Remote observations

15 years 6 months ago #5846 by dmcdona
Remote observations was created by dmcdona
Lads - I know there's a ton of info on the Net an' all but I was just wondering if anyone here has ever tried remote operation of their scope - either a few yards away or more.

You may have tinkered with cables or wireless. You may even have gone the whole hog and set up a remote controlled housing for the scope which opens up on demand!

I'd be interested to hear any stories out there since I'm considering setting up such a beast. I may possibly have access to a dark site in Galway. Wouldn't it be nifty if I could sit here in Kildare and at the press of few buttons have the system operating as if I was just standing right next to it?

Pipe-dream? Replies please...

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5850 by PMU
Replied by PMU on topic remote
you are buying a 6"AP on a 1200go-to mount and you want to leave it out in the middle of connemara?

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15 years 6 months ago #5851 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Gotta get the most out of it! And no, I won't be giving out the location on this board...!

Seriously though, its a good point - security is obviously important - even if I decided to set the scope up here in Kildare in the back garden it would be an issue. Actually, even if it was in the house security would be in issue - I'd certainly have to bump up the house insurance value!

The remote observatory is just something I'm considering - if I consider that its too costly, risky, etc then it won't be going ahead or I'll come up with something else that increases my quality observing time - the AP setup being the first step!

Cheers

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5853 by michaeloconnell
Replied by michaeloconnell on topic Re: Remote observations
If you're looking into a remote scope, why not go down the route of the likes of rent-a-scope.com et al?
It'd save you a packet, you'd have very good equipment to hand and many many more clear nights.
Just a thought.

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15 years 6 months ago #5854 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Good point Michael - and something I've been looking into. Certainly the quality of service seems good - if you believe the web sites. But I guess there's no challenge in going down that road, at least not for me.

I guess ultimately, if you take robotic observation to the limit, no amateur astronomer would need to buy anything other than a subscription to a big 10 meter mirror on a Hawaiian island... Or even a subscription to the James Webb telescope when its launched! But there's no fun in that IMHO...

So, if I get this project off the ground, would you be prepared to rent some time on the setup? :!:

Cheers again
Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5856 by michaeloconnell
Replied by michaeloconnell on topic Re: Remote observations
Dave,
I'm often turning the thought of astrophotography in my head over and over. There's two choices:
1) Spend as much as you can afford an photographic and telescopic equipment and take the best you can.
or
2) Save yourself a load of money and take some images robotically, which would also be alot easier. Ultimately it's up to you to decide the targets & exposures and process the images.
There's pros and cons for each. On one side, there's something very personal about taking images with ones equipment. At least your out in the cold doing your best to take the best images you can with your own equipment - at the coal face, so to speak
However, the best images are usually taken by people with the deepest pockets. Renting time on an internet-based observatory would level the playing field. That way you can take images of what you like, when you like. This then would allow you to focus on the visual end of things.
Personally, I'm still trying to striaghten this out in my head. Part of me wants to take my own images whilst the other wants to take images with the best of gear.
As we both know, the cost of goto scopes is several times that of similar-sized dobsonains/newtonians. I've often though about selling my scope, buying as big a dob as I can without needing a ladder to reach the eyepiece and just taking all my astroimages via on-line observatories. However, it's something I need to think about more.
Personally, considering the weather and the remoteness of a site in Galway, I'd be very slow to recommend going down the route of constructing a remote observatory there.
Just my 2cent.

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15 years 6 months ago #5862 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Michael - once again, you're two cent is priceless!

I've been juggling the astrophotography deal seriously for the last year or so. I've spent the time diligently researching the topic and boy, what a topic!

The amount of dosh you could spend for DIY is obscene - and that makes the renting option attractive. I took a spin over to slooh - $99 for the year with 15 mins personal time ain't bad. Even if I go ahead and buy whatever I buy, slooh or similar could still be an additional goer.

As far as kit goes, even if you buy a set-up of quality gear, you then have to learn, and learn and learn.... On top of that, even with the gear and a perfect technique, you then need clear skies.... Slooh et el clearly win out on all counts - a fraction of the price, very short learning curve and a greater percentage of clear skies.

But like I said before and you've alluded to it also, where's the fun (pain) in that? It would be like climbing Everest simply by watching the image on the webcam mounted on Sherpa Tensing's head... And you'd be taking the journey with probably a thousand others - it wouldn't give me much personal gratification.

