DIY barn door star tracker

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
Alen K
Alen K Senior Member • Posts: 1,336
Re: DIY barn door star tracker

RustierOne wrote:

You might benefit from the information in this thread:

DIY Barn-door Tracker

Nice description. You might want to update the link in the article to Gary’s webpage describing his tracker since your link doesn’t take you there directly. This one does.

One point: You say voltage variation from the battery causes the drive rate to change. True, but preventing that is the whole reason for the voltage-regulator circuit. It will maintain the same voltage to the motor until the battery voltage drops below, in the case of the LM317, about 1.5 volts higher than the regulator’s output voltage at 25C and 20mA output (but should use 2V or more to be on the safe side). See from the original National Semiconductor datasheet. You are using a 3VDC motor and a 9V battery, so you have quite a lot of headroom for the battery to discharge before the regulator stops functioning, even in cold weather. If you are experiencing premature voltage dropout, check your circuit.

My own tracker (I posted the same link in an earlier reply to the OP) uses a 12VDC motor, just because it was what I happened to have around when I built the tracker in 1998. (Note: Nine years before Gary wrote his article. How did I do it? I jumped in a time machine and came to what was then the future, of course.) Hence, I ended up using two 9V batteries in series in front of the regulator circuit. Note that my circuit has the same amount of headroom as yours. Yet I never experienced voltage dropout even after several nights of operation. The battery drain does depend on the motor’s current consumption, of course, but these heavily-geared DC motors draw very little current, even under load (by virtue of the gear ratio).

Temperature variation does remain a problem. But it’s the regulator circuit itself that is the main culprit, and there are techniques (extra circuitry) for temperature compensation. But I never felt the need. I would argue that it is not really needed when using focal lengths most appropriate for such a tracker, say no more than 135mm, and sub-exposures no more than, say, a minute. Back in the bad old days of film, we needed to use 10-minute exposures minimum.

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