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Internet-Based Imaging: Is it economical and practical?

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#1 John Rogers

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 11:57 AM

I was perusing the January 2020 issue of Astronomy magazine when I happened upon an advertisement from “TELESCOPE LIVE”, an Internet-based service offering telescope/imaging access from a collaboration of observatories around the world.  Normally, I would only give something like this a glancing review, but then I noticed that they were offering 20 free “credits” during the month of December.  That piqued my interest.

 

I went to the web site, https://telescope.live to investigate further.  I found that they have three sites in Australia, Spain and Chile, offering wide-field refractors and reflectors of various sizes and sensors, including a full range of filters.  The pricing structure seems reasonable to me.  It turns out that a credit is currently valued a 1 US Dollar and the cost of using a given telescope is based on several considerations, including discounts for the phase of the moon and setup time.

 

Imagine that, imaging with a Meade 14” LX200 in Australia or a 1-meter telescope in Chile from the comfort of my desk?  So, I decided why not?  I created an account and discovered that the 20 free credits in December are in addition to the 20 credits that are provide with opening an account, so I had 40 credits to work with. 

 

Off I was to schedule my first observing session.  The menu was easy to use and intuitive.  I quickly discovered that I cannot use the 1 meter telescope with my free credits, since there is a minimum time of 60 minutes required to schedule that telescope.  At 3.3 credits per minute of telescope time, I would need almost 200 credits to consider that scope.

 

Not to be deterred I chose the Meade 14” telescope, given it has the lowest cost (0.8 credits/minute.)  By experimenting with the Moon avoidance parameters, I was able to schedule two targets, the Horsehead Nebula (15 minutes) and Centaurus A (25 minutes) total exposure time.  The full-calibrated Horsehead images should be completed by the 12th and Centaurus A by the 17th of December.

 

I’ll post the results when I have downloaded and processed the images.  My astro-imaging future may have just taken a detour with this test drive! 

 

Anyone else have experience with Internet-based imaging?



#2 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 12:18 PM

Sure. A lot of folks do something similar. Here is an older episode of the Astro Imaging Channel talking about iTelescope. Here is an episode about Deep Sky West which rents space to folks who want to place a remote instrument but also runs a "team" membership program where people can sign up to pick targets and share data.

 

I have a membership on a team at DSW - so I'm more familiar with their model. It is practical and it is affordable but, as always, it depends on what you're trying to do and what you like. I appreciate DSW and how they run things, but I also perversely enjoy messing with my own gear and dealing with my particular challenges here in Denver.

 

Now, if you want a stream of essentially perfect data to process and no need to buy, maintain, configure or trouble-shoot gear then DSW is a great solution. The weather and seeing is also superior to Denver. You do have to be OK with working on a team to suggest targets. I would also warn you, though, that DSW doesn't hold your hand. They have serious instruments and you get the data straight off the disk. There is some assumption that you know what you're doing.

 

(I'm also moving this thread to B&II since it's more about imaging than "generic equipment")


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#3 sg6

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 01:12 PM

Suppose this could be a somewhat polarizing topic.

Are you getting image data to work on that you could not otherwise?

Or I suppose are you "just" getting data to process?

 

In a way if you are getting data to process then you do not need to know a thing about astronomy (some will say join the club grin.gif )

 

Consider people being asked to demonstrate their knowledge of PI or Photoshop by doing a 30 process on a piece of data from Hubble at an interview. No need to know what a scope is, just need to know how to work the processing.

 

How would you/people feel if a image processor won AP image of the month/year just from processing some data they had requested on such a site. No astro interest, no astro equipment just an artistic flair.

 

Equally getting images and data is getting harder. In a way better images require greater amounts of data and that means more time that may be unavailable to people.

 

In a way nice to be able to request and obtain image data on images you may never have the chance to obtain, and for people at high latitudes the summer may not get dark to image for 3 or 4 months. Still nice to get images otherwise out of reach.

 

Suppose a nice resource to have and to dip into at times. However should it be clearly stated that images came from a rented remote scope/site. Easy to say: Horsehead Nebula, Scope Meade 14", Total exposure 15 minutes, with no mention that you had little to do with the image acquisation.

 

Does save on purchasing of equipment I will say. You can get data and process on equipment you may not need to purchase say a solar scope.

 

So arguements either way.

