I hope this site will be an aid to others who want to develop their own Remote Video Astronomy setup.
So what exactly do I mean by “Remote Video Astronomy” (RVA)?
For purposes of this site, at this time "Remote" means a distance of 10-100 feet from your telescope so you can be inside rather than having to be at your telescope. This could be inside your house, inside your vehicle or inside a tent or other protected viewing area. Typically a single cable can run from your telescope through a window or specially prepared opening to your inside area. Some Wi-Fi solutions are also practical. “Remote” can be further subdivided into two categories:
1. Portable. The RVA setup is carried, rolled, transported, etc. outside each time it is used. This may be just outside your house or some other site. This website currently is focused on portable RVA.
2. Fixed. The RVA setup remains in a fixed location where some or all of the equipment and communications remain in place. This may be just outside your house where you leave a fixed pier and cabling in place, or it may be a structure or observatory in your backyard or some other location with your equipment and communications already in place that you access remotely. I have not done this yet, so I do not address specifics of fixed RVA on this website at this time. However, some concepts discussed here could apply to both, such as use of remote video finder scopes.
I use the term "Video Astronomy" to mean any method that provides near real time viewing through your telescope. Images on a screen are updated at regular intervals and may have some basic image enhancements applied while you watch. The imaging device can be a video camera producing signals that can be displayed directly on your TV, or other types of cameras that can provide image updates in a reasonable time frame such as some USB based cameras. The joy of Video Astronomy comes from seeing images in near real time without hours of post processing being required. Video Astronomy can make your telescope seem like a much larger telescope allowing you to see more color and detail than you ever saw through your eyepiece. You will be amazed at what is possible to be viewed from a light polluted backyard. Even dim remote objects are now assessable … in color! It is also much easier for this to be a shared experience since several people can look at an image on a screen at the same time!
I use RVA as a shorthand abbreviation for Remote Video Astronomy, where Video Astronomy is combined with remote control and viewing techniques. Some cameras are suitable for Video Astronomy, but not for RVA. Some controls are good when near the telescope, but not for RVA. But when you have a good combination of Remote control and Video Astronomy, then RVA becomes a reality.
Near real time viewing
I consider “near real time viewing” to include cameras that can update your display anywhere from instantly to up to 3 minutes, depending upon the object you are viewing. Some objects are bright enough to be viewed in true real time, such as the moon and some planets. Other objects require exposure times of 1-10 seconds before your display is updated. Nebulae and other deep sky objects may range from 10-30 seconds, and some faint objects, such as the Horsehead Nebula, may require up to 3 minutes. Anything longer, and you begin feeling like you are just taking pictures and are no longer “viewing” objects. But unlike photo sessions of capturing images of just a few objects for later processing, Video Astronomy enables you to see several deep sky objects in a single evening, just like you would during a viewing session at your telescope.