One question I would have though is the owner of the copyright on a picture taken via a timeshare observatory. I think if it was your own personal time that you paid for then the picture is all yours. But if, like Slooh, you're on a group mission, then the pic isn't yours.

As for the location of whatever setup I decide on, I think that pretty much anywhere in Ireland is subject to the same weather at some time or another. But the costs of setting something set up in another country would be way out of even my league! Galway does get better dark skies than Kildare though. I'm really just mulling over them idea of a remote setup such a distance away. I'll certainly start with at-the-eyepiece work and then work my way up to an indoor station. If it then makes sense and I can afford it, perhaps a robotic setup...

Then again, if we all chip in a few quid for Dunsink and set it up for CCD'ing, we could sell the service to private entities and heavily subsidise it for the educational sector. Did I just start a new topic? :shock:

Cheers

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5863 by dave_lillis
Replied by dave_lillis on topic Re: Remote observations
Hi
How would you turn the scope in galway on, how would you do anything that neccesitates a person been on site?
Sorry, but I think this is an over-enthusiastic idea, unless your willing to hire a technician to sit by the scope and make sure all is ok, like plug in a cable if it popped out or comes loose, this cant work.
what happens if a bird flies in and does the business on the corrector plate :lol: trust me, its the stupid things that can all too easily happen.

I like your enthusism, but I think you need to walk before you can run, if you ran a goto scope at home for a few months, the problems would become glaringly apparent.
If you want fabuloius images of deepsky objects, Michael is right on the ball about using the internet telescopes.

You need to decide if you want to collect fantastric images or do you want to do observing with occasional astrophotography.

If you have a suitably equiped mount (i.e. conmputerised) and a PC next to it in a cabinet and using a network link to another PC in your house, you can control the scope remotely. You'd need a program like PC anywhere to do this.

I dont mean to sound like I'm un-encouraging you, but I would just get a scope and use it at home first, make the bigger steps later, one step at a time.

Dave L. on facebook , See my images in flickr
Chairman. Shannonside Astronomy Club (Limerick)

Carrying around my 20" obsession is going to kill me,
but what a way to go. :)
+ 12"LX200, MK67, Meade2045, 4"refractor

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15 years 6 months ago #5865 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Dave - thanks for the feedback - appreciate it. And I totally agree with your logic!

I posted this topic to see if anyone out there had had a go at a robotic observatory. Doesn't seem like anyone has unfortunately - so no mistakes to learn from... But plenty of ideas about whether or not to do it... Mostly not, so far. But that won't deter me.

I do know at least two people in the US have tried and succeeded. One had the issue of his observatory being nowhere the power grid - solution? soalr panel and rechargable batteries. Not sure how he coped with bird poo though :shock:

As for loose cables etc of course that can happen. Hence the serious design that goes into this - dual systems, fail-safe etc etc. It can all be overcome. I know that at least one manufacturer offers an all-in-one control solution for remote observing and by the time I possibly might get such a project underway, there'll be more. I reckon that judging by the recent light pollution posts, we'll have few dark skies where we live and other than move to the west or even the western islands, remote observing (either pay-per-view or your own kit) will be all the choices left if you want to see the Milky Way again...

For the real stupid things that happen that haven't been planned for, you would of course have to make a trip or get soemone to call out. I'd spend every third weekend or so in Galway so regular maintenenace is not an issue and I'm sure there are folks in Galway who'd help me out if things went awry. That's if it was in Galway of course.

I figured that if it has taken me a year to research astrophotography with little to show for it (a homemade CCD camera and some not-so-good pictures) then if I start researching this now, I'd be ready to build, ooooh, in about five years time! That's if the research showed that:
1. It was feasible
2. It was cost effective

And of course, this would have to balanced against the very cheap pay per view systems.

