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garrettmw

New member
United States
I'm in the market for a computerized/remote controlled spotting scope, but for all my Googling and Amazoning, I've come up dry. Seems there's no shortage of computerized telescopes, but I have yet to find a single digital spotting scope. Specifically, I mean a scope whose zoom, focus, and position can be controlled either by remote control or by software.

Are these a thing? Or are motorized telescopes my only option? If the latter, are telescopes a decent option for the field? Or does the lack of control over power and focus render them impractical for anything closer than say, a moon?

Thanks
 

wllmspd

Well-known member
Yep, not a thing. You could take a cheap alt-az astromount and refractor with image erector and camera and make a remote rig, even with robo-focus. You won’t have robo zoom though, but mounting a small “finder” on the main scope you can have a wider field to help you see what’s about. Astro scopes are heavier than spotters so this would be a rig you’d not want to carry, but it could make a permanent setup or quite easily set up from a car…. You can skip the “polar alignment” step that astro imaging requires! You might be able to get creative and rig up some external motors to move the zoom and focus rings on a big telephoto lens and pop that on a computer controlled mount. Power would need a fairly small lithium power pack. There are mini computer rigs (eg asi air), or raspberry light based ones that would enable wireless l tablet based viewing and control.

Peter
 

wllmspd

Well-known member
I did once come across a chap who’d found an old helicopter camera zoom lens…massive big heavy cube… he was trying to figure out the wiring controls so he could get the aperture and zoom controls back to life… would have needed a pretty huge mount.

Peter
 

garrettmw

New member
United States
I don't really understand what you want it for. If you want to do remote observation there are lots of products, all aimed at the security industry, such as ...
Namely I just find manual use a bit tedious and imprecise (ie: the shakiness/jerkiness of manual panning & tilting, the need to tighten/loosen the mount to adjust the scope's position, etc.) And at the range, it's pretty annoying to have to change positions every time I want to adjust my scope. It'd be nice to just remain prone and tap a button or a touch screen.

Interesting, I actually hadn't considered a camera, mostly under the assumption that zoom would be limited, lenses would be smaller, battery life would be minimal, cost would be exorbitant, and they would be more cumbersome to carry in the field.

Do you have experience with long distance cameras in the field? I used to have a really mean telephoto on my DSLR, but those puppies are not cheap.
 

garrettmw

New member
United States
Yep, not a thing. You could take a cheap alt-az astromount and refractor with image erector and camera and make a remote rig, even with robo-focus. You won’t have robo zoom though, but mounting a small “finder” on the main scope you can have a wider field to help you see what’s about. Astro scopes are heavier than spotters so this would be a rig you’d not want to carry, but it could make a permanent setup or quite easily set up from a car…. You can skip the “polar alignment” step that astro imaging requires! You might be able to get creative and rig up some external motors to move the zoom and focus rings on a big telephoto lens and pop that on a computer controlled mount. Power would need a fairly small lithium power pack. There are mini computer rigs (eg asi air), or raspberry light based ones that would enable wireless l tablet based viewing and control.

Peter
Interesting, thanks. I'll do some reading. I'm not familiar with telescopes at all. I assume having focus but no zoom means I won't have any ability to adjust the field of vision? ie: if I spot a Golden 100 feet away, and the telescope is showing me half a feather, my options with a telescope are blurred half a feather or sharp half a feather, but no ability to zoom out and get the whole raptor?

I wonder where that chap found the chopper lens. That'd be a fun toy, but man alive are those things expensive. Roughly speaking, those high altitude cameras start at about 1 milly, and go up from there.
 

Binastro

Well-known member
Old aerial cameras with 36 inch and 48 inch lenses can probably still be found for a few thousand pounds. But these used film. Say Williamson F 52s.
There are probably digital versions.

Ex gov auction prices are often 1% of original cost.

I had a Ross 50 inch f/8 lens that was very good. There is a Ross 60 inch f/8 also.
As well as 100 inch focal length lenses.

I had a Pentax 1000mm f/8 lens, but it wasn't very good. A lot of false colour.

There are Astro Berlin lenses of 2,000 mm focal length. Either Triplet or doublet f/10 and f/11.
The Zoomar 2,000mm f/14 lens is awful.

The 144 inch f/8 lens for 28 inch x 28 inch film was interesting. 19 inch aperture.
There was also a 34 inch aperture lens, and 70 inch mirror lenses for the Big Bird satellites. 4 inch resolution at 250 miles.