Hence the polarization of possible opinions.


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#4 OldManSky

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 01:18 PM

I did a rough-guess total of my imaging minutes (so far) during 2019.

It comes out at about 9,600 minutes (if anything, that estimate is low).

At the Meade 14" rate, that would cost $7,680.  

For $7,680 I could buy a (used) Meade 14" and a very nice mount to put it on, and use it anytime I wanted to.

It wouldn't be in Australia or Chile, of course.

But given the rates, that doesn't seem "economical" to me. 

If it does to you, enjoy.  Data is data, whether you get it with your own scope or somebody else's.



#5 telfish

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 01:22 PM

To be able to get data form the Southern hemisphere and vice versa if you live in the Southern hemisphere is  a valid reason for using the system, also to be able to get data from instruments you are never going to own is useful. I think you could do both your own imaging in your backyard and have access to these options. Plus for people like me who don't image much during winter due to very low temperatures and a lot of snow on the ground it could make sense.


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#6 imtl

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 01:37 PM

And what about actually feeling you were the one that was imaging? Does that matter at all?

If you just buy time on those telescopes and they do everything and just send you the data then you might as well just download HST images from google and put your name on it and say you took the image. I don't really understand what is the difference.

 

If you are using these instruments for scientific purposes than that is a different story. But to just get pictures? Personally of course, I don't get it. All the fun and hardship of AP is actually being taken away. The whole point for me is to set up and star gaze while the imaging is going on. Not having that is basically taking all the hobby away and turning it into just just posting pictures on social media.

 

That's my take on this anyways.


Edited by imtl, 08 December 2019 - 03:12 PM.

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#7 WadeH237

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 04:53 PM

Consider people being asked to demonstrate their knowledge of PI or Photoshop by doing a 30 process on a piece of data from Hubble at an interview. No need to know what a scope is, just need to know how to work the processing.

What is the problem with that?  Dr. Rob Gendler did a talk at Advanced Imaging Conference a few years ago that was specifically on the topic of acquiring and processing Hubble Space Telescope data.
 

How would you/people feel if a image processor won AP image of the month/year just from processing some data they had requested on such a site. No astro interest, no astro equipment just an artistic flair.

Speaking for myself, this would not bother me at all.  In fact, many APOD images are done by amateurs (or others) using data from the Hubble, or other, research instruments.

 

I've always felt that image data acquisition and image processing are two completely different activities.  If someone enjoys one, but not the other, why should that bother me?


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#8 John Rogers

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 05:43 PM

Thanks everyone for the feedback and Ken for the YouTube links.  I must not have been paying attention to the development of these resources, but am glad to see that is more out there than I was aware of.

 

I have many years of astrophotography experience, starting with film and a 6" Newtonian telescope that I constructed myself.  The main point of my thread is that professional-quality telescopes are available for casual or budding astrophotographers to use, without major capital expenditure.   I don't intend on getting 50,000 hours of data on one object.  I'll leave that to those that are competing for some top prize.  I am merely enjoying my retirement years getting a kick out of comparing what I can do today compared to film 50 years ago.  I'll never own a 1 meter telescope or a ten thousand dollar refractor, but consider myself fortunate to be able to have access to them from the warmth of my home.

 

A big question in back of my mind, that I have not seen directly addressed, is who owns the copyright of the remote images?  Are the images that I commission to be taken and download my property or was there some fine print that relinquished the copyright to another party?  I looked but could not find any specific mention of copyright.  Anyone have first hand knowledge?



#9 lantosque

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 02:09 AM

I have used iTelescope. I am pretty sure that you would own the data.

 

There are some subscription plans that give you access to the data generated by that particular telescope.  I think there must be restrictions on what you can do with that data, otherwise you could give the data away to others who would have no incentive to join the group.



#10 kel123

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 08:13 AM

A big question in back of my mind, that I have not seen directly addressed, is who owns the copyright of the remote images? Are the images that I commission to be taken and download my property or was there some fine print that relinquished the copyright to another party? I looked but could not find any specific mention of copyright. Anyone have first hand knowledge?


In fact, as I was reading the various post, I made up my mind that I am going to post about the copyright part. As, is if you knew what was in my mind, you raise it first.

There is indeed a fine print on some of those services. I know about two of them that you are not allowed to lay claim to the processed images. In fact, their watermark must be left intact and if you disfigure it or crop it out while processing, you must copy and past it on the final image.

