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Balcony Imaging Advice


For a more successful astro-imaging environment when using an urban balcony I suggest the following...

  • Keep your night-time telescope activities a complete secret. Never tell anyone in your condo or apartment building that you have a telescope on your balcony.  Try not to make your balcony telescope visible to others during the day. Though there is nothing illegal about owning or using a balcony telescope you do not want the landlord demanding your telescope's permanent removal or having to deal with the police responding to a “Peeping Tom” complaint. You will regret it.

  • Unless you have an ultra-quiet telescope, when slewing to a target do so at a reduced speed so as to keep the 'scope quiet. It doesn't take much slewing noise for a neighbor 3 meters above or below you to hear it and arose suspicion.

  • Use a “dew shield”, not for dew (as you won't have any), but to keep direct urban lighting from entering the 'scope's optical path.

  • Position the 'scope as close to the balcony's edge as is possible. This will give your 'scope a higher maximum elevation and gain some azimuth as well.

  • Setup your benign observing equipment as it starts to get dark. Only when it's quite dark should you reveal the 'scope on the balcony.

  • When setting up, during and shutting down your imaging session, be as quiet as possible so as not to alert nearby balcony neighbors of anything suspicious going on.

  • I kept my 'scope 24/7 at the balcony railing for four years under a weatherproof shroud with few problems (now I leave only the tripod outside year-round). If you aren't comfortable with that keep the 'scope indoors.  Either way, get a large plastic tub to store general items in it year-round.

  • Do not operate bright lights in the dark on the balcony during an imaging session as it may attract unwanted attention. You generally won't need them anyway. For the lighting that you do need...

    • Run your apps in “Night Mode” and turn the computer's screen to minimum brightness.

    • Plug a small USB powered light into the laptop to light up the keyboard during use.

    • Use a small dim flashlight for spot-lighting.

The White Zone

An Urban Astronomer's Light Pollution Guide to Balcony Imaging

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