Jump to content

740427863_Terminatorchallenge.jpg.2f4cb93182b2ce715fac5aa75b0503c8.jpg

Remote Astrophotography


Recommended Posts

Hello everyone,

I am in the process of selling/buying new gear and since I am still fairly new to this hobby of stargazing I would like to ask a couple of questions.
What is the minimum setup for remote astrophotography? When I say remote I mean having a telescope in the back garden and operating it from my office-room computer or living room laptop.
Is there such thing as "remote"? Or even cabled from a 7 meter distance let's say!

I am sorry if this sounds funny to some people but all I've had so far was a 200p dobsonian which is great for a viewing session but that means I have no idea when it comes to astrophotography.
 

  • Would a HEQ5 pro be good enough of a mount?
  • Is a DLSR suitable or do you need a zwo camera?
  • Does a Newtonian reflector do the trick or do you need a refractor?

And in general what will I need? Please, not the most expensive items you can think of :D The basic side.

Thank you in advance :)

Vasilis

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As regards "remote" you can control a laptop from you in house PC with things like Team Viewer, Remote Desktop et al.

No funny at all if you are new to AP. A DSLR can certainly be used but you might want to get it modified for AP. Reflectors can be used - the 200 dob might be difficult for guiding purposes but it can be done. You will need a guidescope and camera if you are going for long exposures.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A HEQ5pro will be enough, scope size dependant.

DSLR or dedicated will work.

Newtonian or Refractor makes no difference, the only issue you could run into is having a newtonian not suited for imaging (not enough inward travel on focuser to reach the image plane of the sensor).

My set up is a HEQ5pro, ZS73 refractor and ASI2600mc, although I used to use a Nikon D5300.

What you will need is an EQDIR cable and a laptop/mini PC to leave outside with the scope and connected to wifi. Have the imaging camera being run by APT or similar, and the mount run by the laptop (using eqmod) connected via the EQDIR cable. You can then use something like go2assist or teamviewer to remote into the laptop from your PC in the house and control it all from there. You will still need to polar align and focus from outside at the mount initially though. That would be the barebones way of remote imaging.

Another option is the use of an ASIair to control the mount and camera from a tablet, although this locks you into the ZWO product line for cameras etc.

The next step up is a permanent pier set up and a dome or roll off roof observatory and full automation.

Hope that helps a bit.

EQDIR Cable: https://www.firstlightoptics.com/sky-watcher-mount-accessories/lynx-astro-ftdi-eqdir-usb-adapter-for-sky-watcher-eq5-pro-heq5-syntrek-pro-az-eq5-gt-az-eq6-gt-and-eq8-mounts.html

Teamviewer: https://www.teamviewer.com/en/

EQmod: http://eq-mod.sourceforge.net/

APT: https://astrophotography.app/

 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have a look at the ASI air plus fits to the top of your scope and does everything for you via a SD card with a wifi range up to 20 metres controlled by an app on your smart phone/ tablet (no need to go outside).

DLSR most probably cheap option( need to check the list for compatibility) otherwise a zwo astro camera your choice.

Refractor/reflector scope, small refractors good for wide field images.

the other option would be DSLR, Star tracker (you will need a camera tripod ) & a intervalometer & save your images to your SD card

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I used a HEQ5 pro for years and found it very good indeed.

I tried a raspberry pi and software but eventually settled on a NUC mini pc. Runs windows 10 pro and all the software typically found for astro imagining and mount control. Used NUC's can be got for £150 (ish) and run quite happily on 12v.

I have no experience of ASIair but it has a strong following of SGL members.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to add as an alternative - I use an active USB3 cable (10m) running to my laptop PC in the house. I would have considered the ASIAIR option but my focusers are not compatible. I have a 12v powered USB hub at the scope.

HEQ5 and DSLR are generally fine for wide field AP (but some models are better than others). Scope options are pretty wide, but I would keep the FL relatively short initially - 600mm or less. Even a camera lens would be good to start with.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you want everything remote controlled, you need:

  • Eq mount with either usb or eqdir cable
  • Telescope with motorised focuser
  • Guide scope or OAG with guide camera, unless you bought that really expensive mount
  • Imaging camera that is compatible with your imaging software (most dedicated astro cameras, as well as Canon, Nikon and other dslr cameras are)
  • Control software based on either ASCOM (Windows) or INDI (linux)
  • Computer near your setup to run the software

Even then, you have to expect a few trips outside in order to take dust caps off, check for cable snag, verify that clouds have rolled in, etc.

