 driver, power board, PCB for solder connections, several switches for the jaw movement, start button, reset button, led graph, LED kill switch, stepper motor, and a lot of coding. good times.
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Old 07-01-2011   #7
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Default Re: Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Ripper View Post
So i met with my machinist yesterday, gave him the gears and such so he can start working on building the mounting plate for the gears and stepper motor. He showed me a few parts he has been working on, including an ingenious method of getting the curved rod to a very exact arc without damaging the threads.

Now we both have our work cut out for us, once he gets the measurements i need to get the sensors back from him so i can start wiring up/programming the microcontroller.

The entire system is going to be closed in a box, i dont want the electronics or gears and such exposed to the elements.

This causes a a new challange, in my previous design everything is there in the open, and to rewind it i disengage the gears and just spin the larger gear back up the rod then re-engage the gears. No problem.

In this design i wont be able to do that, so it will have to have a reset-rewind feature. The system will also have to know when it is fully opened, and fully closed. To do this i am trying a variety of methods, light sensors, magnetic sensors, whisker switches. So that is gonna take a bit of experimentation and playing with code, upon recieving the whisker switches and seeing thier size, i think they will probably be the best route.

Also i want to have a simple LED visual indicator, so you can just look at it and be able to have a rough idea of how much time you have left. Of course with LED's ill also have to have an LED Kill switch if you are taking this to an astronomy club.

I am hoping to provide 1.5 hours of non stop tracking.

For the prototype i will probably be using an Arduino for getting the coding setup, then once that is working ill be converting it over to a Launchpad microcontroller with an upgraded processor. I have high hopes for these boards, but they are not nearly as user friendly, but i found a way i can program them the same was as an arduino. (an arduino is sort of overkill for this)

So the machinist is working on the Jaw, the top of the box, and the mounting plate, beneath, once those are made i start working out the electronics, then afterwards we design the rest of the enclosure.

The complexity is growing, 1 microcontroller, 1 driver, power board, PCB for solder connections, several switches for the jaw movement, start button, reset button, led graph, LED kill switch, stepper motor, and a lot of coding. good times.

What about adding a photo-reflector sensor so that it tells the micro controller when it has reached is destination Stop/Start point I can show you a picture from one of the machines at my job so you can see what I am talking about the sensor is like 3 bucks and in the center something will enter and when the beam is blocked the machine stops. It looks like this
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Old 07-01-2011   #8
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Default Re: Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

Photo Interrupter GP1A57HRJ00F - SparkFun Electronics <---- like this right? this is one of the sensors im playing with.
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Old 07-01-2011   #9
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Yeah but leave yourself the option for a quick disconnect cable like the one I presented because if it's the type that has to be soldered if the photointeruptor goes bad
in order to replace it you have to desolder where as on the type I illustrated you disconnect the sensor and replace it with the new one quick 1 sec change makes it
much more efficient for repairs & turn around time.
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Old 07-03-2011   #10
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Default Re: Project Orion (Astrophotography Tool)

Just got back from seeing my machinist, the mounting plate is looking good, after this will be the top plate and moving jaw, once i get those i get to work on the programming, soldering, etc, then back to the machinist for final construction.

There is a milled threaded insert in the larger gear to accept the curved rod, and that gear is going to be sandwiched between two plates with bearings on the top and bottom to ensure smooth precise movements.

Good times, with any luck in a few weeks the prototype will be running.



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