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Unattended Telescope Security?

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#1 Sean13

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:35 PM

For the most part I have only been photographing from my driveway, which I feel is pretty secure, although I still chain down the tripod anyway. Recently I've been doing a bit of traveling and taking my scope with me when I go camping, and I plan on attending some star parties later in the year. I'm looking for some recommendations on telescope security when away from my house. I occasionally fall asleep during photography session and would like the piece of mind that my scope will still be there when I wake up. I currently just run a chain thru the tripod spreader, but anyone with a brain would simply unscrew the spreader and leave it behind, and this doesn't secure the OTA or the cameras. Are there some better solutions out there? What do you guys do?

I was looking at an electronic alarm that, when touching a piece of bare metal, it will sound a loud alarm when any skin contacts any piece of bare metal. Problem is the only bare metal is on the tripod legs, not sure how it works thru painted surfaces if at all.

#2 csrlice12

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:40 PM

That's why you make friends with your neighbors there and switch off watching out for each other.

#3 hfjacinto

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:50 PM

I've left my telescope unattended for awhile and never had anything being taken. I guess it depends where you at, haven't found an unsafe place to observe. I guess if the area is unsafe I wouldn't observe there.

#4 csrlice12

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 01:01 PM

It don't get much safer then being the only one around for miles.....unless you're accident prone, I guess.... :roflmao:

#5 Sean13

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 01:11 PM

I am not worried about security at my house or with my neighbors, but rather when I'm away from home. I regularly camp at a lake with numerous other campers around the area, cars driving thru, and kids running around. I can assure you a stray group of kids in this area wouldn't think twice about stealing or destroying valuable equipment. The idea of a guard dog is actually pretty good, but sadly I don't have the money to support another member of the family. While land mines sound like a good idea, they might be rather destructive to the equipment I'm trying to protect.

#6 Tony Flanders

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 01:15 PM

Recently I've been doing a bit of traveling and taking my scope with me when I go camping, and I plan on attending some star parties later in the year. I'm looking for some recommendations on telescope security when away from my house.


At star parties everybody leaves everything unattended all the time. It's hardly practical to pack up your 24-inch Dob while you walk over to visit someone else, or go to sleep, or even leave the site entirely to eat lunch or do some sightseeing.

When observing all on my own in the wilderness, I might pack my scope in the car and lock the car if I was planning to go off for a multihour hike. But as long as I'm nearby, why bother? People aren't likely to sneak up on you in the middle of the desert. Too far to walk, and the sound of a car would alert you to their presence.

I was looking at an electronic alarm that, when touching a piece of bare metal, it will sound a loud alarm when any skin contacts any piece of bare metal.


That sounds like a really bad idea unless you want to be woken up the next time a raccoon wanders by and gets curious about your scope.

#7 Doc Willie

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 01:27 PM

I have heard at least three separate stories of stuff being stolen at star parties. A guy has a big dob with a ladder. Person goes up and says, "Hey there's no eyepiece here." Previous "viewer" has disappeared into the dark.

Really makes you want to share.

#8 tubehead999

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 01:51 PM

Here...http://www.harborfreight.com/ne/omaha.html

http://www.harborfre...less-69590.html

This is your first line of defense :)...and beats tin cans on a string tied around your campsite.
Driveway alarm....battery operated fairly insensitive to anything but large objects...Will at least let you know if someone is fooling around in your area...Fairly loud as well.

#9 John Kuraoka

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:04 PM

I'm planning on taking the family telescope with us when we go camping this summer. I'll probably just fold up the tripod and toss it in our tent, and leave the scope itself on top of the dog's crate with a towel over it. If anyone's more determined than that, well, there's not much more I can do about it since leaving the scope in a locked car with the windows up at altitude during the summer sounds like a recipe for exceeding the product's temperature specifications by a significant degree.

Two things, though. 1: We already have a dog as a family member, although it's doubtful he would do much if a nefarious individual came into our site. He's black, though, and likes to squeeze himself right underfoot to say hello, so if it's dark said person could trip over him. 2: My scope is smaller than yours in both size and value.

We once did have stuff stolen from our campsite in this area! Taken were a couple lounge chairs, an ancient propane stove, and a backpack (and what was in the backpack made for a very funny story upon finding it in the possession of the culprits). The local Sheriff Deputies were thrilled, thrilled to have something to investigate besides fishing license violations and expired CF numbers, and we got everything back the same day.