The one to ten million pound cameras would be current.

There used to be Angenieux long focus lenses floating around for very little money. 10x zoom and maybe 20x zoom.

Maksutov Cassegrain lenses with long focal lengths in about 5 inch aperture could detect car door handles at 60 miles from aerial platforms.

Amateur astronomers use remote control from computers for lenses and scopes in their gardens or at the other side of the globe.

It is common to use telescopes in Mexico controlled from the U.K.

I think all the functions wanted exist already.
But why bother?

Personally I don't have a GoTo scope and don't want one.

Regards,
B.
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
A possible rig would be to use a superzoom camera, many now come with an app to control them from a phone. You could couple that with a power tripod head, again some can be controlled with a phone app.

Such a setup would allow you to remotely control the camera in pan, tilt and zoom and focus whilst viewing the image on your phone. I must stress this is purely back of the envelope stuff I have no experience of using such a setup. I struggle to believe the available control would match doing it manually.

Just found this product that can be used with a DSLR to control in from an app, also has a power tripod head.
 

jring

Well-known member
Ex gov auction prices are often 1% of original cost.

Hi,

that is the point... either old stuff as surplus or rejects from government contracts...

On cloudynights, an astronomy forum with a large diy population there are sometimes popping up huge mirror blanks around 2m diameter made from obscure optical ceramics bought by a diy optician for a few grand to make a huge dobsonian from...

The usual comment by those who know (there are quite a few professional opticians on there too) is "I cannot comment further but this mirror was not made for looking up).

As for the original question, a computerized altitude-azimuth astro mount together with an astro scope with remote focus and camera is probably the easiest way to go forward if you want to write your own software for it. The reason is that there is a common and open protocol for controlling the different components called INDI implemented by different manufacturers and with libraries available for different operating systems...

Joachim
 
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Binastro

Well-known member
There is an amateur scope in the U.S. with a 70 inch big bird surplus mirror.

However, Lord Rosse had a scope of 72 inch in the 1800s I think.

I got 3 very heavy very large ball races from gun turrets of a major British warship.
I must have been bonkers to buy these, although very cheap.
I gave them at cost to friends, and they now support whole rotating observatories with astronomer inside.

We got a high speed camera that I can't detail and ended up selling it back to the maker.

The 5 Questars may have been less than £100 each. Complete with all accessories.

The fabulous 140mm Den Oude Delft Maksutov Cassegrain was bought for very little.
I gave the new owner an accurate evaluation and tried to buy it, but he wouldn't sell.

It is a pity I missed the triple turret Italian Galileo 90mm binocular.

And 6 enormously heavy fully boxed Ross 80mm binoculars.

I was young once and even more stupid than now.

I was offered the Fortress of Malta 150mm binocular, but couldn't afford it at £250 from Arthur Frank.



Regards,
B.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Antarctica
Hi Joachim,

As for the original question, a computerized altitude-azimuth astro mount together with an astro scope with remote focus and camera is probably the easiest way to go forward if you want to write your own software for it. The reason is that there is a common and open protocol for controlling the different components called INDI implemented by different manufacturers and with libraries available for different operating systems...

By the way, how do those astro robot mounts determine their exact elevation and azimuth orientation? A couple of years back I toyed with the thought of adding with an accurate electronic azimuth readout to my tripod as well as to a fellow observer's, to make it easier to watch the same bird when only one of us had spotted it, but I didn't manage to come up with something intelligent.

Regards,

Henning
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi Henning,

the cheap way is to just count stepper pulses. The good ones do have encoders which allow the mount to detect a missed step or manual adjustment via slipping clutches...

They all need an absolute reference point which for astro use is to manually find one to three stars and the computer then knows exactly how the mount is oriented.

You obviously would have to do sth similar with one or two points of reference in the field off view with both scopes on their computerized mounts...

Joachim
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Antarctica
Hi Joachim,

You obviously would have to do sth similar with one or two points of reference in the field off view with both scopes on their computerized mounts...

Absolutely! The idea wasn't to roboterize the mounts, just to add a sensor to an unchanged scope. A low-geared stepper would become a high-geared brake when pointing the scope by hand, making it less than ideal, obviously! :-D

I thought about an electronic compass (which might have provided coarse alignment even before calibration by reference points), but the cheap-ish compass chips I bought were a bit confusing to read out, and then my use case disappeared for real-life reasons. (I would have liked to use an optical encoder wheel, just because I love the style.)

Regards,

Henning
 
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