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#1 Steve Fisher

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 02:12 PM

I haven't been around CN much for the last little while and I'm looking for some suggestions and most of what I can find starts in posts around 2007 and such.

 

I have been a visual guy and in the last seven or eight years my whole interest has been outreach. I own a 6" f/12 refractor that I have had mounted on a CGE. Great at star parties and for outreach as the public thinks it is one of the few scopes on the field that looks like a telescope. Well, times have changed.........I am getting older in years and fortunately it is not my back that prevents me from continuing but my knees are SHOT!

 

"Cut to the chase" Selling the OTA and a few goodies I can raise $1,600.00 - $1,800.00 easily. I want to keep the CGE. So what would you recommend for an OTA, Video Camera and accessories to view images as large as possible remotely from somewhere nearby. I have been reading as much as possible but I'm still confused. 

 

I'm going to need as easy a learning curve as possible and prefer to buy good quality used equipment if it is available. 

 

I could go on and on with questions but I think I'll leave it here for a bit and see what happens. 

 

Thanks in advance.

Steve



#2 mclewis1

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 04:04 PM

Steve,

 

Sad to see that great refractor go.

 

I'll assume you have a laptop to work with at the scope?

I'll assume that portability (light weight) is important.

What are you skies like?

 

With $1800 to play with I'd suggest something like ...

 

A used C8 SCT with it's original accessories (SCT 1.25" visual back, etc.)

f6.3 focal reducer  - http://agenaastro.co...-telescope.html

.5x 1.25 focal reducer (Antares) - http://agenaastro.co...al-reducer.html

Mallincam Jr. Pro PC - http://www.mallincam...junior-pro.html

AstroVideo USB frame grabber - http://www.astro-vid...eo-capture.html

USB to RS232 serial adapter - Keyspan or similar

 

The camera comes with a 12v AC power supply , 1.25" nosepiece (so it can be mounted anywhere you'd insert a 1.25" eyepiece). and a 25' control cable to attach to a serial port on a PC and a 25' video cable.

 

If you don't have a laptop you can buy the regular model of the video camera which comes with a remote control for the exposures (but not 25' control cable). You'll then also need a video monitor, reasonable models range from $50 and up (quickly). In the field you'll need to consider how to power the monitor. 

 

If you don't want to go with a real video setup there are some other interesting options camera wise. Similar pricing but for one of those cameras you will absolutely have to have a laptop/PC available.



#3 Steve Fisher

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 04:42 PM

Mark:

 

Thanks for your first reply. While the refractor isn't gone yet, it will be a sad day. I simply cannot get up and down because of my knees to align or observe the way I use to. 

 

I have read some information on displaying on monitors without computers. I have a USB video capture device I have been using for years so no problem there but it is not my intention to capture images. I watched Uncle Rod's video some time ago and in most respects I feel the same as he indicated. "I want to see stuff". I have computers, laptops, desktops and such everywhere it seems but the only good one is on my desk top far from any place to mount the OTA.

 

My intention is to put the CGE on a pier or somehow keep it more permanently mounted and polar aligned. My skies at home are not bad. I am in the city but I have been intrigued by the ability to observe from city skies. My days as a field observer are probably drawing to a close.

 

I am getting my eyes opened to some facts though. When I first started thinking about following this path, I thought that simple f/4 reflectors were the way to go. This has apparently changed since the early days of video astronomy. I saw my first video image around 2008 at RTMC on a 50 or 60 inch monitor as shot through a 20" f/3. 

 

I've done some reading on the Mallincam Jr. Pro and still my biggest question is is there a long wait for product like there use to be? That plus like I said I would prefer to buy used if it is in great condition. 

 

Maybe I need a large monitor hooked up to Night Skies Network in a weather proof enclosure by the hot tub. In years past I made a lot of mistakes in buying equipment that I thought was going to do the trick only to find that it didn't work as I wanted so I'm probably being over cautious.

 

I'm still learning and thinking. Thanks for your input. I'll keep you posted.

Steve 



#4 mclewis1

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 04:43 PM

Steve,

 

What do you have in mind for a larger display, and how far away will it be?

 

The next step is to view as large an image as possible remotely. The Pro Jr. has a second video output available or you could also just split the existing video signal (extra hardware).

