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Do you think there will be new types of scope or eyepiece technology soon?


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Hi all,

Fairly random post just opening up some discussion whilst we have some cloudy skies. I'm very new to the proper side of telescopes and astronomy, having bought my 8" dob as a first real telescope about 3 weeks ago. What I've seemed to notice (although correct me if I'm completely wrong) is that most of the equipment that is quality and recommended has been around for years and years. I suppose when it comes to something as fundamental as gathering and focusing visible light there is only so much you can do. One thing that does come to mind is that crazily overpriced stellina. That live stacking integrated into the telescope is something that seems relatively new and is the kind of thing I'm talking about, besides all the flaws it has. Do you guys think there will be new types of telescope or eyepieces anytime soon that are different from upgrading existing designs, or are we just at the limit of the physics?

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I think there will continue to be progress. I haven't seen an amateur setup with adaptive optics yet. There are continuous improvements in software and automation. Also, the sorts of equipment which a reasonably well equipped amateur can afford today would have been astonishingly expensive 20 or 30 years ago.

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I can see stellina and other smart scopes like that becoming more and more common as time goes on. Just needs to drop more than half of the pricetag to be viable for more folks but thats a question of when rather than if since the individual parts to make such a scope are nothing new or special.

I would also imagine that the same kind of tech would make its way onto visual scopes in the form of some kind of plate solving auto pointing system (like Celestron starsense?).

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Posted (edited)

I think electronic eyepieces will become more popular, you only have to look through the viewfinder of a modern high end mirrorless DSLR to be convinced.  An electronic eyepiece could also provide correct image views, have various zoom modes, have variable integration times and the ability to save the image too. Oh and a constant exit pupil size over varying focal lengths.

Alan

Edited by Alien 13
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I like the idea of the Dragonfly array but the lenses they use are a bit pricey, but maybe they could do something like the EHT using interferometry and a load of cheap sensors/optics to get the resolution of a much larger telescope 🤔

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Posted (edited)

I guess the most recent "advancement" is the widespread adoption of the newer breeds of CMOS cameras over traditional CCDs.

I would think as CMOS technology continues to improve, it may well spell the end for the need for autiguiding.

Edited by The Lazy Astronomer
Deleted some info - changed my mind!
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Posted (edited)

Lets hope composite mirrors get more affordable soon.  That would change the  market a lot.  On the other hand, it would be the only thing that gets more affordable🫤

Edited by Robindonne
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These are some great answers guys, really interesting stuff. The idea of electronic eyepieces was the kind of thing I was thinking and seems so foreign right now but I imagine would be a huge step up in terms of quality (though potentially a step down in experience). I hadn't heard of a dragonfly array but just looking it up it's a super cool idea. I wonder if someday there will be a multi-scope sort of design that can extract some level of depth and create 3D images (like our two eyes kind of thing). I imagine this would need to have an unbelievably high resolution but would be a cool creation. Adaptive optics is another one I had to look up, but is easy enough to understand. Saw one article saying they're bringing us close to the physical theoretical limits which is exciting. Photography hadn't crossed my mind, but yes of course! In fact, it would make sense that cameras would advance the quickest seeing as they can be developed alongside other industries. 

Thanks for the answers and keep them coming if you have more ideas. Fascinating to think we still have a long way to improve.

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15 minutes ago, Robindonne said:

Lets hope composite mirrors get more affordable soon.  That would change the  market a lot.  On the other hand, it would be the only thing that gets more affordable🫤

Couldn't find anything clear in my quick google search, what are composite mirrors?

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Diffraction limited optics is what I look forward to. At the moment it is very expensive to have adaptive optics, especially if you also need a laser guide star (not to mention the safety aspects of the latter).  Something which could reverse the seeing motion in software rather than hardware would be wonderful and is not obviously impossible.

Near-IR imaging, to 4 microns say, would open up a whole new field to amateurs.

Medium resolution spectroscopy at a low price (say resolution of 1-5k and a price of £0.5-2k pounds) would be wonderful.

Software correction of distortion in the optical train is something I have been investigating and starting to work on it. It would make large aperture scopes much cheaper. My prototype is a 20cm shaving mirror which is not even approximately parabolic. It cost me about €6 and a web cam at prime focus is another €5. Compare that price with a 20cm Dobsonian mounted Newtonian with eyepiece or camera. Now think of building a 1m mirror, with its lousy optics corrected in software. Should be possible for under £1000 whereas a professionally built scope would be around £1M at that aperture.

No shortage of ideas ...

