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Semi DIY Temporary Obsy & Motorising Project


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2 hours ago, JSeaman said:

Of course, source attached


Just a simple joystick/menu and you select a pulse duration (250mS ish) and interval (8-10 minutes), nothign too fancy but you could do some ASCOM stuff if you wanted. There's also a simple left right (<>) nudge command so you can move it remotely

Observatory.ino 27.55 kB · 1 download

Thanks this looks great, have redownloaded the Arduino IDE and had a quick look - nice clear code that I think I can get my head around :)

Cant wait for some of the bits to arrive and start mocking this all up.

Which joystick are you using out of curiosity? I think im right in thinking this is a move to position and then set and forget method - I had visions of slaving the dome to the scope but that might end up being phase 2.

Edited by upahill
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Yes that's precisely how it works, the joystick is the same one you get in the starter kit (KY-023) eBay example 113839500270

I came to the same conclusion as you about slaving the dome but I'm almost at the point where I think I won't bother now

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Parts have arrived for some of it.


Next challenge will be building the support ring. It's not the most even of structures inside so getting a good fit all the way around is going to be difficult. I have considered cutting a simple ring and then fixing it only where the tangents meet. Alternatively I will have to get some larger timber and cut the angles worrying about the inner circle afterwards.

The weather is against me, as well as an impending holiday so going to have to see what little work I can get done in the evenings now as I dont have a day spare of the next 4 weeks :(

On a plus note the mount is in. On top of the pier its a lot "higher" than I had imagined it - wont be a problem with my small scope, but if I ever want to use the 10" its going to get a little cramped up in the dome. A combination of not being able to dig deeper and not being willing to cut blocks has led to that but nevermind.

I am getting to thinking about cabling and planning. Will make up some custom length braided USB and power leads to keep everything looking tidy. The 12V will be distributed from the pier but still deciding on best connectors to use for that. I have issues with the jack plugs working loose in the past so very tempted by XLR but its a bulky solution. The screw on jack plugs are nice but fiddly to get a good durable cable connection on them.



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Bit of a milestone, albeit an impromptu shortcut.

I took advantage of a couple of hours clear sky tonight but have been out all day so couldnt prep very well, since the sky was clear I decided to try and see if I could get the scope on the pier and the guidescope in focus.

Since this had arrived from China I hadn't had a chance to test it at all. I eventually found some extensions, the cameras, USB leads and the old laptop and woohoo it works.

Scrabbling around in the dark for stuff was not too pleasant so the next job is definately sorting out the electrics and lights, typically my head torch needs recharging so no help from that.

I also made a schoolboy error with the dome placement that only really became apparent tonight. Its not too late to fix but a major pain. The door to the obsy faces (apparently) roughly south, so if the aperture is facing polaris the door very almost catches on the support system for the aperture. Its also perfectly positioned to smack you in the head as you get in and out. I can counter this by rotating the whole structure 20 degrees but still annoying.

But the scope is in:


New jobs highlighted by tonights excursions:

  • Rotate base ring 20 degrees.
  • Finish wiring before attempting any more setup.
  • Find suitable sticky stuff remover, the velcro strips I took off the mount have left a horrid residue.
  • Finish custom USB cable plan and buy parts.
  • Figure out why the mount isnt sitting level on the pier adapter.

Someone at last years SGL said to me (sorry im useless at names) "Mount to scope ratio is about right", this picture really shows it - the TS65Q looks teeny here now the big guide scope is gone.

I decided a while ago that I needed a name for the obsy, so today I took the nameplate off my late Grandfathers house before it goes up for sale. He loved the stars and I thought it fitting to transfer the name across. Carillon Observatory.



Edited by upahill
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Actually managed a sort of first light last night. The consumer unit has been wired up to a caravan plug style socket which means I can unplug both ends and remove the lead for mowing etc. This meant the internal light works and the door now closes since there isn't an extension in the way. Such a small difference but made it so much more enjoyable being inside.