In the intervening years though, you're dead right. I'll be doing the on-site stuff first followed by remote (me in the dining room, scope in the back garden) bit, then possible something a bit more adventurous. But whilst the skies here are cloudy, I have to keep myself busy somehow :P

I really do appreciate your input and I hear ya! We may still be discussing the project on this board five years from now - but then again, you might be asking for a yearly subscription to the GRT (Galway Remote Telescope) :wink:

Cheers

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5866 by michaeloconnell
Replied by michaeloconnell on topic Re: Remote observations
What's opening my eyes to all this astrophotography business is the lack of clear skies we have in this country. I love taking images through my scope but at times it gets a little addictive. You could easily spend a few hours taking images and perhaps only look into the scope for a second or two. We really should make the most of the few clear skies we get. Sometimes I find myself having to say to myself "Right, tonight I'll leave the camera indoors and just enjoy the visual experience". Otherwise, if I bring out my camera, I'll see nothing.
Something like webcam astrophotography isn't so bad. It's just a few short video clips and you're done, Leaves plenty time to do visual astronomy. It's just deep sky stuff that takes time.
As for weather in different parts of the country - it may come as a surprise to you Dave but Galway gets about 1.5 times as much rain as Kildare! (Some time ago I looked into the annual rainfall stats for various parts of the country and found that Kildare was one of the driest parts of the country.)
From a financial point of view, a 10" GOTO scope would cost about the same as an 18" dobsonian. I guess it somes down to which you'd prefer.
FWIW, I'm still a little confused with it all and trying to reach a conclusion in my own little head.

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15 years 6 months ago #5867 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Kildare might be drier but being in the East of Kildare, Dublin is a little close for comfort. Galway, when its not raining, has amazingly dark skies (though my trip to New Mexico in two weeks might take me to a new level of darkness :) ). Certainly darker than here. And I just know that here will become ever more scourged by light pollution... That said, if you do astrophotography right, you can cut through a lot of that pollution. But not the cloud :cry:

I think you make a good point about photography - a balance would be ideal between direct observation and shoving a camera on the scope. Alternatively, have two scopes :wink: That's what I was thinking of anyway.

You dontt need GOTO to do astrophotography - you *do* need a good mount - most of which are of course GOTO :cry: . But a GOTO is not essential. AP have manufacture non GTO mounts in the past. There are certainly good dob mounts specifically designed for astrophotography - so don't rule the Obsession out yet!

This whole astrophotography thing would wreck your head though. I'd most definately recommend 'The new CCD astronomy' by Ron Wodaski (pricey at 60 odd quid) but a goldmine. It has certainly helped me out, I think!

For every answer, there's at least another two questions and decisions...

Cheers

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5868 by Liam
Replied by Liam on topic A thought
The comments above cover virtually all the issues regarding remotely operated scopes etc.

However, there is an interesting article by Jeffrey Barham on page 98 of the November 2004 issue of Astronomy which offers some food for thought.

His basic point is simply....

looking at images taken by Hubble or CCD rarely result in the same "gasps of delight that arise as eyes are placed in front of an eyepiece".


Or to put it another way... Watching Ireland play international football on TV is never as thrilling as actually being there.

I wouldnt like to do all my observing "electronically". I healthy combination of eye and electronics is probably best.

Here's an ides..... what if IFAS members got together to fund the building of our own big scope with CCD etc.? We could all make use of it and it could be located where some members would be able to service it. Now who's talking pipe dreams..... just a (wild) thought!

Now I need to rest my brain!!!!

Liam

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15 years 6 months ago #5871 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Liam - totally agree with you on the observing bit.

There have been a good few articles in recent years about amateur astronomers who have robotic systems or very advanced home setups for eg supernova or asteroid hunting - most are automated but the majority appear to be in the owners' back yards. There was one I saw recently with 3 light buckets (12" reflectors at least) mounted on 3 (yes, 3) Paramounts! Add in all the electronics, cameras, laptops/pc's etc and I reckon it must've cost at least 100K sterling! Still, the guy found many supernovas even before the space agency/academic systems did!

One thing clear from most of these articles though was that the owners recognised the need for visual observing - as you say a Hubble pic isn't in the same league as a 'live' view. However, I think it extremely unlikely that you'll ever get a 'live' view of many objects out there - the deep sky objects or nebulas - eg Horsehead.

Not a bad idea about IFAS funding something. I think Dunsink might be a contender. If not that, then perhaps everyone chipping in a few quid might get an observatory going. A CCD system at Dunsink would allow internet broadcast of live images and with CCD, you can reduce skyglow. And of course, since its internet based, its accessible to anyone with internet access - regardless of where they live. the situation at Dunsink seems to be unclear at this time - so maybe a club-funded project situated somewhere neutral?

