Telescopes

STARFRAME DUO Computer Controlled Imaging Flip Mirror for Dual Remote Camera Application

STARFRAME DUO Computer Controlled Imaging Flip Mirror for Dual Remote Camera Application

 

You might have noticed on our website recently the appearance of these two new products, not available anywhere else… although we are considering the distributor of it via our dealer network in the UK.

This novelty is a result of co-operation between 365Astronomy and one of our good customers who has been working few decades in automation and also happen to be an enthusiast amateur astronomer.

Currently there are two versions available:

version 1 called STARFRAME: comes with remote controlled motorised flip mirror with simple attachments for the cameras and

version 2 called STARFRAME DUO: comes with remote controlled motorised flip mirror AND remote controlled motorised helical micro focuser.

This article focuses on the Starframe Duo version and compares it with the original flip mirror that can be operated only manually.

 

Mechanical flip mirror:

Astrophotography presents many challenges, the foremost of which is finding the object that the astronomer wishes to photograph, closely followed by focusing the image in the camera.

One of the most difficult, time consuming, exercises in astrophotography is the centralization of the image in the picture frame. Most deep sky subjects are very faint, in fact, so faint that a camera will require several seconds exposure to detect the object.

Amateur astronomers initially solve this by attaching a camera to the end of a telescope and just trying various exposure times to see what the telescope and camera can pick up.

This is a hit and miss arrangement and will lead to hours of frustration and possibly poor results.

The next common move is to attach a flip mirror assembly to the telescope with a camera attached to one port and an eyepiece on the other. The eyepiece assists in finding the object that is to be photographed. Once found, this can then be centralized with the mount GOTO handset. When the desired subject had been found and centralized the mirror is then changed over manually to the camera port so that a photograph can be taken.

This improves results but only on objects visible to the eye through the telescope. Using an eyepiece on the flip mirror can be awkward and of course requires a user to be in attendance at the telescope to carry out the task.

 

New STARFRAME DUO the computer controlled flip mirror and focuser:

STARFRAME DUO Computer Controlled Imaging Flip Mirror for Dual Remote Camera Application with Computer Controlled Helical Microfocuser

A typical set up with any semi-automated observatory requires power and communication cables between a warm-room where a computer is located that runs all the software for the telescope, dome drive. Shutter drive and cameras and the observatory itself.

To eliminate the requirement to be at the telescope, it was decided that it would be big advantage if one could use a large field of view DSLR camera to replace the eyepiece and be able to remotely change the position of the flip mirror to a more specialized astrophotography camera by computer.

Real World Designs Limited developed STARFRAME which automates the mechanical action of changing the flip mirror position and focusing one of the devices connected to it.

The STARFRAME DUO allows the operator to switch between two different cameras remotely by software and focus one of them independently.

STARFRAME DUO is reliable and easy to operate through adapted open source software controlling all the functions.  STARFRAME has been designed to make flipping the mirror and focusing a camera very simple.

Although STARFRAME is designed to operate by computer via a USB connection the system also provides local operation at the telescope through push buttons on a control box attached to the flip mirror.

At the heart of the product is an Arduino microcomputer, that only requires a 5Volt power supply and this comes from the USB computer port that STARFRAME is connected to so no additional external power supply is required

During trials after development, STARFRAME was found to be a neat, reliable device that enabled a user to photograph many astrophotography subjects  with results that exceeded expectation.

STARFRAME DUO setup with a dSLR and cooled ZWO camera

STARFRAME DUO setup with a dSLR and cooled ZWO camera. Image acquisition is via the cooled ZWO camera, whilst the Canon dSLR is being used for wide field view and precise positioning of the object.

Acknowledgements.

Mechanical engineering and Printed Circuit Board Design by R Weatherley

Software and actuator development by Stephen McNair

14 Sep 2017

Zoltan Trenovszki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted on September 14th, 2017.