After setting up the scope I managed to find all leads and get my old laptop imaging. Turns out my Sharpcap license has expired so polar alignment was extremely crude and this meant PHD struggled to calibrate - will spend some more time on this as its going to need to be configured for the new guidescope focal length. The mount is making a bit of a whine during tracking and whilst this is probably 50% down to balance being slightly off I think I should probably consider a regrease/rebuild. The balance issue is a little trickier as I the only way I can see it being changed is to mount the scope further along the puck but both a) run out of dovetail and b) cause the focuser to foul against the puck. So a riser/spacer on the dovetail is needed as a bare minimum.

I was led on the floor with the laptop so desk is going to be critical, if for no other reason than the mount lead is relatively short compared to the rest of the cables and my knees are knackered. Had it not been for the discomfort I probably would have stayed out another couple of hours!

Also, and this is an urgent problem.... What does everyone do to keep the 8 legged crawlies out? I seem to have created a breeding dome for every spider in the garden - some of them do not look friendly!

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It's a small thing but this arrived in the post today, red braided sleeving so I can make up some custom length USB and power leads for everything, try and tame the tangle.


Looks a bit garish in that pic, but its darker IRL, with black cable inside it should look great. I have an idea for a USB hub/power box too that can be scope mounted but its going to take some butchery/3d printing/bodging to work.

With the weather as it is, and upcoming holidays/trips small indoor jobs are about the only thing I can do :(

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  • 3 weeks later...

Everything went on the back burner for a few weeks for a trip to Bodrum, Turkey - Lovely weather 26-30 during the day and the nights were all crystal clear so enjoyed some naked-eye stargazing. The light polution in and around the bodrum bay is terrible but the lack of clouds was nice, still very enjoyable but glad I didnt try to take a travel scope with me. Full moon whilst we were away which didnt help the viewing either, except for the moon of course.


The rooftop bar was a pretty awesome place to sit and watch the sky though. Very relaxing and managed to grab a few moon rises and sun rises from there.


Vitamin D topped up it was back to the obsy and 95% cloud cover 100% of the time....


Friday night I tried my luck at getting my first imaging session in from the obsy. Managed a crude polar alignment, and suprisingly this time everything just kind of worked equipment wise. Gathered about 60 x 180s on M33 + some darks when the clouds rolled in. Gave it a very quick process and crop in PI.


I still have some sensor tilt or pinched optics to deal with, and still using the DSLR for now until finances improve but im just glad I finally got a shot - its been so long! Due to aperture of my itsy-bitsy scope I managed to image for a full 90 minutes without even thinking of nudging the dome around. This is great news as the dome rotation is going to take some time to get sorted. It does make me feel more comfortable with the idea of not having it synced to scope straight away too as I can just nudge it or build it to move at sidereal.

I also noticed I had my backup 1200d on the scope and not the modded one, not much of an issue for this target but explains why some of the other test shots I was doing seemed a little muted.

Damp is clearly going to be an issue, made worse by the current non stop rain. I have a dehumidifer to put in but the open gap at the top makes me think I will just be dehumidifying my entire village constantly. When the rim for the timing belt is installed I might look at fitting a brush bar to the underneath of it to keep some of the cold out and the dryer air in. This will hopefully help with what is fast becoming the main downside to the observatory. Spiders! So many darn spiders!


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And another in the bank: M45 for a couple of hours last night during a clear spot. Need to take some flats to go with this data before I do anything else.


Only managed 60 x 180s and then overcooked it in processing but my guiding was much improved after a rebalance, new polar alignment and new calibration. I upped the guide speed from 0.1x to 0.5x which whilst noisier does seem to have helped a little.

The dehumidifier is very noisy and sounds like it might be on its last legs - thats a shame as was hoping I wouldn't need to buy one for a while, its also not very "smart" so I can't really do much other than twiddle a dial and hope it kicks off eventually.

Forecast is for another week of rain starting tonight, then its SGLSP, so will only get indoor projects done until then - no actual imaging time unless im very lucky. Depending on the state of the caravan I may have to bail on Lucksall, just haven't had the time to look at it or even check it still moves :D


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Well the wind the other night blew the aperture clean off the dome and soaked all the gear inside, so its been drying out over the past day or so. I think everything has survived so spending the clear day now sorting out the mess, de-spidering and running some trunking under the deck to get power to the pier without the trip hazard.

