LabOnTheCheap posts tend to be microscopy heavy, but what about microscopy’s extroverted cousin, telescope photometry?
One issue while taking long exposures of celestial objects is tracking their diurnal motion in the sky as the earth rotates. Robust tracking mechanisms start at around ~$300 and quickly go up in price for more accuracy and heavier telescopes.
A cheap DIY solution is the barn door tracker, which is where Nyx Tracker comes in. For ~$100 you can buy a pre-assembled or ready to assemble kit for a simple and compact barn door tracker. There are a plethora of great video tutorials to teach you how to build it and how to use it, and of course you can always build a similar version from scratch yourself.
This video shows you how to use the device. And if that’s not enough, NyxTech.us has lots of other videos about it.
While we are on the subject, if you’ve already got an astrophotography rig, consider participating in a program like the Cataclysmic Variable network run by the Center for Backyard Astronomy. They’re making orbital light curves of cataclysmic variables by stitching together sparse data sets from all over the world. SkyAndTelescope has a great list of other “Pro-Am” collaborations that one can participate in with smaller astrophotography setups.