Date of Award

11-2019

Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering

Department

Mechanical Engineering

College

College of Engineering

Advisor

John Ridgely

Advisor Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering

Abstract

Observing the dynamic interaction between stars and their close stellar neighbors is key to establishing the stars’ orbits, masses, and other properties. Our ability to visually discriminate nearby stars is limited by the power of our telescopes, posing a challenge to astronomers at small observatories that contribute to binary star surveys. Masks placed at the telescope aperture promise to augment the resolving power of telescopes of all sizes, but many of these masks must be manually and repetitively reoriented about the optical axis to achieve their full benefits. This paper introduces a design concept for a mask rotation mechanism that can be adapted to telescopes of different types and proportions, focusing on an implementation for a Celestron C11 Schmidt–Cassegrain optical tube assembly. Mask concepts were first evaluated using diffraction simulation programs, later manufactured, and finally tested on close double stars using a C11. An electronic rotation mechanism was designed, produced, and evaluated. Results show that applying a properly shaped and oriented mask to a C11 enhances contrast in images of double star systems relative to images captured with the unmasked telescope, and they show that the rotation mechanism accurately and repeatably places masks at target orientations with minimal manual effort. Detail drawings of the mask rotation mechanism and code for the software interface are included.

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