Since the sky is crystal and the forecast is looking good for this evening the focus is on reassembling all the gear so I can test it all out later.

I will probably run a seperate trunk for data cables, but not sure yet where I want the laptop/PC set up to be. This is one of the things I will experiment with today - I have custom USB cables to make to keep everything as short as possible but want to ideally avoid having a micro-pc mounted on the scope itself. Instead I am thinking I will just mount a small hub on the dovetail and run a single USB cable back to the computer. I will distribute 12v to the devices in much the same way with a seperate 12v hub.

I have been looking for a Powered USB 3.0 Hub PCB which I can integrate into a custom housing but not had any luck yet. Eventually I will need ports for Mount, Guidecam, Imaging camera, Focuser, Filterwheel and an automated flat/flap of some sort - so at least 6 ports,

Will spend a couple of hours tackling those annoying little jobs that need finishing and see where I get to and hopefully post some pictures.

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1 minute ago, Gina said:

What's wrong with having an SBC mounted on the scope?

Nothing really, just preference, I have tried INDI and couldn't get on with it, would prefer to stick to a windows based setup which would mean buying a SFF Windows PC - more expensive than a hub. I have plenty of systems around me which can run everything already so its just the more cost effective solution.

I might reconsider when I am using a larger scope, or have some disposable income but right now I am WAAAAYYYY over my astro budget :D


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Dehumidifier is in and working overtime. If I stick with this one ill need to plumb a hose to it to enable it to never fill.


Next little job was to install some filter on the internal light so I dont screw up my D.A every time I need to change a cable. I do have a red LED head torch but its handy for big stuff to be able to get a little more light.


The mount has dried out, been cleaned a little and some of the sticky stuff removed. I could really do with repainting that counter weight though!

With the cabling done again and a little neater this time I will have to go through a new polar alignment this evening before anything else.


The pier isnt very level up top, and to make it worse this EQ6 is obviously slightly different to the one that was on it previously. The raised lip where it mates to the pier adapter is ever so slightly deeper and wider so its rocking. To fix this temporarily I have raised the whole mount on three washers before clamping down. If I ever get a lathe I shall redo the internal recess on the adapter to offer a little more room.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well im putting it down to the sheer volume of rain we have been having but came home to find the dehumidifier screaming. It doesn't seem to be able to kick the compressor in so is resetting every 2 seconds. The bucket switch seems to functioning ok and can't see a seperate float switch so not really sure what is causing that. Will take another look in the daylight but I imagine that im going to have to replace that.

Picked up a storage solution for loose cables, tools etc which is astro-themed, £19 in Lidl....


Perhaps the biggest issue besides damp at the moment is the wildlife, we have some crazy 1cm spiders everywhere here at the moment, quite a few in the house, but they seem to be partying in the obsy. Whilst they look relatively harmless they freak me out, have started hiding in autoguider ports etc and frankly are just unpleasant. Going to have to figure out a way to keep them out a little better.

We have another insect which has decided to build a nest in the corner of the aperture, if I open the aperture im likely to crush them all so need to move/get rid somehow.

There are already a few fatalities around the dome floor :(


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Those all look like Harlequin ladybirds to me.  Killing them will do our native ladybirds a big favour.  They release some horrible chemicals when stressed or threatened, too.  I believe fly spray will do the job, or you can apparently fix a bit of loose-woven material (an old stocking or something like that?) over the end of a vacuum cleaner so it gets sucked inside, suck them up into the cloth and tie off the top so they can't escape.


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3 minutes ago, JamesF said:

Those all look like Harlequin ladybirds to me.  Killing them will do our native ladybirds a big favour.  They release some horrible chemicals when stressed or threatened, too.  I believe fly spray will do the job, or you can apparently fix a bit of loose-woven material (an old stocking or something like that?) over the end of a vacuum cleaner so it gets sucked inside, suck them up into the cloth and tie off the top so they can't escape.


I was worried that might be the case, as much as I hate insects - I do struggle to kill them.

