Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Telescope Farm

Subscription telescopes for amateur astronomers
  (+7, -1)
(+7, -1)
  [vote for,

From the attached article in the New York Times (q.v.), it seems that many amateur astronomers these days have highly automated telescopes. They dial all the night's settings into the computer, then sit snugly indoors while the digital images roll in.

Now, it must be very frustrating to someone who has spent all that money and is all set up to watch the transit of Mercury or the Crab Nebula when it turns out to be rainy that night.

So, on the model of the server farms that many of us rely on already, I propose telescope farms. We take some space in the remote areas where full-sized scientific telescopes are set up, and set up an array of mid-sized computer-controlled telescopes.

Subscribers can then control a telescope for as long as they've paid for, and get the images back by email or CD. And with a telescope farm, if the subscriber's particular telescope is offline that night for any reason, the subscriber would be switched to an adjacent telescope without even knowing it.

And with a bunch of telescope farms in different locales, we can even adjust for the vagaries of weather, automatically switching subscribers to where the weather is clear. (They might need to adjust their viewing list, depending on geographic location, of course, but then again, a London subscriber could use this feature to watch the southern stars).

I see this as particularly useful to hobbyists living in generally overcast places, or in big cities with light-polluted skies and limited outdoor space. But we could also let inner city schools use the equipment, and get deprived kids involved in real research projects of the type described in the article.

DrCurry, Nov 08 2002

Rental scope on Kitt Peak http://www.noao.edu...nced/resources.html
For a paltry $405US per night [lurch, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Baked! http://www.slooh.com/homejs.jsp
$49/year subscription includes 15 minutes (or $90/year with 90 minutes), plus $20 for each additional 15 minutes. Telescopes located in the Canary Islands. [DrCurry, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

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       I want to bake this one SO much. I own some property in a very telescope friendly area (7000 ft up; 40 miles and two mountain ranges between it and the nearest town over 500 people). Now you've shown me how to attack the money barrier between me and that Meade LX200 with the SBIG camera...
lurch, Nov 08 2002

       Excellent. Big, immobile, expensive, sensitive equipment *should* be timeshared. I'm sure this model could be applied to many other hobbyist activities, particularly the looking and listening types (I don't know what, though. Volcanoes, weather, undersea?) Would this be economically viable, though? What with the massive expenses involved in building and maintaining such facilities, I imagine that most laypersons wouldn't have the cash to fork out, nor that the scientific communities leave much time unused in the first place.
absterge, Nov 08 2002

       absterge: note we're modelling server farms here, not supercomputers.   

       waugs: you can come and visit on your holidays.
DrCurry, Nov 08 2002

       [Mr DeG] - that's exactly what I was thinking.
PeterSilly, Nov 08 2002

       Boffo idea. How about letting others ride along for free? That is, let me watch what someone else is looking at...   

       (_!_) Also, is there any value to ganging together scopes which are geographically disparate to look at the same object?
phoenix, Nov 08 2002

       This is a great idea. I agree with [absterge], except that I don't think they need to be particularly big or expensive, just located very, very well. Perhaps one or two in each location are very high capability or specialized.   

       I can picture a business model that is both subscription + hourly for things like schools.   

       This allows people in the southern hemispheres to see the northern skies and vice versa.   

       All in all a fine plan. +
bristolz, Nov 08 2002

       This is a very nice idea, and quite practical it seems. You could also have a go at doing nifty analyses when looking at the same object using multiple telescopes.
madradish, Nov 09 2002

       <non-compensated endorsement>This summer, I had the pleasure of taking part in the "Nightly Observing Program" (link) at Kitt Peak using the telescope in [lurch]'s link above. If you should ever have the opportunity to take part, don't pass it up. If I remember correctly (I usually don't) it was only $35.00 per person including a "box dinner". I have almost no interest in astronomy but that experience was fascinating. It would have to be much more impressive to someone with even the slightest interest in astronomy. </non-compensated endorsement>   

       I remember our facilitator saying that it was the only telescope on the mountain with an actual optical eyepiece through which a human being can view the heavens. I was also left with the impression that many of the telescopes can be controlled remotely.
half, Nov 11 2002

       Good idea, DrCurry, although I do agree with horripilation and waugsqueke on the 'you have to be there' aspect of astronomy. But anything that encourages people to look up at the night sky and regain their sense of wonder gets a big + from me.
DrBob, Nov 12 2002

       Love it.   

       [DrBob] [horripilation] and [waugsqueke] no need to worry, have a telescope outside linked to the network that you can unhook and use for direct viewing when you want. When you're not using it someone else can.   

       In addition the more locations that are used the greater the opportunity of a good seeing day, caretakers reduce the cost of initial set up of the network and running costs and benefit by effectively having a subsidiesed telescope in the garden. Smaller educational institutions would be interested in joining in on the fun without the worry of maintenance of an expensive and delicate instrument, a yearly membership fee could be charged, and there's no dependance on night-time viewing, moving astronomy into the class-room!   

       [phoenix] looking at the moon with the images through telescopes on either side of the world fed through to each eye respectively might just get you a 3D image! It'd be like looking at a large marble a couple of meters away, it's got to be worth a try.   

       All we need now is cheap 36"+ diameter telescopes, I'm on the case already!
scubadooper, May 14 2003

       [scubadooper] I've heard of this being done by combining (in a stereoscopic fashion) two images taken of a star - one taken at an angle perpendicular to a line drawn between the Earth and the Sun, and the other taken 6 months later, thus acheiving about 190 million miles of separation between the images.
hippo, May 21 2003

       Well, I am delighted to announce this is Baked: an article in the NY Times describes slooh.com (see link), which Bakes this almost precisely.   

       [I have deleted a bunch of links and annotations for housekeeping purposes.]
DrCurry, Jan 15 2004

       this looks very iteresting -- will see if the kids want to try it -- thanks
theircompetitor, Jan 15 2004

       You're fast, Doc. Just saw that same Times article and came here to link it.   

       It would be interesting to compile a list of bakery ideas that were _subsequently_ baked, like this one. There are probably at least a couple hundred of them.
krelnik, Jan 15 2004

       Using Google APIs, it maybe possible to even automate it.
theircompetitor, Jan 15 2004

       Utah! +
Zimmy, Mar 14 2006


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