I've been imaging remotely for a few years now, and have a friend who has his scope in my obsy, and I can tell you from experience that remote imaging seldom is that. Just about a week ago, my friend had started up his gear after summer recess, and while imaging went fine, he attempted to park his scope with the camera at a point in space occupied by the mount. So, add a surveillance camera or web cam to the list.

received_416165503274328.jpeg.03117122424c25dc52ed494ef09c4afd.jpeg

  • Thanks 1
  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, varius21 said:

What is the minimum setup for remote astrophotography? When I say remote I mean having a telescope in the back garden and operating it from my office-room computer or living room laptop.

I started down this journey quite recently around April this year, so its fresh in my head :) The bare minimum setup is Scope, decent go-to mount (HEQ5 pro is good and I have it), an astro camera (doesnt need to be cooled) or DSLR, a laptop and cables to go between laptop and mount, camera and power cable. You have option of using a USB hub placed close to the mount and a single cable running back from it to your laptop.

You also need to settle on a software that you are comfortable with (NINA, Kstars, APT etc.) to control your equipment. First 2 software are free but Kstars uses INDI which only runs on Linux, RPi, Mac. I use the latter and I use an RPi instead of a USB hub to control them.

Good luck.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The good (or bad) point about AP is that you can do it as much complicated and expensive as you want (read: can, be allowed…). 
My approach to backyard AP has been to invest in a fair good mount (went for a EQ6-R Pro which supports a moderate payload with an acceptable guiding performance), a Newtonian scope (SW PDS series are fast enough with its f/5, adequate focuser for AP and low price), a DSLR camera (went for a Canon 600D, nowadays being astromodified), electronic focuser (ZWO EAF 5V) and guiding scope with a ZWO 224MC (this camera can be used for planetary too). 
All this is connected to a laptop through a powered USB hub, and the laptop remotely accessed from another computer using Team-Viewer. 
Outside, I just set up the gear, polar align the mount and focus the guide scope. The rest of the workflow can be done remotely. 
Not taking into account the computers, my total investment has been around 2500€. 
You can substitute the laptop with a powered usb cable or another wireless solution: ASIAIR, Raspberry Pi…
I you want to go to a permanent setup, you’d need an observatory. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I appreciate all your help, everyone! You really are helping a lot with the info you're giving me.
One more question. How do you go about auto-focusing? Do you have to have a ZWO EAF or are there cheaper alternatives?

Thanks ❤️

Link to comment
Share on other sites

32 minutes ago, varius21 said:

Do you have to have a ZWO EAF or are there cheaper alternatives?

The only cheaper solutions I know about are DIY projects. If you feel comfortable with arduino environment, you can google it. Some of them are even compatible with ASCOM protocol.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are alternatives but for full remote operability you're not going to get much cheaper. The ZWO EAF is also a very decent bit of kit. If you're going DSLR you might argue you can skip it as you can focus at the start of the evening and as long as the sky is behaving you don't need to go out again. However as soon as you go mono it's a must as you'll need to refocus every time you change the filter.

 

Also another vote for using a Raspberry Pi and Astroberry (free) or StellarMate (paid version). The learning curve is pretty much vertical but it's a powerful set of tools.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say that for truly remot (Even in your own garden) imaging you need an obsy with automated roof, that is if you want to be able to start and stop an imaging run without having to traipse out to it every time. Add a weather monitor (I use an AAG Cloudwatcher) to close down a session if the weather turns.

Below that consider a fixed pier with all your kit under a robust cover, the Telegizmos 365 are pretty good.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

58 minutes ago, varius21 said:

I appreciate all your help, everyone! You really are helping a lot with the info you're giving me.
One more question. How do you go about auto-focusing? Do you have to have a ZWO EAF or are there cheaper alternatives?

Thanks ❤️

You're only stuck with ZWO equipment if you go down the ASIAir route, one reason why I didn't. My autofocus uses the Primaluce Labs Sesto Senso units. I would also add something like the Pegasus Power Box Advanced that has a powered hub, power distribution, and dew control.

All my kit is connected vis ASCOM and Win 10 Pro running on industrial mini PCs

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is my obsy build thread, complete with wrong turnings and "how not to", but I set it up for remote / automated imaging. I'm sure it could be simplified and the cost reduced *considerably*

 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I control my setup from indoors (around 20ft away) via one USB cable. 

I have a 294MCPro and a 130PDS fitted with the ZWO EAF on a HEQ5Pro. Guide Scope and Camera also. Everything is connected to a Pegasus Power Box Advance (PPBA). 

I have a 13.8v power supply in a dribox. That powers the PPBA which in turn powers everything else. Everything is set up on the mount ready to go when the nights are clear. I just dump it all outside in the patio. I have drilled small holes on the patio where the mount feet go,  this ensures it is always in the correct place and pretty much polar aligned. I polar align with Sharpcap and, other than connecting the USB and power, a few little tweaks on AZ/DEC bolts are all I need to do outdoors. I use Google Remote Desktop on my phone to see the computer screen/Sharpcap while aligning.

