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johnrt

Remote Imaging Collective

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As another month drips by without even getting anywhere near close to a finished imaged, I have been contemplating what alternatives there are. Clear nights are virtually non existent since last May / June and if one does crop up I'm either at work or up early the next morning for work.

So firstly I'm not interested in the online telescope rentals that are offered by a couple of companies. I know Olly hosts some robotic set ups that are owned by individuals, but there are lots of similar projects going on around involving groups that pitch in together to host gear in more hospitable climates.

So does anyone have any experience in being a member of a collective of imagers? What were the pitfalls, costs of being involved etc? How do you find a group that you can trust?

It's all just thoughts at the moment but I'd be very interested to hear of anyone's experiences.

 

John

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I know of Deep Sky West - that seems to be fairly prolific and put you in contact with groups so that you can look at collectively joining an existing group or forming your own. I also know of some remote imaging open here in Spain - IC Astronomy  of course this would involve you using your own kit.

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@swag72 thank you Sara, a couple of very good links to consider there. Hosting my own gear abroad doesn't seem like a bad idea at this moment in time based on the amount of imaging I get done at home. I'd have to drag my kit out of the dark ages and in to the world of electronic filter wheel & focuser though!

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I think that it could prove to be not only a learning curve but a little expensive for starters as my understanding is that these sorts of places want Paramounts as a rule as they can easily be used remotely without losing home position etc. I know that with IC Astronomy they will actually set the whole lot up for you (for a fee of course) and so you just access it and start imaging :)

Edited by swag72

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Yes but the last time I looked it was £200 per month per pier... and a £400 setup fee. Not sure about insurance for your gear either.

ChrisH

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I don't have any spaces at the moment and only work on an informal and semi-professional, semi-friendly basis. Not far from me Marc Bretton runs a hosting place where a group could put their own instrument. I think that it makes an enormous amount of sense to share a remote rig as a group. The fully professional hosts who take responsibility for all the infrastructure, both hardware and software, have a lot of work and a lot of responsibility. While they seem expensive (and are!) I've seen enough in my little operation to understand why.

Marc is available here. http://www.obs-bp.com/  We always speak French when we meet up but I'm pretty sure that both he and Hélène speak good English.

I believe Ian King is also offering something, or soon will be, based in Spain.

Something that has come up in my experience is accessibility. One of the Spanish places was quite hostile towards owner visits, according to a guest who had a scope there. And one of my groups in the robotoc shed came to me because they are in Italy and can do a round trip in a day, which they couldn't do in Spain. I also know that Karel Terwen and friends were on the lookout for someone local to do small scale trouble shooting for their remote setups near me. Being totally, totally, robotic would, from what I've seen, be an almost impossible mission. You need someone on the ground.

Olly

 

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24 minutes ago, ChrisLX200 said:

Yes but the last time I looked it was £200 per month per pier... and a £400 setup fee. Not sure about insurance for your gear either.

ChrisH

I didn't say it was cheap :D I'm certain that Deep Sky West for example are charging about $800 per month for a pier in their remote setup, but when shared with 8 people for example then that brings that to a more manageable amount. 

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Indeed costs do seem to be the most prohibitive factor, a group outfit of some description seems like the most sensible option.

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Does Ian King have an involvement in IC Astronomy?

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1 minute ago, johnrt said:

Does Ian King have an involvement in IC Astronomy?

Yes

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How important would it be to be sole owner of a remote setup? For me it wouldn't, to be honest. There isn't much I wouldn't want to image. (Maybe I've seen enough M33 data for this life but hey-ho!) It's the processing which I most enjoy. It might be an idea for the sharers to have their own preferred forums for first posts, perhaps, but even then, does it matter?

Some imagers do get a buzz out of using kit that's their own. It's part of the miracle of capturing the wonders that we do capture. For me, I couldn't care less! I just like getting my hands on some data.

The maths of sharing is compelling. With one partner you cut the cost in half. Half is not bad!! By the time you're a group of 10 it's probably cheaper than owning your own rig outright at home. People share expensive things like sailing boats and gliders all the time. I used to race karts by sharing with a friend because it was the only way we could afford to go racing at all. I currently share imaging kit with Tom and Yves. It's great.

Olly

 

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18 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

How important would it be to be sole owner of a remote setup? For me it wouldn't, to be honest. There isn't much I wouldn't want to image. (Maybe I've seen enough M33 data for this life but hey-ho!) It's the processing which I most enjoy. It might be an idea for the sharers to have their own preferred forums for first posts, perhaps, but even then, does it matter?

Some imagers do get a buzz out of using kit that's their own. It's part of the miracle of capturing the wonders that we do capture. For me, I couldn't care less! I just like getting my hands on some data.

