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My "Observatory"

shelf mount
Here is my ETX set up for "out-the-window" photography. I got really lucky and Jupiter and Saturn were easily visible in my limited field of view for a couple of hours when I first tried this.

Here is a slightly more stable configuration using a bar stool.

Now I have a laptop, and can actually use the thing outside on a tripod which, not surprisingly, makes a tremendous difference. Note the AutoStar extension cable wadded up on the ground. As often as not, once everything is focused, I take the AutoStar inside and attach an extension cable to the QuickCam to connect it to the computer in my office. Remote imaging on the cheap...


Color QuickCam
It is a Color QuickCam with the lens and IR filter removed. The ball has been duct-taped back together (I broke one of the little clips) and a plastic film can with the bottom cut off has been glued in place to fit into the focuser.

Air-cooled Color QuickCam

After noticing that the QuickCam "egg" seemed to get pretty warm, I took it and put its guts into a plastic project box with holes drilled in the front and a CPU cooling fan in the back. Still using the same piece of plastic film can, though. The foam rubber "gasket" is to reduce vibration from the fan.

Finder Scope Focal Reducer

Since the finder on the ETX is pretty worthless (well, let's say it's "not-so-great"), and I have the Red Dot finder, I took the finder objective out and wrapped it in black foam and tape to make a cylinder that fits snugly into the QuickCam barrel. It now serves as a focal reducer which makes my ETX run at about f/6 and increases the field to almost 30'.

Dew Shield ($1.20)
Go to your local craft store (A.C. Moore, here in the Boston area) and look for "Foamies", 9"x12" sheets of foam that cost $0.59. Use one of them and a strip from the other and put it all together with double-sided tape (or tacky glue, I guess would be better.) The remaining piece makes a good "hat trick" shutter for dark frames.

Daisy Red-Dot finder ($14.95)
red dot finder
Look here for information on how to convert this gun sight from your local K-Mart into a terrific 1X finder. Maybe not quite as nice as a commercial one (mine shows a little parallax), but beats the hell out of the finder that comes with the ETX. Note the rubber band used to hold it in place.

The "Real-Wood Spring-Retention Micro-Focuser" (clothespin)
You know, I don't remember anymore where I first saw this idea (though you can bet it was Mike Weasner's site), but I believe it is the single most important thing that you can do for your ETX. If you aren't using one then just stop reading right now and go get one. Really. (OK, so it's just a wooden clothespin clipped onto the focus knob.)

Solar Filter

My girlfriend bought me a sheet of Baader Astrosolar film for Christmas (nice, eh?) and I made this filter cell from the included instructions.

QuickCam NiCad Power Pack
nicad pack
Saw this one at António J. Cidadão's site. I don't use it anymore, though.


I built this out of what I would guess was about $15 worth of framing lumber and carriage bolts. I think the platform that rotates in azimuth was probably overkill. I haven't posted plans anywhere because, frankly, it's not as nice as other wooden tripods that I've seen on the web. I suspect some braces between the legs would make it stiffer.

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