Then back inside, everything else is controlled via APT and PHD2. Cool camera, slew to a bright star, auto focus, pick target, plate solve and start shooting.

Set up time is around 15 minutes which includes cooling the camera. 

Here's my set up and I would consider it pretty basic but even basic isn't cheap.

FB_IMG_1627409740675.jpg.73a3a9bffdec86b00b83567f87b4554a.jpg

Edited by Jamgood
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, Jamgood said:

I control my setup from indoors (around 20ft away) via one USB cable. 

I have a 294MCPro and a 130PDS fitted with the ZWO EAF on a HEQ5Pro. Guide Scope and Camera also. Everything is connected to a Pegasus Power Box Advance (PPBA). 

I have a 13.8v power supply in a dribox. That powers the PPBA which in turn powers everything else. Everything is set up on the mount ready to go when the nights are clear. I just dump it all outside in the patio. I have drilled small holes on the patio where the mount feet go,  this ensures it is always in the correct place and pretty much polar aligned. I polar align with Sharpcap and, other than connecting the USB and power, a few little tweaks on AZ/DEC bolts are all I need to do outdoors. I use Google Remote Desktop on my phone to see the computer screen/Sharpcap while aligning.

Then back inside, everything else is controlled via APT and PHD2. Cool camera, slew to a bright star, auto focus, pick target, plate solve and start shooting.

Set up time is around 15 minutes which includes cooling the camera. 

Here's my set up.

FB_IMG_1627409740675.jpg.73a3a9bffdec86b00b83567f87b4554a.jpg


That's a beautiful setup you have right there.
Thank you for showing me all this. I see you are in Derby too.... I live in Sinfin. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, varius21 said:


That's a beautiful setup you have right there.
Thank you for showing me all this. I see you are in Derby too.... I live in Sinfin. 

I am indeed. I'm in Spondon. 👍

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It might be worth distinguishing between remoteness and automation. They are not the same thing. I host six instruments whose owners are in other countries, so that's 'remote.'  Then there are levels of automation. At one extreme you might set up ten years' worth of imaging runs, set off to walk around the world, come back at the end of it and start processing...  If you are only as remote as your garden you need very little remoteness and, strictly speaking, no automation since you could pop out to focus with a Bahtinov mask if you felt like it. Or you could use a motor focuser controlled from within the house by yourself while looking at the FWHM values on your PC. Or you could use a software programme to do the FWHM reading and motorized adjustment for you.

Remote-automated can be as extreme as you choose.

Olly

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, varius21 said:

@Jamgood  How come you chose a reflector? Usually, when I see expensive setups like yours they use small refractors. I am asking obviously because I am learning :D

When I first started in March 2020, I started with a DSLR (Unmodded Canon 200D) and a lens on a rickety tripod. The more I watched and learned about Deep Sky Imaging made me want to go further.

I then found THIS thread on here. The images blew me away and the price of the 130PDS seemed a good starting point for me. It's a small light bucket and a very good one that punches well above its weight. I'll have it forever!

Then I had the scope with a EQ3Pro mount and a DSLR. Then opportunity came along for a used HEQ5Pro via this site, so I upgraded. (I only had the EQ3Pro for two months)

Then I got a better DSLR, a Canon 60Da which was awesome but it died after 6 months so I treated myseld to the 294MC Pro, PPBA and EAF to really upgrade.

Here I am now.

Don't dismiss a good Reflector. Yes, you have to collimate them, wait for them to cool down sometimes and do a bit of general maintenance but they're great for deep sky work.

I've done a few mods to my set up to make it better and I'm more than happy with it. By mods I mean from simple things like Bob's Knobs on the scope to Rowan Belt Mod in the HEQ5. 

The main thing is, whatever you use, have fun but also make sure what you buy is going to get you what you want to achieve. For example, my set up is great for deep sky but useless for planets. Have a goal and work towards that. 👍

Edited by Jamgood
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

INDI is not limited to Linux and Mac. Runs on Windows too.

I will make my customary Raspberry Pi/KStars pitch here, for a particular reason. There is no substitute for a good mount, and good mounts necessarily cost money. So if money matters, and you can save on other areas, you'll be able to afford a better mount. You are in approximately the same boat that I was in, I suspect, so forgive me the "I did it this way so you should too".


