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I am living up north in Norway, 300 km above the Arctic Circle, which gives me six months per year of darkness and cold. I used to have a starter telescope when I was living in Spain, but I gave it away, and I want to build/buy a new system with the following requirements.

  • operated remotely - by cables or by Wi-Fi. I want to put it outside my house - maybe even 50 meters away and stay inside (warm) and do all the stuff from my computer: moving, viewing, zooming and saving information.
  • I would like the telescope to know how to track a specific star or nebula
  • I would like to be able to do long exposures with an attached camera for faint objects, probably hours, so I can get nice images for you :)

What gear do I need and what things may I be missing?

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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In my experience this is entirely possible in a 'warmer' climate ie southern Britain. I can give you advice on that basis, maybe someone else will advise on dealing with the cold!

Can I suggest something like the robodome, this is an automated dome to house the scope (upto 10" aperture is suitable but tight.) which can be synced to a weather station and the telescope controls.

Operating can be done fairly simply via R232 and or USB cables, the USB will need to be powered to deal with the distance. Remote operation is no different really from a wired connection while stood next to the scope.

BUT! remeber that a scope drive will have enough power to crush fingers, mains electricity is enough to kill and if something goes wrong you could a lot of equipment at the mercy of the weather. So some kind of safety plan is needed...

Minimum list: Dome, Scope, CCD, webcam, cabling, weather station, motorised mount. [to track add a tracking camera/on ccd chip.] Setting up your own observatory is a lot of fun though, sitting in the warm is definitely the way to go!

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Most computer controlled telescopes will do what you want, and many can be connected to IP networks, which means cabling or wireless will be straightforward.

Your challenge is weatherproofing - while many motorised mounts are good to run in low temperatures, that far north you will need a dome to keep snow, ice and other debris out of the mount and scope) and ensure your power cabling is robust out to the dome (armoured cable, well buried)

I just see @Nic mentioned Robodome - that should do what you want nicely.

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Good advice given already. A few extra observations:

Keep in mind that the performance of the tracking mount is crucial. You could obtain good results with a modest scope, or even a regular camera, as long as the drive mechanism keeps track of the sky motion very precisely. So focus your research in that area first. A large part of the financial effort should go towards purchasing the best tracking mount you could afford.

Secondly, if you live in an area with lots of light pollution from a big city, the results are probably not going to be very good. Dark skies are another crucial factor to astrophotography.

The telescope itself is not that crucial, however odd that may seem. As long as it's not a piece of junk, as long as it's decent, and built with astrophoto in mind, it will probably do okay. More aperture (diameter of the objective) is generally good, but then a too heavy scope may overload the mount. Mounts are rated, among other things, for the maximum load they can support - don't exceed that.

The camera, again, is not that special. Many people use regular DSLR bodies, lens removed, mounted directly on the scope (prime focus photography). That should be enough for pretty good results. After a while you could graduate to dedicated CCD cameras, featuring active cooling and so on (although in your climate forced cooling may not be that important, lol).

Finally, keep in mind that astrophoto is tricky, it's not a cheap hobby, the learning curve is not very forgiving, and you will probably make a number of wrong decisions at first. Keep researching, refrain from impulse-buying a lot of stuff quickly, take your time and make sure you understand what's going on.

P.S.: If you have a digital camera already (doesn't have to be a DSLR), you could build a DIY tracking platform, just to see what happens when you do long time exposures.

http://www.garyseronik.com/?q=node/52

That may clarify a few things for you before you go ahead and plunk down the money on expensive gear. You could test light pollution, you'll get a feel for the challenges imposed by precise long-term tracking, you may start experimenting with "stacking" the photos using DeepSkyStacker or similar apps, etc.

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Multam fain. I actually have a sonny alpha 700 and doing things like auroras for the moment. flickr.com/photos/valugi/6756358915 –  Elzo Valugi Feb 2 '12 at 7:44
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You don't say if you have decided if you'll be carrying the telescope out every time you'll be using it. If you decide to leave it outside, a simple "roll-off" shed is useful protection and time saver.

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Is true. I am not decided on nothing for now, just looking for some good advice. –  Elzo Valugi Feb 2 '12 at 21:17
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