LED Flat Frame Astrophotography Light Box on the Cheap

LED Flat Frame Light Box

LED Flat Frame Light Box

Call it an impulse purchase but as I checking out at Walmart, I saw this small pack of Christmas Wreath lights as I was putting my items on the counter.  As I looked closer, I saw that it was a single string of 18 small LED lights.  It was only $3.99 and it came with its own power supply, requiring 3 AA batteries.  I thought to myself that this would make a very inexpensive way to power a flat frame astrophotography light frame box.  I had orginally specked out purchasing LED’s and buidling the powering mechanisms from scratch but this system was already complete and I did not even have to solder any of wires.  Having extra foam core from when I created my first light box using an Electroluminescent Panel, I broke out the Exacto Knife and began cutting panels.  As I cut my first panel, I envisioned how this LED light string could be used.  Here is how I created a Flat Frame box using this simple 18 LED string of lights.  Here is what I did:

1.  I cut a piece of foam core to the size I would need for my 90mm Refractor and then I used a hole punch to create a pass through where I could feed the wires and the LED lights through the back of the panel.  I left some slack and some extra cord hanging out of the back of the panel so that I could attach the power supply to the light box using Velcro.

 

2.  Using White Duct Tape (brand was actually called Duck Tape), I began securing the LED lights to the foam core panel, which ultimately would become the rear panel of the flat frame box.

3.  Here is what the rear panel looked like once the LED’s were secured with the white duct tape

4.  In order to seal the hole that was made so that the wires could pass through, a piece of white duct tape was applied over the hole to the both sides of the foam core

5.  The construction of the flat frame box followed the way I created it when I built the Flat Frame box using the Electroluminescent Panel but with one modification (please refer to that article for the actual construction and the materials used to create the flat frame box.  I needed this version of the flat frame box to be particularly bright as the first iteration I did was not bright enough to get good flats for Narrowband filters.  This version contain only 1 diffuser panel (vs. two in the previous version I created).

6.  The placement of the diffuser panel is extremely important.  If you place the diffuser panel too close to the light source, you risk creating hot spots or allowing the wires to be exposed through the velum paper.  You will notice in the image above that I have also taped over the wires using the white duct tape to help avoid the wires showing through.  Here is an example of what the light source looked like when the diffuser panel is placed too close to the light source.  You will notice that there are hot spots as well as the wire showing through when illuminated.

7.  After moving the diffuser panel to an adequate distance from the light source, I secured the panel using duct tape.  There is no exact measurement involved in figuring out how hard to move the panel from the light source but use your best judgement and place it far enough away so that you don’t see any hot spots.  Here is an example of the panel when it was moved an adequate distance away from the LED’s:

8.  After the diffuser panel is secured, the rest of the box can be constructed by taping the other foam core panels to form a square.  I used the Telescope lens cover to trace a circle around the front of the panel so that the telescope’s dew shield can fit right into it.  I also applied white duct tape around the opening so that the box does not slide down the dew shield.

9.  Once the box is closed up, I attached the power supply to the back of the box using Velcro.

10.  One final test remained and that was to power the box and take a look inside

 

2 comments to LED Flat Frame Astrophotography Light Box on the Cheap

  • Steve Olson  says:

    Love this idea. I have an 8″ scope I would like to do this for. Do you think it would require more LED’s???

    Thanks

    Steve

    • isg  says:

      Thanks so much. I think it will be enough LED’s. I actually made this light box to take Narrowband Flat frames so I needed the light output to be significantly brighter because the Ha, SII, and OIII filters block out regular light. The first flat frame box I made was great for the LRGB filters but not so great for the Narrowbands so I just made two boxes. I think the lights will work just fine and be bright enough for what you need. It is a great time of year to pick up LED’s on the cheap due to the Holidays.

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