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A Closer Look at the Cosmos

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The closest many of us get to space is watching episodes of Cosmos from the comfort of our couches as Neil deGrasse Tyson invites us into the world of astrophysics. But with a little help from I2P, Bret McKee has been able to see the cosmos in a different way.

As an avid astronomer, Bret spends quite a bit of time with his eye to the sky looking through his telescope. Naturally, Bret wanted to materialize his views of space into shareable photographs to bring a piece of the awe-inspiring outer space to Earth.


This 3D printed part is mounted to a telescope and encases a laser pointer to help with alignment.

However, space photography requires long exposure and immense precision, and Bret was having difficulty capturing high quality images because of an alignment issue. To align a telescope, the astronomer must look through the telescope’s mount and point it at the desired location. However, in some cases the mount is quite close to the ground so this normal mode of alignment requires some crawling on the ground and looking through the telescope at uncomfortable angles, according to Bret.

Having had enough of the crawling and discomfort while trying to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes, Bret decided to adapt the process. Using I2P’s 3D printers, Bret made an encasement for a laser pointer that attaches to his telescope, allowing him to more precisely align the telescope without the hassle.

One frustration Bret encountered while printing was ensuring that the 3D printers were calibrated with enough precision to print the part in the proper dimensions. To correct for this, Bret actually created an additional sizing template he could use to measure the printer’s calibration before printing the telescope part.

While many users of the lab are students or professors affiliated with CSU, Bret is a community member who simply wanted to solve a cumbersome problem, could not find a commercial solution, and looked to 3D printing to uniquely address the issue. So far the part has been a success, as evidenced by Bret’s striking images seen here.

“Other astronomers have the same alignment issues. This doesn’t allow them to do anything they could not do before, but it makes it considerably more convenient,” Bret said.

M42 The Orion Nebula M45-20131227-1 The Triangulum Galaxy








Pictured above from right to left: and the Orion Nebula, Star formation M45-20131227-1, and The Triangulum Galaxy, all taken from Bret’s telescope. (photo credit: Bret McKee, 2013)