 

You can extend the raw video 50' or so with just a good cable. With some additional hardware you can extend that to 100+'. This is all dealing with a CVBS or S-Video video image (similar to a 640x480 resolution image). This can be presented directly on a larger monitor (big screen TV) if it has a composite or S-Video input. Most up to date big monitors or TVs don't have that capability, they have DVI and more preferably HDMI inputs.

 

You can up convert the camera's video to a high definition HDMI signal with a few different video up conversion options. The better of these products will give you a smoother better looking HD image.



#5 Steve Fisher

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 05:20 PM

Now you are talking more what I had in mind. Ideally controlling the scope from inside the house or at least the garage (warm) and seeing it large! Big screen large and Yes in HD. I guess this is what I had in mind when I started considering this.

 

I guess I was thinking something like an AT 8' f/4 with a Mallincam Junior Pro and everything else spent on remotely controlling everything to a HD TV.

 

Sounds kind of dumb compared to the way I have been observing for the last 20 years but yeah, thats kind of where I'm at. Maybe I'll even pick up a jug of Rebel Yell like Uncle Rod. ;)

 

Steve



#6 mclewis1

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 05:39 PM

I don't think Rock has much of a waiting period for the Jr. Pro but it would be good to either talk with him directly or with his US distributor Jack Huerkamp. Jack's website (and contact info) is at http://www.waningmoonii.com/

 

There are some options for the camera ... such as a more sensitive CCD sensor - this is the 428 ExView HAD chip that is often talked about. With suburban skies (or even reasonable urban skies) this might be a good option. 

 

I like the big monitor with an internet connection by the hot tub idea  :waytogo:  :lol: .

 

There are quite a few remote setups using video or other EAA suitable cameras. Lots of options in how to do this. Most of the variables are in what your expectations are, what and where your scope is (how far from the house, power, cabling issues, etc.) and what hardware you want to display the images on.



#7 Steve Fisher

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 05:49 PM

If I was smart, (not saying I am or am not) I would probably start with trying to figure out how to control the CGE remotely, do you think? Once I can get that maybe I can move on to the optical end of things.

 

Steve



#8 mclewis1

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 06:19 PM

The AT8IN is a great choice. Since you have plenty of mount and it's permanent it will work as well or better than the SCT option. You might also consider the AT10IN for only $100 more.

 

With either of these options you will need a different focal reducer setup (there is less need for any focal reducer with an f4 scope ... this is just an option if you want to go really fast).

 

2" .5x - http://agenaastro.co...al-reducer.html

2" to T thread adapter - http://agenaastro.co...l-t-thread.html

T to C mount adapter - http://agenaastro.co...le-adapter.html

 

There have been lots of discussions about remote control from the comfort of your house (or hot tub). Here's a link to the most recent - http://www.cloudynig...m-in-the-house/

 

Normally it is a good idea to have a solid remote control setup working before going on to something else but the video setup is integral to the remote control idea working. So it doesn't really matter - video first or remote control first ... you'll need to have both working together to do what you ultimately want to do.

 

Some of the things to think about ...

 

Do you want or need to do the initial alignment while at the scope or in the house?

With a good initial alignment is your mount accurate enough goto wise to put objects consistently in the fov? (if it's like my CGE the answer will be a strong yes ... even with a 10-11" scope working at f3.5-f4).

A small secondary scope (finder) is also a good option (even with an accurate CGE). Here a really inexpensive 2nd video camera and a small refractor will work well together. One nice benefit of video or other EAA hardware is that it makes the initial alignment routine even more accurate (the camera has the fov of an 8mm Plossl eyepiece, and it has cross hair capabilities). 

 

The two "architectural" options for the remote configuration are: 1) extending all the connections between the scope and the house - this means the serial mount control, serial camera control, primary video, and finder video OR 2) placing a remote PC/laptop at the scope (with all it's direct connections for the previously mentioned connections) and then running a remote control/VNC server/client setup over a single Ethernet link to the a PC in the house. With this second option you also have to think about the primary video - whether or not to extend the primary video or to run a big monitor off of the PC in the house and view the whole PC desktop vs. just the video image.

 

#1 requires some different extension hardware and multiple line connections between the scope and the house but the PC in the house controlling everything operates just like it was sitting next to the scope.

#2 requires a second remote PC but less or no extension hardware. The PC in the house displays a window which is the remote screen of the PC sitting out at the scope. If you already have the laptop/remote PC this option is usually the less expensive of the two.