#10 berobertsmd

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:05 PM

A friend of mine designed a system he called "Gun Sitter". There are variations of it used at local gun shows. sections of 2 wire electrical cord are made up in various lengths, with RCA connectors on each end. Connected, then thread loosely (to avoid interference with function) through your equipment, then back to a small control box. Most of the gun dealers have varying lengths of cord and thread through the trigger guards. When turned on, with cord all connected, it's an intact electrical circuit, and nothing happens. If the cord is cut, or a RCA plug is unplugged, the circuit is broken, triggering a buzzer in the control box. It make be worth going to a gun show to see one of these systems. May even be able to purchase a used system.
The other threat you mentioned was "kids running around". I saw a neat idea to protect your equipment from being accidently knocked over. Get a twist-in yard anchor and screw it in centered under your tripod. Then use rope or bungee cords to secure it to the cross-member. Also will help with stabilization of tripod.

#11 John Kuraoka

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:13 PM

I just remembered ... we used to have a battery-powered camp lantern that had a motion sensor on it so the light would go on when it sensed someone. When the kids were really little, we used it to make it easier for us to extricate ourselves and an urgent child from the tent in time to make it to the restrooms.

We are so very glad they have their own tent now!

The sensor wasn't overly sensitive, so it could be aimed directly at our tent door while ignoring passers-by. Back when there was more bear activity in this particular campground, it would occasionally go on, off, on, off a few times in the night.

Anyway, that phase of our lives was just a summer or two, and the lantern has long since died. But I think it also had some sort of alarm setting as well, perhaps intended for scaring off animals. We never used it.

#12 Sean13

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:20 PM

Again, if I was alone in the wilderness I wouldn't have an issue, but being at a lakeside campground in a state park is far from alone in the wilderness. Groups of people walking around, sometimes right thru your campsite, vehicles driving to and from other campsites, kids, etc.

The star party that I plan to attend is again at a public state park campground, and therefore open to the public as well. While I'm not too concerned about my fellow star gazers stealing my stuff, I am concerned of the fact that there will be a field full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of telescopes, a smorgasbord to a would-be thief. While mine will be far from the most expensive equipment on the field, it is still not something I can afford to take a risk on. Losing any one of my pieces of equipment would put me out of commission for a very long time. I budgeted for almost a year to afford what I have now, and at this time of the year I can absolutely not afford any mistakes. While $2k-$3k worth of equipment may not be much for some of you to risk, it is huge to me, so please stop with the "Don't worry your stuff will be fine" responses. If I was 100% certain my stuff would be fine, I wouldn't have asked for advice on securing it. Also, its a hell of a lot harder to steal a setup 24" dob then my 6" SCT that can be disassembled and thrown in the back of a car in less then 2 minutes.

#13 Sean13

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:28 PM

The Gun-sitter and motion sensor lantern or driveway alarm both sound like really great ideas. My idea isn't to completely prevent theft, which is gonna be impossible if someone is determined, but rather to slow them down drastically and cause them to at least be concerned about the noise/light if they come near the scope. Thanks for those suggestions that was exactly the type of information I was looking for!

#14 kfiscus

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 03:46 PM

Beware security systems that use light(s) as a signal or deterrent. I've been reading forum threads about star party etiquette, etc. in preparation for my first star party this summer (Nebraska Star Party). An innocent wanderer might trigger things that would make YOU the bad guy to the dark-adapted neighbors.

I know what you mean about the dear price of astro-equipment. Good luck, maybe we'll meet this summer.

#15 Qwickdraw

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 03:49 PM

There are a number of child proximity alarms that sound when the two devices are separated by certain distances.

#16 YetAnotherHobby

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 03:54 PM

I've been to a few star parties on the east coast, some on public land, some private. There are so many people around 24x7 that I have never felt a need to take security measures with my scopes, although like you my equipment is pretty far down the "desirable" list compared to some of the Astro-Physics and Obsession gear that routinely shows up. If I was going to leave for an extended period I would pack up the valuable stuff that is easily concealed (anything with a Televue label, for example) but it takes quite a bit of obvious effort to make off with an entire telescope - someone would notice. I would be a lot more concerned about my GPS unit or my DVD player (for astro video display) vanishing because those are readily sold on after the theft. Telescopes are quite a bit harder to "fence" I imagine.
Now...the star parties I have been to have been relatively small compared to some of the mega-events I have heard about, so this doesn't necessarily apply to all events. The probability of a bad apple in the bunch goes up with the size of the bunch :)
When camping at campgrounds I hesitate to leave my scope out. I've had idiot kids rooting around in my cooler for beer in the middle of the night, and while I doubt they would steal a scope, they might be tempted to mess around with it. So I pack up the scope after each use. I'm sure a telescope can withstand the heat in a closed car - after all, we leave them outside in observatories all the time. As long as it is not exposed to sunlight (i.e., in a closed case) I don't think you'd have any problem.

