J2i.Net

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Astrophotography with Windows Phone Part 0 : Introduction

Last week I did a post on using a Windows Phone to control an RC car. I'm applying some of the information in that post to another project. You may have seen one of the astronomy applications that let's some one point their phone at the sky and identify a star or planet with it. I'm making the same type of application with the diference being that the one I'm making will also be controlling a telescope mount. The communication between the phone and the mount will occur over the same Bluetooth Tranceiver that I made iin the post about the car. The first iteration of this project will omit the Arduino. Telescope mounts from Celestron and Meade already contain microcontrollers so I'll start off by communicatin with what is built into the mount. At a later point I will need to reintroduce the Arduino to control other hardware (such as a camera). 

This project a targeting a special audiance; those interested in astronomy that already have a telescope with a computerized mount. Telescopes like this tend to be rather pricy. If you don't already have one I would not suggest picking up a telescope for the sake of experimenting with this project. Some of the less expensive telescops are available for around 500 USD. I'm using the CGEM 800 which at the time of this writing cost about 4 times more than that. For those that already have a computerized telescope if your telescope is another name brand (such as Meade) then you'll need to make adjustments to the code for the protocol that your telescope uses. The telescope that I'm using is on a right ascension mount. If yours is not you will also need to make adjustments to convert right ascension coordinates to altitude-azimuth coordinates. Once again I will be covering the math for this, but I don't have an alt-az telescope for testing. 

In the next post I'll introduce the hardware used to allow the Windows Phone and the Telescope to communicate with each other. A simple program will be introduced that will read and display telescope state; it won't control anything. In the next post after this I discuss the math of what needs to be done. The heavy lifting will all be explained here. After discussing all the math that is needed the third post will present the code in which the phone takes control of the telescope. 

There are also a few things that I won't be covering here. For this program I will only be tracking objects outside of our solar system. The sun and planets will be left out of this program. Unlike the non-solar stars the planets have this habit of wandering around the celestial sphere. They also influence each other's paths (especially Jupiter).  A discussion of the movement of the planets is worthy of it's own series of post. 

Next time: Astrophotography with Windows Phone Part 1: The Hardware Interface

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