 

Yeah I know ... too much to think about. 

 

I like the Rebel Yell idea.


Edited by mclewis1, 23 August 2014 - 06:20 PM.


#9 Steve Fisher

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 06:40 PM

Mark:

 

Thanks again,

 

Initially I was thinking along the lines of option #1 but I still have a lot of work to do before jumping in anywhere it is obvious. I cant' tell you how much I appreciate all you have illuminated for me already. I quickly hit the link you sent and it appears I may not have time for my astronomy hobby as I need spend more time on my "reading hobby". 

 

Slow but sure, I will develop a plan of how to proceed. 

 

Thanks again.

Steve



#10 Dom543

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 08:10 PM

I second Mark's suggestion for a larger aperture OTA on the CGE. At identical focal ratios larger aperture gives larger image of the same object with the same brightness.

 

I tried various options and finally settled on a C11 on a CGEM. A good compromise for me between portability and aperture. You have more options with the CGE and if portability is not needed.

 

If money is tight at the beginning, I would buy the right "final" OTA and, if necessary, a cheaper $100 camera (LN300/Mallincam Micro/AVS DSO-1) to start with. That camera can later move to the finder, when there is money available to upgrade to the ultimate camera. These newer/cheaper cameras have more sensitive sensors and require shorter exposures. Helpful at the beginning of the learning curve. Also, electronics technology evolves according to Moore's Law. By the time you upgrade, your ultimate dream camera may also become available with one of these faster new sensors.

 

--Dom



#11 Steve Fisher

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 09:06 PM

Thanks for chiming in. Money is always tight, right? Years ago I had enough coming in that I could experiment and move up when needed. Now days I just need to buy right the first time. Unfortunately, one thing that hasn't changed over the years is that "for just a few more dollars you can get". That was true when I bought my first scope and still true today. I use to scoff at all the posts that said I have 2K for a refractor and someone would inevitably post something like "save your money and buy a TEC 160FL."

 

Like you have said. Things change fast. 

 

Steve



#12 Relativist

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 04:09 AM

With a CGE mount you may want to consider an AT12IN or the 12" TPO, combined with a used MC extreme. 



#13 mclewis1

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 10:39 AM

Curtis, That would certainly be an awesome setup ... but not on an $1800 budget.

 

I'm in a similar situation as Steve. I had much more flexibility to purchase stuff a few years ago ... now my budget is virtually zero unless I sell off part of the collection.



#14 Don Rudny

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 01:04 PM

Hi Steve,

 

First, I hope you enjoy near real time remote viewing as much as I do.  It opens up a whole new world.  

 

You might want to also consider the new Starlight Xpress Lodestars.  The color version has just been released.  I just used it last night and was very happy with my first results.  It has just one wire connected to it and connects to your USB port.  The software used is called Lodestar Live produced by Paul in the UK.  Starizona has both the mono and color versions available for $599.  The camera sensors are probably the most sensitive available right now, and coupled with the LL s/w, are very fast.  The LL s/w comes in both Mac and Windows versions and is available as a free download thanks to Paul.  I have had the mono version for a while and really like the results.  It's much like visual viewing, only you see much more detail.  Here's a link to my albums if you're interested in what the Lodestar can do.  All the captures were made using either my slow SW100ed or my Meade 8" SCT.  The color ones were my first attempt with the Lodestar X2C.

 

http://stargazerslou.../36930-hilodon/

 

As far as a scope goes, I think the suggestion of an 8" SCT is hard to beat.  Coupled with a F6.3 or F3.3 focal reducer, it's hard to beat the range of focal length you can get with it.  The scope is easy to handle and maintain, and the focus range will eliminate in-focus issues.

 

Together with your CGE mount you will have a great setup and extra cash in your pocket. Only two wires coming into the house to control the mount and camera.

 

Hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any questions.



#15 Steve Fisher

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 01:47 PM

First, thanks Curtis, there is a NEW/USED Mallincam Extreme on AM right now at $1,850.00 and I could buy a AT 12" f/4 at $799.00 and only be over budget by $849.00 give or take. Of course that leaves nothing else for cables, connections or any other accessories needed. Like I said earlier there is always a " for just a few more dollars you can get" 

 

Don, Thanks for the good wishes and the link to your captures. I have to admit that the SCT with a rotating diagonal appeals to me rather than the reflector with the focuser/eyepiece seeming to be always in the most uncomfortable position ever. I will look into the Loadestars for sure.

