Semi-remotely controlling a semi-mobile observatory 😅

When you live in a place that get infested by mosquitoes at summer and also get freezing cold at winter, you do need to find a way to shot some astrophotographies and yet stay alive to stack all frames on the next day.

Once the sky is not helping me lately, I’m doing the job to automatizate my setup. Or kinda it. I mean, my setup is “semi-mobile”… it is light weight enough to mount everything every night, but most of my images are taken from my backyard.

My inspiration to this project is Chuck’s Astrophotography. This guy is awesome! Although he uses 2 rigs at the same time, his setup makes me wonder if I can do something similar with my… and I think I can.

Here are the problems I need to solve:

  • 1 – When I’m outsite my laptop goes with me. It means it get humidity from the dew, and I don’t like this.
  • 2 – As I said on the begining of this post, stay outsite all night long is hard. Mosquitoes, humidity, cold, warm…
  • 3 – While I’m imaging, my main laptop stays busy. It means I can’t do anything else, like work on other projects or even play some games. 😛
  • 4 – My setting up proccess is too slow. I have 3 different boxes I need to bring with me every time I want to shot.

Here is what I plan to do:

First of all, I do need a way to autoguide without keep my main laptop outside.

To solve this issue, I fixed an old laptop. It’s a Intel Core i3 330m, with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a Lexar 120GB Sata SSD. It’s an old, outdated laptop, but it have everything I need to run PHD2, Stellarium with Stellariumscope, to connect my DSLR and even to record some planetary videos with the QHY5L-ii.

I also bought a big plastic box and taped the laptop inside. The box is really big and every piece of hardware I need to imaging fits inside it perfectly. That’s another problem solved. 😛

This is how it went:

I know, it’s ugly as f***. But it works perfectly! 😛

Well, problems 1 and 4 solved.

Look at the mess inside the box and how it looks aside, once I didn’t put the backplate on the laptop again:

To solve problems 2 and 3, the obvious step is to remotely control the laptop.

I have in mind to use Team Viewer or VNC. I don’t know, but Team Viewer looks a better choice.

I’m also thinking to build a local network to transfer the images captured in real time to my main laptop. Then I’ll be able to perfectly align the object I want to image from inside my house. 🙂

Next steps

I need, now, a way to watch the mount in real time. This is important because I need to see if there’s anything going wrong.

I may put my desk to close to the mount. Imagine the cathastroph it would be if the telescope or the counter-weight bar bumps the table… My heart hurts just to imagine.

I’m thinking to use an old cellphone with a surveillance App called Alfredo. I can watch everything in real time, and it also have the motion detection feature. Maybe it would work when the mount do a meridian flip? I need to test it.

If the image goes too noisy, I’ll need to buy a wifi infrared surveillance camera.

I also need to build at least 3 dew heaters. One for my Mak 102mm, another for the guidescope and last but not least, one for my Nikon 135mm f2.8.

Maybe I’ll put some AC adapters inside the box, some cable organizer or something like that. Anything cheap and that can help me.

I’ll write more about it on next days.

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