Furthermore, there are forums you are not allowed to post the images and other forums you are allowed to post it but only with the express permission of the telescope owners.

Of course, you are also not allowed to use the images in any away that it will accrue revenue to you.

These are some of the reasons that made me stay away from such services. I want to be able to use my images any way I want, So, let me use my meagre equipment to acquire them and own them.

The most important part of such services is to probably learn how to process some difficult targets and for academics using it for instructional purposes. But just check the fine print, you don't own the images and rightly so. You only helped the owners to process it and advertise their business while paying for access.

#11 nimitz69

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 09:00 AM

........  then you might as well just download HST images from google and put your name on it and say you took the image. I don't really understand what is the difference

Really?  How much time do you typically take to process an image once you’ve collected the data?  I don’t know about you but I usually spend more time processing than acquiring.  Once you are set up, acquiring is the ‘easy ‘ part.  I push open the roof of my observatory, turn everything on and let it do its thing - then I just go to bed.  I need to be fully awake during the post processing part ... dalek12.gif

 

not sure where I really fall on this since I tend to believe that to claim its ‘your image’ you need to do all the work of acquiring the data and processing it.    Hard to tell people ‘yeah, that’s my image” if I just purchased the data & then processed it.  I don’t see anything wrong with doing this to get at targets you can’t from your location but when you publicize them there needs to be an asterisk on them like for steroid enhanced baseball records - lol.  I guess the watermark would take care of that as well.



#12 Madratter

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 10:04 AM

This is hobby. There are different parts of this hobby. As long as you don't misrepresent what you did and didn't do, I don't see the problem. People can enjoy whatever parts of this hobby they happen to enjoy.

 

Where does it stop? Did you actually make the telescope that collected the data? Did you actually make the camera that took the image? Did you machine the mount that did the heavy lifting?

 

For those who think processing Hubble data into a fine image is trivial, they clearly haven't attempted it.

 

All this is my opinion. If you choose to look down at those who "only" processed the data, that is your prerogative. Personally, I spent way more time processing my recent image of M76 than I did collecting the data. And once you get to a certain level of equipment, collecting the data really isn't all that difficult. Processing it is actually the bigger challenge.

 

That said, the part of the hobby I currently enjoy the most actually is the data collection part of it.


Edited by Madratter, 09 December 2019 - 10:52 AM.

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#13 bobzeq25

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 10:42 AM

 I also perversely enjoy messing with my own gear and dealing with my particular challenges here in Denver. 

<ie an urban setting>

 

I don't think it qualifies as perversion when it's this widespread.  <grin>
 


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#14 WebFoot

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 10:58 AM

There is a continuum of ways to image--from "you set up your equipment in your yard" to "you get data someone else acquired."  And most everything in between.

It is inevitable that people will get all emotional about how it's not real astronomy to process someone else's data.

To me, it's all about what you enjoy, and how _you_ feel about it.  I would vastly prefer to have my own equipment in my own yard, but I live in Seattle, where the skies are cloudy all night, most nights, so that really doesn't work.  So I compromised by having my equipment hosted by someone else (Deep Sky West, for me, now); I control it, I decide what objects I want to image, and I process my own data.

That works for me.  But subscribing to someone else's data doesn't work for me, and processing Hubble data really doesn't work for me.  And I'm an exposure freak, so buying enough time to finish an object the way I like to do it (keeping in mind variable weather and conditions) would be somewhere between impractical and impossible). But that 's all personal preference; it you're all about processing, and you don't care about acquisition, a data subscription plan/group can work really well.

 

Mark



#15 mark77

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 11:08 AM

I agree with Madratter.  As long as you dont miss-represent what you do, its fine. Just like in writing a paper, give credit where credit is due.

 

I am going to be working with a local high school programming class next semester to do an image processing software project.  One of the topics I plan on covering is data rights.

 

LSST is supposed to be coming on line in the next year or 2 and generate 15 TBytes every night.  They plan on making the data publicly available within 24 hours.  I dont remember the details, but the data rights were quite liberal, just give credit to where the data came from.

 

For scientific uses, data origin can be very important so that you can repeat the experiment and show that what you discovered wasnt a fluke of the processing.


Edited by mark77, 09 December 2019 - 11:12 AM.