 

I love the idea of two wires but I'll have to weigh out the whole package with how much I want to leave covered outdoors and setup as opposed to having to carry equipment in and out. 

 

Thanks again,

Steve



#16 mclewis1

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 02:40 PM

The Lodestar X2s are indeed great options for EAA viewing and should be considered but one of Steve's requirements make the use of one of these USB attached cameras possibly problematic. Because they are USB cameras there's no capability of directly driving a large display in the house. This capability must come from an in house PC. It is certainly possible, it just requires a lot more planning and testing. I don't believe that there's much real experience in doing this.

 

One configuration option might be to setup the Live software's window in a 2nd desktop area and use the 2nd display capability in Windows and Mac OS to drive the external display. Ideally there would be an HDMI out on the in house PC and the big screen display has a HDMI in. Other HD video connections (DVI, component) are possible, the choices depend on what hardware Steve already has. The downside is that you'd really have to tinker with the display window in the Live software to display as large a window as possible, but you'll always have some of the application taking up the display area.

 

A direct video connection between a camera and display is a more proven capability but requires additional hardware (extension products, and possibly format/up conversion products) and likely won't produce the best quality display. The use of a USB connected camera is technically easier but introduces some major uncertainties.

 

I can't say which choice would be better, and I'm glad I'm not the one making the decision.



#17 Relativist

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 02:54 PM

I was thinking more along the lines of a used MC Extreeme like the following:

 

http://www.astromart...ified_id=863390

 

That other one is basically a new model MCX2 and unused. The difference between the X2 and extreeme is the slightly better cooling. That said, it's a cooled camera, so you can crank up the gain with less noise. I think that's within budget.

 

Oh, and the 12" TPO is $749. By the way do you have some eyepieces you might sell as well? You may want to keep them to use with your reflector, but maybe not all of them.



#18 mclewis1

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 05:17 PM

Curtis, That's a good point about a used Xtreme.  I normally don't mention a used Mallincam as an option because they've been quite rare. Perhaps with Rock now discussing new 828 sensor based cameras there might be more Xtreme's coming up on the used market.

 

While I don't think he's formally announced anything I get the impression from his online comments that there won't be a cost effective upgrade to existing Xtremes to move up to the 828 sensor. This is different than what happened with MCHP and VSS models ... those could be cost effectively upgraded (primarily because the sensor wasn't changing). So a lot of MCHP and VSS cameras became Xtremes instead of being resold. With the possibility of a new camera that may not be available as an upgrade we will likely see more used Mallincams on the market.

 

Getting a 418 sensor based Xtreme under $1000 would be a nice option for many folks.


Edited by mclewis1, 24 August 2014 - 05:18 PM.


#19 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 05:50 PM

For video camera chips a 2" focal reducer is overkill. Moreover, it requires greater inward focuser travel for given reduction factor, which could be problematic for some reflectors.

 

Even if the objective is f/4, a focal reducer can be of use on these small video chips (which have an FOV about equivalent to an 8mm eyepiece). Many objects otherwise too large to fit in the view fan be better framed. Additionally, the resulting integration times can be made quite short, or aggressive nebula filters can be used. Remember, a reduction of 0.5X doubles the FOV and makes the image surface brightness 4X higher, for an integration time 1/4 as long. I've used a 0.5X reducer to very good effect on an 80mm f/5 refractor and a 12" f/4.9 reflector.

 

With nighttime cooling tube shrinking could require periodic focus tweaking.

 

A 640X480 class sensor, even with HD up-scaling, hardly warrants a big display if viewing from normal distances. Unless you already have such a suitable TV/monitor, you may not want to consume too large a fraction of the available budget on one.

 

About upscalers. They cannot create information not present in 



#20 Steve Fisher

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 06:07 PM

Hey you guys, thanks for the continued discussion. It is great getting some ideas without having to sort out all the old stuff from the archives etc. This is the first I have been back to CN since upgrade 1 or upgrade 2.

 

Mark: The biggest help I have gotten is your schematic from the post you listed above. That really helps with the basics as to how to plan things out. I wish I could post a link to it but like I said, I even have to relearn how to use CN.

 

I haven't got much to respond but again, thanks for the continued discussion. I'm all ears.

