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Ardufocus is a full open source Moonlite compatible focuser.
The source is still under heavy development so things move around a bit.
To access source code and detailed instructions visit the Github repository, for the 3D objects visit Thing #2446069.
After buying the CCD, filter wheel and filters I was broke but still wanted to have an automatic focuser.
Moonlite compatible: This was a very important part of the design as I didn't want to spend time and effort dealing with ASCOM and INDI drivers, the Moonlite focuser is a well known, reputable rock solid focuser. The serial protocol used by them was easily reversed engineered (plain ASCII) and most of it was already documented on the Internet. Cheap: Another big point was to made it as cheap as possible recurring to as few parts as needed. That's the reason why the 28BYJ-48 stepper motor was chosen, out-of-the-box using the ULN2003 gives you a really cheap (less than 2€) focuser for medium loads (380gcm). If you require the focuser to driver heavier loads (800gcm) then the motor itself can be modded into a Bipolar stepper motor and driven by the A4988 step stick which will cost you less than 1€. Builder friendly: Using off-the-shelf components such as the Arduino Nano and easily available parts Ardufocus is aimed to be build by anyone with a soldering iron and some patience, no degree in electronics required.
It was built on top of a standard ATmega 328 Arduino such as UNO, Pro or Nano; currently it does not support the Mega or any other ARM based board.
1x Arduino Nano 1x A4988 Stepper Motor Driver Module 1x Electrolytic capacitor 10uF 1x NTC 10K 5% 1x Resistor 1/4W 10K 1x DC Power connector (male, female pair) 1x DB9 connector (male, female pair) 1x 28BYJ-48 Stepper motor
3D printed parts
To download and print instructions for the 3D printed parts have a look at the Thing #2446069.
A4988 driver with a Bipolar motor
Example schematic how to building and Ardufocus using a modded 28BYJ-48 Stepper motor.
I bought a new CEM25P and just spend two nights trying to get it to track. I've had many GEM mounts over the last 30 years, so I thought this would easy. But it seems that either I have a problem with the mount, or I am getting old. I leveled, balanced, and polar aligned the mount well. Then I attached a guide scope. I did NOT attach the cable from the guidescope to mount. I also did not attach the mount to my computer. This way I could watch stars drift and get an idea of was going on with just the mount. I checked the CEM25's tracking rate, and it is set to sidereal. LAT/LONG and perfect. Time accurate. Next, I watched stars drift on my laptop using PHD. When the mount is turned on, and tracking turned ON - the stars move somewhat quickly in RA. Like they are slewing slowly. When I turn OFF the tracking (zero key) they still drift, but a little slower. When I turn off the power to the mount, of course the stars drift, but at slower rate still - normal sidereal rate. When I turn the power back on the stars drift a little faster. Turn the tracking back on, and they drift faster still. But when I set the slew speed to 2x, and press and hold down the left arrow key, and the stars STOP drifting. Perfect tracking.
Thanks for any advice! CF
I'm debating if I want to buy some binoculars or not to assist me in find deep sky objects. I currently have the Cekestron Omni 150XLT Newtonian telescope and live in the heavily light polluted city of Dallas so by looking at star charts I can find the general area of some Messier objects like the whirlpool galaxy but can't see them with my naked eye, so would buying a pair of low powered binoculars assist me in seeing these objects so I can align my telescope with them to get an even better view?
Last summer I figured out how to capture images of meteors during the Perseid shower using my iPhone 6+ and the app NightCap Pro. Since then I have managed to grab over 200 of these speed freaks. I built a barn door tracker and learned how to drive it with an Arduino, Easy Driver and a salvaged bipolar stepper motor from a dead Epson printer. After numerous adjustments of the code to get the speed just so I can get 5 minute shots with little to no trailing in the wide field work I am doing. The tracker can run for about 5 hours before it needs to be rewound to the starting point. The variable interval setting in NightCap Pro is perfect for the kind of images I am after. Attached is one of those Perseids that started this whole affair well beffore my barn door tracker came to be.
Of course this was enough to cause an addiction, and I bought a little Celestron C90 mak. I love the scope, even though it isn't an earth based Hubble. The erector prism is a joke as is the tripod and finder scope, but the main scope is a fine little machine. So far I have managed a few fair shots of Jupiter and Saturn, but my barn door tracker is not sturdy enough to carry the scope.
In an attempt to overcome this I bought the iOptron Skytracker Pro and matching ball head. Let me just say I am far from impressed. This tracker is mounted on a 1/4" plate of aluminum which is in turn mounted to a water filled 55 gallon drum that serves as a large pier. My barn door tracker is also mounted to this plastic drum, and the barrel sits on a thick bed of crushed limestone. I also drove steel T posts into the ground nearly level with the barrel top, and then clamped all this together with a 1 ton ratchet strap. No matter how hard I crank down the setting knobs on the ball head the scope droops slowly to plumb. When I just mount my iPhone to the ball head this issue doesn't arise, and I have made 25 minute exposures with nice crisp stars. The scope is supposed to be well within the capacity of the tracker and ball head, but apparently is not.
So, my next purchase, after months of research, is going to be the Celestron Advanced VX mount, and I may give the iOptron gear to a deserving kid. I don't care about serious deep field work, but the C90 can easily resolve more faint objects than I thought it would. Resolving the major moons of Jupiter is a trvial endeavor. The narrow field of view doesn't bother me at all. Perhaps I will buy a larger scope in a year or so and use the C90 as a guider.
Some personal info:
I am a retired 63 year old man and live off the grid in north central Arkansas Ozark mountains on 60 acres with my wife of 24 years. In a former life I was the executive director of a small natural history musem that focused on the terrestrial fuana of the very latest Cretaceous of the Hell Creek formation in South Dakota (when non-avian dinosaurs became extinct). Currently I am attempting to recover from a broken fibula that happened the second monday of March, but had a CAT scan last Friday in preparation for reconstruction surgery later this week. The breaks, yes multiple fractures, have failed to reunite as they should. This, of course, will mean a restart of the mending and effectively put my sky watching in a bind for another 6-8 weeks. Even if I am back on crutches I will be ready for the Perseid shower, and will probably visit with my son in Oregon to watch the total solar eclipse in August.
So, here I am and eager to absorb the collective knowledge I have already seen is a commonality on your fine forum. Thanks for having me. Perhaps I can even contribute a few tidbits from time to time.
First post - so I hope I'm putting this in the right place. I wonder if anyone can help? I've got an EQ3 synscan mount which sits on top of a concrete pillar. Despite the Rigid Pillar and good Polar alignment I get terrible Goto's and Tracking. I wonder if upgrading to an EQ5 might solve some of the problems. It seems, from the reviews, to be a much more accurate mechanism. But if I did that is there any way I could buy the basic EQ5 and use my current EQ3 Synscan motors/handset with it. Buying the whole EQ5 with synscan is horribly expensive, and having already got the synscan unit would seem a waste.