 

 

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1 hour ago, Astro Noodles said:

Perhaps in 20 or 30 years from now, some amateurs will have their own space telescopes. 

I don't see why not. Launch costs are way down and falling rapidly. The expensive bit is space-hardening the electronics and paying for the up- and down-links. Young Mr Musk is working on all of those issues.

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On 08/06/2022 at 22:35, sorrimen said:

Couldn't find anything clear in my quick google search, what are composite mirrors?

Something like this company is working on.  Basically instead of 2 inch thick glass, they use a fraction of that glass and reinforce it with a second material, probably some fibre like carbon or similar. 

 

it makes the most expensive and heavy telescope part expensive and lightweight.   Lets hope that expensive part will change to affordable
 

http://www.compositemirrors.com/meter-class-telescopes/

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New types of telescope?

One that comes to mind is amateurs starting to image more in the infra red. Primarily to beat the ever increasing scourge of (visible) light pollution.

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I have a 10 inch dob and a Stellina.  I love them both.  I am wondering if we will ever see a blend utilizing the best features of both.  

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10 hours ago, pete_l said:

New types of telescope?

One that comes to mind is amateurs starting to image more in the infra red. Primarily to beat the ever increasing scourge of (visible) light pollution.

Infrared, what a good point. I wonder how infrared telescopes compare in terms of atmospheric dispersion etc, are they the same as visible light or are there some fundamental differences?

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11 hours ago, Robindonne said:

Something like this company is working on.  Basically instead of 2 inch thick glass, they use a fraction of that glass and reinforce it with a second material, probably some fibre like carbon or similar. 

 

it makes the most expensive and heavy telescope part expensive and lightweight.   Lets hope that expensive part will change to affordable
 

http://www.compositemirrors.com/meter-class-telescopes/

Ahh that’s very clever. Much more efficient use of materials.

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11 hours ago, pete_l said:

New types of telescope?

One that comes to mind is amateurs starting to image more in the infra red. Primarily to beat the ever increasing scourge of (visible) light pollution.

To some extent that is happening. I have Sloan i' and z' filters. I also use Sloan r' quite often because it suppresses moonlight (a form of light pollution) and seeing is better in the red and near IR. The major use case for me is multi-band photometry rather than imaging per se.

Never thought of doing tri-colour pretty pictures in those three filters. Thanks for giving me the idea. Perhaps some dusty star forming regions might be appropriate targets? Other suggestions welcomed.

Up above I suggested imaging out to 4 micron or so. That will require detectors not based on silicon.

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Just been doing some internet browsing and it seems that the cost of a SpaceX low orbit launch is less than $3000 per KG, compared to more than $50,000 per KG for the Space Shuttle. Mr Musk is saying that when Starship is operational the costs will drop to the tens of dollars per KG. 

It seems that the age of the amateur space telescope may be closer than thought.

 

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As a boy In the late 1960’s I can remember being confidently told that there would be tourists flights to the moon in about 1980-something. In fact some airlines (Pan Am is a classics example) offered a waiting list. So I’m not convinced amateur space telescopes will become a thing relatively soon.

But before they do, or before any of this advanced astronomy becomes reality, it would be nice if things could be a little more standard. Eg as a beginner I find it frustrating and confusing that this mount takes a M10 bolt yet this tripod has a 3/8”.

I’d be a little cheesed off if, after launching my space telescope, I then discovered that I had a 3/8” bolt that was trying to attach to a M10 thread. Then had to order an expensive adapter from FLO and request yet another expensive delivery to orbit. 

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2 hours ago, Astro Noodles said:

Just been doing some internet browsing and it seems that the cost of a SpaceX low orbit launch is less than $3000 per KG, compared to more than $50,000 per KG for the Space Shuttle. Mr Musk is saying that when Starship is operational the costs will drop to the tens of dollars per KG. 

It seems that the age of the amateur space telescope may be closer than thought.

 

This cost is probably derived from a full payload launch, so there would have to be an awful lot of amateur scopes going up to fill the entire rocket! Remember the cost of the rocket with nothing sitting in the payload fairing is pretty much the same as launching the thing with a max payload. Ride sharing with a bigger launch is more likely, but i doubt this will get anywhere close to the theoretical price either.

