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Tripod leg anti-bump lights


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I saw a suggestion somewhere (possibly in SGL) to attach lights to your tripod legs (dark-adaption-friendly ones, of course). The idea being to avoid accidental collisions, especially at star parties or outreach events. We experience this quite regularly at home too, so I decided it was worth pursuing (and also, as users of go-to functionality, I’m getting tired of repeating alignment operations throughout the evening).

The very simple idea was a (removable) clip for each leg, each with an LED. I briefly considered a self-contained battery to power each, but decided that charging them was too much hassle (and I also doubted finding LEDs that would operate at such low voltage). Instead, they would be fed from the USB port on the power supply I previously rigged up. I thought the LEDs would be more noticeable if flashing, and found these.

My SkyWatcher 150i tripod has 1.25” upper legs and 1” lower. Since collisions are most likely with the lower legs, it was that diameter I worked with. I looked for plastic pipe clips of this size (the most common ones are 15mm and 22mm used for plumbing) and found these. They have a hole for a fixing screw that can be used to hold an LED, and they have a hinged collar for holding the tube, which preserves a gap that allows electrical connections to pass.

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The screw hole in the clip was wide enough to admit the LED body but not the rim. To allow the LED to protrude from the clip I drilled out the holes a little wider, and about 2/3 of the distance through the clip. The LED could then be pushed through until the rim engaged, and the terminal leads were bent into a succession of right angles to guide them to the top of the clip. I found some twin speaker wire in my junk box, and soldered lengths to each LED’s terminals. The clips have a channel along the edge to allow them to be ganged together. I opened them out with a needle file so that the speaker wire was a tight fit when pressed in – this was for strain relief.

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I covered over the soldered joints with some scrap plastic strip, screwed into the clip, and pushed some Araldite into the hole and around the exposed metal, to prevent shorting:

 

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These LEDs seem to work on 5.1V without needing a series resistor, so I twisted the positive and negative ends of the three speaker cables to run directly in parallel. I cannibalised a USB cable for its male socket, and soldered it (with a bit of its flex) to the speaker wires. The USB wires were quite flimsy, so I reinforceded the joint by gluing, sliding over some bits of thin plastic tubing and wrapping with duct tape.

The clips are a very tight fit onto the tripod legs; with hindsight I’d try to find some slightly larger. I’d planned on adding and removing them as needed, but decided to leave them permanently attached:

 

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Total cost: £8.39

 

 

 

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I use similar lights all run off a mobile phone power bank and a simple dimmer circuit, its a must for me as I keep running back to the kitchen during an imaging run and cant see a thing when I go back outside.

Alan

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice build, I used Leds (suitably resistores) clipped to coin cells in clear plastic bags. Used a pile at a starparty, Chuck them about, collect in when finished. There is no shortage of stuff to avoid at night (at starparties) or just to mark a safe route.

Peter

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I do much the same.

But my LEDs are angled down onto the tripod feet so as not to affect peoples night vision. Even "Red LEDs" pointed towards an observer can destroy night vision if you or anyone can see the LED emitter directly, so a soft diffused reflection is best.

The grey boxes contain two Red LEDs each and just emit onto the leg adjusters.

LED leg lighting.png

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  • 3 weeks later...

My male power socket on the Skywatcher EQM 35 Pro has a red LED that brightens up a 2 meter circle around the mount. It’s so bright I put a layer of white duct tape over it to tame it down some. My wife and I live alone and off the grid well back in the forest so crowds gathering around my scope isn’t likely. A deer just might rub against the mount if I leave it out unattended, but I doubt a couple LED’s could assuage a curious young deer.

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