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  1. #1
    Fuzzylogik's Avatar
    Fuzzylogik is offline White Dwarf
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    Default Help Purchasing Computer for Complex Setup



    I am attempting to help my uncle, who is an avid amateur astronomer but has a poor understanding of computers. He has built what, to me, is an extraordinary amateur observatory...but does not have the "brains" (i.e. computer) to run it. I, on the other hand, am a relative neophyte when it comes to astronomy (although I am fascinated by it), but fairly technically savvy. I am looking for help in terms of what my uncle needs to operate this behemoth. I've seen some people use multiple computers to run different parts; ideally I would prefer to purchase one computer that could do it all. The following represents the hardware that makes up the observatory:

    The dome is an "Observa-Dome" 5 meter

    The control system for the dome is "Ace Smart Dome"

    The telescope is an "AG Optical" 20" imaging Dall Kirkham Astrograph

    The mount is a "Software Bisque" Paramount MEII Equatorial Mount

    The Mount is controlled by " Software Bisque" TheSkyX Professional Edition

    The CCD Camera is a "SBIG" STX-16803
    ------

    The observatory is based in west Texas, so temperature spikes (high in the summer, freezing in the winter) may play a role. My thought is using a laptop that could be taken inside when not in use; perhaps with a high-quality monitor inside that could make the most of the digital photography.

    My questions are:
    1. How many computers are necessary? Will one work or does this kind of setup require two?
    2. What kind of specs (minimum and recommended) would you recommend? I looked at the different websites and the computer specs for each piece do not appear to be listed.
    3. Thinking of the camera in particular, it would seem reasonable to me that you need a powerful video card. Is this accurate? Any recommendations for the kind of card I should look for? Can a laptop run a video card powerful enough for a camera of that caliber?
    4. Although the Software Bisque appears to be limited somewhat if you use a PC, a PC is desired over a Mac.
    5. Any recommendations for a quality monitor?
    6. I am not the one that picked the astronomy hardware but if you see a problem with the setup I would welcome suggestions.
    7. Am I even asking the most important questions? If I'm not, I am open to thoughts and suggestions.

    Thank you in advance for the help.

    Fuzzylogik

  2. #2
    CamelHat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help Purchasing Computer for Complex Setup

    The amount of computing power needed is minimal, and you don't need good graphics. The "graphics" is done by a stacker that needs no graphics card during the process, only to display it - any consumer graphics will do. Software Bisque has good software so the first thing I would check out is their Pro Full product. From a presentation they gave in 2015 they are just waiting for ASCOM to die (me too) but it does not seem to happen. In other words SB is an island. One option that I like is EKOS, it can run on a Pi and do everything you need, it supports SB: https://indilib.org/about/ekos.html . This is based on INDI, which is cross-platform and distributed. ASCOM is Windows-only and non-distributed but if you like that check out Nina and SGP.
    ... Henk. Telescopes: 6" Mak-Newt (Comet Hunter), ES ED127CF, ES ED80, Zhumell Z12, Coulter Odyssey 10, AT6RC, Venture RX-7, Celestron Skymaster 20x80, Mounts and tripod: Losmandy G11S, AVX, LXD55, Tiltall, Cameras: Fuji X-a1, Canon SX40, Xt, XSi, T6, ELPH 100HS, DIY: Dob and camera barndoor trackers, afocal adapter, Dob with foldable base and Az/Alt setting circles, Accessories: SSAG, Plossls, Barlows, Telrad, laser collimators (Seben LK1, Z12, Howie Glatter), Cheshire, 2 Orion RACIs 8x50, Software: DSS, ImageMagick, PHD, Nebulosity, Photo Gallery, Gimp, CHDK

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  4. #3
    Chicca's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help Purchasing Computer for Complex Setup

    For the description of the gear of your uncle have you just need one computer. But arise another question, he use the telescope for to see sky objets only or he takes also pictures? If he takes pics, which programs use for procesing it? How far is the dome from his house for example? Because asper this, you can manage all the gear and dome from the house.

    If he takes photos and process it, he need a computer with a good ram installed and a a good space disc storage. We are talking of 32 Gb ram and at least 1 Terabite of space in the HD. I found this setting in the hard way, I mean, I had 16 Gb RAM and 500 Mb of disc but discovered that this set up wasn't enough for stacking pics for example. So I have to upgrade all at the max in my PC. Better if you have a second HD for storage your finished pics. The astrophotos pics are manage in its raw version and are usually big, in the final procees of stacking and image management can reach between 230Mb to 780Mb and over. So yes, you need a lot of disc space.

    In the other hand, I dont think you need a special video card or graphic for see the photos or its results, most of the PC's coming with good cards but if you want upgrade it is up to you. More than a good monitor at least a monitor enough amply so you can apreciate better your images.

    Regard the management of all the astronomical gear in the distance can be done is two options: extent the power cables on the unit and the mount to the PC of by WiFi with a dedicated product. There are few products around, you can check those if they are compatible with the mount software you have.

    There are several programs that integrate astronomical gear functions: automatic focus, program of sesion frames (quantity, exposition time, delay between frames, ISO, kind of frame -light, dark, flat-, filters), Guide -Ph2-, dew heater temperature control. Some of those programs are free like Nina, and other you need to pay but accesible like Astro Photography Tool, Secuence Generetor and so on. All depend what you want to do and how you want manage your astronomical hobby.

  5. #4
    CamelHat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help Purchasing Computer for Complex Setup

    About disk space, the way astrophotography works is that all subs are stacked into a final stacked base image. Once the subs have been stacked you can throw the subs away. If you keep them around they will take up terabytes and will never be used again. So even the required disk space is quite modest. I have 500 GB on my computer that I use for everything, it is plenty because I delete the subs. Stacking can take a good deal of RAM though depending whether you use drizzle or not so 32 GB is not bad. I get by with 8 GB, it works so long as I do nothing fancy. Image processing with Gimp also requires a lot of RAM, 8 GB is marginal if you keep many layers around.
    ... Henk. Telescopes: 6" Mak-Newt (Comet Hunter), ES ED127CF, ES ED80, Zhumell Z12, Coulter Odyssey 10, AT6RC, Venture RX-7, Celestron Skymaster 20x80, Mounts and tripod: Losmandy G11S, AVX, LXD55, Tiltall, Cameras: Fuji X-a1, Canon SX40, Xt, XSi, T6, ELPH 100HS, DIY: Dob and camera barndoor trackers, afocal adapter, Dob with foldable base and Az/Alt setting circles, Accessories: SSAG, Plossls, Barlows, Telrad, laser collimators (Seben LK1, Z12, Howie Glatter), Cheshire, 2 Orion RACIs 8x50, Software: DSS, ImageMagick, PHD, Nebulosity, Photo Gallery, Gimp, CHDK

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