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Aidan

Do you trust your Automation?

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I’m pretty sure those who are lucky enough to have a purpose built observatory have a great deal of trust in theirs... I’m not fortunate enough to have the space, so have to setup and tear down every session.

Once I am imaging, I constantly find myself either remoting onto my imaging laptop or going out to my garage to make sure things are ticking over nicely.  I have good confidence in mine... but always concerned that something might have gone wrong!   

I cant think of anything more painful than finding out the last 2 or 3 10min exposures are lost due to something untoward happening!

I can’t/won’t leave mine unattended and go to sleep due to the setup being in my garden which could be seen by passers by...  Makes me wonder if I’d be more inclined to have greater trust if I could leave it running through the night whilst asleep.

 

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11 minutes ago, Aidan said:

I’m pretty sure those who are lucky enough to have a purpose built observatory have a great deal of trust in theirs... I’m not fortunate enough to have the space, so have to setup and tear down every session.

Once I am imaging, I constantly find myself either remoting onto my imaging laptop or going out to my garage to make sure things are ticking over nicely.  I have good confidence in mine... but always concerned that something might have gone wrong!   

I cant think of anything more painful than finding out the last 2 or 3 10min exposures are lost due to something untoward happening!

I can’t/won’t leave mine unattended and go to sleep due to the setup being in my garden which could be seen by passers by...  Makes me wonder if I’d be more inclined to have greater trust if I could leave it running through the night whilst asleep.

 

I fully understand your reluctance to leave it running out in the garden.  The biggest issue for you, rather than theft, is probably rain.

I often go to bed leaving my imaging run going in my observatory, and I have several warnings for rain and intruders which send me push notifications and emails to my phone.  Also SGP notifications system emails me if anything goes wrong from an imaging front.

Even with all this in place I still have 2 CCTV cameras in the obsy to check on what's going on should I wake up so I don't have to go outside, which of course I can, and do, if I choose to.

It's a very tough decision to make, imaging unattended, and one which takes a great deal of confidence in your kit and safety features.  If you're not 100% confident don't do it, as you probably won't sleep anyway.

Edited by RayD
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I don't have an observatory, but I like to have a certain amount of trust in my kit and neighborhood (although I wouldn't leave it in the front garden!) simply because I don't want to be stood outside in the cold for hours!#

My biggest worry is rain, as mentioned above, but other than that I just try to make sure its set up properly before I leave it alone. If the images get worse as they go on, I'll live with it because at the end of the day it's still saved me a lot of time stood outside.

If I *did* have an obsy, perhaps I would use CCTV & connect a small PC in the dome to the network to share the pictures indoors.

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Completely get your concerns. In my old place the original back fence was a 1.2m high mesh weld type, anyone walking at the back, (which was a dark reserve/park) could see it and easily pinch it... once the fence was replaced with a color bond 2.2m high fence the security was improved and I had no problem leaving it out and going to sleep.

Today by obsy is not visible from the street at all, plus on top of that I do have CCTV around the house, once camera looking straight at the obsy and the others placed in such a position that no one could enter the yeard, from, back or sides without being caught on a camera. system that sends notifications to the phone and can sound alarm if motion is detected, so theft possibility is minimized.

Rain is another matter, my gear got rained on once, but not so completely drenched that any damage was sustained, when it dried out it was OK.... I guess the astro gear needs to be resilient to moisture to a point, there have been times where the equipment was saturated and dripping with dew, so a bit of rain, if caught relatively early enough should not be a problem.

As far as having faith in the automation... like you I remote into my obsy computer using my iPad and monitor the progress, guiding etc, and when the system is running, and the weather looks like it'll hold up clear, I either go to sleep or go to the gym or if doing a late shift, I go to work... remote into the system from the remote location to occasionally keep and eye on the system and the sky... (have a DMK41 with a c-mount lens pointing up and updating every 30 seconds to show the sky a 70 degree circle, that way I can see if clouds are coming etc...

When at work I can remote into the laptop and park/hibernate the telescope, looking at the laptop web cam and can see the scope setup to make sure that there are no cable snags (which I paid attention in setup to minimize the possibility of cable catching which hasn't happened yet).

The laptop shuts down automatically and than the power is set on a timer and that too cut out at a determined time, 15 minutes after laptop shutdown...

