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Remote observatory setup questions, please

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#1 Katz

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Posted 26 January 2022 - 02:52 PM

The observatory should be finished by 1 June, at least physically.

 

Setup -

 

- 8' dome with shutter and rotation automation

- MaxDome II

- MX mount

- WX sensor

- cameras, focusers, dew heaters, basically standard items

- astrophotography only

 

This is built with the purpose of completely "away, unattended" astrophotography

 

I plan on using SB software as well as SGP and a plate solver if I can't use SB's plate solve.

 

The computer planned will be a PrimaLuce Lab Eagle 4 Pro.

 

I want to be able to operate the dome when on site through a tablet.

 

Can some one please help me understand the following - sorry, thought I was pretty smart until I started reading TSX manuals...

 

How to integrate all of this software so that it communicates well?

 

T-point - yes or no with SGP?

 

Platesolve - yes or no?  What software?

 

How to set up an imaging schedule?

 

Links to videos or websites that explain this morass of bits and bytes would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks.

 

KC


Edited by Katz, 26 January 2022 - 03:34 PM.


#2 rgsalinger

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Posted 26 January 2022 - 03:24 PM

I have an MYT in a remote observatory 90 miles from my house which has two piers with full imaging systems on them. The observatory is off the grid which makes things just a tad more complicated. The MYT replaced an MX+ that I sold recently. So, I have a lot of experience with getting a Paramount based system working remotely. If you want help feel free at any time to PM me. Here are some basic answers that may be helpful. 

 

1. SGP cannot use TPoint but you can build a TPoint model one time (in a permanent setup) so that any other SGP supported platesolver will work just fine for you. You will need the  ASCOM X2 driver that's on the Bisque website for SGP to control the mount. That will also let you use the SKYX as a Planetarium (which is terrific once you climb up the learning curve).

 

2. ASCOM is the glue that holds things together. You're buying a very expensive computer but you will still have to load the ASCOM platform on it. So, that's the first step in getting everything running. There are ascom drivers for pretty much anything you need to control including the MAXDome II. I have not used SGP to control my roof so, you need to read the manual. 

 

3. You really also want a weather system that integrates with the roof or that will at least allow the roof to be automatically closed if the weather turns bad. Otherwise you will need to be very careful and stay up late somtimes to get all the possible clear SKY time. 

 

4. You can operate any Paramount through a iPad if the mount has the WiSky adapter installed. Ask SB about that - you buy the board and just install it, it's easy. Then you load the SKYX onto the iPad.

 

5. For remote access to the Eagle you need either to use something like Windows Remote Desktop if you are on a LAN or TeamViewer/AnyDesk if you are on a WAN.  These also run on a tablet. I use a dedicated cheap laptop in addition to my imaging computers to control the roof and the weather system. I do not want to have my imaging computer crash and have no other way to secure the observatory. 

 

6. You will also need a digital logger in addition to the power switching on the Eagle. You want to be able to turn things on and off rermotely and the digital logger is an industrial quality device. I have three of these in my observatory. One is use strictly to control the observatory utilities - roof, router, internet access, obsevatory cameras, etc. Then each of my two imaging systems has it's own logger. 

 

7. With a dome, you should not have any worry about the scope hitting the roof, but I always warn people to avoid setting up a system that would allow that to happen. 

 

8. You want a UPS for both the roof and the imaging system so that you can close things down if you lose power. My roof system is set to close if the internet is lost for 10 minutes, the computer that controls is fails, or the weather gets dicey (even cloudy is enough). 

 

I'm sure that there are plenty of videos about all this. I preferred to just figure things out as I went along. The biggest mistake that I  made was (mine is an old observatory that I renovated) was not using some kind of raised floor so that I could run cables. In your case, when you pour the foundation, make sure that you know where you want everything to be in the final configuration and run conduits accordingly. Oh, and you can't have enough storage for spare parts and basic tools. 

 

Rgrds-Ross


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#3 bobzeq25

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Posted 26 January 2022 - 03:55 PM

The above is excellent.  I'll add some personal opinions.

 

Voyager will work better for you than SGP.  It will do platesolving with a variety of solvers, I use PlateSolve2.  I can't imagine doing this without platesolving. 

 

The autofocus routines are superb, and you have a number of options.

 

Voyager will run the dome.  It should integrate quite well with the SB software, but I have no experience.