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5872 by dave_lillis
Replied by dave_lillis on topic Re: Remote observations
Lads,
I wish IFAS could build such a system but I just cant see who is going to pay for it ? besides, some clubs already have observatories which they run themselves, mind you, we dont!
Where would you put it, who would be incharge/run it, what if you want to visit it and do observing while others 50 miles away might want to do remote photography through it,?? this is why you buy your own scope IMHO, so you can do what you like.
Some clubs (like us) have a club scope, ours is a 13" dob and anyone who is a member can freely take it for as long as they like, basically until another person wants it.

As for the "live view", you cant look at the orion nebula or M13 for the first time through as 12" or 16" scope and tell me its not amazing!
or slap on an oxygem3 filter and follow the intricate whirls of the veil nebula in cygnus. :P
The horsehead is an extremely faint object, there is alot in the sky much brighter that it, although I've heard it can be glimpsed in a 12 inch scope under the right conditions and filters ????.

I remember the article regardin teh 3 big SCTs which are used for hunting supernoivas, they were also on the sky at night a while back, fabulous stuff. 8)

Dave L. on facebook , See my images in flickr
Chairman. Shannonside Astronomy Club (Limerick)

Carrying around my 20" obsession is going to kill me,
but what a way to go. :)
+ 12"LX200, MK67, Meade2045, 4"refractor

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15 years 6 months ago #5879 by Seanie_Morris
Replied by Seanie_Morris on topic Re: Remote observations

Lads,
I wish IFAS could build such a system but I just cant see who is going to pay for it ? besides, some clubs already have observatories which they run themselves, mind you, we dont!


Dave,
you're hardly offering to help Tullamore Astronomical Society buy giving us a Coronado to raffle off so that we can get funds to build up our Observatory for you and everyone else to use remotely... are you?

:D

Midlands Astronomy Club.
Radio Presenter (Midlands 103), Space Enthusiast, Astronomy Outreach Co-ordinator.
Former IFAS Chairperson and Secretary.

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15 years 6 months ago #5884 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Dave - you raise some interesting questions. And Seanie is clearly holding you to ransom!

I certainly agree with everyone who has mentioned the benefit of visiual observing - both for various objects where visual observation is a real wow and also simply getting out there with a telescope - which is one of the reasons I enjoy the hobby.

Remote observing also has advantages and I guess its a matter of balance. I'm certainly not advocating that all amateurs immediatley set up LCD screens, buy CCD's, lots of wire and then cheerfully sit down at the indoor PC for 6 hours to look at the moon. I can't imagine anything more likely to turn people off the hobby.

But imagine what remote observing could do for amateurs. Let's say that TAS and SAC each buy a scope (or use an existing club scope), then invest in a CCD system, including remote observing software (ignore types, models, costs for a moment). Both now have a system that could be setup, switched on and then shared quickly amongst anyone on-line. So, anyone (IFAS member, affiliate or whatever) with a username/password can then see what the scope(s) see.

(For now, ignore an unmanned, remote, robotic observatory somewhere in the deep dark depths of Ireland.)

The setup above gives access to anyone - those clouded in, those who can't travel, those who have no equipment of their own, thos who want to be educated and guided by more experienced club members. The setup can be quickly dismantled at the end of a 'session' and the owner, individual or club, can then carry on and do their own thing.

This kind of facility is the way its going - the US are certainly ahead of the rest in providing this kind of system. The principle is simple but I know that implementing it would not be easy. But then a lot of things aren't easy...

I for one will be setting up as good an astrophotography system as I possibly can. I would be delighted to assign time and money that turns that system (for periods of time) into something I can share with others. If the clubs and IFAS do the same then I can see the potential for some kind of network of similar facilities across Ireland - just think - the East is clouded over but the West is clear for the Lunar eclipse - well hey, I'll just login and get a view of it anyway! Of course, if you weren't clouded over, you would do just as Dave says - your own thing.

I certainly see major advantages of remote observing - but clearly it is no substitute for hands-on visual observing.

It would a positive move forward if the idea is accepted in principle.

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5886 by ctr
Replied by ctr on topic Re: Remote observations
My two cents

During the recent Luner eclipse I was totally clouded out. A man in New Jersey had his webcam hooked up and broadcast the event via yahoo messenger. (I had problems with yahoo log-on so missed it)

Handy service to have

Conor

Each of us is here on earth for a reason, and each of us has a special mission to carry out - Maria Shriver

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15 years 6 months ago #5888 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Cheers Conor - a good example of what I'm talking about.