So far everything works nicely so I do have confidence in my automation... although the next step is to add a rain sensor, when rain is detected, to auto park and hibernate the scope, stop exposures and close up the hutt.

 

 

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Having had gear stolen while imaging (I had gone inside for 2 minutes to use the bathroom), I am very reluctant to 'leave' my setup at all without checking on it every 60 seconds or so (eg while boiling a kettle for a cup of coffee).

That said, I still have it running pretty much automatically and usually find that things tend to do what I expect.

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2 hours ago, Demonperformer said:

Having had gear stolen while imaging (I had gone inside for 2 minutes to use the bathroom)

That's awful.  I'm guessing someone was watching you! :sad:

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The most annoying thing: I came out to find the guy trying to unplug the laptop lead (he ran off down the road without it, followed by a car speeding away). But the streetlight across the road (which allegedly increases security!) was giving him the light to commit the deed AND making him an indescribable black blob against it so I couldn't even tell the police what he looked like. But, honestly, I have moved on ....

[apologies if this is dragging the thread slightly off the topic of 'can the automation be trusted?']

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Like you I have to setup and tear down each time. This has given me thought about trying to maximise my imaging time by leaving my equipment out.
Above all rain is my biggest concern. I once setup whilst there a bit of low cloud around but multiple forecasts was for it to clear up within the next hour or so with no chance of rain.

When I just finished setting up the heavens open with torrential rain for 20mins :hmh:. I grabbed some black liners to cover my kit (CCD, Mount, OTA) as this is all that I could do at the time.
Luckily everything remained dry so I got away with it. It did however make me much more cautious about setting up with cloud around. So leaving the equipment up all night even with some sort of notification system is not something I am planning to do. Maybe one day if I get an Observatory, even then I have heard some horror stories with rain and automated roofs not shutting...

Edited by Droogie 2001

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12 hours ago, Aidan said:

I cant think of anything more painful than finding out the last 2 or 3 10min exposures are lost due to something untoward happening!

Really? I recently imaged for a whole night without ticking "autosave" :sad2:

I also recently imaged most of the night through the wrong filter - a photometry one, so the data was useless! :sad2:

This was all user error. So far, the automation in my obsy has been okay. I'm happy the cables don't snag and I can re-point remotely without anything going wrong. An autofocuser would be nice, so I could change filters remotely or schedule those filter changes.

I still cannot sleep for long while it's running, though. I think I need a reliable rain sensor with loud alarm before I can comfortably get a proper sleep!

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17 minutes ago, Shibby said:

I still cannot sleep for long while it's running, though. I think I need a reliable rain sensor with loud alarm before I can comfortably get a proper sleep!

That's the key thing, Lewis.  You need to be really comfortable with it or you just won't sleep.

I spent lots of time in the obsy testing my alert systems and notifications before I was happy to leave it and go to bed.  Once you are happy that all these things work then it should all be good.  

I use these little 12v rain sensors which, whilst not the most technologically advanced item, as a stand alone relay based unit they seem to be robust and reliable.

Edited by RayD

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Some very interesting points of view...  When my kit is out imaging, my back gate is locked and chained, so only access is down the side of the house which has a security light and they would have to go right by the patio doors next to where i sit.

My comment about losing 30mins worth of subs is mainly due normally having only a couple of hours imaging at a time... but i guess thats nothing compared to having kit stolen from right under your nose.   CCTV is certainly something that i'm installing soon for the house.. not just from an astronomy perspective but just in general.  I've installed a few in my time and i'm quite impressed at how good some of the cheaper models are.

 

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3 hours ago, RayD said:

I use these little 12v rain sensors which, whilst not the most technologically advanced item, as a stand alone relay based unit they seem to be robust and reliable.

Ooh, not seen that one before - you say it works well, does it cope OK with dew?

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6 minutes ago, Shibby said:

Ooh, not seen that one before - you say it works well, does it cope OK with dew?

Yes it seems to.  I've not had any false fires, but I guess that depends on the extent of dew and would be the same for most rain sensors I suspect.  No issues at all for me so far.

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As someone who hosts five automated remote rigs I can tell you that I have absolute faith in these systems... to keep me hard at work throughout the year fixing them!

:icon_mrgreen:lly

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