Skybadger Observatory


This is the website of Skybadger.net, not to be confused with Skybadger.me which is a charity in Sussex , doesn't do astronomy at all and doesn't have any relationship with badgers. (think Milky Way and white stripes... )

About Me

Photo of me:
Fake Image

Astronomer and tinkerer, This site is about projects in Astronomy..



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 - February 2022

Way more than two years has passed since the last update to this front page yet lots have still happened. There remains a bundle of projects going on at Skybadger at the mo', which gets the attention depending on the weather and the effort required... So that hasn't changed... :)

  • Adoption of Voyager as observatory control software, with CdC as the planetarium and Affinity for post-processing. Voyager is a bit of a learning curve and step away from the all-in-one nature of Maxim which just got too expensive for my pockets. (Which may yet be reconsidered...). Voyager is exposing my power and setup issues and running everything through the night is really killing the batteries.
  • Adoption of ASCOM ALPACA as base standard for all drivers to integrate the dome to a complete automated system. Pages are coming as they are written. Code is normally loaded to Skybadger github repository and is all based on ESP8266-01/-12 devices for Wifi and provide ASCOM platfrom integration usign the ALPACA remote client api which means they all appear as native ASCOM drivers, wherever they are. I have written code ( using Arduino IDE), built hardware, tested and integrated devices for :
    Driver Coded HW Built Tested Integrated In Use Link
    Dome Shutter YYYYYESPDSH
    Filter wheel YYYNESPFW
    Focuser YY
    Switch (1,2) YYYYYESPASW
    SensorPack YYYYYESPSEN
    ADC/Voltmeter NYYYYEmbedded into ESPASW Switch
    Safety YYNode-red ALPACA driver flow
    Observing ConditionsYYYYYNode-red ALPACA driver flow
    All Sky Camera OEMYYYYAllSkyEye

    and I am integrating the lot into Node-Red which is a gui-based javascript (node.js) event processing engine with a very nice dashboard and editable nodes as event handlers.

    The ASCOM driver for observing conditions and safety are actually implemented in Node-Red . Later additions will be calls out to Amazon web services for data processing and analytics.

    If you are interested in the code and its all on Github but needs a tidy-up, then drop me a line to discuss

    Activities in progress

    • Addition of OnStep motor drive to alt-az mount for mostly solar use in the garden. TheOnStep drives the alt-Az mount in full tracking mode.
    • 3-D printing of a Lowspec V3 spectrometer. Tested with 300 lpm and 600 lpm gratings - completed, awiwting a calibration lamp
    • Building a CAM86 CCD camera from DSLR sensors and the Ukrainian hardware and software details.
    • Completion of 12" RC OTA in truss-tube & plywood. This was completed and then the optics were examined under double-pass collimation before sending off to John Nichol for re-figuring. - read about it here.
    • The old observatory building and dome was sold on and a second-hand 2.7m pulsar look-alike building purchased.. A new 3m square decking area was constructed to take the dome since the new building is much shorter in height than the old and I didn't want to shorten the custom pier I made. That's described in the new observatory build pages.
    • The AE Luton mount has been replaced with an EQ8 with greater carrying capacity. The old mount was built for capacity but the motors I had grafted from a Vixen Ss2K weren't man enough once fully laden. Its now sold to Roberto.
    • Rewriting of the ASCOM dome driver from C# to ESP8266 (see tbale above) with new motor units is complete and in place in the dome. It has the occasional hiccup of losing the dome compass used to orient the dome which is wy I am wanting to replace it with either a different compass or an encoder. The code is now in github/skybadger/SkybadgerDome. It's having a minor edit at the moment to ensure that the latest code is there and some of the ascom exceptions are of the wrong type. That has been been fixed as well.This is now replaced with the Alpaca version instead.
    • The Horseshoe 12" telescope was shown at the Basingstoke AS open night giving great images of Jupiter despite being out of collimation. Its since suffered an accident and a new hosrseshoe is neing fabricated.
    • Construction of gearbox for Horseshoe telescope. This is also now complete bar fitting of the drive motor with drive pinion. I also re-engineered the support wheels to timing pulleys taking a drive band for better engagement and less cogging using needle bearings for smoother running.
    • Fitting of a focuser, primary baffle and complete refurb of 6" f/10 Cassegrain (ex-UCL). That is complete and largely unused - another available for loan or offer.
    • Construction of an adapter to fit Skywatcher cheap pole finder to Vixen Polarie - this still needs drawing up in Autocad. Now completed and sold.
    • RA and Dec Readout project using LCD and encoders - this is half done- the brains of the readout is where time is being spent now.
    • Servo motor controller for Horseshoe telescope drives - largely done since it uses OnStep ESP32 code
    • Wifi and REST-enabled Encoder/reader - see encoder above
    • Wifi and REST-enabled Telescope Head-Up display - to come
    • Magnetometer using ESP8266 and Speake and Co Fluxgate sensor - now complete and running. Awaiting calibration
    • Replacement of the Telescope mounting plate with an Altair Telescope Mounting System plate specifically to carry a new Vixen NA14OSF refractor - Done.