 

I do my own imaging schedule.  One night, one target.  Emphasis on total imaging time. 


Edited by bobzeq25, 26 January 2022 - 03:56 PM.

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#4 Katz

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Posted 26 January 2022 - 04:13 PM

Thanks, Ross, that was very informative! Unlike the TSX manual...

I pulled down your comments to here so that I could respond.

1. SGP cannot use TPoint but you can build a TPoint model one time (in a permanent setup) so that any other SGP supported platesolver will work just fine for you. You will need the ASCOM X2 driver that's on the Bisque website for SGP to control the mount. That will also let you use the SKYX as a Planetarium (which is terrific once you climb up the learning curve). So, run Pinpoint after creating one complex T Point supermodel is what I'm reading here.

2. ASCOM is the glue that holds things together. You're buying a very expensive computer but you will still have to load the ASCOM platform on it. So, that's the first step in getting everything running. There are ascom drivers for pretty much anything you need to control including the MAXDome II. I have not used SGP to control my roof so, you need to read the manual. Clear enough!

3. You really also want a weather system that integrates with the roof or that will at least allow the roof to be automatically closed if the weather turns bad. Otherwise you will need to be very careful and stay up late somtimes to get all the possible clear SKY time. I was planning on purchasing and installing the new Boltwood coming out next month.

4. You can operate any Paramount through a iPad if the mount has the WiSky adapter installed. Ask SB about that - you buy the board and just install it, it's easy. Then you load the SKYX onto the iPad. This was one of my questions... could I install TSX, Camera, Dome, etc (since I have them) on the Eagle and then just use a tablet to "talk" to TSX and others via the Eagle WiFi? Because the USB ports on the "Instrument Panel" of the MX are just passthru cables, I could run the mount control USB through the mount pre-installed USB cable and to the MKS5000 board...? And run the other USB cable in the mount to a hub near the MKS5000 board and cable to the Boltwood, Maxdome, etc.? This would really clean up the installation IMO, but total newb here.

5. For remote access to the Eagle you need either to use something like Windows Remote Desktop if you are on a LAN or TeamViewer/AnyDesk if you are on a WAN. These also run on a tablet. I use a dedicated cheap laptop in addition to my imaging computers to control the roof and the weather system. I do not want to have my imaging computer crash and have no other way to secure the observatory. I'll PM you on this one when we get closer to bringing it online.

6. You will also need a digital logger in addition to the power switching on the Eagle. You want to be able to turn things on and off remotely and the digital logger is an industrial quality device. I have three of these in my observatory. One is use strictly to control the observatory utilities - roof, router, internet access, observatory cameras, etc. Then each of my two imaging systems has it's own logger. I'll check this out... thanks. There will be an Ethernet connection to the observatory from the house, the house has a standby generator, and there will be a 1500W UPS inside the observatory. I planned on the Eagle to run everything... is this a bad idea?

7. With a dome, you should not have any worry about the scope hitting the roof, but I always warn people to avoid setting up a system that would allow that to happen. The MaxDome II controller has a dry contact that is basically the "crash contact" that closes the shutter and homes the dome. In case of a loss of signal from the mount, network, or a critical error, the crash contact would close. I don't have all of that figured out yet.

8. You want a UPS for both the roof and the imaging system so that you can close things down if you lose power. My roof system is set to close if the internet is lost for 10 minutes, the computer that controls is fails, or the weather gets dicey (even cloudy is enough). Per above, that's covered.

I'm sure that there are plenty of videos about all this. I preferred to just figure things out as I went along. The biggest mistake that I made was (mine is an old observatory that I renovated) was not using some kind of raised floor so that I could run cables. In your case, when you pour the foundation, make sure that you know where you want everything to be in the final configuration and run conduits accordingly. Oh, and you can't have enough storage for spare parts and basic tools. The observatory has an uncoupled raised wooden floor that is about 24" above ground. The 24" dia main pier stops 2' above this and extends 9' underground. The walls are 7', custom fab aluminum pier from my local machine shop, so I can get under it if necessary.

Thanks for the remarks! You can see some of my questions in #1 and #4...

Appreciate it if you'd look at my comments, please, and I really appreciate the help!

KC


Edited by Katz, 27 January 2022 - 02:47 PM.


#5 Katz

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Posted 26 January 2022 - 04:14 PM

The above is excellent.  I'll add some personal opinions.

