A photographer has used his 3D printer to create an impressive 900mm reflector telescope that is so simple to put together that “it’s like assembling furniture from IKEA.”
The design, which Jonathan Kissner refers to as “Hadley,” has a 114/900mm reflector with a spherical primary mirror housed in mostly 3D-printed parts.
Kissner also says that his Hadley telescope can do double duty as a terrestrial scope for watching wildlife and even as a slow f/8 zoom lens for photography.
Shooting Photos Through the DIY Telescope
Kissner takes images through the telescope with a Google Pixel 4a mobile phone. To combat the atmospheric turbulence that wreaks havoc on long-exposure images, he opted to shoot a video at 60 frames per second.
” “Any frame that was not better than the one we see through our eyepiece,” Kissner told PetaPixel. Our brains do a lot of work to make sense out of noisy images, as well as composing on the spot. Lucky imaging is a process that can yield results beyond the eyesight, although better data is needed.
“Eventually, I’ll be using an astrocam with the 3D-printed telescopes, but one step at a time.”
Once saved, Kissner imports the videos he captures into an app called the Planetary Imaging PreProcessor (PPIP) and then aligns them with another called Registax. Both are freeware available online. After some image processing with GIMP, he has a final image worthy of sharing online.
Kissner hopes to have a camera attachment designed for future use. There is also a second telescope design and a Newtonian reflector cell on the site.
Creating the DIY Telescope
Kissner decided to create his DIY telescope due to the plethora of what he calls “hobby killer” scopes in the $100 to $200 range, that are difficult to use with shoddy parts.
“It is my hope that by releasing this, more people will find an open door to planetary observation and entry-level astrophotography,” wrote Kissner on his Printables build log.
Hadley is actually his second attempt at 3D printing a workable telescope. The first scope was more of an experiment to improve his design. That scope was much larger, being a 152/1300mm large red reflector telescope that Kissner admits was very hard to build. However, with the lessons learned in that design, he was able to create a universal design that was both accessible and practical, while being easy to replicate.
The basic design is centered around parts that are printed on a standard FDM 3D printer. Each model has been positioned in its strongest orientation and without the need for wasteful supports which can add time and cost to the prints. There are a total of 27 different parts to 3D print. To keep it simple, the design uses only one type of screw, in varying lengths, as well as nuts. Kissner says that either imperial or metric works best.
The biggest problem for Kissner was his mirror. A traditional parabolic mirror found in large telescope arrays would have been prohibitively expensive for a telescope this size. But Kissner found that with the focal length he was going for and its ratios, a spherical mirror was a more cost-effective stand-in. Kissner discovered that commercially-made scopes can make similar compromises.
Kissner was able to find mirror sets for a 114/900mm spherical primary and elliptical secondary pair on eBay or AliExpress for about $20, although he said that this is prone to fluctuation. Amazon also has a similar listing. Add to that the $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 are available on Printables.
The design also lends itself to customizations, with add-on 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 credits: All photos by Jonathan Kissner.