Photographer makes DIY telescope to take incredible pictures of the moon

Photographer makes DIY telescope to take incredible pictures of the moon

Telescope and example

A photographer has used his 3D printer to create an impressive 900mm reflector telescope that is so easy to assemble that “it’s like putting together furniture from IKEA”.

The design, which Jonathan Kissner refers to as “Hadley”, features a 114/900mm reflector with a spherical primary mirror housed in mainly 3D printed parts.

Kissner also says his Hadley telescope can double as a terrestrial scope for wildlife viewing and even as a slow f/8 zoom lens for photography.

Take pictures through the DIY telescope

Kissner takes pictures through the telescope with a Google Pixel 4a mobile phone. To combat the atmospheric turbulence that wreaks havoc on long-exposure images, he chose to shoot a video at 60 frames per second.

“Any given frame was worse than what we would see at the eyepiece,” Kissner tells PetaPixel. “Our brain does a lot of work to make sense of a noisy image, composing on the fly. This process, called ‘lucky imaging’, can produce results far beyond what the eye sees, but this requires better data.

“Eventually I will use an astro camera with the 3D printed telescopes, but one step at a time.”

Once saved, Kissner imports the videos he captures into an app called Planetary Imaging PreProcessor (PPIP) and then adjusts them with another called Registax. Both are free programs available online. Then, after some more image processing with GIMP, he ends up with a usable image worthy of sharing online.

Kissner hopes to have a camera mount designed for future use. He also has another telescope design on his website, as well as a focuser and a Newtonian mirror cell for a reflector telescope.

Creating the DIY telescope

Kissner decided to make his DIY telescope because of the abundance of what he calls “hobby killer” scopes in the $100 to $200 range, which are difficult to use with poor parts.

“It is my hope that by releasing this, more people will find an open door to entry-level planetary observation and astrophotography,” Kissner wrote on his Printables build log.

Hadley is actually his second attempt at 3D printing a usable telescope. His first was more of a path finder to refine his design. This scope was much larger as it was a 152/1300mm red reflector telescope which Kissner admits was very difficult to build. But with the lessons learned from that design, he was able to create a universal design that was both accessible and practical, while also being easy to copy.

The basic design is centered around parts that are printed on a standard FDM 3D printer. Each model has been placed in its strongest orientation and without the need for wasteful supports that can add time and cost to the prints. There are a total of 27 different parts for 3D printing. The design also uses some sort of screw (in varying lengths) and nuts to keep things simple, and according to Kissner, either metric or imperial will work.

The biggest challenge for Kissner was the mirror itself. A traditional parabolic mirror found in large telescope arrays would have been prohibitively expensive for a telescope of this size. But Kissner found that with the focal length he was after and its ratio, a spherical mirror was a more cost-effective stand-in. Kissner also discovered in his research that many commercially built scopes make a similar compromise.

Kissner was able to find mirror kits for a 114/900mm spherical primary and elliptical secondary pair on eBay or AliExpress for around $20, although he said this is subject to fluctuations. There is also a listing for a similar mirror set on Amazon. Add to that $100 in printing materials and other parts, plus a good set of eyepieces for $50, and you have a pretty effective telescope for under $200.

A complete list of parts and plans for building the telescope is available on Printables.

The design also lends itself to customization, with added starburst effects, including the six-spike style of the new James Webb Telescope, the four-spike style of the Hubble Space Telescope, or even a diffraction spike-free look.

Image credit: All photos by Jonathan Kissner.

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