#16 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 11:23 AM

Like I said above, I only have experience with DSW. If I recall correctly, you need to cite that the data was acquired at the observatory and you cannot share the subframes, but the final processed image is yours and you own it. If you think about going the DSW route, be sure to reach out to Lloyd (great guy) through their contact page.


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#17 imtl

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 11:29 AM

Really?  How much time do you typically take to process an image once you’ve collected the data?  I don’t know about you but I usually spend more time processing than acquiring.  Once you are set up, acquiring is the ‘easy ‘ part.  I push open the roof of my observatory, turn everything on and let it do its thing - then I just go to bed.  I need to be fully awake during the post processing part ... dalek12.gif

 

not sure where I really fall on this since I tend to believe that to claim its ‘your image’ you need to do all the work of acquiring the data and processing it.    Hard to tell people ‘yeah, that’s my image” if I just purchased the data & then processed it.  I don’t see anything wrong with doing this to get at targets you can’t from your location but when you publicize them there needs to be an asterisk on them like for steroid enhanced baseball records - lol.  I guess the watermark would take care of that as well.

Well, if you feel that pushing the button and going to sleep is doing astronomy that is your personal take on what astronomy is. This is your way and by no means a definition. I guess you can understand I do not agree with it.

 

If your interest is an artistic picture then I can assume you spend more time photoshoping then analyzing data or acquiring it. I never said I'm interested in this for posting pretty pictures on social media. Its not my thing. 

 

In any case these are different approaches for this hobby. I never claimed to own the right way to do it. I was posing some questions and an opinion in an astronomy forum. I thought that is the whole purpose of having a forum... 


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#18 imtl

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 11:31 AM

This is hobby. There are different parts of this hobby. As long as you don't misrepresent what you did and didn't do, I don't see the problem. People can enjoy whatever parts of this hobby they happen to enjoy.

 

Where does it stop? Did you actually make the telescope that collected the data? Did you actually make the camera that took the image? Did you machine the mount that did the heavy lifting?

 

For those who think processing Hubble data into a fine image is trivial, they clearly haven't attempted it.

 

All this is my opinion. If you choose to look down at those who "only" processed the data, that is your prerogative. Personally, I spent way more time processing my recent image of M76 than I did collecting the data. And once you get to a certain level of equipment, collecting the data really isn't all that difficult. Processing it is actually the bigger challenge.

 

That said, the part of the hobby I currently enjoy the most actually is the data collection part of it.

 

Nobody is looking down on anyone. Its just different opinions. People need to stop being so touchy and get offended so easily by someone behind a computer screen and a keyboard. These are opinions in an astronomy forum. No need to turn it into an impeachment trial in senate.

 

Enjoy what you want and if you don't like to discuss it then that's fine. Just don't.

 

To the point that was made. The example of the HST was in order to raise the question of where does the hobby starts and ends. Its okay to think that its about the image process, as well as its okay to think that it is the observations and technical parts that are the core of it. We are also all coming from different lives. I worked in a pro observatory for two years so I have my perspective of things. That's all.

 

Oh, and all of this is probably because I'm jealous of image processing capabilities which I do not have :) :)

Take it easy. This is supposed to be fun!


Edited by imtl, 09 December 2019 - 11:51 AM.


#19 StuartJPP

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 11:44 AM

I have gone down a similar path with my wildlife photography.

 

A guy in Kenya has set up a remote camera on an alt-azi tripod controlled remotely via my mouse, with just a click of a button I can take an award winning photo of a Wildebeest, a Secretarybird, or even a pride of lions devouring a Springbok.

 

It has saved me lots of money as I no longer have to buy walking boots, hats, trousers.I even sold my camera and lens and I no longer suffer from sore knees and elbows from all the crawling around trying to sneak up on my target.

 

Problem is that I now have so much free time and cash that I need to find another hobby....ummmm.

 

Please note that this is totally fictional and not intended to offend anyone. Everybody can do what they please but don't be surprised if someone sometime takes the Mickey.


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#20 Alex McConahay

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:09 PM

Speaking of Kenya....Lots of people work hard to get into shape to hike to the top of Kilimanjaro, which rises above the plains of Kenya. (OK, I know it is in Tanzania.) Some make it. Some need to stop short. 

 

I suppose, one could take a helicopter and be most of the way there.