#17 BigC

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:08 PM

"Fencing" is easy-there are a couple of famous internet sites ,one free, and one fee, that move an enormous number of items.There is basically no way for the buyer to know if the seller acquired the items as a gift, ,estate auction,was the original purchaser , or stole it. A friend had his machine shop cleaned out :Starett,and other quality tools, the accumulations of decades of business by a couple generations. No alarms BEFORE the burglary because he didn't think anyone would steal tools.Mechanics could have told him different.Police advised him the tools would be sold on craigslist,ebay, at flea markets, and even bars. He never got back any of the thousands of $$$ of specialty tools .He has an alarm system now.

By the way capacitance type proximty alarms don't require bare metal.

Have you never walked near a car in the mall and been startled and annoyed by a voice suddenly saying : "STEP AWAY FROM THE CAR" ?.

#18 MikeBOKC

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:13 PM

My rule wherever I go -- front yard at home, remote area, etc. -- is that when the scope is in use I am there with it or at least within range to observe it, and when it is not it is put away. Same as with any valuable item.

#19 csa/montana

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:37 PM

I regularly camp at a lake with numerous other campers around the area, cars driving thru, and kids running around. I can assure you a stray group of kids in this area wouldn't think twice about stealing or destroying valuable equipment.



In a case such as this; the best security is you staying awake & being with the scope while it's setup. If cars are driving thru, etc., then imaging wouldn't be the best anyway. Another suggestion might be to invest in an observing tent. With the equipment inside a tent, it would be much more secure than standing out in the open.

Here is one observing tent. You can snooze right alongside your scope.

Link

#20 Sean13

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:45 PM

The Nebraska Star Party at merritt reservoir will be my first as well. I only live a couple hours from there, so I routinely go there throughout the year to camp and fish, and recently have been bringing my scope along with me since the skies are so amazingly dark up there.

To be honest in an environment like that I would think the chance for theft actually goes up. With so many people coming and going and moving around, it would be hard to tell if a person is actually stealing gear or just messing with his own gear. I personally will have 4 people in my party, and likely they will all be messing around with my scope. While its nice to think your fellow campers will watch out for your gear, are they going to memorize all the faces of my party and others around him and remember who's equipment belongs to who? Doubt it. Someone could easily cruise up and pretend to be packing up some of their own gear when in reality they are stealing yours. Call me paranoid, but with this investment I can't take any unnecessary risks.

Will be looking into a child proximity alarm as well, thats another great idea. I agree a visual alarm wouldn't go over too well at star parties, but for all those other times when I'm alone it should work perfectly

#21 Sean13

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:58 PM

Really liking that observing tent as well, may have to save some money and just purchase that and a basic proximity alarm.

I would love to be able to stay awake while my scope is in use (I do photography only, I don't even own an eyepiece), but it just doesn't always happen. Not to mention a lot of my work is done in the ice cold of winter, while I sit inside my warm garage or tent operating the scope with my computer. Telescopes are amazing, but seeing it take the same picture over and over again for hours gets a little boring, and sleep gets the best of me. I suppose I could just leave the scope at home only if I wanted to eliminate risk, but if thats the case it makes me wonder why I even bought a portable scope in the first place.

#22 Achernar

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 06:16 PM

I leave mine set up at star parties or my front yard, and when I am using it at home, I am always nearby. At star parties I cover the primary mirror, or if incliment weather is coming, stow in in the car with the eyepieces before retiring for the night. I do not think someone would steal my large Dob, but they could steal eyepieces or vandalize my telescope. That is why I do not leave my equipment unattended, there are a lot of brats or thugs in training out there who will destroy someone's equipment any chance they get. Also, if I feel there is any potential for danger to my person, I will not observe there.

Taras

#23 City Kid

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 06:22 PM

At the Nebraska Star Party I regularly leave my scope unattended during the day. I suppose someone could steal it but I guess I'll continue to take my chances. At night I'm always using my scope so it's never unattended. My eyepieces and other small valuables get locked away anytime I'm not with them.

#24 tomcody

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 06:30 PM

link
You could use a product like the pet tracker (see link). If you attached it to your scope and it moved outside of a user defined area, an alarm is sent to your smart phone, you can then track it anywhere. And you can use it for the dog (or kid ) when not on the scope.
Rex

#25 Sean13

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 11:08 PM

Another great idea! Although I don't like the idea of continually having to pay a monthly fee, I guess the fee is pretty small for the piece of mind of being able to track your equipment.

I'm glad to hear that most everyone has positive experiences at the Nebraska star party. I'm really looking forward to it as this will be my first large star party and the skies up there around Valentine are so incredibly dark its almost scary to be out at night. Not to mention the fishing at Merritt res. is usually fantastic, so be sure to bring your fishing gear if your into that.

Looking forward to seeing all you guys there. I think I've got a pretty good handle on security of my scope now with all your recommendations. Thanks a ton!






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