A couple of them have released some pretty gross looking bright yellow liquid.

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I found that the patchy transparency of the fibre gel colouring causes my internal security camera to issue motion alerts when the sun changes internal illumination. So I'm painting mine. It may also help with condensation, but then so will a thin liner of neoprene on the roof. 

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3 hours ago, skybadger said:

I found that the patchy transparency of the fibre gel colouring causes my internal security camera to issue motion alerts when the sun changes internal illumination. So I'm painting mine. It may also help with condensation, but then so will a thin liner of neoprene on the roof. 

I had considered painting inside. If for no other reason than to try and make it look a little smarter. Also considered fitting a vent at the base of the ring to try and improve the air flow and reduce condenstation but more research needed before I do either I think.


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After a succesful nights imaging I have noticed a few issues which are bugging me,

1. Dew / Humidity is a problem. I have a new dew controller and strap to go on which will help during imaging but the humidity needs to be controlled in the dome the rest of the time. The dehumidifier that came with the dome is refusing to run for more than a few minutes so needs replacing, another £150 out of the ASI1600 fund :(

2. The scope is pretty close to the roof. A combination of having the pier base a little higher than the deck (5") and the pier being pretty tall to begin with. The only practical solution I can think of to solve this is to raise the entire dome by a foot or so. I could do this with a wooden ring between the deck and the dome, but still annoying and should have planned a bit better. It's fine now, but if I ever want to put a big newt on then it will be an issue. Another consideration will be the fact I can only just reach the shutter to pull it closed.

3. Slipped and almost broke my neck stepping out onto wet grass. Going to have to lay some blocks or build some steps up.

4. The red filter looks great on the light, but not very helpful during packup etc as theres just not enough light to work by.

5. Its freakin cold. Uninsulated it seems a bit pointless running a heater in there 24/7 so want to give some thought to how best to add insultation to the dome itself and the side panels.

6. The wheels on the dome are going to need replacing.

7. Imaging near the zenith is next to impossible at the moment, trying to line up everything so that both the main scope and guide scope can see out isnt happening.


Food for thought, going to start by desiging some plates to shut off under the dome from the outside and reduce the windage inside.


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Some bits arrived in the post today.

I have been searching for suitable replacement wheels for some time, with 16 needed in total I wanted a reasonably inexpensive option but with sizes that matched. That meant a 50mm wheel, with an 8mm bore on a mechanical not plain bearing.

Checked about every castor and wheel site I could find, but the closest was £4 each and was a plain bearing so not perfect.


This little lot arrived


Nice cheap castor wheels with brakes, 50mm diameter 23mm wide (curved not flat like the original)

They use 608ZZ bearings, so should have 8mm bores, the bolts in them are M6 which is annoying so need to get new bolts, but I believe there is a reducing sleeve inside which if removed will allow me to use a standard M8

Just need to find some spanners in the morning.

At £19.99 delivered for 16 if they work, a bargain.

Edited by upahill
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35 minutes ago, JamesF said:

That's astonishingly cheap!


Yeah, there not going to win any awards for quality but should do the job.


Its a chinese company selling them, but warehoused in UK - took 2 days to arrive.

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As expected there is a 8-6mm reducer bushing running between the two bearings, this is crimped in place by the looks of it, which means my two options are drill off the flange on one side to drop them out, or angle grind them off. No easy feat whilst they are spinning inside so need to give that some thought before attempting it.

A pathway has been added to the list of jobs, both SO and daughter have now slipped stepping down to the garden from the house and since im hoping that route will be high traffic during the many clear winter nights 😂 A safer path or step down at least is necessary, as is a small extension to the deck by the door.

With a deck extension I will have a bit better footing for getting in and out of the dome, but will need to move the todmorden a few feet as I still want to use that for visual (possible with the meade wedge permafixed)

Last few days I have spent tidying up gardens, cutting back hedges etc so not managed to do much on the dome itself - but have been reading a little more about levesdome, redesigning some of my custom flip-flat cover so making small chunks of progress.

Few hours part-clear tonight so will hopefully get a bit more imaging in too.

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