Photographer Makes a DIY Telescope to Take Incredible Pictures of the Moon

telescope and example

One photographer used his 3D printer to create an amazing 900mm reflecting telescope that’s easy to assemble “like assembling IKEA furniture”.

The design, which Jonathan Kessner refers to as “Hadley,” has a 114/900mm reflector with a spherical primary mirror positioned mostly with 3D-printed parts.

Kissner also says that his Hadley telescope can do double duty as a ground scope for wildlife viewing and even as an f/8 slow-zoom lens for photography.

Taking pictures with a DIY telescope

Kessner takes pictures through the telescope with his Google Pixel 4a mobile phone. To combat the turbulence that wreaks havoc on long-exposure photos, he chose to shoot video at 60 frames per second.

“Any frame was worse than what we see in the lens,” Kessner tells PetaPixel. “Our brain does a lot of logical work from noisy image and on-the-fly synthesis. This process, called ‘lucky imaging’, can produce results far beyond what meets the eye, but this needs better data.

“Eventually, I’ll use the Astrocam with 3D-printed telescopes, but one step at a time.”

Once saved, Kissner imports the videos he takes into an app called Planetary Imaging PreProcessor (PPIP) and then aligns them with another called Registax. Both are free online. Then, after more image processing with GIMP, he ends up with a usable image worth sharing online.

Kissner hopes to have a camera accessory designed for future use. He also has another telescope design on his site as well as a focusing device and a Newtonian mirror cell for a reflecting telescope.

Create a DIY telescope

Kissner decided to build his own DIY telescope due to the plethora of what he calls “hobby killer” scopes in the $100 to $200 range, which are difficult to use with inferior parts.

“I hope more people will find an open door to planetary observations and beginner astrophotography by releasing this,” Kesner wrote in his Printables build log.

Hadley is actually his second attempt at 3D printing a working telescope. His first design was more than just an explorer to improve his design. This range was much larger, being a 152/1300 mm large red reflector telescope that Kessner admits was very difficult to build. However, with lessons learned from this design, he was able to create a universal design that is accessible and practical, yet easy to replicate.

The basic design is centered around parts printed on a standard FDM 3D printer. Each template is positioned in its strongest direction and without the waste of props that can add time and cost to prints. There are a total of 27 different parts for 3D printing. The design also uses one type of bolt (of various lengths) and nuts to keep things simple and, according to Kessner, either metric or imperial works.

Kessner’s biggest challenge was the mirror itself. The conventional parabolic mirror in arrays of large telescopes was too expensive for a telescope of this size. But Kessner found that with the focal length and proportions he was striving for, a spherical mirror was more cost-effective. Kissner also discovered in his research that many commercial domains offer a similar compromise.

Kessner was able to find mirror kits for a 114/900mm spherical primary and secondary elliptical pair on eBay or AliExpress for about $20, though he said this is subject to fluctuation. There is also a listing for a similar mirror set on Amazon. Add to that $100 of printing materials and other parts, plus a good set of lenses for $50, and you have a very effective telescope for under $200.

A full list of telescope parts and building plans is available at Printables.

The design also lends itself to customizations, with additional starburst effects including the new James Webb’s six-pin plug style, the Hubble Space Telescope’s four-pronged style, or even a free yaw look.


Image credits: All photos by Jonathan Kessner.

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