The maths of sharing is compelling. With one partner you cut the cost in half. Half is not bad!! By the time you're a group of 10 it's probably cheaper than owning your own rig outright at home. People share expensive things like sailing boats and gliders all the time. I used to race karts by sharing with a friend because it was the only way we could afford to go racing at all. I currently share imaging kit with Tom and Yves. It's great.

Olly

 

You're quite right Olly, being the outright owner is not important to me at all, a group of any number wouldn't bother me in the slightest so long as we were capturing high quality data for my $$'s. Long or short focal length, nebula or galaxy is fine by me. My back garden imaging site has such a restricted view of the sky that I can't even image M42 properly, so I would be glad to just have some more choice!

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1 hour ago, ollypenrice said:

How important would it be to be sole owner of a remote setup? For me it wouldn't, to be honest. There isn't much I wouldn't want to image. (Maybe I've seen enough M33 data for this life but hey-ho!) It's the processing which I most enjoy. It might be an idea for the sharers to have their own preferred forums for first posts, perhaps, but even then, does it matter?

Some imagers do get a buzz out of using kit that's their own. It's part of the miracle of capturing the wonders that we do capture. For me, I couldn't care less! I just like getting my hands on some data.

The maths of sharing is compelling. With one partner you cut the cost in half. Half is not bad!! By the time you're a group of 10 it's probably cheaper than owning your own rig outright at home. People share expensive things like sailing boats and gliders all the time. I used to race karts by sharing with a friend because it was the only way we could afford to go racing at all. I currently share imaging kit with Tom and Yves. It's great.

Olly

 

Firstly, apologies for veering slightly off topic:

While I appreciate the economics of sharing (not to mention the quality of sky at a remote location), for me a big part of the challenge is in the technical aspect of obtaining the data in the first place. It's also about being able to image what I want and not a collective decision.

I am currently collecting data for the horsehead. It is a slow and painful process with poor transparency skies, city LP and a buggerence of the moon. But at least I can decide to grab an hour here and an hour there. Maybe I wont finish this year as the great hunter slopes off into the Western murk in search of better prey, but it's my labour and that's what adds the value for me. I enjoy the challenge of working with the <cough> "less than perfect" conditions, even if it is frequently frustrating.

As a work friend says to me, "Why not just look at the pictures on the internet?". If you want a remote site, with perfect skies, there's always the Hubble data. And that data doesn't cost any more than an internet connection...

Just my tuppence worth :)

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The last 4 months of weather do make this option attractive and I have looked at IC Astronomy's website a few times :happy7:.  Sharing has to the most cost effective way forward, with either shared agreement to purchase equipment or an agreement on donating personal equipment currently owned to build a rig.  Trust in the facility would be key too.

I have mentally budgeted the kit more than once during this awful weather . . . there are an AP Mach 1 and an AP 900 on AB&S . . .

Just not certain that now is the right time for me, I would love to, but it seems too self indulgent an expense.  BTW, I've just turned 50 and I'm entering a dangerous phase of mid-life crisis :headbang: !!

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I'm most of the way down the line to a remote setup at IK's site in Spain. Its shared with two friends which makes things bearable cost wise. We are all friends so deciding targets should be a gentlemanly affair. Several factors encouraged us to go down the remote route. The obvious one is weather. There are lots of nice imaging setups in the UK that cost lots of money and only see stars a couple times a month, maybe less is Scotland. With the promise of approx. 250 clear nights, 2500hrs of clear dark skies, running remote suddenly doesn't look so expensive.

So far I have really enjoyed the process of getting stuff together. It began at astrofest last year. All great plans are hatched at astrofest. From looking at mounts, spacing the rights adapters, reading manuals, testing under the few clear nights we have its been a good way to keep the mind active and focused on a goal.

What I've learned is that you need to very sure what setup you are going for, get it all configured before you actually buy things. Changing your mind half way through can lead to tears. You need to know that all the bits you want will work together and will fit in the back focus available.

There seems to be an opinion that in order to do astroimaging properly you need to sit and watch every photon enter the tube and set up from scratch each time, like doing otherwise is dishonest. This is of course nonsense. you don't need to sit there watching it collect data. You can sleep and let it collect data. There is far more involved in setting up a remote telescope with internet connections, and remote power switches and so and getting it to run reliably from 1000s of miles away. It is in fact quite an achievement, unlikely to be mastered at the first or maybe even second attempt.

For me, messing about in evenings that aren't quite ideal trying to grab one hour of data before the tree gets in the way, moon rises and clouds come in is just a waste. It takes a while to get everything going and these nights only bring frustration. If you want to get lots of data to make nice pictures or do science then remote is the only choice from the UK. Otherwise an object will take a season to do well. Its not fair that we live at 50N, the worst place on the planet for stable weather but you have to play the hand you're dealt. Yeah its not cheap, you need to spend the cash to get a reliable system, an unreliable system will cost lots more long term. 

That's my take on it. I'm obviously very for it. Sending it all out in a few months. Maybe it will be a nightmare. Who knows.

 

 

 

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