Many things need to be ensured for a space telescope to work at all and this price will easily be more than the launch cost. It will need a propulsion system for orbital maneuvers, that is if you dont want the scope to re-enter the atmosphere and become a cloud of plasma and a puff of smoke. Also some kind of high resolution pointing system, with probably reaction wheels and gyroscopes. Will also need power, communications and epic thermal design. In orbit the temperatures can range from -100c to 100c so you just cant have any old scope and throw it into orbit and expect it to work. Realistically the scope needs to be kept cool both passively and actively when on the sunlit side and still be built from very low thermal expansion materials = Basically entirely carbon fiber.

But for lets say 1 million $ one could probably get a small private space telescope up with the rideshare option. Its pipedream money for most, but not all people so i think this may qualify as an "amateur" space telescope then?

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1 minute ago, ONIKKINEN said:

This cost is probably derived from a full payload launch, so there would have to be an awful lot of amateur scopes going up to fill the entire rocket! Remember the cost of the rocket with nothing sitting in the payload fairing is pretty much the same as launching the thing with a max payload. Ride sharing with a bigger launch is more likely, but i doubt this will get anywhere close to the theoretical price either.

Many things need to be ensured for a space telescope to work at all and this price will easily be more than the launch cost. It will need a propulsion system for orbital maneuvers, that is if you dont want the scope to re-enter the atmosphere and become a cloud of plasma and a puff of smoke. Also some kind of high resolution pointing system, with probably reaction wheels and gyroscopes. Will also need power, communications and epic thermal design. In orbit the temperatures can range from -100c to 100c so you just cant have any old scope and throw it into orbit and expect it to work. Realistically the scope needs to be kept cool both passively and actively when on the sunlit side and still be built from very low thermal expansion materials = Basically entirely carbon fiber.

But for lets say 1 million $ one could probably get a small private space telescope up with the rideshare option. Its pipedream money for most, but not all people so i think this may qualify as an "amateur" space telescope then?

I agree, for $1 million I think you start getting into the realms of thinking about doing it. In 20 to 30 years time I'm convinced that an amateur group will have put their own telescope into orbit. Or perhaps a commercial enterprise.

Vintage Micro: The Amateur Space Telescope | Drew Ex Machina

An amateur space telescope? - Free Online Library (thefreelibrary.com)

Certainly attempts to get amateur space telescopes into orbit have failed so far due to a number of technical and cost limitations. But as technology improves and costs come down, I think within a couple of decades someone will have done it. After all - 30 years ago, how many amateurs had access to a telescope with CMOS cameras, powerful laptop computers, advanced stacking and processing software, guiding, wireless, broadband etc ?

 

 

 

 

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A well heeled few could make it happen but I think the majority of folks on SGL for example, like tinkering with stuff in their own backyard. If super quality imaging data was a big draw, pay to use telescope sites would be shooting up  in Atacama and such places and although there has been growth in this area of amateur astronomy, it hasn't taken off to the extent I thought it would. 

A while back a spell of near constant cloud for a month did make me consider it, and if I sold all of my kit it would have funded many hours on an imaging rig in Spain, but in the end I decided I wouldn't enjoy this hobby half as much if I was just sat at a computer all the time.

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We're not that far away.  A cubesat is apparently $60'000 to launch as of 2021.  With the surge in commercial launches that will decrease.

With things like monolithic sct lenses you can fit a decent focal length in a small box so then all you need is some imaging and communications.

Monolithic scts are super interesting.  You can read up on them on Huygens optics on YouTube:

Be warned if you start watching:. You are about to fall down a pleasingly Dutch sounding optical black hole.

Edited by Ratlet
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On 12/06/2022 at 15:04, Astro Noodles said:

I agree, for $1 million I think you start getting into the realms of thinking about doing it. In 20 to 30 years time I'm convinced that an amateur group will have put their own telescope into orbit. Or perhaps a commercial enterprise.

Vintage Micro: The Amateur Space Telescope | Drew Ex Machina

An amateur space telescope? - Free Online Library (thefreelibrary.com)

Certainly attempts to get amateur space telescopes into orbit have failed so far due to a number of technical and cost limitations. But as technology improves and costs come down, I think within a couple of decades someone will have done it. After all - 30 years ago, how many amateurs had access to a telescope with CMOS cameras, powerful laptop computers, advanced stacking and processing software, guiding, wireless, broadband etc ?

Let me put this rather sad image here for SGL people to contemplate.

As some of you know, my observatory is 3km (2 miles) from a volcano which erupted last September through December. I was lucky and had to deal only with ~30cm of ash and no lava.  A guy a very few km south of mine had an observatory with a 50cm and an 80cm telescope. I estimate that the total cost of replacing that kit is in excess of  €1M, itself over $1M.

Rico observatory.jpg

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