 

Voyager will work better for you than SGP.  It will do platesolving with a variety of solvers, I use PlateSolve2.  I can't imagine doing this without platesolving. 

 

The autofocus routines are superb, and you have a number of options.

 

Voyager will run the dome.  It should integrate quite well with the SB software, but I have no experience.

 

I do my own imaging schedule.  One night, one target.  Emphasis on total imaging time. 

I'll have a look, thanks!

 

Edited to comment that I looked at it and overall, it seems to be very solid.  What about setting up an advanced schedule?  I've been focusing on setting this equipment up with a month-in-advance schedule where it will image item 1, item 2 and so forth, and not go back to that item once imaging is complete.  Your thoughts?

 

Thanks!

 

KC


Edited by Katz, 26 January 2022 - 04:37 PM.

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#6 rgsalinger

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Posted 27 January 2022 - 12:38 AM

KC- I can't really read your responses. That bright green is illegible on my computer screen, but here's what I gleaned -----.

 

Assuming that you're running SGP, then the preferred all sky platesolver is ANSVR. This is trivial to install on the computer in the observatory. You should just build a 50 point model and do a PEC run using the SKYX at first light. I would also smoke test the system using the SKYX. Unless you want to image unguided, that's the end of using the SKYX for anything other than a planetarium. It's by far the best planetarium on the planet. If you build a bigger model and use a short FL refractor you should be able to go unguided, I could never get that to work with my long refractor or my CDK 12.5" scope.  

 

If you want to run the Eagle from a tablet there's no issue whatsoever. You just use remote desktop if you are local, and teamviewer if you are running over a WAN. If you want to run the MX directly, then you use an iPad (no android version) and you need the wi-sky adapter. If you never want to do that (and I have never bothered) you don't need that adapter. Personally I have wired connections to all my observatory computers. I have to say, though, that for about 6 months I used wifi to one of them and never had an issue. 

 

I would not run my observatory with just one computer unless I was absolutely certain that if that computer crashes everything shuts down - shutter closes, mount parks, etc. You're apparently right next to it so it's not such a big deal. My scopes are 90 miles way. I like a separate control computer. Mine is a cheap laptop that ran me about 300 dollars. 

 

I've been running remotely for about 5 years now using CCD Autopilot and either MaximDL and/or the SKYX. I have never seen the need for sophisticated scheduling. Frankly, I think it's generally overkill and the more complicated you make things the more errors you make. 

 

You didn't ask,, but I'm wondering a lot about using a computer from a tiny company in Italy as your imaging computer. My understanding, though, is that it runs Windows Enterprise. That eliminates any issues with Windows updates. On the other hand some of those updates are about security flaws in the OS. Having an unpatched system would make me uneasy since my systems have to be on the internet for me to use them. 

 

I've come to the conclusion that you can't have too many cameras. I would get the Wyze cameras that cost about 30 bucks and can be monitored from an app on your phone. I use something else that's frankly not nearly as good in terms us ease of use. 

 

One other thing. I would never run any software with admin privileges. That's one reason why I will never use Voyager. Doing that is not only unsafe if you get hit with a virus but can lead to really really tricky problems that can be hard to debug. I learned this the hard way long before Voyager appeared on the scene. It's frankly unclear to me what single user, single pier use case really requires more than a fairly simple system. 

 

Since we have a total of 4 piers in the observatory, two of which run remote/automated, we ended up needing a 16 port ethernet switch in addition to a router. You may want to think about accesing the system from vacation or business trips and to allow friends and family to see what's going on. 

 

Rgrds-Ross


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#7 R Botero

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Posted 27 January 2022 - 03:05 AM

I'll have a look, thanks!

 

Edited to comment that I looked at it and overall, it seems to be very solid.  What about setting up an advanced schedule?  I've been focusing on setting this equipment up with a month-in-advance schedule where it will image item 1, item 2 and so forth, and not go back to that item once imaging is complete.  Your thoughts?

 

Thanks!

 

KC

Check this thread: https://www.cloudyni...yager-advanced/


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#8 rgsalinger

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Posted 27 January 2022 - 10:46 AM

The most important thing in getting an observatory up and running is to avoid complex software solutions at the start. That's true for 2 distinctly different reasons. First, you want to test components separately to make sure that they work and that you understand how they work. In the OP's case, there's a lot you can do with just the SKYX. The second reason is to determine what you are REALLY going to need/use in terms of automation.