 

Who gets credit for getting to the top of Uhuru Peak (Kili)?

 

Both have gotten there.

 

Point is, if somebody is standing around bragging about climbing* to the top of Kilimanjaro, they have a right to brag (if in fact they have been there). But when the whole story is told, it may be that they only stepped out of a helicopter and did not do much to get there. Or it may be they trained for months. And got there fair and square.

 

As long as they tell the whole story, it is their story.

 

As long as the imager discloses where the data came from, there is nothing unfair, illegal, or dastardly going on. It may not be as impressive a feat after disclosure of the whole story, but it is still an honest story. 

 

Alex 

 

* And if anybody is bragging about climbing Kili, they are full of it. Kili is just a long walk. Not a climb. 

 

And, yeah, I don't think helicopters are really able to get up that high. Maybe, maybe not. I don't know. But they can get pretty far up the sides. And you get the point. 



#21 Scott1244

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:29 PM

....

A big question in back of my mind, that I have not seen directly addressed, is who owns the copyright of the remote images?  Are the images that I commission to be taken and download my property or was there some fine print that relinquished the copyright to another party?  I looked but could not find any specific mention of copyright.  Anyone have first hand knowledge?

On the DSW website, it states that the imager owns the data. 



#22 kel123

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:34 PM

I don't think anyone is looking down on any other person for doing what they love to do. It is a matter of different opinions and we should avoid comparing apples to oranges.

Acquiring data and processing is clearly not the same  as buying data and processing it.  It does not matter what equipment you use to acquire that data  or how much you bought the data, they are not the same.

However, we are not here to debate whether one is better than the other. If one is what you love to do, then go fo it and don't begrudge someone else for getting fulfilled doing the other. 



#23 bmhjr

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:41 PM

I have been fly fishing in the same area for quite a long time.  These days I will often find a guide with their patron fishing in "my hole".  The guide takes them there, supplies the gear, selects the fly, shows them where to cast, nets the fish, and brings them along to catching their admirable trout.  I will usually walk over to the smiling fisherman after their picture is snapped and say "nice catch".  Inside I will be thinking, wow they just caught my fish  smile.gif .  Who am I to question the joy I just witnessed by someone experiencing the same feelings, or more, that I get from my own adventures?  They aren't doing the hobby the same way as me.  So what!  I don't think it is especially cost effective since a half day guided outing can cost several hundred dollars.  But it is not my concern and shouldn't be.  There are so many challenges and struggles in everyday life that if someone can find an activity providing relief, power to them.  It has no bearing on how I choose to do things.



#24 bobzeq25

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:47 PM

Nobody is looking down on anyone. . People need to stop being so touchy and get offended so easily by someone behind a computer screen and a keyboard.

It would take a far better man than I to not be offended by:

 

"If you just buy time on those telescopes and they do everything and just send you the data then you might as well just download HST images from google and put your name on it and say you took the image. I don't really understand what is the difference."

 

If you truly believe the quote at the top of this, you'll edit that out, or ask the mods to just remove the whole post.

 

I note in passing the professional astronomers buy time on a scope, technicians do everything, and just send the astronomer the data.

 

So what you're criticizing is _exactly_ how astronomy is done these days.
 


Edited by bobzeq25, 09 December 2019 - 01:47 PM.

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#25 dawziecat

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:52 PM

I joined iTelescopes for about a year a couple of years ago. I did so with a very specific goal in mind, imaging 47 TUC, w Cen and rho Oph. Sure, I'd have loved to actually go to the southern hemisphere, with my gear, and "do" these targets but I realized that was never going to happen.

 

I accomplished what I set out to do with ITel and then quit. I have no complaints but one.

 

Their "Big Gun" is a Planewave CDK700. It is unguided and I found it entirely unsatisfactory for AP! At least the AP I wanted to do with it. The claim (I paraphrase) "these mounts are so accurate, guiding is unnecessary" just was not the case! Not by a long shot. My inquiry to them about this was to the effect "we don't own the CDK700 and it is Planewave's decision to disable guiding on it." 

 

So, I did the three targets previously mentioned, not with the CDK700 obviously, and ceased membership. 

Imaging with rented gear is an entirely different experience than operating your own observatory. It's a personal matter whether or not you'd find satisfaction in doing so. There is no "right" or "wrong" here. 


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