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Welcome to the Skybadger astronomical pages.

This website is to record an interest in astronomy and share the results.

The background page attempts to explain why I am interested in astronomy and provides a potted history of astronomy experience and publications.

The equipment page more fully describes the equipment I have, its limitations and why I use it. The biggest downside to astronomy as a hobby is that it can be very expensive, especially if you haven't got the time, the skill or sometimes the equipment to make parts you need, you have to buy, beg or swap them ....


News - May 2013

there's a bundle of projects going on at Skybadger at the mo - depends on the weather and the work which gets attention at any one time and how much...

  • Construction of the Horshoe 12" telescope
  • Construction of gearbox for Horseshoe telescope
  • Construction of adapter to fit Skywatcher cheap pole finder to Vixen Polarie
  • Construction of 12" Cassegrain OTA in truss-tube & plywood
  • RA and Dec Readout project using LCD and encoders
  • Servo motor controller for Horseshoe telescope drives
  • Encoder embedded reader
  • Multiple enoder display unit for push-to operation of the telescope.
  • Magnetometer using PIC and Speake and Co Fluxgate sensor.
  • Replacement of the Telescope mounting plate with an Altair Telescope Mounting System plate spec ifically to carry a a new Vixen NA14OSF refractor.
  • Photography season 2012
  • Photography so far 2013
  • Construction is now complete of the large split ring horseshoe mount intended for big-aperture (16") observing. It's currently mounted with the 12" Newtonian OTA and optics - the mirrors are from the Worthing Observatory Telescope which they replaced with a Lottery-funded Meade.

    The horseshoe is satisfactory but seems to 'cog' on the small roller wheels the circle rides on - maybe its the bearings in the small axle. So the current effort is spent in making a gearbox to drive via a DC gearmotor in the RA and Dec axiis. Its also an equatorial and not a dobsonian hence the balance is very close to the mirror, the axle is very free and balance by counterweights becomes critical.

    See the details so far here

    2012 has been primarily about imaging of jupiter during the opposition with a Philips SPC900 webcam using eyepiece projection on the Vixen refractor.See some images in the imaging->Planets section

    I have also been taking some DSLR images of the more obvious Messiers while I get to grips with the colour conversion from Nikon NEF in RGB to colour JPEG for display. To make life easier I bought an Off-Axis Guider of the Orion adjustable type from Bern at Modern Astronomy and machined a custom adapter for the Visac to allow the camera to reach focus on the Visac with the DSLR and Visac focal reducer. News: I replaced this recently with a Telescop Service ultra-thin one - it removes all the back-focus distance problems I was having.

    Older Work

    Projects completed a while ago to be found in th esite are:

    • The raising of the new observatory pier. I have completed a massive new steel telescope pier and successful removal of the old one from the observatory requiring a full observatory strip-down and rebuild.
    • The competion and first run of a M-O-M Mirror making machine used for grinding a 6" first mirror..
    • The system requirements and design for a Telescope system controllerconsisting of motors, encoders, handset, telescope pointing model and PEC.
    • The ASCOM dome automation pages under the techniques section to finish off the record of the Skybadger observatory automation. Note that these are still missing the drive belt and sprockets modification to provide more torque to the dome rim using 1/2" pitch drive belt glued on. Pictures are at the bottom of the page.
    Cleaned up mount Mount on observatory pier-wide view Mount on observatory pier - full view Mount on observatory pier - left view

    The old Astro Systems of Luton Mount purchased from MikeMS which was to be the basis of my long term heavyweight telescope mounting capability is now complete, tested and mounted on the pier in the observatory.

    More details with pictures here

    Projects in Astronomy include:

    • After swapping the Newtonian Mount and OTA with MikeMS for a MoM mirror grinding machine in an almost completed state, I have fixed it up, completed it, varnished it and have completed a 6" trial mirror to the polishing stage. along the way I needed to make a spherometer, mirror mount for testing, foucault tester and light source. There are some pictures:
      Mirror grinding platter - tool on top while grinding Mirror grinding tool - Edge-on tile and concrete tool on top Mirror grinding small platter - tool on top showing clamps Mirror grinding small platter - tool on top showing routing of clamp nut retaining slots. Mirror grinding tools - beam spherometer showing adjustable spacing & bearing feet Mirror grinding tools - beam spherometer showing adjustable spacing & bearing feet Foucault tester and light source

    • I have removed the pan-and-tilt webcam and am replacing it with a low-light wide-angle camera for monitoring the inside of the observatory. Try here for a streamed media feed, if turned on.

    • Implementing the thermal scanning cloud camera on the observatory. The housing and panning mechanism is in place now. I can control and query it via VBScript here or there is the tool from DevaSys to create an image. This goes with the Devantech USB to I2C Adapter for easy Comm port access to the I2C bus. The next step is wrap this up in more script and make it create colour images from the output.

    • Logging the magnetic compass field data and comparing with published magnetic field data to check whether I can use this data as an aurora alert meter.
      These results are now in and the answer is yes - if you can a sufficiently stable power supply. I'm using two 6V/3AH batteries in series to give 12V and +/-6 off a 5W solar panel and tend to get good results for a few days and the n during the day only after that as the batteries have emptied their own charge. See this page for some results : Results from a I2C robotics magnetometer

    • Changing the GP-DX drive gearing from 1:1 off the motor to 1:2 off the motor. This gives increased torque at the worm for driving heavier loads. The SS2K controller has had its speed settings increased appropriately to adjust. See the above picture for details. The gears are HPC 84:42 teeth Mod 48 in steel. The boss needs to be a tight 6.0mm fit. I took a normal gear which has a 6.4mm boss and bored it out for a new boss.


    Updated pictures from Noctilucent clouds, some of the familiar Messiers and lots of Jupiters.

    I have just purchased a set of 12.5" Cassegrain optics from Paul through AstroBuySell. this will be nmy next project once the split-ring is complete, and mounted on the AE mount in the obervatory. Lots to learn about baffling a Cassegrain but far cheaper than say, buying a Vixen VMC300.