 

I always thought that it would be important to have my imaging system integrated with the weeather system and the roof. So, I bought products that can do that seamlessly. I've never bothered. The imaging systems read the weather and shut down if there's a problem. The roof system reads the weather as well as some other parameters (internet connection, power) and closes the roof if there's a reason to do so. In 3 years, what I thought was an absolute necessity simply wasn't.

 

Now I have two systems and probably around 100 clear nights a year. So, trying to shoehorn in 2 hours worth of data on an object because the clouds have parted is just not a priority.  I've also retired and so I can spend an hour if I want to online with Telescopius and offline with my Astrophotography Sky Atlas finding targets. When doing double star observations or exoplanets it not even an hour.

 

It's a different story if you have your systems somewhere like New Mexico Skies where there's a professional around to help with issues and problems. When you're on your own simple is better in the long run. 

 

Rgrds-Ross 


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#9 bobzeq25

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Posted 27 January 2022 - 12:05 PM

For what it's worth I've run software using administrator privileges for years, with no issues.  Note that every time Windows asks "do you want this software to modify your system?" it's asking if it's OK to use administrator privileges.


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#10 R Botero

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Posted 28 January 2022 - 03:25 AM

For what it's worth I've run software using administrator privileges for years, with no issues. Note that every time Windows asks "do you want this software to modify your system?" it's asking if it's OK to use administrator privileges.


Exactly! Incredible most users don’t realise this πŸ˜… Try to run your computer by pressing NO all the time πŸ˜‚

Edited by R Botero, 28 January 2022 - 03:54 AM.

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#11 rgsalinger

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Posted 28 January 2022 - 11:31 AM

Since my imaging computers have all their software installed without privileges, I never see that message when I run at night. Did it ever occur to you that when you respond "YES" you are allow that software full control over your computer? Why would you WANT to do that when it's completely unnecessary? I've yet to see any Voyager user explain precisely what the point of doing that is.What is the gain? BTB if Voyager installs a rookit on your computer after you run the install. I prefer to have my software run sandboxed. 

 

Listen I think that Voyager is a great system for people who need the complexity of dragscripts or just like them. I've used it and it's a good product. Overall, though, I would not recommend it to someone who just wants to take some pictures reliably on a single pier in an unattended imaging session. When you're running 5 piers every night and want a single control point, that's a whole different ball of wax. 

 

Rgrds-Ross



#12 bobzeq25

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Posted 28 January 2022 - 12:34 PM

I don't necessarily _want_ to have software use administrative privileges.

 

I'm _completely_ indifferent about it.  <smile>

 

Years, much software (astro and otherwise), no problems.

 

I like Voyager a lot.  One scope, one target per night.  Particularly like the superb autofocus with its multiple options.  I generally use the version where it slews to an optimal star for focus (internal catalog), centers it, focuses and slews back precisely where I placed the target, framed as I had wished.

 

I'd recommend it to anyone.  The "on the fly" mode is comparably simple to NINA, I like the autofocus significantly better.  The Dragscript version (which I've never used) can do just about anything.  There is just a few seconds added between frames while it checks that things are going well (it can apply automatic fixes to many issues).  NINA doesn't check, just runs off one sub after another.  That could be useful in some situations.


Edited by bobzeq25, 28 January 2022 - 12:37 PM.


#13 Katz

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Posted 28 January 2022 - 01:47 PM

Just to clarify, I travel a lot, and might not be home for good WX.

 

Scenario:

 

Schedule for 2 weeks - built.  Basically a list of targets and the camera/FW recipe for each for want of a better term.

 

At twilight, check sky.

If clear, open, unpark, flats.

Slew to target on list that is good for that night based on moon, WX, etc.

Image.

If image complete, goto next target

If clouds, close and hold program.

If precip or fog, close and park

If mount was holding awaiting Boltwood to OK reopen, open dome and continue imaging once WX sensor says ok

If dawn twilight and mount holding, park mount.

 

Lather, rinse, repeat next clear sky at PM twilight.

 

Notify me of progress or issues via SMS or email.



#14 R Botero

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Posted 28 January 2022 - 04:46 PM

Kevin

 

I've told you:  https://www.cloudyni...ase/?p=11666752




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