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EAA for Outreach

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#1 zakry3323


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Posted 09 October 2018 - 03:44 PM


I've been doing outreach within my city (Bortle 6-7) for a few years and I've recently been doing some experimentation with Electonically Assisted observing. Though still in the experimental phase, I've received a huge outpouring of support from my patrons as they get to see DSO's that we'd never get to view with any kind of contrast or resolution under the light pollution umbrella visually. Elderly folks, visually impaired individuals, and people with mobility impairments get to see objects in comfort from my laptop screen. It's also handy for keeping kids from banging on my telescope :)


Given the response I've received, I'd like to expand to using a large screen and digital projector and make the sky more accessible to more people. 


This will be a new kind of experiment for me. Getting a good polar alignment while talking to folks, then dialing in focus, then messing with gain settings proves to be a big time investment as it is. 


If anyone has tried using a projector for outreach, I'd really love to hear about your experiences, and any tips you would care to share about making setup as efficient as possible. 

I'm using an AVX mount for tracking, an ED80 ota, and an ASI071MC. For live-stacking I use Sharpcap. Everything is on battery power, which might make using a projector and a laptop and the mount and the camera at the same time a little difficult. 





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#2 donniesoprano


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Posted 09 October 2018 - 04:57 PM

I won't have anything to add from experience with a projector, it probably depends on the battery power.


I know I thought I was going to be fancy when I first started with a 24" LCD screen...that was short lived.  The juice for that killed my jump battery in about 30-45 mins flat.  Only thing I had on the battery was that (120v) and the LX200 pulling 12v.  I suppose the inverter on the battery pack converting to 120v is what killed it so quickly.


Projectors, I think, typically pull pretty good power to run a bulb as bright as they have.  You may need an alternate power source if going that route.  If you can find a projector that has a battery pack built in or one that runs on 12v, you may do better, but I'm not sure either of those options exist, though I've not looked, either.



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#3 jgraham



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Posted 09 October 2018 - 07:49 PM

It will be interesting to hear how your setup evolves. I also use EAA for outreach with a system built around a Revolution Imager 2 and a little LED monitor. It a lot of fun sharing a evening of observing the deep sky under our Bortle 8 skies.


Fun stuff!

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#4 sg6



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Posted 11 October 2018 - 07:17 AM

The club in Cambridge here has used a similar set up for a number of years.

They use Meade SCTs and I believe now also a Celestron CPC.


Arrangement is scope to camera (ZWO or QHY) then output to a laptop and the laptop display is output to a projector and the picture shown on a screen - hardboard painted matt white on a basic wooded frame.


Think they have done that for a number of years as part of working with the university for public outreach. Seems to have been very successful, it is still going strong as I understand.


The operation is a person getting a target, displayed laptrop then on the screen then a person with a PA system explains the target and gives information aout it, then on to the next. So needs a few to work well. 3 or 4 I would guess and that is 3 or 4 per scope.


Also they used 2 or 3 scopes. one scope on a target while the other found the next target.


Power is supplied by the observing area having dedicated pillars supplying 240v mains via outdoor standard 3 pin sockets and the pillar is further protected with a custom cover.


Scopes I saw were on permanent piers. Makes alignment easy and accurate, you will have to get good goto alignment.

Oddly you have to restrict the public, otherwise they are all over the scope, equipment, tables, cables and everything. Get a few tables. One for the laptop, another for bits.


Can be done, not actually difficult, just a few bits to organise, power will I guess be the problem.


Not sure how well an AVX mount for tracking, an ED80 ota, and an ASI071MC will work at the end. The equipment may not be up to it, or not up to a great deal. 80mm is not a lot.

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#5 t_image



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Posted 11 October 2018 - 11:10 PM


1. projector/screen: I have myself done something a bit different, pointed a projected live FLIR thermal camera feed via projector onto the white siding of the house for Halloween (the little golbins can see themselves!).
I imagine you've seen some outreach posts on CN while using the sidewalk or street as a screen.
I wish I had a better mental concept of your normal context of operation.
I appreciate the idea of a projector and screen offers a more durable concept of display.
I am happy with using a 40" display I DIY'ed for harsh treatment survive-ability.