A Raspberry Pi 4 costs about US$65, a case with room for a HAT board will be maybe US$15 more, and the Waveshare Motor HAT board is US$25 last I checked. StellarMate OS is US$50; a microSD card, maybe US$12. So US$170 for a unit that will easily mount on your scope or on your mount, will run on less than an amp of current, and takes the same 12V input as the rest of your astro gear (even the same barrel connector). It will join your home WiFi, or you can run a Cat-5 Ethernet cable out to it. Both work with essentially no configuration. You can remote-desktop to it from Windows, Mac, Linux, or even mobile devices, and there's a free app to run it from the latter (similar to the ASIAir). It will connect to just about anything, not just ZWO gear, and runs a complete astronomy suite out of the box (including the PHD guiding program).

Yes, more astronomy programs are available for Windows, but you don't need more. If you have a complete set -- and believe me, KStars/Ekos is nothing if not complete! -- you can image without limitations.

The reason the Waveshare HAT board appears above is because it's a nice power adapter for the Pi (no need for a wall-wart), but more importantly it provides two stepper-motor outputs, and there's an INDI driver for it. A US$40 stepper, a bracket to hold it, a pulley, and a belt to go around your focus knob, and you have a complete autofocus system.

I recommend StellarMate OS over the free suites (e.g. Astroberry) or compiling your own, simply because it's cheap for the time and frustration saved, and the support is quite good. If you want to apply the same logic to the focuser, Ekos supports the ZWO EAF.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, rickwayne said:

INDI is not limited to Linux and Mac. Runs on Windows too.

I will make my customary Raspberry Pi/KStars pitch here, for a particular reason. There is no substitute for a good mount, and good mounts necessarily cost money. So if money matters, and you can save on other areas, you'll be able to afford a better mount. You are in approximately the same boat that I was in, I suspect, so forgive me the "I did it this way so you should too".


A Raspberry Pi 4 costs about US$65, a case with room for a HAT board will be maybe US$15 more, and the Waveshare Motor HAT board is US$25 last I checked. StellarMate OS is US$50; a microSD card, maybe US$12. So US$170 for a unit that will easily mount on your scope or on your mount, will run on less than an amp of current, and takes the same 12V input as the rest of your astro gear (even the same barrel connector). It will join your home WiFi, or you can run a Cat-5 Ethernet cable out to it. Both work with essentially no configuration. You can remote-desktop to it from Windows, Mac, Linux, or even mobile devices, and there's a free app to run it from the latter (similar to the ASIAir). It will connect to just about anything, not just ZWO gear, and runs a complete astronomy suite out of the box (including the PHD guiding program).

Yes, more astronomy programs are available for Windows, but you don't need more. If you have a complete set -- and believe me, KStars/Ekos is nothing if not complete! -- you can image without limitations.

The reason the Waveshare HAT board appears above is because it's a nice power adapter for the Pi (no need for a wall-wart), but more importantly it provides two stepper-motor outputs, and there's an INDI driver for it. A US$40 stepper, a bracket to hold it, a pulley, and a belt to go around your focus knob, and you have a complete autofocus system.

I recommend StellarMate OS over the free suites (e.g. Astroberry) or compiling your own, simply because it's cheap for the time and frustration saved, and the support is quite good. If you want to apply the same logic to the focuser, Ekos supports the ZWO EAF.

100% agree with this. I have done exactly this recently and am already seeing some great benefits. I actually use Astroberry rather than StellarMate and it works really well, but that's just because I wanted to see how it all worked together before I spent any additional money. So all in all, I think my remote setup, including a focuser which I built myself cost me under £150. I access it on my Macbook, Windows PC via browser/vnc and even my iphone/ipad (using VNC). It connects on to my home wifi and is all powered from a £50 jumpstart powerbank! I wont bore everyone with my recent images using this setup but they can be found in the widefield section if you are interested 😁

Edited by Dazzyt66
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Jamgood said:

Everything is set up on the mount ready to go when the nights are clear. I just dump it all outside in the patio.

Clearly I need to get more exercise, I find even lifting the HEQ-5 without counterweights heavy enough!

 

Also OP don't get overwhelmed with all the (very good) input in this thread. It's a time consuming, expensive hobby so perhaps start with the scope, the mount and a laptop and work your way up from there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, SiD the Turtle said:

Clearly I need to get more exercise, I find even lifting the HEQ-5 without counterweights heavy enough!

Yeah, it does have a bit of weight to it. I doubt I'll be able to lift it when I'm 60 but the plan is to have a fully automated Obsy by then.

5 minutes ago, SiD the Turtle said:

Also OP don't get overwhelmed with all the (very good) input in this thread. It's a time consuming, expensive hobby so perhaps start with the scope, the mount and a laptop and work your way up from there.

That is very true. It is easy to get overwhelmed with it all. There's a lot to learn after the basics of the scope, mount, camera and laptop.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.