Remote Imaging FAQ
Blue Mountain Vista Observatory New RInggold PA
Q: I need a permanent safe place to set up my equipment, out of the wind, where I can come up anytime and use it. Could I set up my equipment for visual use instead of imaging?

- Yes, this is possible, and at a lower charge since there is no remote imaging support work. Email me if interested.

Q: Is there a charge for using a Pier?

- Yes, there is a charge to account for the costs of providing high speed Internet service, electric, and the cost of the roll-off itself. Please email me for details.

Q: What is provided at the site?

- A shared observatory space, approximately 8 feet wide x 12 feet deep - UPS backed up 110 V power, available through 4 separate web-controlled switches
- Space for PC/monitor - High speed Internet access - Remote access via RDP, Radmin, VNC or equivalent
- Access to site by appointment for onsite work
- Physical security - a door which is kept locked except when attended
- Network security - all access via Firewall with remote address checking
- Help via an experienced imager onsite to make minor adjustments, help troubleshoot, open and close roof, respond to weather events
- Instrumentation to show weather, sky conditions, and video
- A electoluminescent FLAT panel that can be used to get flats for scopes up to 16 inches

Q: What do you have to provide?

- Scope, mount, and all imaging equipment
- Computer and software to do imaging
- Pier of correct height to match scope requirements (contact me - may be available)
- Insurance for your equipment (usually covered by homeowners policy)

Q: How does remote imaging work?

- The roof will be opened each evening that there are clear conditions, and notification will be sent out via Text Messaging or email.
- During clear weather, the roof will remain open all night and be closed at dawn. Weather conditions will be monitored onsite and if it gets too windy or rain/snow threatens, the equipment will be shut down by the operator, scopes parked, and the roof closed.
- Images will be collected normally on your imaging computer and may be uploaded via the Internet.

Pier Charge:
$250 per month.

Installation charge - None

email for details

Q: Does Remote Imaging really work?

Yes it does! My friend Rick and I have been successfully capturing images remotely for over a year in BMVO-1. I am only 200 feet away but Rick is 57 miles away. Rick has only physically visited the site a few times after his initial equipment install, for collimation work, equipment replacement, and a mirror cleaning. But he can image from home on every clear night! With the proper hardware and software we are able to collect images automatically and take advantage of each dark night in its ENTIRETY - dusk to dawn.

Q: How many clear nights do you get in Pennsylvania?
Great question! We see 5-9 nights in a month. I keep track of all nights when the roofs are open on our Twitter page and you can see the record there:

Q: How does remote operation work?

Very simply! On every clear night, I open the roofs and notify all imagers via their preferred means (usually text messaging or Twitter). If you have a cover or cap on your scope, I remove it for you. You connect to your on-site PC via RADMIN, RDP, VNC, or other remote program. You power up your equipment via the Web Power Switch, and start your imaging programs and watch the images appear in manual mode, or set up for a whole night of automatic imaging. You can monitor sky conditions via the web page that I provide. I monitor the weather locally. If conditions deteriorate, I notify you and shut the roof. In an emergency I will park your scope and shut things down immediately. At the end of a short session I will close the roof, or if it is a clear night, I close the roof in the morning.

Q: What hardware and software do you need for remote operation?

You need a mount that lends itself to remote operation. Rick and I use the Paramount ME. You need a focuser that can be operated with Focus Max or other automatic focusing software. You need a PC or laptop installed in the observatory to run the equipment. You also might want software such as CCDAutopilot or ACP to automate the imaging for you (Rick and I use CCDAP).

Q: What about security of my equipment on your site?
I live on the site in plain view of the observatories. It is a 10 acre private plot with limited access. I have electronic countermeasures installed at various locations that alert us when anyone enters the property. The observatories are locked at all times, unless someone is doing work inside. Obsevatory cameras are accessible to allow you to see the inside of the obervatories.

Q: Wind, Lightning, Rain, Snow, Ice?
The observatories are built in a hollow that provides some protection from the worst weather. BMVO-1 has been operational since 2007 and has withstood high winds, rain, snow, and ice storms with no issues. The 110V power feed is underground, on a GFI circuit. The equipment is connected via UPS systems which provide surge protection. The cable internet has a dedicated network surge protector installed at the origin.

Q: What if my equipment malfunctions and I am 100 miles away?
I am onsite to provide help for you, available by cell phone, email, instant messaging, and text messaging. I can check equipment for problems, help with focusing and polar alignment, and deal with other issues at your request. Since I have been imaging for 5 years myself, I have a good level of experience to help other imagers.

Q: How do I access my equipment if I need to make adjustments?
You can visit anytime, even on short notice. Just let me know you are coming so I can unlock the door for you.

Q: How is the equipment mounted?
There are 5 pier positions in the two observatories. Three have piers (approximately 24 inch high) at this writing. If one of them is available, we can work to adapt your mount to the pier. Two additional pier position foundations are terminated by a concrete pad at floor level. If these are used, we will have to procure a pier for your mount. We can discuss options as necessary.