Jan 04

M31 – The Andromeda Galaxy

On a recent trip to Hawaii I went to a star party hosted on the northern part of Hawaii at the Dillingers Air Base.

One of the main astronomical items I wanted to see while in the northern hemisphere was the Andromeda Galaxy. Since it is very low on the horizon where I live and unless I find a tall viewing point with clear views north I don’t get the chance to see it yet alone take images.

At the star party I did get to see it, along with a fantastic view of the night sky, it was so clear the number of stars visible was amazing.

As for imaging it, all I had was my DSLR (Canon 550D) with a 50mm f1.8 lens on a basic tripod. I took quite a few images but many had star trails from too long exposure with no tracking so I managed to pick about 16 reasonable frames, cropped them down and stacked them. The result was pretty ok considering:

M31 Andromeda Galaxy

M31 Andromeda Galaxy

If I’d known it’d work so well I’d have taken lots more and stacked for a better result.

Still inspiring for me.

Need to process all the other photos from the trip and add them to a gallery…



Apr 16

New Project

Hi all,

Yet another project on my current list, or two….

Been building a CNC machine for a hardware project I’ll be working on with a friend. Currently a 3-axis machine controlled by LinuxCNC system, eventually it will accommodate a machining tool, a pick and place tool and an extruder (for 3D Printing). I’ll also be building an embedded stand-alone controller so it can operate independent of the computer.

It will machine parts for me.

it will print parts for me (like new gears for the telescope mount).

and it will build circuit boards for me!

Speaking of the telescope, yes it needs better gears, current ones were hacked together so its not smooth or linear enough for me, also I plan to re-do parts of the code to improve its handling.

I really have too much to do in my spare time, need to win the Lotto so I can work on them full-time… :P

Anyways, here’s some pretty pictures of the machine until next update ;)
20130401_214949 20130403_215924

Aug 23

Source Code

Quick post,

As requested here is the current source code for my Scope Tracker. It’s not clean but it works for me.

Two main files, – main.c & scopetrack.h – in this zip file

I’ll get some schematics up later

One important thing to note, the redlib library that is supplied for NXP Programming has a bad file that unless they’ve fixed it since WILL need to be fixed of this code wont work, basically there is a bad offset in the port mapping, I’ll see if I can track down the file I changed to fix it and add it to this post…

edit: Found the file: #include <NXP/LPC17xx/LPC17xx.h> I had to fix the offsets for FIO2 & FIO3 references (I think – check differences with your own version and change as needed)


Feb 09

DIY Telescope Mount Version 2


Another long delay, but this time the telescope project has been totally remade.

All the framework has been machined out of Aluminum sheets making the unit much more rigid without being too heavy, plus re-sized to allow for a larger telescope in the future (the current 4.5″ mirror isn’t all that exciting… ). I’ve also used secondary gearing so I get more torque out of the motors as well as better accuracy – I now get 0.0018 degrees per step.

Electronics are based around the NXP LPCeXpresso dev board using an lpc1769 ARM processor. The NXP chip controls 3 separate motor circuits gated for 12V drivers ( Azimuth, Altitude and Focus) all timed off separate timers so each can be individually speed regulated. Communication with the PC is by a Bluetooth serial module and the board also drives a 132×132 pixel color LCDmodule to show tracking details. This chip runs at 120MHz and has plenty of speed to keep tracking and control as smooth as possible.

I’ve mostly programmed the NXP to emulate the SynScan AltAz GOTO mount commands as well as a few of my own custom for other work. This command set allows easy control via Stellarium software for field work.

This video shows the mount going from flat North to M48 then to the Moon via PC, then I click the Home button on the hand controller at the end.

This video is the same but from the software viewpoint.

Just need to weatherproof the electronics inside a box and add a stable mount. (then get a real telescope for it… )

Until next time!