 

Steve



#21 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 03:16 PM

Steve,

 

 

If you don't want to go with a real video setup there are some other interesting options camera wise. Similar pricing but for one of those cameras you will absolutely have to have a laptop/PC available.

 

Wait. Why? Why would you need a P.C. with a camera? If you buy the right camera(Mirrorless) they don't need to be controlled by a PC at all. They can be controlled remotely with an App on your phone or manually with the camera controls. Nothing is simpler than using a small mirrorless interchangeable lens camera and the RCA outputs of the Olympus cameras work exactly like the Mallincam cameras do. It will show you the incremental sum of what is captured so far with a variable increment that the user selects.

 

Even the best ones are dirt cheap but they can match just about anything else out there. The Olympus E-PM2 is $170 now at Olympus.com if you use the promo code SUMMER15. It can be modified like mine for about $150 now. You won't get better than this for about $300.

 

http://www.getolympu...pe=mediapartner



#22 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 03:21 PM

I was thinking more along the lines of a used MC Extreeme like the following:

 

http://www.astromart...ified_id=863390

 

That other one is basically a new model MCX2 and unused. The difference between the X2 and extreeme is the slightly better cooling. That said, it's a cooled camera, so you can crank up the gain with less noise. I think that's within budget.

 

Oh, and the 12" TPO is $749. By the way do you have some eyepieces you might sell as well? You may want to keep them to use with your reflector, but maybe not all of them.

 

Cooling doesn't help any if it is already bitterly cold outside. It can definitely help in the summer. However, these short integration times that are often used with Electronically Assisted observing make cooling almost irrelevant.



#23 mclewis1

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 05:30 PM

 

Steve,

 

 

If you don't want to go with a real video setup there are some other interesting options camera wise. Similar pricing but for one of those cameras you will absolutely have to have a laptop/PC available.

 

Wait. Why? Why would you need a P.C. with a camera?

 

Travis,

 

Please read the comment again ... "real video" (and I didn't specify a camera). There wasn't any mention about the control of the camera.

 

If you have a USB connected camera you need a PC. If you have a camera with a real video output you don't ... very simple. Sure some mirror less and DSLR cameras have a real video output but you're usually not using the full capabilities of their larger sensors.

 

I you think one of the cheaper mirror less cameras makes sense that's fine. With earlier generation support circuitry and not very sensitive sensors I don't think they make a good choice. The latest higher end models would be a better choice ... but for the high prices.


Edited by mclewis1, 25 August 2014 - 07:04 PM.


#24 Steve Fisher

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 05:50 PM

As for me, just knowing myself,  I would do better using shall we say "a traditional" video system. While I respect any ones ability to modify for themselves or to use modified equipment. It simply is not for me. I want to buy it off the shelf and hopefully it has some kind of guarantee. 



#25 mclewis1

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 07:03 PM

 

I was thinking more along the lines of a used MC Extreeme like the following:

 

http://www.astromart...ified_id=863390

 

That other one is basically a new model MCX2 and unused. The difference between the X2 and extreeme is the slightly better cooling. That said, it's a cooled camera, so you can crank up the gain with less noise. I think that's within budget.

 

Oh, and the 12" TPO is $749. By the way do you have some eyepieces you might sell as well? You may want to keep them to use with your reflector, but maybe not all of them.

 

Cooling doesn't help any if it is already bitterly cold outside. It can definitely help in the summer. However, these short integration times that are often used with Electronically Assisted observing make cooling almost irrelevant.

 

That is completely not true for the cameras specifically designed with cooling (it might be true of some DIY setups were the cooling just cools the air in the camera). While cold ambient air generally helps a cooled camera the sensor on many cameras requires direct contact cooling to keep dark current noise down to tolerable levels. On cameras designed for imaging (which we admittedly aren't discussing) being able to cool to a specific temperature is important for the calibration of dark frames ... that would be impossible if you relied only on ambient air temperature.

 

With my Mallincam Xtreme I can monitor the cooling and even at temperatures in the -20C range (which I think most folks would consider "bitter") the camera still cycles the cooling on and off (in some modes the camera's cooling is triggered by the noise detection circuitry).

 

While I and many other like to view with exposures in the 15-30s range, there are many other folks who regularly use longer exposures. Cooling while certainly not mandatory is a very big deal for many very sensitive cameras (particularly continuous read video cameras) going beyond 30s.


Edited by mclewis1, 25 August 2014 - 07:10 PM.







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