Folks - don't forget that remote observation doesn't have to mean 'expensive'. I'm sure there are many people here with webcams or similar and an internet hookup. The logical progression is then sharing that visual data via the Net.

The ultimate progression is a remote observatory for the use of all. And as Conor says, it could be a very handy facility to have.

I know we'd all prefer to get our hands dirty and watch an event or observe an object directly. And we will all continue to do that. But at some point, we won't be able to. Clouds, busted scope, busted leg, whatever. Remote observing gives a way out of some of those situations.

It also presents other opportunities. You could broadcast a feed to a group of peole rather than them all lining up one-at-a-time to take a short peek through the scope directly.

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5914 by dave_lillis
Replied by dave_lillis on topic Re: Remote observations
Hi Dave,
That is an interesting idea regarding remote scopes, I'm currently building an observatory at the back of the house, it will have a laptop were I will link up some internet access, I wonder how hard it would be to link the camera over the net, maybe use something like netmeeting which is built for webcams!!
I could point the scope at Jupiter with the webcam and people could email in or put up a post here, and say go to Saturn or the moon.
I think I'd be willing to give over some time for this.
Unfortunately, a webcam would not be able to manange faint deepsky objects live, but planets and the moon would work !!


Seanie, I wish I could :cry:

Dave L. on facebook , See my images in flickr
Chairman. Shannonside Astronomy Club (Limerick)

Carrying around my 20" obsession is going to kill me,
but what a way to go. :)
+ 12"LX200, MK67, Meade2045, 4"refractor

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15 years 6 months ago #5918 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Dave - there's a lot of ways to skin this particular cat... There are folks out there who are doing this type of work at its most basic and it seems to work. I remember Peter Grego (lunar dude in the UK) putting live images up on a web page - they may have been static but updtaed every 10 seconds or so. Video feed would be more demanding - not at your end but at the viewers end - a DSL/broadband connection would work fine though.

Netmeeting might be up to it - we used it at work but the feed seemed to come from a deciated netmeeting server - that's my only experience of that particular package being used for transmission. I used it myself for viewing images from the scope - seemed to work fine.

I'd definately be considering this type of facility when I get my setup going. Like you say - posting on this board and suggesting targets - great!

Let me know how you get on - I'd be very interested. Especially with the observatory!

Cheers

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5923 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Dave - other than the free software out there, all I've come across so far is this:

acp3.dc3.com/buy-it.html

I signed up for free access to their simulator - I'll see how it goes.

For $495, you get what you're looking for - but can't make any money from it. How do you get $495? Perhaps some kind of subscription, sign-on fee or whatever.

Personally, I think trying the free stuff first seems logical. And the package above seems complex at first glance.

Dave

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15 years 6 months ago #5938 by Seanie_Morris
Replied by Seanie_Morris on topic see this site - arnierosner dot com.
Folks,

there is a user here (arnierosner) who has a very impressiv set up, and actually does what we are asking if it can be done. Myself, and Mike OC both looked at his site. Its quite impressive what he has to offer! I haven't entirely decided when to do it, though I am extremely keen to do it.

Perhaps he can offer advice? Granted, it may seem like competition to what he provides... but when you see the set up this guy has, you will soon notice its not!

Seanie.

Midlands Astronomy Club.
Radio Presenter (Midlands 103), Space Enthusiast, Astronomy Outreach Co-ordinator.
Former IFAS Chairperson and Secretary.

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15 years 6 months ago #5941 by dmcdona
Replied by dmcdona on topic Re: Remote observations
Seanie - Arnie manages Rent-a-Scope

www.arnierosner.com/are/index.htm

The setup is indeed impressive with top class equipment and software. A Tak Mewlon, Tak FRC and Tak E250 :shock:

And then there's the FLI and SBIG cameras :shock: :shock:

I'd love to give it a try.

However, if there's a groundswell in IFAS for a faciltiy, I'm not so sure folks would pay for it. The discussion so far on this post would lead to to suggest may trying out some live webcam imagery beamed out to interested members and then work on it from there.

But that doesn't rule out doing something with Arnie for other interested members (who are prepared to pay). After all, New Mexico gets marginally less cloud than Ireland :wink:

Arnie - if you're wtching, what do you reckon? Also, I'll be in NM in two weeks - there may be a possibilty of meeting if you're interested?

Cheers

Dave

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