It has given me capability to share with many while keeping the immediate audience small enough to engage with (as usually in a context with other observing 'stations'), as my context is usually less of giving a presentation to a larger crowd (where a screen and projector would be more fitting)...
Often people want to take out there phones and capture an image of the display screen...Pretty ironic....

2. Power: having done imaging for a few years, I've benefited from veteran wisdom of the value of deep-cycle marine batteries and awareness of power draws of tech.
I can testify that some of the most recent display tech offers surprisingly low power draws if done correctly.
Note some tv power ratings are based on tv speakers being utilized. Projectors are rated on brightness (=throw distance=how large a screen you can use), but utilizing a projector in dark puts less demand on needing a bright projector. Brightness of projector is often directly related to power consumption.....
Anyways, I recommend utilizing a few types/sizes/of battery supplies based on the gear used.

3. laptop- older laptops are usually greatest offenders as far as power draws....also devices one uses to do everything with.
I recommend purchasing a small, inexpensive, used laptop or tablet that runs only the pertinent software for EAA and does so in a low-power-draw footprint of a device.

4. Mount--do note that power draw of a mount is increased relative to the number of GOTO operation slews.....

"Getting a good polar alignment while talking to folks, then dialing in focus, then messing with gain settings proves to be a big time investment as it is. "
If you can, PA can be done by arriving early so you are not distracted by people? Also, with what degree of precision does your setup really require to produce a view-able stack?

5. Targets--Again I have no concept of your audience, whether they are regulars, what type of theme of presentation your deliver,
but I've found I can distract myself with being too concerned with my own astro-geekness about targets that aren't any better to the general audience and make the acquisition process so much more complicated.....
when so many just appreciate seeing the Moon (a little hyperbole).
Bottom line, be careful not to complicate your target selection so much that it taxes your setup requirements....
Instead, you may want to find the best balance of a practical and durable setup that can last and be consistent with your gear, but also in adjusting your expectations for target so it best matches.......
To do so will also solve some of your problems with fiddling with settings and focus....
Better to keep it more simple than you think until it has proven worthwhile and then slowly add more bells and whistles later....

Edited by t_image, 11 October 2018 - 11:11 PM.

#6 sg6



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Posted 12 October 2018 - 06:16 AM

Just had a thought - yes, occasionally the 2 brain cells accidently bump in to each other - for power could you use one of the small quiet petrol generators ? Think Honda make a good small quiet one.


Likely a bit costly to buy one specifically maybe borrow from a frien that has one, is hire of one an option if easy and inexpensive. Would give an indication if the idea would work or not and the requirements.

#7 cmooney91


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Posted 12 October 2018 - 07:47 AM

I have been playing around with doing EAA guided binocular outreach with an HD Pico projector


Setup  (My critique of the little battery powered hdmi projector is a couple posts down)


  • RT224 with a cheap 25mm F1.4 cctv on a stationary tripod. 
  • Cheap win 10 tablet running sharpcap, Live stacking the camera feed.
  • "AAXA HD Pico Mini" LED Projector shooting onto a  white wall, or a ream of news print.


The news print is nice because it's cheap, and the younger kids can trace out the stars with crayons and take the sheet home as a souvenir.


I also have a Bluetooth speaker connected to my phone so I can play Sky-safari's  excellent (Celestron) audio descriptions. 



I can't wait until I have a tracking mount(OnStep) so I can run the camera through my 114mm f4 newt

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#8 zakry3323


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Posted 13 October 2018 - 08:24 AM

This has all been very interesting and helpful advice, and I appreciate it very much! Thank you! I will be happy to keep you posted as this project continues! 


I need to get a kill-a-watt and see what the actual draw is from the various equipments I'll need to use. The projector that has been allocated to me for this project is an Epson Ex7260:


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